35-year-old Private Harry Edgington died in France on 8th October 1916 serving with the 13th Battalion Canadian Infantry.
He was born in Earlswood and, although his date of birth is given in Army attestation papers as 23rd December 1882, it seems he was three months old at the time of the 1881 census, so it’s likely that his birth was actually on 23rd December 1880.
His parents, Joshua and Maria (née Jones), married in 1867, having both been married before. Maria had married John Bradshaw in 1859 and they had two children – Henry Bradshaw (born 1860) and Eliza Bradshaw (born 1863). John died in 1863, and Maria remarried four years later.
Joshua married his first wife, Mary Payne, on 2nd November 1857 at St Martin’s Church, Birmingham. The groom’s name was recorded as “Hedginton” rather than “Edgington”, but this is unlikely to be a deliberate change in spelling, especially as Joshua was unable to sign his own name on the marriage register. At the time of the marriage Joshua was a labourer, and both he and Mary gave their addresses as Edgbaston Street.
Joshua and Maria set up home in Tanworth-in-Arden and had three children – Joseph, George and Sarah- all born in the village between 1858-1861. A fourth child, Arthur William (apparently known as William), was born in 1864. Mary died in 1866, aged 30, and Joshua remarried the following year. By 1871, Joshua was a lock keeper on the canal and he was living with his family in the Lock House, Wootton Wawen. The family had moved to Earlswood by 1881, and were at Terry’s Green, Earlswood in 1891.
In addition to the two children Maria had from her first marriage, and the four children from Joshua’s first marriage, the couple went on to have six children together – three sons and three daughters. Harry was the second youngest child and the youngest son. Joshua died in 1898, and Harry was the last of the children living in the family home, living alone with his widowed mother, Maria at Dickens Heath in 1901 and 1911.
His brother, (Arthur) William, enlisted in the Shropshire Light Infantry in 1888, and served in Ireland, Hong Kong, India, and South Africa before being discharged as time-served in 1901. He had married Alice Mary Williams at St John’s Church, Ladywood in 1896, and their daughter, Ethel Dorothy May, was born in 1903. William re-enlisted in July 1915, aged 44, but didn’t see any active service and was transferred to the reserves in September 1916. He was discharged in January 1919 as surplus to military requirements “having suffered impairment since entry into the service”.
Harry was a bricklayer’s labourer in 1901, becoming a timber labourer by 1911. He emigrated to Canada in March 1914, departing London on 12th March 1914 aboard the Allan Line steamship Sicilian, and arriving in St John’s, Newfoundland on 29th March 1914. He gave his occupation in England as sawyer, and his intended occupation in Ontario, Canada as farming.
However, events overtook his plans, and with the outbreak of war, Harry Edgington enlisted in the Canadian Infantry on 25th August 1915, giving his birthplace as Shirley, Warwickshire, England. It was noted that he belonged to the active militia, and that he was 5ft 8 in tall, with fair hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He was unmarried. He gave his next-of-kin as his sister, M. Edgington, suggesting that his mother had also died by 1915.
Harry Edgington is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, which bears the inscription “To the valour of their countrymen in the Great War and in memory of their sixty thousand dead this monument is raised by the people of Canada.” He is not known to be commemorated on any war memorial in the Solihull area.
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Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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