23rd July 1916

11 local men lost their lives on 23rd July 1916, eight of them whilst serving with the 14th (1st Birmingham) Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1st Birmingham Pals), and one from the 15th Battalion (2nd Birmingham Pals).

Unpublished research by the late Alan Tucker gives the following summary of the day as regards the 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment:

At 10pm on 22nd July, the 14th Battalion joined in an attack on Wood Lane, with High Wood on their left. This was part of a general British attack from Guillemont to Pozieres. There was to be a five and a half hour bombardment of the German lines, with two hour concentrated shelling of the German front line before zero hour. At 10 minutes to zero, the attacking troops were to advance under the cover of an artillery barrage until they were close to the German line, and then to lie down and wait for the barrage to lift at zero. All ranks were warned: ‘hesitation is fatal… a quick bayonet charge is certain to have the required effect.’

At 9.55pm, the Germans opened ‘overwhelming machine gun and infantry fire’ and British troops were ‘cut to bits’.

Two companies from the 15th Battalion were later sent in to support the right flank of the attack, but they lost their way and were not used.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission debt of honour website records 184 casualties from the 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 22nd/23rd July, which Alan Tucker’s research suggests was the largest number of casualties for the regiment since that of the 1/8 Battalion on the first day of the Somme. Our local casualties on 23rd July 1916 were:

In addition, there were two local casualties serving with other regiments:

Three of the day’s casualties were from Olton:

Thomas Harry Everard Allman, known as Everard, was born in Yardley in 1892 and was the youngest of the four children of parents George and Mary Vernon (née Griffiths). His eldest brother, George Vernon Allman (1881-1954) had emigrated to Canada by 1914, when he married Mary Grace Colvin in British Columbia. His other brother, Harold Allman (1883-1956) lived in Olton and, by 1939, appears to have been the neighbour of chemist Frank Biddle, whose son, John, was killed in 1917. The boys’ sister, Ethel Mary (1885-1979) married Charles Henry Crumpton in 1905 and, in 1911, she and her two small children were living with her parents and her brother Everard in Yardley Road, Acocks Green.

It’s not known when Everard enlisted, although his medal index card notes his first overseas service as being in France on 23rd Feb 1915. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, as well as locally on the war memorial plaques at St Margaret’s Church, Olton.

Also commemorated at Olton is Thomas Reginald Hanson, who was born in Birmingham in 1887 and was the eldest of the three children of licensed victualler Thomas Hanson and his wife, Kate Elizabeth (née Lee). Their second son, Frank Lee Hanson, was born on 30th July 1888, and their youngest child, a daughter, Gladys Winifred, on 16th July 1890. Thomas (senior) died on 16 May 1890, exactly two months before the birth of his daughter. The middle child, Frank, seems to have emigrated to Canada between 1901 and 1911, and died in Winnipeg in 1923. Gladys married Ernest Arthur Dixon in 1922 and died, aged 94, in 1984.

After the death of Thomas (senior), his widow Kate Elizabeth was left with three young children to support but she seems to have been in comfortable circumstances, appearing on census returns as “living on own means”. Probate details (available on the Ancestry website free of charge from computers in Solihull Libraries) indicate that Thomas died on 16th May 1890 whilst at Betws-y-Coed, Wales, and that he left a personal estate worth £11,020 10s 9d (equivalent in purchasing power to over £1 million today). Newspaper reports indicate he was the proprietor of two businesses in Birmingham city centre – St James’s Restaurant, New Street/Burlington Arcade, and the Corner Luncheon Bar and Stores, 16 Union Passage. Auction details advertised a return in excess of £10,755 per annum.

Between 1901 and 1911, Kate Hanson moved with her family to Olton, and she appears on the 1911 census, still widowed, and living at Holly Mount, Olton, with her son, Thomas, a 24-year-old articled clerk, and her sister and niece. It’s not known when Thomas enlisted in the Army, but it seems likely that he joined when the Battalion was first raised in Birmingham September 1914. His medal index card shows he was with the Battalion when it landed at Boulogne on 21st November 1915. He is buried at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval. As well as being commemorated on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church, Olton, he is also listed on the roll of honour of Wellesbourne School in St Mary’s Church, Acocks Green.

