25th September 1915

The 25th September 1915 saw British forces launch an attack on German positions at Loos, Belgium. At the same time, the French attacked German lines at Champagne and Vimy Ridge in the Arras region of France.

The First Battle of Loos lasted from 25th September until 19th October and was the first time that Allied forces used gas as a weapon. 25th September saw German machine guns kill 8,500 men in a single day, the greatest loss of life since the war began. Only 2,000 0f the first-day casualties have a known grave. Seven local men also died on 25th September:

  • Private Lawrence George Berry, D Coy, 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
  • Rifleman Ernest Franklin, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
  • Lance Corporal Charles Jones, 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
  • Second Lieutenant Charles William King, 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
  • Private John Thomas Rowley, 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry
  • Captain Edward Hanson Sale, 10th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment
  • Private William Henry Wells, 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers

Lawrence George Berry was born in Shirley in 1889, and appears with his parents, George and Louisa, on the 1891 census living in Shirley Street. It seems that he was known as George, as it is under this name that he is listed in some records. There was a difference in age of 27 years between his parents, with his father George, an agricultural labourer, dying in 1899, aged 77, when Lawrence George would have been just 10 years old. By 1901, the Berry family was living at Shirley Heath, with George’s widow, Louisa, aged 51, working as a laundress.  Louisa died in 1903, and three of her children, 26-year-old farm labourer Abel, Rachel (28) and Kenneth (21, gardener), were all living together at Sharmans Cross in 1911. The whereabouts of Lawrence George Berry in 1911 aren’t known, so please let us know if you come across him in census records. He first entered a Theatre of War on 6th July 1915, and has no known grave but is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Belgium. He is commemorated locally on the was memorial at St James’s Church, Shirley.

Ernest Franklin who was born in Coventry is believed to be the same E. Franklin recorded on the Berkswell war memorial as having died in 1915.

Confusingly, there is another E. Franklin – Edward Franklin – who was born in 1885 in Ryton on Dunsmore and whose family had moved to Burton Green by 1901 where his father, George, became a renowned bee expert. However, research by a local author, Clive, suggest that Edward served with the local volunteer rifle corps – the Arden Corps – and survived the war to die in 1958, aged 73.

We haven’t been able to find out much about Rifleman Ernest Franklin, other than he was born in Coventry but enlisted with the Royal Irish Rifles in Drogheda, County Louth. He was killed in action and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium. His next-of-kin is listed as his widow, Sarah.

Update 2020: Researchers from the South Warwickshire Family History Society have kindly confirmed that a marriage certificate from Ireland show that Ernest Franklin, son of policeman William Franklin from Meriden, married Sarah Marshall in Carrickfergus in 1913. At the time, Ernest was recorded as being a butler and living at Dunlosking, Carrickfergus. The Berkswell connection is still unknown but Ernest was the brother of James Franklin who is also recorded on Berkswell War Memorial.

Tragically, Ernest’s daughter, Sarah May, was born on 26th September 1915, the day after her father was killed.

Charles Jones was born in 1895 at Lapworth and baptised there on 7th May 1899, the same day as his younger sister, Alice Hemming Jones. Charles was the fifth child and fourth son born to George Jones (a bricklayer) and his wife Ada Alice Helen (nee Parsons). The couple had eight children of whom one, George Frederick, died in November 1889 at the age of 15 months. The family lived at Wharf Lane, Lapworth from at least 1888 until at least 1901. By 1911 they had moved to Rose Cottage, Stratford Road, Hockley Heath. At this time, 16-year-old Charles was listed as being a domestic page boy. He first entered a Theatre of War (France) on 7th July 1915, just under three months before he was killed. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial in Belgium, as well as on local memorials at Lapworth and Hockley Heath.

Charles William King was born in Old Swinford, near Stourbridge, and was the eldest child of Henry Charles King (manager of a fire brick works) and his wife, Edith. He attended Packwood Haugh School in Warwickshire, before going on to Radley College boarding school. He attended Sandhurst Military College, and was gazetted Second Lieutenant in April 1915. He was just 19 years old at the time of his death.  He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, and also on war memorials at Old Swinford, Packwood Haugh, and Radley College. A photograph of him, taken from an album at Radley College is available on Flickr.

John Thomas Rowley was one of 12 children born to railway plate layer Henry King (born Codsall, Staffordshire) and his wife, Elizabeth (born Patshull, Staffordshire). The birth places of the children show the family moved from Brewood to Tettenhall (both Staffordshire) and then to Yardley (Worcestershire) before moving on to Sheldon, and then Castle Bromwich between 1891-3. John was privately baptised at Castle Bromwich on 1st November 1897. On the 1901 and 1911 censuses the family was living at cottages at Buckland End, Castle Bromwich and Henry was working for the Midland Railway by 1911, whilst 13-year-old John was a farm labourer. It’s known that John first entered a Theatre of War on 8th September 1915, just under three weeks before he was killed. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial and also on the village war memorial at Castle Bromwich and on a war memorial plaque inside St Margaret’s and St Mary’s Church, Castle Bromwich.

Edward Hanson Sale  was the second old Packwoodian to die on 25th September 1915. He was born in Atherstone in 1891, the eldest child of parents Alfred (a solicitor) and Annie Gertrude. He attended Packwood Haugh School (which was in the Solihull Rural District at the time of the war) before going on to Aldenham School, Herefordshire, where he was a member of the O.T.C. for two years. In 1911 he was a boarder in Pimlico, working as an insurance clerk. Serving with the Berkshire Yeomanry for two years, he was appointed to a Temporary Regular Commission in the Gloucestershire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant on 17th October 1914 and posted to the 10th (Service) Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. He was promoted to full Lieutenant in February 1915 and became Captain in July 1916, being promoted to company commander just a couple of week before his death. The Tamworth Herald 11th September 1915 reported his promotion and quoted a letter he sent home in which he said: “It is interesting work, and fairly safe so long as we keep our heads down,  but there are snipers everywhere.” He was killed in action at Loos, and is commemorated at St Mary’s A.D.S. Cemetery, Haisnes. His brother, Lieutenant Richard Lauder Sale, died of wounds 15th January 1918, aged 30.

Private William Henry Wells isn’t recorded on the Berkswell war memorial but is listed in Soldiers Died in the Great War as living in the village, although the Coventry Roll of Honour lists him as residing in Coventry. He was born in Coventry on 25th November 1893 to parents William and Clara. By the time William Henry was four years old his father had died and his mother had remarried. In 1911, he was a 17-year-old farm hand living with his mother and step-father (John Cooper, farm labourer) in Coventry. He was a pre-war regular soldier, so must have enlisted sometime between 1911 and 1914. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, and also on the City of Coventry Roll of Honour. If you have any information about his apparent residence in Berkswell, please let us know.

Heritage & Local Studies Libraran

tel.: 0121 704 6977
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

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