27-year-old Second Lieutenant Aubrey Herbert Bower Webster, 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, was accidentally killed on 25th April 1916 when a bomb exploded prematurely whilst he was on a training course in France.
He was born in Dorridge on 25th June 1888, during the time that his father, Rev. John Webster, was curate there. He lived in Packwood as a boy and was educated at King’s School, Worcester, where his name appears on the roll of honour. His name is also included on the King’s School window in Worcester Cathedral Cloisters, as well as on a memorial plaque at St Andrew’s Church, Ombersley, Worcestershire and on the village war memorial. As far as we know, he isn’t commemorated on a memorial in the Solihull Borough.
Aubrey was the only son and the eldest of the two children on Rev. John Webster and his wife, Edith Fanny (née Bower), who married at St Giles’ Church, Packwood on 13th September 1887. John was living in Packwood and Edith was of Knowle parish.
By 1891, the family had moved to Church House, Yazor, Herefordshire, and then to Ombersley, Worcestershire where Rev. Webster was Vicar for 32 years, until he gave up the living in 1927 owing to a move to the south coast for the benefit of his wife’s health.
In 1907, Aubrey won an Exhibition to Brasenose College, Oxford to study history, obtaining his M.A. in 1910 and then becoming a schoolteacher. In 1911, aged 22, he was a schoolmaster at a boys’ prep school, Yardley Court School, Tonbridge, Kent which was founded in 1898. He joined the Army after the outbreak of war and was commissioned as an officer with the Northamptonshire Regiment in January 1915, sailing for France on 26th July 1915. A photograph of him in uniform is available on the King’s School Archive Flickr page.
According to records of the 54th Brigade, it seems that a Brigade Bombing School was conducting experiments throughout the Autumn of 1915, with the first Bombing Course taking place in January 1916. It was during such a course that Lieutenant Aubrey Webster was killed. He is buried at buried At Bray-sur-Somme, France.
Just three weeks before his death, Aubrey had written a letter to a sister of his friend William Noel Downing, in which he described some of his experiences at the Front, and requested a photograph of Mary in her uniform as a nurse.
Aubrey’s mother, Edith, died in a nursing home in Torquay, Devon in 1932, aged 70. Her husband died in Torquay in 1937, aged 76. Their only surviving child, Kathleen Margaret Bower Webster, married Dr Henry Park Ashe in 1927 when she was 38 years old. The couple seem not to have had any children, and Kathleen died in Ombersley 1973, aged 84.
If you have any further information about the Webster family and their connection with the Knowle and Dorridge area, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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