26th November 1914

Ordinary Seaman Gilbert Harold Halstead was one of the 745 men and 51 officers who lost their lives when the battleship HMS Bulwark exploded at 7:50am on 26th November 1914 while anchored near Sheerness. Although sabotage or enemy action was initially suspected, a naval court of enquiry found that the explosion was caused either by a fault in one of the shells stored in a corridor or by the overheating of cordite that had been placed adjacent to a boiler room bulkhead. A list of the casualties was published in the Birmingham Daily Mail on 3rd December 1914.

Gilbert Halstead was born in Solihull on 10th February 1896, the only son amongst the five children of Harold William Halstead and his wife Evangeline (née Thompson).  At the time of the 1911 census, the family was living at 14 Richmond Road, Olton, and 15-year-old Gilbert was working as a gun fittings hardener at a small arms factory, whilst his father was listed as Managing Director of a motor company. Ten years earlier, in 1901, when Gilbert was five, the family was living at Warwick Road, Olton and Gilbert’s father was listed as a carriage maker. Previous censuses show Harold as a wheelwright and apprentice carpenter.

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Help us identify Borough casualties

So far, we have over 800 names on our list of those from places now in the Solihull Borough, or from the Solihull Rural District, who died as a result of their war service. However, we are struggling to identify in official records some of the people named on local memorials. This can be because there are too many people of the same name, or because we don’t have full names or service details, or because we have found possible individuals but can’t be sure of any local connection.

If you can help with information on any of the following, especially exact dates of death, please let us know:

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Their names liveth for evermore

Solihull Remembers

So far, we have the names of 730 people from places now in the Solihull Borough, or in the then Solihull Rural District, who lost their lives as a result of their war service.

We continue to research the names on the 35 memorials we’re aware of, plus those whose names we’ve found who don’t appear to be commemorated locally.

Over the next four years and beyond, we’ll carry on posting details here of those who died, remembering everyone individually by name on the centenary of their deaths, and sharing what we know about their lives. We don’t just want to list their names, but to tell something of their stories and, hopefully, to find out more from family members and from other researchers.

If you have any further information about anyone from the Solihull area who died as a result of their war service, please let us know.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

7th November 1914

30-year-old Private George Bullivant died on 7th November 1914 serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers. He was born in Earlswood in 1885 and was still living there, aged 6, in 1891 with his parents, George (a bricklayer’s labourer) and Rose (also listed in other records as Rosanna(h)). George (junior) was the second youngest of the couple’s nine children (they seem to have had seven boys and two girls). The eldest child, John, was recorded with the family on the 1891 census, aged 25, but must have been home on leave as his occupation was recorded as a seaman in the Royal Navy.

George (senior) and Rosannah had both died by the time of the 1901 census – George in 1897 and Rose in 1900. Their youngest child, Albert (also recorded as Bertie), would have been just 13 when he was orphaned.

By 1901, George (junior) was aged 16 and still living in Earlswood, working as a groom and living in the household of farmer, John W. Lea. It’s not known when he enlisted in the Army, as his service record appears not to have survived. He also does not appear to be in the Earlswood area on the 1911 census, so it is possible that he was in the military at this point.

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5th November 1914

We don’t have very much information about Private Thomas Reader, 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, so would be very grateful if you can add any details.

He was born in London c. 1880, but had moved up to Warwickshire by the time of the 1891 census, when he was listed, aged 12, living with his grandparents William Reader (a farmer) and Elizabeth at Trap’s Green Farm, Ullenhall.Ten years later, he was still in Warwickshire, aged 20, boarding with 71-year-old charwoman, Maria Hunt, at Tanworth-in-Arden. He was listed as a bricklayer’s labourer.

We struggled to find him on the 1911 census but, thanks to an email from researcher, Helen, we know he was still living in Tanworth-in-Arden, aged 32, unmarried, and listed as a boarder with the Collins family. His occupation is listed as general labourer (Army Pensioner), indicating that he had been a regular soldier and had been discharged to pension. Continue reading “5th November 1914”

4th November 1914

Private Albert Edward Essex enlisted as a regular soldier with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 23rd November 1903, aged 19 years three months (although according to the age on census records, this is not correct, and he would have been aged 17). His service record is available on the Find My Past website (available free of charge in any Solihull Library, with your Solihull Library Card) and shows that he went on to serve with the regiment in India and Agra. He served three years with the Colours, including terms in India and Agra. Following active service, he spent a further year in Section A, 1st Class Army Reserves. On completion of this year, he was relegated to Section B Reserves on 26 November 1907.

A typical term of service in Section B Reserve would be five years, which means that Albert’s service would have expired on 26th November 1912. However, there was also an option of extending Section B service for a further four years, moving to Section D Reserve with the same terms and conditions. Pte Albert Essex appears to have taken up this option of an extension, as his service record is stamped “Mobilised  Wrexham 5 Aug 1914”, just one day after war was declared. The Long, Long Trail website has a useful summary to help understand transfers to the Reserves.

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