Three men from places in the Solihull Borough died on 10th August 1915:
- Private Gilbert Walter Bick from Olton died in Gallipoli whilst serving with the 5th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment.
- Signaller Tom Turner from Solihull died in Gallipoli whilst serving with the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
- Sergeant Edward John Cox M.S.M. from Copt Heath, Knowle, serving with the Warwickshire Yeomanry, died from enteric fever in Egypt, having volunteered to stay aboard the transporter H.M.T. Wayfarer to tend to horses after the ship was torpedoed.
According to Soldiers Died in the Great War, Gilbert Bick was born in Yardley, although his entries on the 1901 and 1911 censuses give his place of birth as Olton. He was baptised at St Margaret’s Church, Olton on 22nd September 1895. His father, Henry, was a self-employed landscape gardener in Acocks Green in 1901, and Head Gardener and Bailiff, living at Wast Hills Farm, Kings Norton in 1911 (this could mean he was working for the Cadbury family, whose home was Wast Hills House). Interestingly, in 1901, the Bick family had a visitor staying with them in Acocks Green – Albert Edward Mark Whittle (1877-1917) a professional cricketer, who played for Warwickshire 1900-1906 and Somerset 1907-11. It seems that Gilbert intended to carry on his family’s farming tradition – he was recorded as a farm pupil in 1911. He is commemorated on war memorials at: St Margaret’s Church, Olton; Olton United Reformed Church; and St Laurence’s Church, Alvechurch.
Gilbert’s brother, Harry Charles Bick (born in Olton in 1893) served as a Private with the Canadian Infantry.
Tom Turner and his family had a strong link with St Alphege Church, Solihull. His parents, George Daniel Turner (a painter and decorator, and a plumber) and Annie Eden, were married there in 1885. George was aged 25 and recorded as a bachelor. Annie was aged 24 and a spinster.
Tom was one of seven siblings baptised there between 1886-1895 (he was baptised on 12th June 1892). He had a younger brother, Frederick John, who was born on 24th December 1895 but not apparently baptised, probably as a result of the subsequent death of his mother. Three of the eight siblings died in infancy – William (1889-1890), George (born and died 1891) and Doris (1894-1895) – whilst the eldest child, Gertrude Annie (1886-1898) died at the age of 11.
Annie Turner, was buried at St Alphege Church on 14th January 1896, having apparently died in childbirth. Tom’s father remarried at St Alphege in 1897 and had four more children with his second wife between 1898-1907.
This photograph, kindly sent in by Tom’s great-great nephew, was taken around 1904 and shows Tom (5th right) with his grandmother, his father and step-mother, his brothers, Dick (1893-1984) and Frederick John (1895-1979), and his sister Elsie Emma (1888-1986), as well as his half-sisters, Dorothy Rosser Turner (1898-1975), Mary Alice (1903-1972) and Winifred Madge (1900-1970).
George, who had a business (Turner and Trueman, plumbers and painters) adjacent to the Masons’ Arms in Solihull High Street, was buried at St Alphege in 1908, aged 48, and his second wife, Emily (née Rosser), was buried there in 1909, aged 43.
After the death of his father and step-mother, Tom went to live with his uncle, John Durham Turner, at Rose Cottage, Birmingham Road, Solihull and he carried on his father’s profession as a painter and decorator. Tom married Selina Izon in 1915, just few months before he was killed at Gallipoli. He had been a member of St Alphege church choir and was a regular service ringer at the church so was commemorated at St Alphege with a memorial tablet erected on the east wall of the bell ringing tower. The tablet, which was erected in 1920, also records the accomplishment of a muffle peal, rung in his memory.
Tom’s younger brother, Dick (1893-1984), had joined the Royal Navy in 1911 and served throughout the war before leaving the forces in 1927.
Tom Turner is also commemorated locally on the Solihull War Memorial and every year a wreath is laid in his memory at the Remembrance Day Parade. On the centenary of his death, 10th August 2015, bellringers at St Alphege Church rang a half-muffled quarter peal, lasting 47 minutes.
Edward John Cox was born in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, in 1887, the third of 12 children born to William and Alice Mary Cox, who moved up to Warwickshire during 1887/8 and settled in Wootton Wawen and Claverdon before moving to Solihull by 1896, and then to Monkspath by 1898. At the time of the 1911 census the family was living at Copt Heath Farm, and three of the 12 children had died. Edward and his younger brother, Francis, were listed as farmer’s sons, working on the farm. It seems that Edward enlisted in the Warwickshire Yeomanry before January 1909. The regiment was part of the Territorial Force and was mobilised in August 1914, assembling at Warwick on 10th August and spending some months at Newbury and Norfolk before being ordered to Egypt in April 1915. Sergeant Cox was with the party that set sail on 10th April from Avonmouth for Alexandria on board the transport ship Wayfarer. Aboard were six officers and 189 men, with over 760 horses and mules. On the following day, some 60 miles off the Isles of Scilly, the ship was torpedoed by U-Boat U 32 and suffered a hit on the port side just forward of the engine room. Both the engine room and boilers were flooded and four men died. The rest of the men safely escaped the ship aboard lifeboats and were picked up an hour later by a small trading steamer, the S. S. Framfield, but the horses remained on board the Wayfarer.
Major Robert Airth Richardson, commanding the 1st Warwickshire Yeomanry, returned to the ship a few hours later and then requested volunteers for a fatigue party of two officers and 18 men to assist with the horses. Sergeant Cox was one of those who volunteered. The Framfield towed the stricken Wayfarer to Queenstown in Ireland, where the horses were safely landed (only three horses had been lost). A couple of weeks later, on 29th April 1915, Major Richardson, three officers and 130 men, with 80 horses, embarked on board H.M.T. Lake Manitoba and sailed for Egypt, reaching Alexandria on 14th May. Edward Cox died of enteric fever in Alexandria on 10th August 1915. He was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (gazetted 6th September 1918) for gallantry at sea when the Transport Wayfarer was torpedoed. Edward Cox is commemorated locally at the Soldiers’ Chapel, Knowle. His youngest brother, Arthur Noel Cox (1897-1918) also died on active service.
If you have any further information about any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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