At “zero hour” – 7.30am on Saturday 1st July 1916 – officers in the trenches blew whistles and British troops scrambled up ladders along a 14-mile stretch of the Western Front. As instructed, they advanced at a slow, steady pace across No Man’s Land. They were met with a hail of German machine-gun and rifle fire. Accurate German shell barrages of the Allied assembly trenches also cut off their lines of support.
By the end of the day, which was the first day of the Battle of the Somme, there were a total of 57,470 British Army casualties, of whom 19,240 had been killed. This is the greatest number of casualties suffered by the British Army in a single day and, because many soldiers were serving in Pals’ Battalions with other men from their local area, there was enormous impact on local communities at home.
Twenty-four men from places that were in the then Solihull Rural District, or places that are now in the Borough of Solihull, are known to have lost their lives on this first day of the Somme.
- Second Lieutenant John Balkwill, of Knowle
- Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Jermyn Brand, formerly of Dorridge
- Private James Burton, of Solihull School
- Private John Thomas Churchill, of Castle Bromwich
- Private Harold Clifton, of Salter Street
- Private Frederick Percy Cooper, of Shirley and Solihull
- Private Thomas Cooper, of Knowle
- Second Lieutenant William Henry Furse, of Solihull School
- Lieutenant Robert Quilter Gilson, of Marston Green
- Lance Corporal John Herbert Hockley, of Olton
- Private Walter Jennings, of Balsall Common
- Second Lieutenant Horace Birchall Jones, of Olton
- Lieutenant-Colonel Maurice Nicholl Kennard MC, member of the North Warwickshire Hunt
- Captain Stratford Walter Ludlow, of Knowle and Solihull
- Private John Palmer Lyndon, of Shirley
- Private Alfred Mutlow, born in Knowle
- Private Harry Rudd, of Castle Bromwich
- Private Richard James Smith, born in Solihull
- Private George Arthur Smitten, of Knowle
- Lieutenant Donald George Harding Truman, of Olton
- Private Leslie Waters, of Olton
- Private Albert Weale, of Olton
- Private James Webster, born Solihull
- Captain Willingham Franklin Gell Wiseman, of Packwood Haugh School
Fifteen of the 24 local men killed were serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
If you have any further information about any of them, please let us know.
The battle raged on for another 140 days, finally ending on 18th November, with more than one million Allied and enemy soldiers wounded or killed. On average, 893 men died on each day throughout the battle.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977