Four local men died on 22nd August 1917: Corporal Alfred John Collins, 2nd/4th Battalion, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry; Private Charles Edmund Frost, 6th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry; Private Albert Maybury, 2/4th Battalion, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry; and Private Frederick George Skidmore, 1st/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The first three have no known grave and so they are commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
Alfred John Collins was born in Berkswell in 1893 and baptised at St John Baptist Church on 28th January 1894. He was the third of the four children (two sons, two daughters) of parents Alfred John (a baker) and Eliza (née Underhill), who had married at Berkswell in October 1889. By 1901, all four children were living at Hodgetts Lane, Berkswell with their maternal grandparents, William and Susannah Underhill. It seems likely that one or both parents had died by this point, but we haven’t been able to confirm this.
By 1911, Alfred had moved to Kenilworth, and was working as a farm waggoner. He was living with his sister, Susan, and her husband, Henry Simmons. Henry, or Harry, as he was known, was also from Berkswell, and he was killed in action on 13th October 1914. Susan, therefore, lost both her husband and brother in less than three years. Tragically, her infant son also died in 1915.
Alfred and Susan’s brother, Samuel Abda (or Abday) Collins also served in the war, enlisting in the Royal Engineers in May 1915 at which time he was a platelayer living in Railway Cottages, Hampton-in-Arden. He served with distinction, achieving the non-commissioned officer rank of Company Quarter Master Sergeant, being mentioned in despatches, and being awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. Samuel married his sister-in-law, Florence Edith Simmons (sister of Harry Simmons), in 1911. His character reference on demobilisation in 1919 notes his excellent sobriety, his reliability and intelligence and comments: “A conscientious and industrious NCO who has displayed marked technical abilities.”
In addition to being commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Alfred John Collins is listed on Berkswell War Memorial.
Charles Edmund Frost was born in Marston Green in 1897, and was the second of the three children (all sons) of Lincolnshire parents Harry Edmund Frost (a gamekeeper) and Harriet (née Armstrong) who had married at Bickenhill in February 1894. They had two other sons: John Harry Frost (1894-1951) and Raymond Armstrong Frost (1899-1917).
Raymond wasn’t a war casualty – he was run over by a motor omnibus on 5th January 1917 when cycling home from work as a munitions worker at about 7.20pm. His bicycle skidded between Olton and Solihull, and he was taken to the General Hospital, where he died four days later. He was 18 years old.
The boys’ father, Harry, died in the Solihull district in 1906 and, by 1911, his widow and three sons had moved from Marston Green and were living in Elmdon Heath. We don’t have any information about when Charles enlisted although his lack of entitlement to a 1914 or 1914/15 Star indicates that he didn’t serve overseas before 1916.
Solihull Parish Magazine October 1917 lists him as missing. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, as well as on memorials at Elmdon and Solihull.
The only survivor of the three brothers, John Harry Frost, married Ada Holland at Solihull in 1916. The couple’s first son was born in 1919 and they named him Charles Raymond, presumably after John’s two brothers who had died two and three years previously. They also had a second son, Raymond Armstrong Frost (1921-1988), presumably named after the youngest brother who died in 1917.
Albert Maybury was born in Birmingham in 1881. He was the 5th of the nine children (six sons, three daughters) born to parents George Robert Maybury (an awl blade forger, born in Surrey) and Sarah Ann (née Osborn) who had married in 1871. The youngest children, twins Arthur and Sarah Ann were born on Christmas Eve 1888, but died in March and April 1888, respectively, Their mother died on 20th January 1888, less than a month after the birth of the children. The surviving siblings (Emma Amelia (b. 1872), George William (1874-1952), William John (1876-1945), Lily Sarah (b. 1878), Albert (1881-1917), Henry Matthew (1885-1918) and Ernest (b. 1885), were then left orphaned, aged between 16 and three, when their father died in April 1888.
Following their parents’ deaths, Albert appears to have become separated from his siblings. The 1891 census shows 9-year-old Albert living at Marston Green Cottage Homes, and described as a “pauper”. Meanwhile, his surviving six siblings were all living in Lambeth, London with their 87-year-old widowed grandmother, Jemima Maybury, their widowed uncle, Albert (aged 43), and his three children.
The family remained split between Warwickshire and London. Having left the Cottage Homes, Albert continued to live in Coleshill, working for a baker’s on the High Street. In 1901, he was working for confectioner and baker Edward Williams and was recorded as a journeyman baker. in 1911, 30-year-old Albert was still living in High Street, Coleshill, and working as a bread deliverer for baker John Summerfield. Two of his brothers, William and Ernest, are known to have joined the Army as regular soldiers. William John first served with the militia in the 3rd Battalion East Surrey Regiment, before joining the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1894 and serving until 1912. On discharge, he seems to have become a miner and set up home in Glasgow, before re-enlisting in September 1914 for the duration of the war. He was discharged in 1919 and died in Glasgow in 1952 Ernest, having had a spell as a inmate in St Saviour’s Boys’ School, joined the Army in 1904, serving as a Lance Corporal with the Middlesex regiment until he was wounded and discharged in May 1916.
A third brother, Henry Matthew Maybury, a stone mason by trade, also joined up after the outbreak of war. He enlisted in December 1915 and was mobilised six months later as a Private with the Labour Corps. He didn’t see overseas service, but contracted influenza in November 1918 and died at 5:20pm on 26th November of flu and pneumonia five days after admission to Holborn Military Hospital. His wife was at his bedside when he died.
According to articles in the Coleshill Chronicle, Albert Maybury was the inaugural bandmaster and cornet player at Coleshill Brass Band when it was founded in 1902. It seems that he first saw overseas service with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1916, spending several months in France before being hospitalised in England during the winter. Returning to France, he was transferred to the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry and, in November 1916, wrote a letter, which was published in the newspaper:
Coleshill Chronicle 25th November 1916. Private Albert Maybury, formerly employed at Mr J. B. Summerfield’s, Coleshill, and well known as conductor of the Coleshill Brass Band, writes an interesting letter from France. He wishes all his old friends the compliments of the Christmas season, and continues: “After we came from England I was transferred to the Oxford and Bucks. My address is 33009, Oxford and Bucks, L.I., B.E.F., France. Our battalion is out of the trenches at present for a rest, but I expect we shall be going back again soon. I was in an engagement not long ago. It was hot for a bit, but the Germans found us a bit hot, too. I came out without a scratch. We have morning and evening services while we are not in the trenches; and it would be nice if we had a band to lead us. There are several bandsmen in this platoon. I only wish we had got instruments. We have a lot of rain out here, and talk about mud! It’s up to your knees in places. I expect it will be a very quiet Christmas again. I guess we shall be in the trenches then, but we must keep on smiling.”
Private Maybury was initially posted missing in September 1917. He has no known grave and is commemorated at Tyne Cot, as well as locally at Coleshill and at Marston Green Cottage Homes.
Frederick George Skidmore was born in Berkswell in 1892 and was the eldest of the ten children (four sons, six daughters) of parents George William (a waggoner on a farm) and Lizzie (néé Hopkins) who had married at Berkswell in 1891. He became a farm labourer and, when called up in March 1916, gave his occupation as “cowman” and his father as next-of-kin.
His siblings were: Edith Emily (1893-1984); Lucy (born 1895); William Herbert (1896-1979); Ada (born 1898); Nellie (born 1899), Frank (born 1902); Charles (born 1904), Elsie (born 1906) and Hilda (born 1909).
Frederick received a gun shot wound to the head and died of wounds on 22nd June 1917. He is buried at Mendinghem Military Cemetery and is also commemorated locally at Berkswell.
If you have any further information about any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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