Daniel Joseph Ferns died of tuberculosis at his home in Dingle Lane, Solihull on 27th October 1916. Having been discharged from the Army on 5th August 1916, the former Sapper isn’t included on the Commonwealth War Graves records. However, he is recorded on Solihull war memorial and at St Augustine’s Catholic Church, so was obviously considered by the community to have been a war casualty. A letter dated 27th December 1916 awarding a pension to his widow also indicates that the War Office accepted that his death was as a result of his war service.
He was born in Birmingham according to his service record, but born to British parents in Boston, USA according to census records. His older siblings, brothers Edward and John, were born in Birmingham in 1871 and 1872 respectively. His younger sister, Mary, was born in 1880 in Harborne, meaning that his parents, Daniel (a salesman) and Ann, who had both been born in Ireland, could only have lived in the USA for a maximum of eight years before returning to England.
His mother, Ann (née O’Harr) died in Birmingham in 1880, aged 33, leaving her husband with four children under the age of ten. It looks as if her husband then died in 1889, aged 44. Their children subsequently went to live in Ladywood with their uncle, John Ferns, a corset maker, and his widowed sister, Elizabeth Leavy, and her three children. 16-year-old Daniel Joseph Ferns was listed in 1891 as a telegraphist.
On 15th August 1898, Daniel Joseph Ferns married Mary Winifred Price at The Oratory, Hagley Road, Edgbaston, and they had five children before Daniel, by now a corset manufacturer, enlisted in the Army in September 1914. He was described as 5ft 6in, of dark complexion, with dark brown hair and grey eyes. Making use of his previous telegraphic skills, Daniel was appointed as a Sapper in the 1st Corps Signallers, Royal Engineers.
He embarked overseas with British Expeditionary Force on 7th July 1915. He reported sick in January, March and June 1916 and was admitted to the Casualty Clearing Station on 19th June 1916, when TB was found. He returned to England on 29th June 1916 and was officially discharged on 5th August. His discharge documents note his character as “very good” and that he was “a good office telegraphist”. His address on enlistment and on his discharge was Elm Cottage, Dingle Lane, Solihull.
Recent research by a local resident, Geraldine, has revealed that he is buried at Olton Franciscan Friary (Area 36 Plot 448). There appears not to be a military pattern headstone as he is not recorded on the Commonwealth War Graves website as a war casualty.
His son, Edward Francis Ferns, enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 16th October 1915, giving his age as 19 years 9 months and his occupation as corset maker. His residence was listed as Dingle Lane. In fact, having been born on 19th February 1900, he would actually have been almost 15 years 8 months on enlistment. He was discharged on 31st December 1915 after 77 days service, on the grounds of being under military age.
If you have any further information about the family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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