Two men with a connection to Solihull died on 24th November 1916 – old Silhillian, Private William Anthony Machin, 16th Battalion, Midddlesex Regiment, and Corporal John William Skelcher, 5th Battalion, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.
William Anthony Machin was born in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire in 1887. He was the second son and, he and his twin sister, Kate Elizabeth, were the youngest of the six children of parents Francis Thomas Machin, a paper merchant, and Rebecca Elizabeth (née Smith).
Francis was a Director of Roberts, Mart & Co., paper manufacturers in Leeds, and represented the firm’s interests in the Midlands for many years. An animal lover from childhood, he became a knowledgeable exhibition judge of dogs, canaries and British birds. He wrote a book, The Flowers of the Orient, which became the standard work on the Oriental Frill breed of pigeon.
Between 1887-1891, the family moved to Station Road, Knowle. In 1896 Francis Machin acquired the lease of land in Moseley on what was once part of the Moseley Hall estate. Salisbury Road was created in 1896 and named after the Prime Minister (see Moseley Conservation and Management Appraisal for more details of the area). Around 1897, Francis and Rebecca Machin moved into their newly-built house, Glengarriff, no. 59 on Salisbury Road, Moseley. The couple remained there until their respective deaths – Rebecca in 1929 and her husband, Francis, in 1939.
The couple’s oldest son, Frank Smith Machin (1881-1970), appears to have been commissioned Temp. Second Lieutenant in June 1916. He qualified as a dental surgeon in 1905 and practised in Hereford. He served with the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) and was later promoted Lieutenant, Captain and Acting Major. He survived the war, and continued to practise as a dental surgeon in Hereford until at least 1939. He died in 1970, aged 89.
Their youngest son, William, is known to have attended Solihull School. He seems to have followed in his father’s footsteps as he also became a paper merchant. He enlisted in the Army in April 1915, aged 28, and was sent to France 205 days after enlisting – on 17th November 1915. He served in France for one year, eight days before being killed in action.
He is buried at A.I.F. Burial Ground, Flers, and is also commemorated on war memorials at Solihull School, St Mary’s Church Moseley, and at Moseley Ashfield Cricket Club.
John William Skelcher was born in Chastleton, Oxfordshire and, in common with William Machin (above), had a twin sister. John was the eldest of the four sons of parents, William (a carpenter) and Betsy Sarah. The couple also had five daughters. It looks as if two of their other sons – David Huckvale (1896-1981) and Ernest Frank (born 1891) also both served in the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. Interestingly, on his discharge in 1918, David gave his intended place of residence as Berkswell Hall. He remained in the Coventry area for the rest of his life and, in 1939, was working as a clerk in the planning and records section of an engineering works.
We don’t know what connection John William Skelcher had with Solihull but, by 1911, he had left the family home and was working as a gardener at Fort House, Chudleigh Knighton, Devon. It seems likely that he moved to Solihull between 1911 and the time of his enlistment, although Soldiers Died in the Great War reports that he was living in Chastleton when he enlisted at Oxford. The same volume also notes his previous service in the Cyclist Corps before his transfer to the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry.
He died on 24th November 1916 and is buried at Gezaincourt Communal Cemetery Extension and is also commemorated on Solihull war memorial.
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