Private Stanley Arthur Vint was the third casualty from Olton to be killed on 23rd July 1916. He was born in 1890 in Aldershot, Hampshire and was the eldest of the four sons of parents Arthur (an architect) and Alice Bethia Vint. By 1901, he was one of seven boarders at the High School, Baldslow Road, Hastings, which was opened in January 1884 by Headmaster John Hooper and seems to have operated until 1914.

By 1911, Stanley was living in Southampton, where he was an apprentice in an ironmonger’s shop. His youngest brother, two-year-old Douglas William (1908-1993), was with their parents in Aldershot, whilst the remaining two brothers, 16-year-old Alan George Horsefall (1895-1949) and 13-year-old George William Henry (1897-1939) were both boarders at Holmwood School, Bexhill on Sea, Sussex, whose headmaster was the Warwickshire cricketer, Alfred Francis Bryan.

Arthur Vint and his family seem to have moved to Warwickshire between 1911 and 1914, setting up home in St Bernard’s Road.

Stanley’s brothers, Alan and George, also both served in the First World War with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). George enlisted in the Army on 7th September 1914, giving his age as 20 years and four months, although he would actually only have been aged 17 years and four months (his baptism entry at Aldershot in June 1897 gives his date of birth as 4th May 1897). He joined the RFC on 17th September 1915, giving his next of kin as his father, Arthur, of ‘Domus’, 30 St Bernard’s Road, Olton. George was discharged 4th October 1918 to temporary commission and became a 2nd Lieutenant, gaining his wings on 29th November 1918.

Alan enlisted on 12th January 1915 with Royal Flying Corps, and was promoted to Sergeant on 1st May 1916. He was promoted temporary Sgt Major on 1st February 1917. He transferred to the Royal Air Force when the RFC merged with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) on 1 April 1918 and was transferred to the reserve pool in April 1921.

Stanley was killed in action and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, as well as being recorded on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church, Olton and on the roll of honour of Olton Cricket Club.

Also commemorated at Olton Cricket Club is Stuart Orford Nickson, who joined the 1st Birmingham Pals on the first day of its formation in September 1914, receiving the service number 44. He was born in Acocks Green in 1892, to parents Horace (a tailor) and Florence. He was the second of the couple’s three sons, two of whom died in the war. The couple also had three daughters – Hilda Muriel (born and died January 1891), Olive Merle (born 1895) and Phyllis Elaine (born 1896). The oldest son, Horace Clarence (1889-1965) became a medical student at the University of Birmingham, qualifying as a doctor in 1912 and subsequently practising in Cambridgeshire for several decades. He also served as a Lieutenant (and later Captain) with the Royal Army Medical Corps during the First World War. The youngest son, Cecil Raymond, was born in 1893 and was killed in action in November 1918, just two days before the Armistice.

The family moved to Solihull from Acocks Green sometime between 1901 and 1911, when they are shown as living at Oak Meadow, Warwick Road. Stuart apparently joined his father’s tailoring business in Canon Street, Birmingham before enlisting. A newspaper article announcing that he was missing notes that he was prominent in cricket and football circles. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, as well as on the Solihull war memorial in the Square and on the roll of honour of Wellesbourne School at St Mary’s Church, Acocks Green.

In 1921, Phyllis Nickson presented a book (The Priest to the Altar by Peter Goldsmith) to St Alphege Church. She had decorated the leather-bound book in memory of her brothers. The book is now in the custody of The Core Library, Solihull.

Solihull war memorial also includes the name of 27-year-old Charles Gordon Troman, known as Gordon, the second child and eldest son of parents David and Evis Maria Troman. Gordon was born in 1889 and entered School House, Solihull School in 1900. His father, David, was a bedstead manufacturer from Birmingham, who purchased Malvern Hall, Solihull in 1896. He reduced the height of the house, which had been badly neglected for some years, and added bow windows and balustrading. David Troman died suddenly on 12th August 1915, aged 58, and the Solihull Parish Magazine noted the loss of a “very true friend” to the parish, also commenting:

Everybody will feel a heartfelt sympathy with the family, especially as Mrs Troman has the additional anxiety of parting with her two sons who may probably be soon going out to the war.

