Although Frank Jabez Meades was born in Olton in 1889, and was killed in action on 4th July 1915, his name is not listed on the Olton war memorial. It looks as if the family moved away from Olton between 1891 and 1901 after at least 10 years’ residence there so, presumably, there were no relatives of friends still in the parish to add Frank’s name to the war memorial.
His short service attestation record gives his place of birth as Yardley. However, this seems likely to be incorrect – he was living with his parents and siblings at Reservoir Cottage, Warwick Road, Olton on the 1891 census when he was aged one, and his entry in Soldiers Died in the Great War lists his place of birth as Olton.
Frank was one of the youngest of 15 children known to have been born to John and Mary Ann Meades during more than 39 years of marriage. Four of the 15 children had died by 1911. Before the war, Frank worked as a plumber for Mr C. A. Royster, George Street West, Birmingham, according to the Birmingham Daily Mail 20th July 1915. He enlisted in Birmingham on 7th December 1914, and joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps at Winchester on 9th December.
At the time of enlistment, he was 5ft 3in tall, aged 25 years and 150 days. and had the identifying feature of a scar on his right temple. He had been married for just under three years, having married Ellen Louisa Ryder at Aston Register Office on 27 January 1912, and they had three children aged under two. The eldest was born in Bordesley in 1912, whilst the two younger children were born in Acocks Green in 1913 and 1914. The youngest child, Gertrude Mary, was less than two months’ old when her father joined the Army.
During training, Frank spent a short period (1st-10th May 1915) in hospital in Aldershot, suffering from the skin disease impetigo contagiosa. Nine days after leaving hospital, he embarked for Belgium, where he served for fewer than two months before he was killed. He is buried at Bedford House Cemetery. He is not known to be commemorated locally in the Olton area.
The next-of-kin form filled in by his widow in July 1919 shows his parents, John and Mary Ann living at 58 Charles Edward Road, South Yardley, his four brothers in Small Heath, Yardley and Sheldon, his six sisters in Bradford, Appelby Bridge (Yorks), and Yardley.
His widow acknowledged receipt of her late husband’s [identity] disc in February 1916 and wrote requesting the return of his razor that he had taken with him when he enlisted. The service file also includes a letter from her in July 1915 requesting a copy of his death certificate so that she could claim on an insurance policy. She said: “I have a little insurance to come and they will not pay me until I receive a certificate from you. As I am now in need of the money, I should be pleased if you would give this your immediate attention”.
If you have any more information about Frank Meades or his family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
Tel.: 012 704 6934