Two local men died in France on 24th April 1917. Second Lieutenant Harold James Goodwin, 135th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery was killed in action and Gunner Leslie Richards Reeve, D Company, Machine Gun Corps (Heavy Section) (later Tank Corps), died of wounds.
Harold James Goodwin was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham on 30th January 1886 and baptised at St Martin’s Church, Birmingham on 1st April 1886. He was the youngest child, and only son, of parents Frederick Sidney Goodwin (1852-1939) and Agnes Louisa (née Chance) (1851-1918) who had married at Harborne in 1883. His older sister, Sibyl Margaret was born in 1884. This was his mother’s second marriage – her first husband, Dr George Harrison Evans, died in Italy in 1880 after four years of marriage, leaving her with three children under the age of five: Robert Fabian Evans (1876-1940); Gwendolen Evans (born 1877) and Agnes Muriel Evans (born 1880).
Harold was sent to boarding school 1900-1905 and, aged 15, appears on the 1901 census at Cotton House, Marlborough College, Wiltshire. Whilst at school he was in the First XI cricket team 1903-1905 and the First XI hockey team 1904-5, captaining both during his last year at the school. He then went on to study mathematics at Jesus College, Cambridge 1905-8, where he also gained Blues in hockey and cricket, making his cricket debut for Cambridge on 28 May 1906. He also played first class cricket for Warwickshire, making his debut for the county team on 12th August 1907 at Peterborough. He was a hard-hitting batsman, a good leg-break bowler, and a brilliant fielder. He captained Warwickshire during 1910, and made his final first class appearance on 25th July 1912 at Edgbaston. He also played hockey for England against Scotland. Wisden said of him:
“it was a thousand pities he could not find time to play more regularly. Whenever he appeared the side played up with a dash and vigour worthy of all praise, for Goodwin, whether batting, bowling, or fielding, was heart and soul in the game.”
After leaving university, he became a solicitor’s articled clerk, joining a firm in Birmingham. By 1911, his parents and sister had moved to Diddington Hall, Meriden. In 1913, Harold married Janet Tod (“Jessie”) Forbes of Edinburgh, and they set up home at Berkswell House, Berkswell. They had two children, Harold Anthony (born on 25th February 1916) and Pamela Forbes, who was born on 11th August 1917, almost four months after her father’s death.
In 1916, Harold joined the Army, attesting as a private soldier with the Royal Garrison Artillery. He then joined a Cadet Battalion and was commissioned in December 1916. He was killed in action during the Battle of Arras as he returned from an outpost. He is buried at Fauborg d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras and is commemorated locally at Berkswell. He is also commemorated on the Roll of Honour at Jesus College, Cambridge and at Marlborough College.
After her second husband’s death, Jessie Goodwin remarried in 1919, and lived in Edinburgh with her third husband, William Sime. Their son David Alistair Hope Sime (1920-2011) was commissioned in 1941 and he saw active service in the Second World War, being awarded the Military Cross (MC) in 1945. He joined the Territorial Army in the 1950s and, in 1966 was appointed Colonel and awarded the OBE.
Leslie Richards Reeve was born in 1891 at Small Heath, Birmingham. He was the younger of the two sons of parents Arthur (a publican and traveller) and Alice Laura (née Richards) who had married in Aston in 1889. Older brother, Arthur Stanley (who seems to have been known by his middle name) was born in 1890. By 1901, the family had moved to the Coventry Road, Bickenhill, where father, Arthur, was a publican.
Bu 1911, both boys had entered the motor trade. Leslie was a salesman of motor accessories whilst his brother was a mechanic. Stanley was recorded on the census as living at the family home, Ivy Dene, Coventry Road, Sheldon, whilst Leslie was staying with his widowed uncle, dental surgeon Edwin Charles Robberds, at Ivy House, Dorridge.
His brother, Stanley, married Georgina Willetts Baker in February 1914 and joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps on 14th August 1914, just 10 days after Britain declared war on Germany following the invasion of Belgium. We don’t know when Leslie enlisted but it seems that he didn’t see service overseas before 1916.
Some of the official records – Soldiers Died in the Great War and Register of Soldiers’ Effects – give Leslie Reeve’s date of death as 23rd April, rather than 24th April as recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
He is buried at Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery, Saulty and is commemorated locally on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church, Olton.
If you have any further information on these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977
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