It seems that the two brothers enlisted as Privates in the 1st Birmingham Pals on its formation on 7th September 1914 – initially receiving service numbers 83 (Charles Gordon) and 98 (John Howard). Both landed with the battalion at Boulogne on 21st November 1915. Charles Gordon Troman was initially posted as missing, and official confirmation of his presumed death appeared in the press in June 1917. John Howard Troman was discharged from the Army in 1917 owing to sickness, and received the Silver War Badge.  According to a letter from a fellow soldier, mentioned on the Long, Long Trail Forum:

Johnny Troman… has left us for a time, and gone to a job on the brigade in the gunboot store, he is what they call trenchworn or unfit temporarily for the trenches. Johnny never really got over losing poor old Gordon, and after that he was nearly hit by a shell bursting within a yard or two from him, killing and wounding some of his comrades with him. This quite unnerved him, so they thought it better to put him on the brigade, so much healthier.

John Howard Troman married Alma Fermi Foa in London in 1924 and, by 1939, they were living in Bournemouth, where John was working as a marine insurance agent. They later moved to Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire where John died in 1963, aged 72.

Charles Gordon Troman has no known grave and is commemorated on the memorial at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, as well as on memorials at Solihull and Solihull School.

Two men from Hampton-in-Arden died on 23rd July – Lance Corporal Charles Victor Jones and Company Sergeant Major Robert Malin.

Charles Victor Jones was the older brother of Collins Jeffreys Jones, who was killed on the previous day in the same action. Charles was born in 1892 in Churchill, near Kidderminster, two years before his brother, Collins, and was the fourth of the ten children born to parents Thomas (a farmer) and Alice Olivia. By 1901, the family had moved to Northfield, Birmingham. By 1911, they had moved to Hampton-in-Arden, although Charles was boarding with a family in Coventry, where he was working as a machine tool fitter.

Charles and his brother, Collins, enlisted together on 1st January 1915 according to research by local historian Clive Hinsull. They both became Lance Corporals with the 14th Battalion (1st City Battalion) Royal Warwickshire Regiment and died within hours of each other.

Charles has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Bickenhill and Hampton-in-Arden.

45-year-old Robert Malin was born in Hampton-in-Arden in 1872, the sixth of eight children. He attended George Fentham School in the village. His mother, Mary, died in 1880, aged 41, when Robert was only 8 and his two younger siblings – Mary and Jonathan – were aged five and one. His widowed father continued to live in the village until his death in 1892, although Robert left home in 1890, aged 18 years and 11 months, and enlisted in the Army. He joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) at Winchester on 6th October 1890, giving his occupation as a labourer. After service in Burma 1891-2, India 1892-7, and Mauritius 1897-8, he was transferred to the Reserves in July 1898. He was recalled to Arms in October 1899 and posted to South Africa the following month. After serving in the Boer War, he came back to England in August 1902 and was discharged in October the same year.

After leaving the Army, he moved to Birmingham and became a coach painter in the motor trade. In 1911, aged 38, he was boarding in Sparkhill with 42-year-old shopkeeper, Laura M. Hawkesford. They married in the summer of 1914, shortly before war broke out and Robert joined the Army in September 1914, enlisting with the Birmingham Pals (14th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment) and becoming Colour Sergeant Major. He was admitted to hospital for three days in April 1916, suffering from gastritis (inflammation/infection of the stomach lining). After treatment from the 14th Field Ambulance RAMC, he returned to duty. He was killed in the attack on Wood Lane, near High Wood. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. A photograph of him is available on the Birmingham History Forum.

The war memorial in St Patrick’s Church, Salter Street includes the name of Private Walter Harris, of the 10th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment. William Walter Harris, known as Walter, was born in Studley, Warwickshire, in 1898. By the time of the 1901 census, he was three years old and living in Studley with his widowed mother, Ellen (née Washbourne). Ellen was working as a charwoman, supporting her three children aged between two and five. Her husband, Joseph Harris, had died in April 1897, less than two years after the couple married at Haselor, Warwickshire in December 1895. Ellen had several more children and remarried in December 1906, marrying Albert Bennett in Great Alne, Warwickshire.

