Five men with a connection to Olton are known to have lost their lives on 1st July 1916:
- Lance Corporal John Herbert Hockley, Royal Newfoundland Regiment
- Second Lieutenant Horace Birchall Jones, North Staffordshire Regiment
- Lieutenant Donald George Harding Truman, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Leslie Waters, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Albert Weale, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
John Herbert Hockley, known as Jack, was born in Birmingham and was the third of the four children of parents William Herbert Hockley and his wife, Jane. The family moved from Sparkhill to Richmond Road, Olton, sometime between 1901 and 1911. Jack, a travelling salesman in the iron tube industry, doesn’t appear to be listed on the 1911 census so it is possible that he had emigrated to Newfoundland by then. Unfortunately, the 1911 census for Newfoundland has only partially survived and his name doesn’t seem to be included.
Certainly, he enlisted on 5th September 1915 in St John’s Newfoundland, joining the first draft of volunteers with the 1st Battalion, Newfoundland Regiment. He was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on 27th February 1916, and was killed in action at Beaumont Hamel on 1st July 1916. He is buried at Ancre British Cemetery and is also commemorated locally on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church, Olton.
A photograph of him is included on a website “Newfoundland and Labrador in the Great War“.
Horace Birchall Jones was born in 1891 in Acocks Green, Birmingham, the second of three children (two boys, one girl) born there to parents William Thomas and Clara Elizabeth Jones. His father, William Thomas Jones (1862-1938), was a draper, with a shop at 71-73 High Street, Birmingham. Horace attended Wellesbourne School, Acocks Green and Wycliffe College, Stonehurst, Gloucestershire. After leaving school, he joined his father’s business as a junior partner, as did his older brother, William Stanley Jones (born 1889).
His parents moved from “The Hollies”, Warwick Road, Acocks Green to Arden Vale, Olton sometime between 1911 and 1916.
On the outbreak of war, and with the formation of the Birmingham Pals, Horace Birchall Jones joined the 1st City Battalion (14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment) as a Private, receiving the service number 175. He didn’t see overseas service as a Private, and was soon commissioned Second Lieutenant with the North Staffordshire Regiment. He entered a Theatre of War on 6th March 1916, less than four months before he was killed. Original reports listed him as “missing” and, although his body wasn’t found, notification of his death came a few days’ later. The Birmingham Mail 14th July 1916 included a report from his Major:
“It is with feelings of great sorrow that I have to write to you with news about your son. From statements of men who saw him, I fear there can be little doubt that he died fighting hard on July 1st… Please accept the deepest sympathy of us all with you in your loss. Your son was a wonderfully good soldier who did not know what fear was, and his loss is a heavy blow to the regiment. He was so popular with everybody, always cheery and in good spirits.”
A photograph of Lieut. H. B. Jones is included on the Lives of the First World War website, as part of a history project at Wycliffe School to research details of Old Wycliffians in the Great War.
Donald George Harding Truman was born in Birmingham in 1891, the youngest of seven children born to parents George Edward Truman (a commercial traveller) and his wife, Caroline (née Harding). Donald was the couple’s only son, and he was ten years younger than their youngest daughter. His siblings were: Eleanor Mary (1868-1959), Lizzie Winifred (1870-1946), Jessie Gertrude (1873-1969), Edith Marion (1875-1966), Mabel Beatrice (1880-1954), Elsie Kathleen (1881-1961).
The family moved from Bordesley, Birmingham to Oakdale, Kineton Road, Olton between 1901 and 1911. Donald attended King Edward VI School, Camp Hill and went on to Birmingham University, where he was a member of the Officers’ Training Corps. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant on 5th November 1914 and full Lieutenant on 25th July 1915.
Newspaper reports at the time gave his date of death as 2nd July but this was later revised to 1st July. Extracts of a letter from his Colonel to Donald Truman’s father were included in an article in the Birmingham Mail, 7th July 1916:
“We have had quite a long spell in the trenches, and your son had been doing splendidly,” wrote Lieut. Truman’s colonel to the young man’s father. “The Huns’ artillery was rather active, and as two officers of the a company had been hit very slightly, he was selected for temporary command.” The letter goes on to explain that Lieut. Truman was on his way back from a meeting at headquarters on July 1st, and was in the trenches of his own company when he was hit by a shell, and, adds the colonel, “I believe he was killed painlessly and instantaneously.” “Your son,” continues the colonel, “had been noted for promotion at the first vacancy, and his work all through has been excellent. To put it shortly, he was a most gallant gentleman, and died doing his duty.”
Leslie Waters was the fifth of 11 children born to Walter Waters (1854-1908), a wholesale fish merchant and Alderman on Birmingham City Council, and his wife, Louisa (1858-1920) (née Vickerstaff), who had married at St George’s Church, Birmingham in 1876. The family moved to Acocks Green between 1886 (when Leslie was born) and 1889.
By 1911, aged 24, Leslie was living in Acocks Green with his widowed mother and some of his younger siblings. He was working as a self-employed tailor. Alderman Waters died in 1908 and it seems that his widow had moved to Olton sometime between 1914 and 1917. Probate for her estate was granted in May 1920, and Letters of Administration for the estate of her son, Leslie, were granted in June 1920. The address for both of them was given in probate records as Hewcroft, St Margaret’s Road, Olton. As the house was advertised to let in July 1915, it is likely that the Waters family moved there around this time.
Two of Leslie’s brothers – Lawrence and Bernard – are known to have served in the First World War. Bernard’s attestation papers survive and give his address on 3rd September 1914 when he enlisted as Dudley Park Road, Acocks Green. The address is later scored through and replaced with Hewcroft, St Margaret’s Road, Olton. Papers for Leslie and Lawrence haven’t survived but Soldiers Died in the Great War gives their residence on enlistment as Olton, suggesting they enlisted in 1915.
Albert Weale was born in 1893, the ninth of ten children known to have been born to parents Abel William and Elizabeth Charlotte Weale (née Bristow). The family lived in Bordesley Green on the 1901 and 1911 censuses so the exact connection with Olton isn’t known.
In 1911, Albert was listed as being a “lorry man” working for the Midland Railway. In 1913, aged 20, Albert joined the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, giving his occupation as a “number taker”. In 1916, he married Rose Cattell and it looks as if they had a son, also Albert, born between July-September 1916.
Albert senior has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Together with all of the men listed above, he is also commemorated on war memorial plaques at St Margaret’s Church, Olton.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian