Eight local men were killed in action on 3rd September 1916 whilst serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in France. Unpublished research by the late Alan Tucker describes the 14th Battalion in assault positions near Angle Wood at 2am on 3rd September, ready for an attack towards Falfemont Farm. The farm was on high ground overlooking the Allied positions and was a German fortified strong point immediately in front of the German trenches.
The attack began at 9am with an assault by the 2nd Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers. It faltered quickly as there was no protective barrage to provide cover, and German machine guns cut down the soldiers 500 yards from the front of the farm. The 14th Battalion Royal Warwicks joined the attack, with the 15th Battalion joining in at about 1pm. The men who had survived were relieved at midnight, and the farm was finally taken on 5th September by the 1st Cheshires and 1st Bedfords. By this time, no part of the farm was left standing.
None of our eight local Royal Warwicks casualties killed in this action has a known grave and all are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
- Private Archibald Henry Brown, 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Lance Corporal Hugo Buckley, 16th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Rowland Hill Burgess, 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Lance Corporal Henry Wood Doble, 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Oliver Robert Foreshew, 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Garnet Smith, 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Henry Troman, 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Frederick George Wilsdon, 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Archibald Henry Brown was born in Croydon, Surrey, and was still living there in 1911 when, aged 17, he was recorded as a clerk to a gas company. He was the eldest of the two sons of parents Benjamin (a plumber) and Annie Sophia (née Collins), who had married in 1889 in Sussex.
We don’t have any further details about the local connection, other than Soldiers Died in the Great War records him as living in Hampton-in-Arden at the time of enlistment, although his name is not recorded on the village war memorial.
Hugo Buckley was born in Bentley Heath, Solihull on 12th October 1896 and baptised as Archibald Hugo Buckley at Knowle parish church on 22nd November 1896. His father, Walter Thomas Buckley (1852-1932) was a licensed victualler at the time, although he had become a gamekeeper in Monkspath by 1901, and was working as a gamekeeper at Box Trees, Hockley Heath in 1911.
Hugo was the youngest of Walter’s four sons and was one of the five children (three sons, two daughters) born to Walter’s second wife, Emily Marshall, whom he had married in 1888. Walter’s first wife, Jane (née Goodby) died in 1884, leaving him with two young children (Frederick Samuel, born 1880) and Florence Elizabeth (born 1881).
We don’t know when Hugo enlisted, but he first saw overseas service on 31st July 1915 so it’s clear that he was a volunteer, not a conscript. He is commemorated locally on Hockley Heath village war memorial and the war memorial in St Thomas’s Church, Hockley Heath.
Rowland Hill Burgess (sometimes recorded in records as Roland) was born in Stockport on 12th June 1890 and baptised at Tiviot Dale Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on 4th August 1890. He was the eldest of the three children of parents William (a gardener) and Reta Ellen (also listed sometimes as Rita Helen). His siblings were baptised in the same chapel – William Stanley in 1892 and Marion in 1896.
Rowland’s parents had both been born in Hampstead, London but had moved to Stockport by 1890, and Bolton between 1896 and 1901. They remained in Bolton for the rest of their lives – Reta died in 1933, aged 70, and William in 1941, aged 77. They are buried in Heaton Cemetery, Bolton and their gravestone makes reference to their two unmarried children who predeceased them – Rowland and Marion, who died in 1937, aged 42. Their remaining child, William Stanley Burgess, married Marian Selman in 1915 and died in 1970, aged 78. It looks as if the couple had two children – Phyllis, born in 1917, and Rowland (presumably named after William’s late brother), born in 1920.
We don’t know when Rowland Hill Burgess moved to Solihull but it must have been between 1911 and 1916. At the time of the 1911 census he was living in Bolton with his parents and was described as a civil service student. He is listed as “missing” in the Solihull parish magazine of November 1916 and his name is included on Solihull’s war memorial.
Henry Wood Doble was born in Johannesburg, South Africa and served with the Natal Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in German East Africa (a German colony that included what are now Burundi, Rwanda and part of Tanzania). We don’t know when or why Henry Doble moved to Solihull but Soldiers Died in the Great War indicates he was living in Solihull when he enlisted in the British Army in Birmingham. His name does not appear on the Solihull war memorial.
He was the son of George Robert Doble and his wife, Elizabeth Phoebe. It looks as if the couple had another son, Fred, who died on the Somme and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Fred was killed in action on 12th October 1916, serving with the 4th Regiment, South African Infantry. His father appears to have been in Bluff, Durban with the South African Mounted Rifles.
Oliver Robert Foreshew (Foreshaw in some records) was born in the Cotswold market town of Lechlade, Gloucestershire in 1877. He seems to have been the fifth of the seven sons of parents William (an agricultural labourer) and Mary Ann. The couple also had one daughter. One of his younger brothers – Ernest Frederick – was born in July 1878 but died, aged five months.
