25th April 1915

Having emigrated from England to Australia in about 1912, sculptor Percy Walker Corser joined the Australian Infantry of the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.) on 14th August 1914, aged 27 years and five months. He was killed at Gallipoli eight months later on 25th April 1915.

He was described in contemporary newspapers as the youngest surviving son of architect Benjamin Corser and his wife, Frances Emily (née Walker), which is especially interesting, as Percy actually had a twin brother.

His twin brother, Sydney Montague Corser served as a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery during the First World War. He later became a bank official and died in 1976, aged 89. The twins were born at Olton on 3rd March 1887. They had two older brothers, Robert (born 1884) and Charles (born 1886), a younger sister, Phoebe (born 1889) and a younger brother, Inglis (born 1890).

Benjamin Corser was born in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, and his wife, who was apparently known as Emily, was born in Handsworth, Birmingham. By 1882, her family was living at Fox Hollies Hall, Acocks Green, an Italianate mansion commissioned in 1869 by her father, Zaccheus Walker, which was demolished in the mid-1930s.

Benjamin and Emily married on 6th September 1882, at Marston Chapel, Hall Green (later dedicated as the Church of the Ascension) and set up home in Olton. The 1891 census shows the couple living with their five children aged 1-5, at Seathwaite, St Bernard’s Road. Their eldest child, Robert, aged 6, was living with his maternal grandparents at Fox Hollies Hall. Benjamin and Emily had live-in servants comprising a cook, nurse, housemaid, plus a professional nurse and a governess. The couple appear to have lived at Seathwaite until Benjamin’s death, aged 78, on 4th July 1918.

By 1901, 14-year-old Percy Corser was a boarder at Greenhill School, Ascot Road, Moseley. It seems that after he left school he studied at the Birmingham School of Art, then with Messrs. Bridgeman and Sons, Lichfield, and with Messrs. Farmer and Brindley in London. He emigrated to Australia c. 1912, and was working as a sculptor in Melbourne when war broke out.

According to his service record (freely available on the National Archives of Australia/Archives New Zealand Discovering Anzacs website), Percy Corser enlisted on 14th August 1914, embarking on 19th October 1914 from Port Melbourne on His Majesty’s Australian Transport Ship A20 “Hororata”, one of 16 vessels to leave Port Phillip Bay between 17th-21st October 1914 as part of the first convoy of troops, horses and supplies. On 5th April 1915, Percy embarked to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (Gallipoli campaign). His Sergeant Major confirmed he landed from the “Galeka” safely but believed he was killed on getting on the shore. In the Sergeant Major’s opinion, no prisoners were taken on the first day. He was reported as wounded and missing on 25th April 1915, and a court of inquiry held a year later on 24th April 1916 pronounced him as killed in action.

The court of inquiry reported witness statements that Corser went out on a charge on the German Officers’ Trench at Anzac and did not come back. “Witness was with him in the charge and made several enquiries afterwards. He is strongly of the opinion that Corser was killed during the retirement from the German Officers’ Trench which took place after the charge.” (Pte J Nicoll, No. 2 Hospital, Ghezireh, 27/1/1916). Another witness reported

Corser was shot through the elbow on the day of the landing. Witness saw him sitting up nursing his elbow on the first ridge near Fisherman’s Hut. Witness spoke to him, asking him if he had stopped a bullet, and urging him to come on. He remainded where he was. The earth was being hit up all about, the shelling being heavy at that point. Corser was not seen again. Witness supposed he had been killed by a shell, if not taken prisoner (sgt. W. R. McGregor, Etaples, 3/6/1916).

The service record also includes acknowledgements by his father, Benjamin, of the receipt on 4th August 1917 of Percy’s effects, and details of the memorial plaque and scroll sent to his eldest brother, Robert, in December 1921. Robert Boulton Corser (1884-1961) attended Cheltenham College before passing out of Sandhurst and joining the Warwickshire Regiment in 1904, transferring to the Yorkshire Regiment as Captain in 1907. He was wounded in November 1914, near Ypres.

Another brother, Charles Huskisson Corser (1886-1962), also served in the armed forces. In 1905, aged 19, he was awarded a certificate of competence as a Second Mate of a foreign-going ship in the Merchant Service. He became a sub-Lieutenant with the Royal Indian Marine in August 1907, rising to the rank of Lieutenant in June 1911. He received his Master’s service certificate in May 1912. The service certificate (available free of charge from library computers via the Ancestry website) gives details of the ships on which he served until 1912, and notes his year of furlough 1910-11. He was reported as being seriously injured in March 1915, whilst serving on RIMS Dufferin. He married Mary Kathleen Ward on 8th October 1916 at the Church of the Holy Name, Bombay. At the end of the war, he was given a temporary commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy until 1920. He rose to the rank of Commander in the Royal Indian Marine in May 1924, and became a Captain in April 1933. He retired in 1937.

The youngest brother, Inglis Hirst Corser, was a boarder at St Cyprian’s Prep School, Eastbourne in 1901, aged 11, together with his 14-year-old brother, Sydney. Inglis appears to have died in Canada in 1908, aged 19.

If you have any more information about the Corser family of Olton, please let us know.

Tracey
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6934
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

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