12th October 1916

Two men with a local connection and who were both serving in the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire, were killed in action on 12th October 1916. Neither Private Ernest Lockley nor Acting Corporal Matthew Forrest has a known grave, and so both are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Matthew Forrest was born in Coughton, Warwickshire in 1896 and was baptised at the parish church on 2nd February 1897. He was the eldest of the six children of parents Matthew (a farmer) and Margaret (nee Fawkes) who had married at Coughton in 1878 when Matthew was 43 and Margaret was 28.

Matthew (senior) was born in Northumberland in 1851 and this was his third marriage – his first wife, Jane Johnston, died in 1874 and his second wife, Margaret Abigail Dobinson, died in 1893. Matthew had a son and a daughter from his first marriage, and two sons from his second marriage, as well as four sons and two daughters from his third marriage.

Matthew (senior) seems to have moved to Warwickshire between 1893-1895. The children from his first marriage remained in Northumberland with their maternal grandparents.

Matthew and Margaret Forrest moved with their family from Coughton to Tanworth-in-Arden between 1901-1903. At that time Tanworth was part of the Solihull Rural District and information from a local historian in the village is that the family apparently lived at Birchy Cross Farm in the parish. Matthew (junior) attended Tanworth-in-Arden Church of England School and is included on the school’s Roll of Honour.

The family remained in Tanworth until at least 1908 but had moved to Leek Wootton by the time of the 1911 census. Matthew (junior) was aged 15 at the time of the census, and was working as a gardener.

On the outbreak of war, Matthew Forrest immediately volunteered for the Army. The Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser of 12th September 1914 lists his name amongst the recruits from Leek Wootton. His Medal Index Card suggests that he first saw overseas service on 4th May 1915.

Acting Corporal Matthew Forrest, aged 20, was killed at the Battle of Le Transloy serving with ‘A’ Company, 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

The Coventry Herald of 27th March 1920 notes that out of a population of 480, no fewer than 67 men from the parish of Leek Wootton served in the Armed Forces during the First World War. 18 of those died, including Matthew Forrest, and are commemorated on a memorial plaque at All Saints’ Church in the village. With the family having left Tanworth around six years before the outbreak of war, Corporal Forrest’s name is not included on the war memorial at Tanworth-in-Arden.

Private Ernest Lockley, 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment was also killed in action on 12th October 1916. Born in Birmingham in 1892, he was the third of the five children (three sons, two daughters) of parents Thomas (a brass caster) and Sarah Ann.

The local connection is that it seems Ernest was an inmate of Marston Green Cottage Homes, probably sometime between 1901 and 1909. His two younger sisters – Alice May (born 1895) and Nellie (born 1899) were both listed as inmates there on the 1911 census. By this time, Ernest would have been 18 years old and, therefore, too old to be resident in a children’s home. It wasn’t until 1918 that the school leaving age was raised from 12 to 14 although, typically, Poor Law Institutions would apprentice out children from the age of 14.

Marston Green Cottage Homes was run by Birmingham Poor Law Union, and housed children who would otherwise have been admitted to Birmingham Workhouse (later Dudley Road Hospital). We haven’t been able to find out why Ernest and his siblings were admitted to the cottage homes – typical reasons would be the death or illness of the breadwinner.

Ernest must have volunteered for the Army soon after the outbreak of war. He first saw overseas service – in the Balkans – on 13th July 1915. He was killed in action on 12th October 1916 and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, and also on Marston Green Cottage Homes memorial.

If you have any further information on either of these men, please let us know.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6977
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

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