Two local men died on 29th March 1917 whilst serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Private Charles Henry Chamberlain, who was born in Temple Balsall, was serving with the 9th Battalion in Mesopotamia (Iraq), whilst Private William King, who was from Solihull, was serving with the 5th Battalion in France.
Charles Henry Chamberlain was born in Temple Balsall on 7th February 1897 and baptised there exactly one month later. He was the eldest child of parents Kate Florence (née Ward) and Charles, who had married the previous year. Charles was described on his son’s baptism entry as an engineer and the family address was given as Fen End. By 1901, however, the family had moved to Wroxall and 25-year-old Charles was working as a shepherd on a farm.
The family lived in Small Heath, Birmingham from at least 1904 until at least 1907, moving to Berkswell parish by 1910, where they seem to have remained until at least 1925. The 1911 census records the family at Hodgetts Lane, Burton Green, near Kenilworth (actually in the parish of Berkswell) where Charles (senior) was working as a tool fitter. Charles Henry is known to have had seven younger siblings: Nellie Martha (1898-1985); Kate Florence (1902-1911); Doris Alma (1904-1995); Gladys Ethel (1906-1999); Wilfred Joseph (1910-1990); Sydney John (1912-1994); and Kathleen Mary (1915-2015).
We don’t know when Charles Henry Chamberlain enlisted in the Warwickshire Regiment, but he first entered a Theatre of War (the Balkans) on 13th July 1915. He was killed in action and has no known grave, being commemorated on the Basra Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Balsall Common, Berkswell and Temple Balsall.
Also listed as being killed on 29th March 1917 is Private William King who, according to Soldiers Died in the Great War, was born in Birmingham and enlisted in Solihull. He is buried at Epehy Wood Farm Cemetery, Epehy, France. His name is recorded on the Solihull war memorial, but we haven’t been able to find out his exact connection with the village. Official records give his date of death as 29th March, but unpublished research by the late Alan Tucker suggests he died with three others on 1st April 1917:
On April 1 the 1/5 were the supporting battalion to a 143 Brigade attack on Peiziere and Epehy. 1/6 went into the attack and reached their objective by 10.30 a.m.; this was towards the railway line north-east of Peiziere from Capron Copse and Chaufours Wood. The 1/5 assembled just west of Saulcourt in Grebaussart Wood and Saulcourt Wood. Four other ranks were killed and four wounded although, after lying out on the snow, the battalion were not required. CWGC appears to wrongly attribute these deaths to March 29; Private William King from Solihull, Private Ernest Starling from Plymouth, Private William Trueman from Birmingham and Lance Corporal John Miller, 25, from Erdington. (The Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the Great War 1914-1918: a modern history by Alan Tucker).
He is known to have been a member of the Grand Independent Order of Loyal Caledonian Corks (GIOLCC), which was a friendly society established in Birmingham in 1884.
If you have any further information about William King, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977