Three local men lost their lives on 9th October 1916: Private Ernest Davis and Private Charles Thomas Field, both of the 6th Battalion, Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry; and Rifleman Reginald Henry Whorwood, 1st/9th Battalion London Regiment (Queen Victoria’s Rifles).
Ernest Davis was born in Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire and was baptised on 24th January 1885. His parents were John (an agricultural labourer) and Mary Ann and they lived at Southwood Cottage, Cleobury Mortimer from at least 1875, when his older brother William Charles was baptised, until at least 1892, when his younger brother Edward John was baptised.
By 1901, Ernest had moved to Solihull and, aged 16, was living with his brother, Herbert, in Drury Lane, where he was working as a baker’s journeyman. Herbert had married Amy Elizabeth Smith at Solihull in 1900, and her 15-year-old sister Sarah Ann was also living with the couple in Drury Lane in 1901. Three years later, Sarah Ann married her brother-in-law Ernest Davis at Solihull. By 1911, Ernest (a groom working for a baker) and Sarah Ann were living in Drury Lane with their two children, John Thomas (6) and Blanche May (1), and Sarah Ann’s widowed father, John.
Ernest’s older brother, bricklayer’s labourer Herbert, was also living in Drury Lane with his wife and two children. Also living nearby in George Road, Solihull in 1911 was Ernest and Herbert’s younger brother, 19-year-old Edward John, who was boarding with the family of Alfred Smith.
It seems that Ernest and Edward John both joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. 17927 Private Edward John Davis’s service record has survived and shows he enlisted on 19th November 1915, aged 25. He was previously a grocer’s porter working for Mr Conibear on Solihull High Street. He was discharged in January 1918 as no longer physically fit for war service.
Soldiers Died in the Great War shows that, prior to service in the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry, Private Ernest Davis previously served as Private no. 19319 Royal Warwickshire Regiment, so it seems likely that Ernest enlisted shortly after his brother. There is also a medal index card for Private Herbert Davis no. 238148 Royal Warwickshire Regiment (later transferred to Lancashire Fusiliers) and it may be this is Ernest and Edward’s brother. Unfortunately, with such a common name we have been unable to confirm this is the same man.
Ernest was killed in action on 9th October 1916 and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on Solihull war memorial.
Charles Thomas Field was born in Berkswell in 1885 and was the third of the eight children known to have been born to parents William and Mary Jane. William was a Birmingham-born navy pensioner who became a farmer and lived in Berkswell c. 1884-c.1886. before moving to Balsall Common, where the family is recorded on the 1891 census. By 1901, they had moved to Haseley, Warwickshire where they remained until at least 1911.
Charles had become a gardener by 1911, and enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment before being transferred to the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. His Royal Warwicks service number – 19323 – suggests that he enlisted at the same time as Ernest Davis, above, who was also transferred to the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. Soldiers Died in the Great War indicates that he was resident in Lower Hayfield, Northamptonshire at the time of enlistment.
Charles was killed in action on 9th October 1916 and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He doesn’t appear to be on war memorials in his birthplace of Berkswell or his parents’ home of Haseley.
Reginald Henry Whorwood was born in 1896 in Chadwick End. He was the only son and eldest of the two children of parents Charles (a journeyman baker) and Lily Alice. His younger sister, Lilian May, died in 1911, aged 13.
In 1911, Reginald was aged 14 and living in the family home at Chadwick End. His father, Charles, died in 1912, so was spared the knowledge of the death of his only son. Reginald’s mother, Lilian Alice, married William H. Stevens in 1913 and moved from Chadwick End to Sparkbrook. By the time Reginald enlisted in the Army in April 1916, he was working as a footman in the household of Emily and Edward Thomas Baldwin, barrister, at 1 Gloucester Place, London. The couple’s two sons were both killed in the war.
Reginald was initially posted as missing, and it wasn’t until July 1917 that the Birmingham Mail carried news of his death. His original service number was 4481 but, because of being declared missing, rather than killed, he was given a new service number – 391558 – in the 1917 renumbering of those in Territorial Force units.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on the Temple Balsall lychgate memorial, and the memorial plaque in St Peter’s Church, Balsall Common.
If you have further information about any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977
email: heritage@ solihull.gov.uk