11th February 1917

Two men with a local connection died on 11th February 1917. Temporary sub-Lieutenant Walter Holden Legge, Royal Naval Division, attached to Royal Flying Corps, died in Solihull Hospital, whilst Lance Corporal Hubert Woodfield MM, 7th Battalion Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry died in France.

Walter Holden Legge was born in Stoke Newington, London on 20th November 1882 and was the youngest of the five sons of parents, Henry (a merchant) and Sarah Martha (née Bevington). Both parents pre-deceased their son Walter – Henry died in 1899 and Sarah in 1901 – and they are buried at Chingford Mount Cemetery.

Several of the brothers seemed to travel frequently, and two of them – Walter and Gilbert – appear to have emigrated to Canada in the early 20th century. Walter owned a ranch at Caesar’s Landing, Kelowna, British Columbia, which he sold some years before the war.

Both brothers enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. Walter enlisted in November 1914 and was subsequently commissioned Temporary sub-Lieutenant with the Royal Naval Division in October 1915. He took his aviation certificate at Castle Bromwich in November 1916 and then took a Royal Flying Corps certificate on 30th January 1917. With effect from 31st January he was gazetted temporary Lieutenant on the General List, for duty with the Royal Flying Corps.

However, apparently disobeying orders not to  leave, he flew from RFC Lilbourne, Rugby on Saturday 10th February 1917. Records suggested the plane was an Airco DH.4, although information from the family is that it was a DH.9. A report in the Evening Despatch 13th February 1917 suggests that Lt Legge became lost over Solihull and, attempting to land to ask for directions, the aircraft lost speed attempting to turn and crashed in a field. The pilot was taken Solihull Hospital but died of his injuries the following day.

He is buried at Chingford Mount Cemetery with his parents. He is also commemorated on the First World War Cenotaph in Kelowna’s City Park, Canada.

Hubert Joseph Woodfield was baptised at Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire on 22nd April 1894. His parents were Joseph (a quarryman) and Hannah (also listed in some records as Ann/Anna) (née Brooks) who had married at the same church in 1886. Hubert was the fifth of the couple’s 11 children (six sons, five daughters). Hannah died, aged 38, in 1905, leaving her widowed husband with six children under the age of ten.

By 1911, 17-year-old Hubert was still living at the family home in Aston Cantlow, Warwickshire and was working as a carter for a general haulier. His 21-year-old sister, Ellen, appears to have been acting as housekeeper for the family.

Hubert’s service record doesn’t appear to have survived, so we don’t know details of his war service, except that he first entered a Theatre of War on 23rd July 1915.  He was one of more than 115,000 soldiers awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field during the First World War.

Hubert died of wounds on 11th February 1917 and is buried at Grove Town Cemetery, Méaulte, France. He is commemorated locally on the war memorial at Shirley, but we don’t know what his connection with the area is. Presumably, he moved there sometime between 1911-1915. His name also appears on the war memorial tablet in St John’s Church, Aston Cantlow.

If you have any further information about 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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