Two local men died on 29th September 1917 whilst on active service with the Royal Field Artillery. Corporal Harry Proctor, 94th Battery, 18th Brigade, died of wounds and Second Lieutenant Walter Sutton Rotherham MM, A Battery, 83rd Brigade, was killed in action.
Second Lieutenant Roland Bushell, “A” Battery, 282nd Army Brigade, Royal Field Artillery died of wounds on 26th September 1917. Born in Handsworth in 1887, his local connection is that he is known to have lived for a short time in Alderbrook Road in 1913, and was a member of Copt Heath Golf Club. He was the only son of jewellery manufacturer, Herbert Bushell, and his wife, Agnes (née Davies) who had married in 1886. The couple also had two younger daughters, Eva (1890-1981) and Muriel Doris (1899-1998). As far as we know, this branch of the Bushell surname doesn’t seem to have been related to Mr Warin Foster Bushell, who was headmaster of Solihull School from 1921-1927.
26th September 1917 saw the official opening of Solihull Cemetery, described in the opening brochure as being at the junction of Robin Hood Road and Olton Road, although the cemetery’s address is now usually given as Streetsbrook Road.
The 42-acre-site was chosen as the most suitable place for a cemetery, as it is “easy of access from all parts and is sufficiently removed from the residential districts not to be in any way detrimental to the same.”
Three local men are recorded as having been killed on 21st September 1917, the second day of the Battle of Menin Road Ridge: Private Arthur Paget, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment; Private William Skidmore, 8th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment; Lance Corporal Thomas Wells, 12th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment.
Five local men were killed in action on 20th September 1917. This was the first day of the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, which lasted until 25th September and marked a change in British infantry tactics.
Although previous attacks had penetrated the lightly-defended German front lines, exhausted troops then came under sustained counter-attack and failed to penetrate the second line. The new strategy was designed to attack a small part of the front line, first with heavy bombardment, and then by troops in strength under a creeping barrage 1000 yards deep, protecting the advancing infantry. Once through the lines and having reached their objectives, troops were then to stop and dig in. A second wave of infantry could then pass through to attack the next objective.
Local men who lost their lives in this action were:
- Private Richard Sydney Greaves, 6th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment
- Private Thomas Henry Lloyd, 10th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment
- Sergeant Septimus Pryce, 6th Battalion, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
- Corporal Percy John Shirley, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Sergeant Harry Taylor, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Private Samuel Chew, 5th Battalion Berkshire Regiment, died of wounds on 17th September 1917. He was born in Birmingham in 1898 and was the youngest of the three children of parents, Richard (a hawker of salt) and Ada (née Wood). He had an older sister Annie (1893-1925) and an older brother, Richard (1895-1954).
Second Lieutenant David Kitto Billings, Royal Flying Corps, died, aged 23, in a flying accident near Water Orton on 14th September 1917. He was described in newspaper reports as a Canadian attached to the Australian Flying Corps and he died as a result of one of the pins in his leather safety belt breaking, causing one end of the belt to fly open and the aviator to fall out of the plane from a height of 1,500-2000 feet.
For many years, Charlie the Chimp could be seen somersaulting in the window of Gordon Scott’s shoe shop in Solihull High Street.
In 2014, after becoming completely exhausted, Charlie came to spend his retirement at The Core Library, Solihull. His place in the shop window was taken by his “younger brother”, Gordon.
Rifleman Charles James Skidmore, 17th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps died of wounds on 6th September 1917. He was born in Olton in 1894, and was the seventh of the 10 children (four sons, six daughters) of parents Frederick William (a gardener) and Ellen (née Cleaver). Eldest son, John, died in April 1880, aged 16 days. The family lived in the Solihull area from about 1880-1895, before moving to Willicote, Stratford-upon-Avon.
21-year-old Private Alfred Richardson of Shirley, Solihull, was killed in action on 4th September 1917, serving with the 2nd/8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.