Four local men lost their lives on 26th September 1916 serving with the British Army in France – Lance Corporal Herbert Arculus, 16th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment; Private William Herbert Keel, 9th Battalion, Notts and Derby (Sherwood Foresters) Regiment; Major Guy Egerton Kidd, “A” Battery 70th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery; and Corporal Sam Chidler Ravenhall, 64th Brigade, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).
Herbert Arculus was born in Acocks Green in 1895. He was the second of the four children (three sons, one daughter) of parents Francis Edwin (a brass stamper and piercer) and Helena Florence (née Wood) who had married in 1892. In 1901, five-year-old Herbert was living in Lapworth with his maternal grandparents, William Henry and Matilda Wood.
Herbert attended Solihull School, entering Knowle House in 1907 and leaving school in 1911. He is known to have been a good cricketer.
By 1911, 15-year-old Herbert was at the Glen, Acocks Green, with his parents and his siblings Cecil (18), Harold (10) and Mabel (4). His brother Cecil (1893-1968) served in the war as a Lieutenant with the Machine Gun Corps. Both he and his younger brother, Harold (1901-1975) became brassfounders.
We don’t know when Herbert enlisted but he first saw overseas service on 21st November 1915. He was killed in action on 26th September and is buried at A.I.F. Burial Ground, Flers, France. He is also commemorated on war memorials at Solihull School and St Mary’s Church, Acocks Green.
William Herbert Keel, known as Herbert, was born in 1889 in Packwood. On the 1891 census, aged 1, he was living in Station Road, Packwood with his parents, William (a gardener) and Lizzie. Although his mother was recorded on the census with the name Lizzie, she was actually Theresa Elizabeth (née Marsh). The couple had six children – two boys, four girls – of whom Herbert was the eldest.
By 1901 the family had moved to Poplar Road, Dorridge, where they seem to have remained until at least the 1920s. Herbert followed in his father’s footsteps and also became a gardener. In 1911, he was one of seven gardeners working at the Bothies, Warter Priory, York. Sometime between 1911 and his enlistment in the Army, he moved to work on the Welbeck Estate in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire.
He enlisted in the Army at Worksop, joining the Sherwood Foresters, and his medal index card shows that he served overseas in the Balkans “prior to 31.12.1915”. He was killed in action on 26th September 1916, aged 27, and his gravestone in the Pozieres British Cemetery, Ovillers-la Boisselle notes that he is “believed to be buried in this cemetery”.
He is listed as William Keel on the Welbeck Club Roll of Honour recording the 130 estate workers who served in the war. He is also listed as H. Keel on the bronze memorial in the Welbeck Abbey Estate Chapel. Locally, he is commemorated in the Soldiers’ Chapel in Knowle.
Guy Egerton Kidd was born in London on 5th November 1882. His father, Percy Marmaduke, was a physician. His mother, Gertrude Eleanor (née Harrison) was from a military family. Her father, Thomas Branfill Harrison, was a Major-General and, in 1891, Gertrude and her three sons – Guy Egerton (8), Alan Harrison (6) and Eric Leslie (1) – were staying with him in Wrington, Somerset. Percy and Gertrude also had a daughter, Gertrude Hilda, who was born in May 1887 but died in September 1888.
In January 1900, Guy E. Kidd was listed as one of those who had been successful in the Competitive Examination held in November and December 1899 for admission to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. The 1901 census shows him as a “Gentleman Cadet” in Woolwich. Whilst at Sandhurst in 1901 he played cricket for the Royal Military Academy, and he also played in the Royal Artillery XI. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant with effect from 21st December 1901.
He married Mary Gair Smith in 1908 and then served in India as a Lieutenant with the Royal Field Artillery, although the 1911 census notes he was absent in England on census night. In fact, Guy & Mary Kidd were staying at a hotel in Pembroke Street, Cork, Ireland on census night 1911 (many thanks to the granddaughter of the hotel managers for letting us know this information).
Guy was subsequently appointed adjutant of the 4th South Midland (Howitzer) Brigade R.F.A., a Territorial Force unit based in Coventry. During this time he lived at “Ladbrook”, New Street, Kenilworth but left on the outbreak of war. He went to the Front in March 1915 and took command of a “A” Battery, 70th Brigade R.F.A. in October that year. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) and was also Mentioned in Despatches.
He was killed on 26th September 1916, when a shell went through the roof of the mess in Bazentin-le-Point at 10pm. Two Second Lieutenants – J.B.C. Capper and G. Nairn – were wounded in the same attack, with Lieut. Capper dying of wounds two hours later. Guy Kidd is buried in Flatiron Copse Cemetery, Mametz. In 1922, his widow, Mary, married Thomas Martin Leitch in Scotland. In 1934, she died of asphyxia from coal-gas poisoning.
Guy’s youngest brother, Eric Leslie, joined the Royal Field Artillery in July 1915 as a Second Lieutenant, going on to become Acting Captain by the end of the war. Known as Leslie, he was a notable cricketer, playing county cricket for Middlesex and with the potential to play test cricket for England. After the war he became a Director of Guinness Ltd in Dublin.
Guy Kidd’s local connection with the Solihull area is that, whilst living in Kenilworth, he was a member of the North Warwickshire Hunt, which was based in Meriden. He appears on the club’s roll of honour, and is also listed on Kenilworth’s war memorial. His brother, Alan, had one son – Roger Guy Beresford Kidd – born in 1923, and presumably given the middle name Guy in memory of his late uncle.
Sam Chidler Ravenhall was born in Castle Bromwich in 1894 and was the youngest of the four children (three sons, one daughter) of parents John Joseph (a bricklayer’s labourer and, later, a coal merchant’s carter) and Clara Louisa. Both parents and all four children were born in Castle Bromwich, and the parents lived in a cottage at Little Heath from at least 1891 until at least 1911.
In 1911, 16-year-old Sam was working as a grocer’s porter, and was the only child still living in the parental home. His older siblings had all left home – 22-year-old Clara Elizabeth was working as a parlourmaid for company director Thomas Barclay and his family at Southfield, Castle Bromwich; 21-year-old John was a carter for a bakery and was boarding in Hereford; George Joseph, aged 19, a cotton willower for a surgical dressing manufacturer, had married at the age of 18, and was living in New Street, Castle Bromwich with his wife and 5-week-old son, John Joseph.
We don’t know when Sam enlisted in the Machine Gun Corps, although he didn’t see any service overseas before 1916. He was killed in action on 26th September 1916 and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on Castle Bromwich war memorial and on the memorial plaque in St Mary and St Margaret’s Church, Castle Bromwich.
If you have any further information about any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian