Four local men from three different regiments died on 31st October 1914:
- Private Alfred Allcock, 2nd Dragoon Guards (Queen’s Bays), of Shirley
- Private Charles William Assinder (1889-1914), Royal Warwickshire Regiment, commemorated at Olton
- Private Cyril Frederick Collett (1894-1914), Worcestershire Regiment, commemorated at Solihull
- Drummer Harry William George (1890-1914), Worcestershire Regiment, commemorated at Marston Green Cottage Homes
According to the 1911 census, and the Soldiers Died in the Great War, Alfred Allcock was born in Stafford c. 1881. Soldiers Died also gives his residence as Shirley. He married Annie Eliza Farmer in 1903, in the King’s Norton registration district and, by 1911, they were living at 193 Kings Norton Lane, West Heath, Northfield. Alfred was aged 30 at this time, and working as a cowman on a farm. He is recorded as living with his wife and two-year-old adopted son, Alfred Allcock Jones, born in Selly Oak. Formal adoption did not become established in England & Wales until 1927, so this is likely to have been an informal adoption, or what would now be termed fostering.
It’s not known when Alfred enlisted, but his medal index card gives the date of entry to a Theatre of War as 9th September 1914, so it seems likely that he had previous military service and was either called up as a reservist, or was an ex-soldier who re-enlisted on the outbreak of war. His commemoration on the Shirley war memorial (where his surname is recorded as Alcock) suggests that the family moved to the area sometime between 1911 and 1914. His entry on the Commonwealth War Graves register records his next-of-kin as his wife, Annie Eliza Allcock, of Light Hall Cottage, Shirley, Birmingham.
In 1911, 21-year-old Charles William Assinder was serving as a Private with the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment in Ceylon and India. Based on his age, it’s likely that he was still a regular soldier on the outbreak of the First World War, although it’s also possible he had just been discharged into the reserves. His medal index card gives the date of his first entry into a Theatre of War as 4th October 1914, less than four weeks before he died, but about six weeks after the 1st Battalion landed in France. In the absence of Charles’s service record, no further information is available on his movements. Soldiers Died in the Great War states that he was born in Chadwick End, and resident in Knowle at the time of enlistment.
Charles was the only son amongst five children born to parents, Charles Assinder and Mary Elizabeth Hammond, who married in 1886. They began married life in the Temple Balsall area, moving to Deritend by 1891, when their son was two years old. By 1901, they had moved to Chadwick End, where Charles (senior) had actually grown up living with his grandparents. In 1901, Charles (senior) was working there as a domestic groom, moving again by 1911 to Tile House Green, Bentley Heath, Knowle when Charles William was with the Army in India.
It is curious that Charles William Assinder is commemorated on the war memorial at Olton, rather than those at Temple Balsall, Chadwick End or Knowle, with which he appears to have had stronger links. The assumption is that this is because his parents had moved to Acocks Green at some point after 1911 (they are listed as living at Rose Cottage, Warwick Road, Acocks Green, Birmingham on their son’s Commonwealth War Graves register entry, which was compiled c. 1921).
Although Cyril Frederick Collett (1894-1914) was killed in action whilst serving with the Worcestershire Regiment, it seems he originally enlisted in the Royal Navy in April 1910, serving as a Boy 2nd class on H.M.S. Ganges. This was a shore training establishment in Shotley, Suffolk, for boy entrants to the Royal Navy. The boys would have been aged 15-17 when they joined, and received training in seamanship and gunnery, as preparation for future service with the Royal Navy. Most boys signed up for 9 years (excluding any time before their 18th birthday!). The evidence for his Navy service is his service record on Find My Past (available free of charge with your Solihull Library Card in any Solihull Library).
He subsequently served during 1911 as a Boy 1st class on H.M.S. Essex, then Prince George, then Berwick (serving aboard this ship in the East Indies at the time of the 1911 census, although his entry is scored through, suggesting he was absent from the ship on census night), and finally Pembroke, before apparently being discharged in July 1911. What happened next is unclear, as the service record suggests he enlisted in the Royal Navy on 30th April 1912 (his 18th birthday) for a period of 12 years. However, the only entries on the service record relate to his service as a boy sailor during 1910/11. During this time, his character is consistently recorded as Very Good.
How he came to leave the Navy after enlistment in 1912 is not known, nor when he enlisted in the Army, as his Army service record appears not to have survived. His medal index card gives the date of his entry into a Theatre of War with the Worcestershire Regiment as 12th August 1914, exactly one week after war was declared. On 31st October 1914, the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment received an order to attack and retake Gheluvelt and lost 37 men in the resulting action, including Private Collett. He is commemorated locally on Solihull war memorial and at St Augustine’s Catholic Church.
Although the absence of a service record restricts our knowledge of Cyril’s military career, we have been able to find out a little more about his family in Solihull. At the time of the 1901 census, Cyril was living with his mother and widowed grandmother in Solihull High Street. His grandmother, Mary, was the widow of Richard Lea, who had died in 1883. After her husband’s death, Mary carried on his business as a grocer and shopkeeper in Solihull High Street. Cyril’s father, Frederick John, is not listed with the rest of the family on the 1901 census, although Cyril’s mother, Ada, is there, and listed as married, not widowed. It seems that Ada petitioned for a divorce in 1900, which was presumably granted, as she was still living with her mother in Solihull High Street at the time of the 1911 census, but her marital status had changed to divorced. She subsequently remarried William de Jongh in 1921, in London, and is listed as next-of-kin in her son’s Commonwealth War Graves register entry as Mrs. Ada de Jongh, (formerly Collett), of 79, Leith Mansions, Maida Hill, London.
These three local men who died on 31st October 1914 are commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial in Belgium.
The fourth local casualty is Harry George, who died of wounds and is buried at Bois-Guillaume Communal Cemetery, France. Harry William George was born in Birmingham in 1890 to parents William Arthur (a plumber) and Rosannah George (née Powell). By 1901, 11-year-old Harry was living at Marston Green Cottage Homes with his siblings Amy Rose (16), Arthur (9), and Charles (6). They had been admitted to the homes on 28th July 1897.
In 1901, their mother was recorded as an inmate at Birmingham Workhouse, and their sister, 17-year-old Selina, was living with her widowed great-grandfather, Henry Harrison (88, a retired engraver) at 220 Great Colmore Street, Birmingham. This was the same address given for the family when their sister, Amy Rose, was privately baptised, aged 16, at St Asaph on 18th June 1902, shortly before she died.
According to the admission registers at Birmingham Archives, Harry left the Homes on 22nd June 1905 and went to work for Mr Brasewell at Lea Hall Farm. By 1911, he had joined the Army, and he was recorded as a Drummer with the 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, stationed in India. His younger brother, Charles, died of wounds in May 1915.
If you know any more about these men or their families, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977