Two local men lost their lives in France on 29th April 1917, Private Elliott Spencer, “B” Company, 11th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and Private Francis Edward Thornley, 13th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Elliott Spencer was born in Welland, Upton-upon-Severn, Worcestershire in 1876 and was the youngest of the six children born to parents John (a blacksmith) and Ann (née Draper) who had married in Upton-upon-Severn in 1860. Elliott became a bricklayer, and lived in Welland until at least 1901, moving to Olton sometime between 1901-1905. His brother, George John (born 1865) had moved to Lyndon End by 1901 and was working there as a blacksmith so it is possible that Elliott moved to the area to join his brother. Another brother, Ellis (1872-1935) also become a blacksmith and was working in Wribbenhall, Worcestershire in 1911. The boys’ father died in Welland in August 1901 and their mother continued to live there until her death in 1915.
Elliott married Caroline Pritchard at St Alphege Church on 30th September 1905, at which time the couple were living at Ulverley Green, Olton. They went on to have three children: Kathleen (1906-1978); Evelyn (1909-1929) and Norman Elliott (1910-1983). After her husband’s death, his widow, Caroline, went on to marry again in 1919. She then had two children with her second husband, Richard Hoare, and she died in Olton in 1948.
We don’t know when Elliott enlisted but it seems that he didn’t see overseas service before 1916. He was originally posted as missing, but then presumed killed in action on or around 29th April 1917. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on the war memorial in St Margaret’s Church, Olton.
It seems that Elliott’s 19-year-old nephew, Lugard Douglas Boswell, was killed in action at Gallipoli in August 1915, serving as a Private with the Worcestershire Regiment. Lugard was the son of Elliott’s sister, Blanche (1863-1909) – his father died when Lugard was only three years old, and then his mother died of cancer when he was 13. Further information is on the Malvern Remembers site.
Francis Edward Thornley was born in Yardley in 1881. His father, Samuel, was a varnish manufacturer and a Director of the Birmingham firm Thornley & Knight Ltd, which had been established by Samuel’s grandfather (also Samuel) in 1797. Francis’ eldest brother, Samuel Kerr Thornley (1871-1947) became a joint Managing Director of the firm with their father in 1903. It looks as if Francis and another brother, John Harold Thornley (1873-1937) were also working for the company by 1911.
We don’t know when Francis enlisted in the Army, but he didn’t see any overseas service before 1916. His older brother Samuel is known to have served on the home front in the Warwickshire Motor Volunteer Corps, being gazetted temporary Captain in May 1918.
Francis was one of eight children, two of whom had died by 1911. Of the six surviving children, only one – Samuel Kerr Thornley – is known to have married. He married Edith Pullen in 1905 and they had two sons and two daughters. The youngest son, David Kerr Thornley (1918-2002), who never married, was the last member of five generations of Thornleys to be a Director of Thornley & Knight (the company was sold to Croda International in the 1970s).
Francis was killed in action and is buried at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez. He is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Bickenhill and Yardley. We don’t know his exact connection with Bickenhill so, if you have any further information, please contact us.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977