13th May 1917

Two local men died on active service on 13th May 1917. Private Albert Charles Adkins, 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died in Germany whilst a Prisoner of War. Private James Edward Lees, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment died in hospital in Liverpool, aged 19, and is buried in Shirley.

Albert Charles Adkins was born in Knowle in 1890. He was the second of the eight children born to parents Charles Henry Adkins (1863-1944), a carter on a farm, and Amy (née Holloway) who had married at Knowle in August 1887.

Albert’s older sister, Eva Florence (1888-1911) was born in Lapworth and the family had moved to Bordesley, Birmingham by 1891. A younger sister, Ethel Elizabeth was born in Birmingham in 1893,  before the family moved to Alvechurch where siblings Frank Edward (1895-1965), Cora (1896-1897), Claude Dennis (1901-1975) and David (1908-1994) were born.

By 1911, 21-year-old Albert had left home and was working as a farm servant in Solihull, boarding in Lode Lane with the family of Horatio Morgan, a farmer and hawker. Albert’s parents, and four of his siblings, were by this time living in Seven Stars Cottages, Warwick Road, Solihull. They were still at this address in January 1916 when Albert’s brother, Frank Edward (who seems to have transposed his names and served as Edward Frank Adkins), joined the Army, although they subsequently moved to Malvern Park Cottage, Widney Road. Private Edward Frank Adkins served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was wounded in January 1917. He was demobbed in 1919, giving his address as 6 Bell Cottages, Hockley Heath.

We don’t know when Albert enlisted, as his service record seems not to have survived. However, it seems he wasn’t entitled to a 1914/15 Star, indicating that he didn’t see active service overseas before 1916.

He married Maud Bickley in Solihull between April-June 1916, and he gave Henley-in-Arden as his residence when he joined the Army.

A sentry guards the entrance to Cassel POW Camp (CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
A sentry guards the entrance to Cassel POW Camp (CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

It seems that he was captured by the Germans, as he died in Cassel as a prisoner of war. He is buried at Niederzwehren Cemetery, Germany. He is also commemorated locally on war memorials in Knowle and Henley-in-Arden.

James Edward Lees was born in Shirley in 1897 and was the youngest of the six children (four sons, two daughters) born to parents James (a meat market carter) and Emma (née Jones) who had married in 1875. Two of their children had died by 1911.

The family moved around in the local area – in 1881 they were living in Monkspath Street, which was actually in the parish of Tanworth-in-Arden. By 1891, they had moved to Salter Street, and by 1901 they had moved to Union Lane, Shirley, where they seem to have remained until at least the 1920s.

We don’t know when James Edward Lees enlisted, but he didn’t see active service overseas before 1916. His siblings were considerably older than he was – the eldest, Anne, was born in 1876, whilst the closest to him in age, Thomas Henry (known as Harry) was born in 1888 so was 11 years his senior. By 1911, when James was 13, he was the only one of the children living in the parental home at Union Road, Shirley, although his niece, Lily (aged 8) was also living there with her grandparents.

James died in hospital in Liverpool and is buried in the churchyard at St James’s, Shirley. He is also commemorated on Shirley war memorial.

If you have any further information about these men, please let us know.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6977
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk



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