On 27th July 1916, two local men lost their lives whilst serving in France. Private William Webb, from Hockley Heath, serving with 17th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, and Private Walter Henry Percival Wright, from Shirley, serving with 16th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (3rd Birmingham Pals).
According to an order of service for a memorial service at St Patrick’s Church, Salter Street, William Webb was born on 4th October 1897. He appears on census records 1901 and 1911 living in Hockley Heath with his grandparents, George Webb (a general labourer) and Eliza (née Worrall). He seems to be the eldest of at least four children – his brothers John Edgar and Frederick George were both baptised at Nuthurst in 1902, whilst his sister Agnes was baptised there in 1906.
His grandparents, George & Eliza, had 11 children of whom William’s mother, Edith Mary, was the sixth. She was born on 3rd June 1897 and worked as a general servant from at least the age of 12, when she appears on the 1891 census as a servant at Box Trees Farm, in the household of Thomas Dearn. By 1901, she was working as a servant in Lapworth and, in 1915, when her son enlisted in the Army, she was working at Manor Farm, Widney Lane. In 1939, Edith was still living in Back Lane, Hockley Heath, working as a charwoman and doing laundry. She died in 1971, aged 93.
William became a gardener but enlisted in the Army on 8th November 1915, joining the 23rd (Service) Battalion, Middlesex Regiment (2nd Football) which had been formed in June 1915. By the time he died on 27th July 1916 he had been transferred to the 17th Battalion (1st Football), which was formed in December 1914 and landed at Bolougne on 18th November 1915. William embarked for France on 31st May 1916 and served overseas for only 58 days before his death.
William Webb has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Hockley Heath, St Thomas’s Church Nuthurst-cum-Hockley Heath, and at Umberslade Baptist Church.
Walter Henry Percival Wright (known as Percy) was the only son and second of the three children of parents Henry George Wright (a life insurance broker) and Eliza Annie. The family seems to have moved around frequently. Percy was born in Leicester in 1885, whilst in his older sister, Lucy Emily was born in Derby in 1881, and his younger sister, Mabel Frances Annie, was born in Croydon, Surrey in 1889. In 1891 they were all living in Nottinghamshire but they had moved to Ladywood, Birmingham by 1901 and Edgbaston by 1911, when 25-year-old Percy was working as commercial traveller for an electricity and telephone supply company. By 1916, the family had moved to ‘The Lindens, Shirley.
An announcement of his death in the Coventry Standard on 11th August 1916 indicates that he joined the Army on the outbreak of war. The article also mentions that, as a boy, he had been a chorister at Worcester Cathedral and that he was in the choir of St Germain’s Church, Edgbaston.
Percy has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on the Shirley war memorial.
If you have any further information on either of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977