By 1911, she and Albert were living in Great Alne with their children. William Walter Harris is recorded with the family, aged 12. His Army service record seems not to have survived so we don’t know when he enlisted but his medal index card notes he first served overseas on 9th August 1915. It seems likely that Walter Harris lied about his age when he joined, as he would have been 17 or 18 when he first saw active service, although the age limit for overseas service was 19. His entry in the Commonwealth War Graves debt of honour register gives his age as 18 when he died.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Lance Corporal Bernard Robert Lewis, 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, is commemorated on Shirley war memorial, although we haven’t been able to discover what his connection is with the area. He was born in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, and was the youngest child (and only son) of the three children of Henry Uriah Lewis, a commercial traveller, and his first wife, Elizabeth Jane. Henry was born in Wells, Somerset and married Elizabeth Jane Wills in Nuneaton in 1881. The couple then moved to Fishponds St Mary, Gloucestershire, where their daughters Winifred Mabel Lewis (1883-1963) and Gertrude Annie Strickland Lewis (1884-1946) were born. Their only son, Bernard Robert, was born in Birmingham in 1885 and, by 1891, the family had moved to Chilvers Coton, near Nuneaton.

Bernard’s mother, Elizabeth Jane, died in Chilvers Coton in January 1899, aged 42. With the help of a servant to run the family home, Henry Lewis was still in Nuneaton with his three children in 1901. By 1911, the situation had changed. Henry had remarried and was living in London, whilst his eldest daughter, Winifred, had also married and was living in London. Her younger sister, Gertrude, was working as a nurse at the Queen’s Hospital, Bethnal Green, London.

Bernard Robert Lewis was an ironmonger’s assistant and was boarding in Balsall Heath in 1911. Presumably, given his commemoration on the Shirley war memorial, he moved to Shirley sometime between 1911 and 1915. He has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Private John Nix, 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was born in Knowle on 8th May 1897 and baptised at the parish church on 6th June the same year. His parents were William, a labourer, and Ellen Mabel Alice (née Jones), who had married in 1893. He was the third of the couple’s eight children, and was one of three of the children to pre-decease their parents, who died in 1933 (Ellen) and 1949 (William). John’s siblings were: Joseph Henry (1893-1968); Clara (1895-1910); William Charles (Aug-Nov 1899); Albert (1900-1976); Arthur (1903-1980); Alfred (1905-1983); and Mabel Edith (1909-1986).

John was a choir boy at Knowle parish church, and is commemorated on an individual plaque in the choir stalls. He was also a scout and was apparently active in the village institute, according to unpublished research by the late Alan Tucker. He joined the 1st Birmingham Pals on the outbreak of war, and landed with them in Boulougne on 21st November 1915, six months after his 18th birthday. He died, aged 19, eight months later. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, as well as in the Soldiers’ Chapel in Knowle parish church.

Frederick John Wyatt was baptised at St James’s Church, Newbottle with Charlton, Northamptonshire. His parents, John and Mary (née Markham) had married in 1860, and Frederick was the youngest of their eight children.

His mother, Mary, died in 1888, aged 49, when Frederick was just 11 years old. He continued to live in Northamptonshire with his widowed father, John, and his older sister Emily, until at least 1891. He had left the family home by 1901, and appears in Castle Bromwich in 1911, being listed as a 33-year-old labourer on the Midland Railway.

We don’t know when Frederick enlisted in the Army, but his medal index card shows he didn’t serve overseas before 1916, as there is no entitlement to a 1914 Star or 1914/15 Star. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, as well as on memorials in St Mary & St Margaret’s Church, Castle Bromwich and on the village war memorial on The Green, Castle Bromwich. He is also commemorated on the war memorial in the church at which he was baptised, St James’s, Newbottle with Charlton.

If you have any more information about any of these men, please let us know.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6977
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

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