Four local men are known to have died on 2nd July 1916, all serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment:
- Private John Franklin, of Olton
- Drummer Frank Nash, of Shirley
- Private William Richard Pittom, of Shirley
- Second Lieutenant Cyril George Williamson, former pupil of Solihull School
John Franklin was the youngest of the seven children (six sons and one daughter) born to Oxfordshire-born police officer (later a gardener), Septimus Franklin, and his wife, Hannah. The couple married in 1868 and seem to have set up home in Yardley before moving to Olton sometime between 1877 and 1879. Their youngest two children, Annie and John, were born in Olton in 1879 and 1881 respectively, and both were baptised at St Alphege Church.
John became a bricklayer, and married Catherine Florence Mann at St Alphege Church in 1906. By 1911, the couple were living in Ulverley Green Road and they had had three children in four years of marriage: Dorothy Annie (1906-1998); Constance (born 1907); and Henry Septimus (1910-1971).
It’s not known when John enlisted but it looks as if he didn’t serve overseas and was at Chiseldon training camp near Swindon when he died, aged 35, on 2nd July 1915. The Register of Soldiers’ Effects gives his cause of death as diabetes and he is recorded as serving with 17th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He is buried at Chiseldon Cemetery, and there is a photograph of his gravestone online. He is also commemorated on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church, Olton.
His widow continued to live in the local area and her death, , aged 97, was registered in Solihull in 1979. The couple’s eldest daughter, Dorothy Annie, also died in Solihull in 1998, aged 91.
Frank Nash was born in Sparkbrook, Birmingham in 1896, the youngest of the five children (two sons, and three daughters) of Francis and Mildred Nash. By 1911, the family had moved from Balsall Heath to Shirley, where they were living at Ash Tree Cottage, Stratford Road.
Frank was a 14-year-old errand boy in 1911 but had become a printer by the time he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) on 17th October 1914. He gave his age on enlistment as 19 years, 8 days but, in fact, he would only have been just 18, and may actually have been still 17 (his birth was registered October-December 1896). He was discharged from the Army 14 days after enlistment, having been declared medically unfit for service. There are no further medical details on his service record.
We don’t know when Frank rejoined the Army, serving with the 2nd/5th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. His medal index card doesn’t indicate an entitlement to a 1914 or 1914/15 Star, suggesting that he didn’t serve overseas before 1916. He is buried at Rue-du-Bacquerot No.1 Military Cemetery, Laventie. His name also appears on Shirley War Memorial.
Also buried at Rue-du-Bacquerot No.1 Military Cemetery, Laventie, just six graves away from Frank Nash, is William Richard Pittom. He too was a Private in the 2nd/5th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment and he is also commemorated on the Shirley War Memorial.
He was born in Southam, Warwickshire on 17th July 1891, one of nine children born to parents Richard and Emma Elizabeth (née Shearsby) who had married at Leamington Priors in 1888. One of William’s younger brothers, Thomas Clarke Pittom, joined the Army as a regular soldier, enlisting in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 14th January 1914. He first saw overseas service on 8th November 1914 and was wounded and discharged on 10th June 1916, less than a month before his brother was killed. A third brother, Ernest George Pittom (1897-1971) also joined the Army, serving as a Private during the First World War with 9th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
William Richard Pittom (who appears to have been known by his middle name as he was recorded on the 1901 census as Richard Pittom) seems to have moved to Shirley sometime between 1911 and 1914, when he married Amenia May Hobbins of High Street, Solihull Lodge. The couple seem to have set up home in Yardley Wood and their son, Albert Abraham Pittom, was born on 7th February 1915.
We don’t know when William Richard enlisted in the Army but it seems he didn’t serve overseas until 1916. He was Mentioned in Despatches. His widow, Amenia May, married Joseph Beddows in 1917 and his son, Albert Abraham Pittom, died in Birmingham in 1983.
Old Silhillian, Cyril George Williamson was also killed on 2nd July 1916. Born in Wednesbury in 1894, Cyril was the only child of Arthur Williamson (1869-1917) and his wife, Sarah Elizabeth. In 1911, aged 17, he was a boarder at Solilhull School, whilst his parents were living in Selly Park, where they had moved from Wednesbury between 1901 and 1911.
Solihull School during the First World War by John Loynton notes that Cyril was a boarder at Town House. He left school in 1912 after being a prefect, and captain of football. He was also a good cricketer. On Sports Day 1912 he won the Long Jump, High Jump and came second in shot putt and hurdles. He also won prizes for general work and music (1911). He was a Sergeant in the Officers’ Training Corps (OTC), attending summer camp at Borden, Aldershot.
A report of his death appeared in a local newspaper:
Information has been received by his parents, Mr and Mrs Arthur Williamson, of “Newlyn”, Selly Park Road, of the death in action of their only son, Sec. Lieut. Cyril George Williamson, of the R. War. R. The deceased officer was educated at Solihull Grammar School and Birmingham University, where he gained his B.Sc. in July, 1915. He served in the O. T. C. at Solihull and joined the Warwickshires last August, being gazetted to the 13th Battalion, and subsequently transferred to another battalion of the regiment. Sec. Lieut. Williamson, who was twenty-two years of age when killed by a shell in the great offensive movement, was very popular in the regiment, and much esteemed in Birmingham. His superior officer, describing how he met his death, says “he died, as he would have chosen, fighting bravely,” and adds: “Since he has been with the battalion he has always done his duty splendidly, and was a young officer of great promise.” (Birmingham Daily Post, 18th July 1916)
Second Lieutenant Cyril Williamson has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He is also commemorated on the war memorial at Solihull School.
If you have any information about any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977