Four young men from the Solihull area lost their lives on 4th June 1916 whilst on active service in the First World War: Private Matthew Richard Barlow; Private Stanley Holt; Lance Corporal Austin Geoffrey Leigh (all serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment); and Second Lieutenant Philip Leslie Patterson, North Staffordshire Regiment. All four men were aged between 17 and 21.
Matthew Richard Barlow was born in Shirley in Autumn 1896. He was the only son, and youngest of the two children born to parents Matthew Richard (a road worker, and later, a jobbing gardener) and Lucy Ann, who had married at Wythall in 1893. Confusingly, both father and son seem to have been known by their middle name, Richard.
By 1901, the family had moved to Grimesthorpe Lane, Wythall, and by 1911, 14-year-old Matthew Richard and his parents had moved to Brook Cottages, Church Hill, Solihull. His 17-year-old sister, Ethel, is not recorded on the census with the family. She married George Dyke in 1921, and died in Solihull in April 1988, aged 94.
Private Matthew Richard Barlow first entered a Theatre of War on 21st November 1915. He was killed in action with the 14th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment just over six months later, aged 19. He is buried at Fauburg D’Amiens Cemetery, Arras, France and is commemorated locally on the Solihull war memorial.
Stanley Holt was born in Birmingham on 10th October 1898. He was the youngest of the five sons of Frederick and Louisa Holt (née Mills). Tragically, both his parents had died by the time he was three years old, and it looks as if he was brought up by his paternal grandfather, Andrew, who lived at Yew Tree House, Chessetts Wood with his second wife, Ellen, and who died in 1914, aged 83.
Private Stanley Holt first entered a Theatre of War on the same day as Private Barlow, above – 21st November 1915 – when he would have been 17 years old. Officially, the minimum age of enlistment was 18, and soldiers had to be 19 to serve overseas. Stanley must have lied about his age on enlistment, and he was one of the estimated 250,000 underage soldiers to serve on the front line. He was first reported as missing and then, in March 1917, as killed in action. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Chessetts Wood and Knowle.
His name is mentioned in Knowle Parish Magazine, March 1917, as being one of the men not living in the parish, but being closely associated with it. Soldiers Died in the Great War suggests he was living in Edgbaston at the time of enlistment.
Austin Geoffrey Leigh was born in Hampton-in-Arden in 1893, the youngest of the four children of George Leonard Leigh, an artist and former merchant, and his wife Emily Hart Leigh (née Austin). The family was still in Hampton in 1901 and in 1911 but apparently moved to Yardley around the time of the war.
Private Austin Geoffrey Leigh, as the other two men mentioned above, also first entered a Theatre of War on 21st November 1915 with 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He must have been promoted shortly before being killed in action on 4th June 1916, aged 21, as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, and the Register of Soldiers’ Effects both list his rank as Lance Corporal. However, his Medal Index Card still lists him as being a Private.
He is buried at Fauburg D’Amiens Cemetery, Arras, France and is not included on the Hampton-in-Arden war memorial, although his name is listed on Yardley war memorial at St Edburgha’s church.
Philip Leslie Patterson was born in Acocks Green in 1894, the youngest son and eighth of the nine children of parents William Ernest Patterson, a manufacturing jeweller, and his wife, Annie, who lived at the Ards, Knowle.
An article in the Birmingham Daily Mail 9th June 1916 indicates that Philip was educated at St Chad’s, Prestatyn, North Wales and then at Warwick School. He joined the 6th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment in September 1914, and went to France in March 1915. He was commissioned in August 1915, and was posted to the 1st Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. He was killed in action near Wulverghem, Belgium, aged 21, nine months later.
He is buried at Dranoutre Military Cemetery in Belgium, and is commemorated locally on village war memorials at Knowle and Dorridge, as well as at Knowle & Dorridge Cricket Club. He is also on the Moseley Football Club (Rugby Union) Memorial.
If you have any more information about any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934