Two local men died on 12th January 1917 whilst on active service – Private Philip Hugh Gwyther, who was born in Castle Bromwich, and Private William Thomas Price. Private Gwyther was serving with the 1st Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment, whilst Private Price was with the 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Philip Hugh Gwyther (known as Hugh) was the third of the five children (four sons, one daughter) of parents Julian (a solicitor) and Dorothy (née Hughes) who had married in Llandudno, Wales in 1875.
By 1876, the couple were living in Water Orton where their two oldest children (Edwin James and Dorothy Maude) were born. By 1878, the family had moved to Castle Bromwich, where their remaining three sons were all born – Philip Hugh in 1878, Guy Llewellyn in 1882, and George Lionel (known as Lionel) in 1886. At the time of the 1881 census, the family was living at The Elms, Whateley Green. From newspaper advertisements, it seems that Julian Gwyther was practising as a solicitor in Birmingham. The family moved from Castle Bromwich to Dorset between 1886 and 1891. By 1901, most of the family members had moved to Kensington, London.
At the time of the 1891 census, 12-year-old Hugh was a boarder at Sherborne Preparatory School. He attended Sherborne School as a day boy 1892-3, according to the school’s Book of Remembrance.
All four of the couple’s sons served in the First World War and two – Philip and Guy – lost their lives. Guy died in January 1916 and Philip was killed almost exactly a year later. Eldest son, Edwin, served in the Boer War and the First World War. Youngest son, Lionel, emigrated to Canada and joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in 1915. After the war he emigrated from Canada to the USA and became a naturalised US citizen in 1943.
Hugh married Mary Witchell in 1903 in London, and the couple set up home in Westminster. In 1911, Hugh was a theatrical manager, and it appears that he was the London Representative of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon.
Private Philip Hugh Gwyther’s service record is amongst the two-thirds of service records destroyed by bombing in the Second World War, so we don’t know when he enlisted. He was not awarded a 1914 or 1914/15 Star suggesting he did not see overseas service before 1916.
He was killed in action on 12th January 1917 and is buried at Philosophe British Cemetery, Mazingarbe, France. He is not commemorated on the war memorial in his birthplace of Castle Bromwich.
William Thomas Price was born on 1st September 1892, and baptised at Temple Balsall on 13th November 1892. He was the sixth child of parents Mark, a former railway labourer who became a farmer, and Eliza, who lived at Fen End. The couple had three daughters and eight sons, of whom two – Frederick (1887-1888) and George (1890-1891) – died as infants. Mark also had a daughter, Ada (born 20th December 1881) by his first wife, Sarah Ann (née Wallis). The couple had married in 1880 and Sarah died in 1883, aged 23.
It appears that Mark and Eliza married in 1885 in Kings Norton registration district. By 1901, the family had moved to Fishers Hall Farm, Little Packington, where they remained until at least 1920. William, and his brothers, Mark, Frank and Daniel, were all working on their father’s farm. Their youngest brother, Fred, aged 12, was still at school.
Fred was called up in June 1918 ,aged 20, and posted to the British Expeditionary Force in France in October. He joined the 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment in the field on 25th October 1918, and was then admitted to hospital on 30th December 1918 suffering from influenza. He left hospital in January 1919, and returned to England in February 1919.
William’s service record appears not to have survived so we don’t know when he enlisted. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website indicates he was killed in action at Hebuterne on 12th January 1917, although the CWGC graves register gives his date of death as 11th January . He is buried at Hebuterne Military Cemetery. His name does not appear on war memorials in Temple Balsall or Balsall Common, presumably because of the family having moved out of the area.
If you have any further information about the Price or Gwyther families, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977