Four local men serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment are known to have died on 30th July 1916 whilst on active service; Olton resident, Private William Dobson, 14th Battalion; Private Howard John Hutchinson, formerly of Shirley, (14th Battalion); Private William John Lawley of Shirley (10th Battalion) and Solihull resident, Lance Corporal John Manning (14th Battalion). Also killed was Meriden’s Lieutenant Reginald Ernest Melly, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment). Four of them have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Private Hutchinson was also recorded on the Thiepval Memorial but is now buried at the London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval.
Private William Dobson was killed in action on 30th July 1916 serving with the 14th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1st Birmingham Pals). Born in Eccles, Manchester to Lancashire-born parents Thomas and Emily Ann, the family set up home in Olton sometime between 1891 and 1899. Thomas was Director of an insurance company and William, the couple’s eldest son, became an insurance clerk.
William Dobson married Madeline Rosa Hill (1886-1986) in Solihull in 1909 and they set up home in ‘Rosslyn’, Blossomfield. Within the first two years of marriage they had one child, who died in infancy. It looks as if they went on to have two more children – Phillip T. (known as Peter) born in 1912, and Joan Irene (1915-2003). By 1939, Madeline and her son Philip, an aircraft statistics clerk, were living in Lyndon Road, Olton, whilst Joan was living at ‘Blythemore’, Lovelace Avenue, working as a children’s nursery nurse . Philip went on to serve in the Royal Corps of Signals during the Second World War.
William Dobson is commemorated locally on war memorials at St Margaret’s Church, Olton and Olton United Reformed Church.
Howard John Hutchinson was also killed on 30th July 1916 serving with the 14th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Born in Birmingham in 1895, he was the eldest of the five children (three sons, two daughters) of parents Oliver and Laura Hutchinson. The family moved around in the local area – moving from Ladywood to Acocks Green to Shirley and then Hall Green during the period 1896-1915. By the 1920s, they had moved to Blackpool, although they had returned to Birmingham by the 1950s.
In 1911, Oliver (a weighing machine manufacturer) and Laura were living at The Newlands, Haslucks Green Lane, Shirley with their five children, aged between eight months and 15 years. The eldest, 15-year-old Howard, was working as a clerk in a rubber manufacturers (likely to be Dunlop), having been educated at King Edward’s School 1904-1910. He must have joined the 1st City Battalion on its formation shortly after the outbreak of war, receiving the service number 682 and arriving in France with the battalion on 21st November 1915.
Following the 30th July attack on High Wood Trench, Howard was originally posted as missing, and his name was included on the Thiepval Memorial. However, his remains were found and identified in 1956 and he was buried in January 1957 at the London Cemetery and Extension, High Wood.
As the family had moved away from Shirley, his name was not included on the Shirley war memorial, although he is recorded in the Birmingham Book of Remembrance.
Also killed on 30th July 1916 is Private William John Lawley, 10th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, who had been serving in France since 18th July 1915.
Born in Balsall Heath in 1892, William was the second of the four children of parents Thomas, a hairdresser, and Ada Clara (née Bowlcott/Boulcott) who had married in 1890. William, with his younger brother Rudolph (born 1896), and sisters Barbara (1890-1931) and Dorothy (born 1899), moved with their parents to Longmore Road, Shirley, between 1901 and 1911. William followed in his father’s footsteps and also became a hairdresser.
Both brothers were killed in the war – William on 30th July 1916 and Rudolph almost exactly a year later, 31st July 1917. They are both commemorated on the war memorial at Shirley.
London-born Private John Manning, 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, had moved to Solihull from Kilburn between 1901 and 1911, after the death of his parents, John and Mary.
In 1911, he was working as a clerk at a brass foundry, and living with his aunt and uncle, Lucy and William Mann, antique dealers at “Ye Old Curio Shop” on Solihull High Street. His aunt made an appeal in the Birmingham Weekly Post in October 1916, asking for anyone with any news of him to contact her.
His name isn’t included on the Solihull war memorial, although Soldiers Died in the Great War gives his residence as Solihull on enlistment.
Lieutenant Reginald Ernest Melly, 20th Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment), is commemorated on a plaque at Meriden church, and on the war memorial at Meriden where his father, Ernest Louis Melly (1859-1923), was Chairman of the Board of Guardians. Reginald was born in Liverpool, as was his father, and his two older sisters – Kathleen Louise (1887-1924) and Ellen Gladys (1888-1936). The family had moved to Meriden by 1898 when his youngest sister, Nancy Florence was born. They lived at Highbury Bank House, Berkswell Lane.
An article in the Coventry Standard 11th August 1916 gave details of Lieutenant Melly’s education, career and sporting interests:
LIEUT R. E. MELLY (KILLED)
The death in action on July 30th is announced of Lieut R. E. Melly, of the 20th King’s Liverpool Regiment, only son of Mr and Mrs E. L. Melly of Meriden.
Mr Melly was educated at King Henry VIII’s School, Coventry, and at Malvern College. He was articled to Mr R A Rotherham, of Coventry, and was admitted a solicitor in 1911, when he became managing clerk to Messrs Dickson and Coles, Wakefield. at the commencement of the war he joined Lord Derby’s Liverpool “Pals” Battalion as a private. He was given his commission in February 1915 and in May the same year was promoted to lieutenant. He went out to France in October, and during the July offensive he was in command of a company, and was in two actions previous to the one in which he fell. The colonel of his regiment has written to his parents: “He was an excellent officer at all times, and throughout the recent operations, in command of a company, was invaluable. He was beloved by his men, and is greatly missed by us all, and he died – as he had lived – a very gallant gentleman.”
The late Lieut. Melly was a cricketer and a hockey player; in hockey circles he was well-known throughout the Midlands. While in Coventry he played left-half for the Coventry and North Warwickshire Club, and for Warwickshire and the Midlands. On going to Wakefield he played for Sandwell, and for Yorkshire and the North. As a cricketer he also played for Coventry and north Warwickshire.
His many friends both in Warwickshire and Yorkshire will be deeply grieved by his death, and much sympathy is felt for his parents and relatives.
At a meeting of the House Committee of the Meriden Board of Guardians held at Meriden on Tuesday, the members passed a resolution, in which the officers asked leave to join, of condolence with Mr E. L. Melly, who is the chairman of the committee, in the loss of his son, Lieutenant Melly.
Lieutenant Melly is also commemorated in Wakefield, West Yorkshire – on the war memorial at Walton, and on the memorial at St Helen’s Church, Sandal. Meriden’s local historian, Doreen Agutter, reports in The Fallen of Meriden and Great & Little Packington during the Great War 1914-18 that his father never got over the loss of his son. Ernest Melly died in 1923 whilst on a visit to Liverpool. One of his sisters, Kathleen Louise, died of appendicitis in Birmingham in July 1924 and was much mourned in Meriden, where she had taught piano and supported charitable events at the workhouse. Her widowed mother left Meriden in 1929 and moved to Cheltenham, where she died in 1941.
If you have further information on any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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