William Hands Perkins was born in 1892 in Weston-sub-Edge, Gloucestershire, and was baptised there on 27th November 1892, the sixth child of George Frederick Perkins (a labourer) and his wife, Rose (née Court). William was killed in action at the age of 23 on 7th December 1915 serving as a Private in the 6th Battalion Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
At first sight, it’s not clear why he’s commemorated locally at Hockley Heath and Umberslade. Soldiers Died in the Great War gives his birthplace and residence as Weston-sub-Edge, although he enlisted in Birmingham. His parents appear to have remained in Weston all their lives, as did his youngest brother, Allen Nelson Perkins, whose burial, aged 71, is recorded in the parish registers there in 1971. William himself is recorded on the 1901 census in Weston but isn’t there with his parents in 1911 and we haven’t been able to track him down elsewhere.
However, researching William’s siblings sheds some light on the local connection. Although in Gloucestershire, Weston-sub-Edge is only about 26 miles from Hockley Heath and, as is often the case with migration, it looks as if one family member moved first, to be then followed by others.
In this case, it seems that William’s sister, Selina Jane May Perkins, was the first of the siblings to move to Warwickshire. She is recorded in Stratford upon Avon in 1901, aged 18, working as a housemaid for the family of a retired iron merchant. She’s recorded on the census as Jane, so was obviously known by her middle name, as were at least three of her six brothers.
In 1905 she married Frederick Edward Smith, a carpenter from Bentley Heath. The marriage took place at St Alphege Church, Solihull, and Jane was recorded as living in Dorridge. By 1911, Frederick and Jane were living at Spring Cottage, Hockley Heath, with two of her brothers – Philip and [Arthur] Edward – listed as boarders. Edward married Emily Watkins at St Thomas’s Church, Hockley Heath in 1917. The assumption is that William, and another brother [George] Thomas also followed Jane to the area, hence both of them being recorded on war memorials in Hockley Heath, as well as on the Roll of Honour from Weston-sub-Edge School.
William’s name was also included on the list of the fallen in an Order of Service for a memorial event at St Patrick’s Church, Salter Street on 3rd September 1916. He is listed as having been born on 13th September 1892 and killed on 7th December 1915.
If you have any further information on William or his siblings who moved from Weston-sub-Edge, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934