By 1901, aged 24, Oliver was boarding in Nuthurst with the family of George Davis, a circular sawyer. Oliver married Sarah Jane Webb in 1903, and they set up home in Hockley Heath. By 1911, Oliver was working as a wood sawyer, and the couple had five children – Winifred (1903-1984), twins Annie Elizabeth and Oliver James (born 23 November 1905), William Edward (1908-1979) and Christabel (1912-1999). Information from Christabel’s granddaughter via the Friends of Umberslade Baptist Chapel’s Facebook page is that Christabel remembered her father’s boots hanging from the apple tree in the garden drying out after one of his returns from the Front.
Oliver volunteered for war service and first saw service overseas on 27th May 1915. He is commemorated locally on the Hockley Heath village war memorial, as well as on memorials in St Thomas’s Church, Hockley Heath, and Umberslade Baptist Church. He doesn’t appear to be included on war memorials in his Gloucestershire birthplace of Lechlade, nor in Filkins, where his parents had lived. However, his mother seems to have died in 1887 and his father in 1888. After this, the children dispersed and at least three of them moved to London.
Garnet Smith was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire in March 1885. He was the third of the seven children (two sons, five daughters) of parents John Henry (a brass founder) and Martha (née Rowbottom).
The couple had married in Crewe on 29th January 1880 and their eldest child, Edith, was born there the following year. Their next child, eldest son, Sidney, was born in Leighton, Bedfordshire in 1883. The family was then in Grantham from about 1885 until about 1896, before moving to Sparkhill, where they were living by 1901. Between 1901 and 1911, the family had moved to Victoria Villa, Warwick Road, Olton. 26-year-old Garnet was recorded as a dentist.
Garnet volunteered for Army service on the outbreak of war, and joined the 2nd Birmingham Pals, arriving with them in France on 21st November 1915. He was killed almost ten months later, and is commemorated on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church, Olton.
Henry Troman was baptised at St Alphege Church, Solihull on 10th August 1879. He was the youngest of the five children (three sons, two twin daughters) of parents William (a bedstead manufacturer with a works in Bolton Street, Birmingham) and Clara, and was the first cousin of Charles Gordon Troman of Malvern Hall who was killed on 23rd July 1916.
Only one of Henry’s siblings seems to have married. His brother, William (1876-1957), married Violet Sturgess in 1911, and they set up home at Ravenshurst, Lode Lane, Solihull. They went on to have two children – Violet (born 1914) and Eric (born 1919). Eric became an aero mechanic and emigrated to Canada in 1957.
Henry’s parents and unmarried siblings – brother John, and twins Clara and Ann – continued to live at the family home, The Elms, Lode Lane until their deaths. Their father, William, died in 1927, aged 81, and their mother, Clara, died in 1932, aged 80. After this, John and his sisters lived in the house until they died. Twins Clara and Ann, who had been born on 20th November 1872, died within six months of each other – Clara, aged 86, on 29th June 1959 and Ann, aged 87, on 6th December 1959. John died two years later, aged 87.
By 1911, Henry had become an auctioneer. We don’t know when he enlisted but he didn’t see overseas service before 1916. He is commemorated locally on war memorials at Solihull, Solihull School, and the Avenue Bowling Club.
Frederick George Wilsdon was born in Barston in 1884 and baptised at St Swithin’s Church, Barston on 4th May 1884. He was the youngest of the seven children born in 23 years to parents George (a farm labourer) and Mary Ann (née Beesley). There was an 11-year age gap between Fred (as he was known) and his next-oldest sibling, Alfred. Three of Fred’s six siblings had already died by 1911 – Charles Francis (1861-1866), Sarah Ann (born 1862) and William (1869-1907). Their mother, Mary Ann, died in 1907, aged 68.
By 1911, 27-year-old Fred, a house painter, was living in Barston with his widowed father, and his unmarried sister, Ellen, aged 46, keeping house for them all. His two surviving brothers – James and Alfred – had both married and were living nearby with their wives and children.
Alfred (1872- 1956) was a groom (domestic) and was living in Barston in 1911, with his wife, Olive, and their three children.
James (1866-1947) was a wheelwright and, in 1911, was living in Park Road, Solihull with his wife, Amy and their six children. In 1892, James had set up a wheelwright’s and blacksmith business – George & Wilsdon – in partnership with Charles George. James took over the business around 1912, and expanded into the manufacture and sale of wagons, and then into the manufacture of commercial vehicle bodies, trading as Wilsdon & Co. The firm, which was one of Solihull’s largest employers, closed in 1994, having relocated to Lode Lane in 1959. One of James and Amy’s sons, Sidney Charles (1899-1983) is known to have served as a merchant seaman in the First World War.
We don’t know when Fred enlisted in the Army, but he didn’t see overseas service before 1916. He is commemorated locally on memorials at St Swithin’s Church, Barston, and in Barston Memorial Institute.
If you have any further information about any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 012 704 6977