Nine local men lost their lives on 4th October 1917 whilst on active service:
- Lance Corporal Edwin John Adams, 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Eric Ashley Ellis, 13th Company, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry)
- Sergeant Charles Haynes, 1st/5th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Second Lieutenant Albert Bertini Heywood, 10th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
- Private Lewis James Knight, 30th Battalion, Australian Infantry
- Lance Corporal George Henry Pegg, 1st/6th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private William Savage, 1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
- Private William Thomas Tropman, 1st/8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Gunner Arthur Whinfrey, 256th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Edwin John Adams was born in Towcester, Northamptonshire in 1891, and baptised on 2nd August 1891 at Silverstone. He was the youngest of the two children of parents John, a house painter and paper hanger, and Elizabeth (née Adkins) who had married at Towcester in 1889. His older sister, Annie Elizabeth, was born in 1890.
Edwin married Ellen Stephens in 1909 at St Giles, Northampton, giving his occupation as a tin smith. He gave his age as 20, although he would actually only have been 17. By 1911, the couple were in Broadwell, Moreton in Marsh, where Edwin was a cowman on a farm. They had a small daughter, one-year-old Gladys.
Sometime between 1911 and Edwin’s enlistment in the Army, the family moved to Catherine-de-Barnes. He enlisted in the Army in Solihull, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery before being transferred to the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was killed in action on 4th October 1917. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, as well as locally at Catherine-de-Barnes and Solihull.
His widow, Ellen, married Thomas Giblin in Solihull in 1919.
Also commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial is Eric Ashley Ellis, who was born in Shirley in 1894 and was the eldest of the five children (four sons, one daughter) of parents New Zealand-born father, Thomas Ashley Ellis, and his wife, Florence (née Haydon).
It looks as if the family was in Shirley only for a brief period around 1894. By the time the second child, Harold Montague Ellis (1895-1962), was born the family had moved to Rednal, and they then moved to King’s Heath between 1901-1911. Eric became a printer by trade but a newspaper report of his death indicates that he had actually been working in Canada at the time war broke out, learning farming from an uncle. He tried to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, but was rejected on medical grounds.
Eric returned to England and joined the Birmingham Pals (14th (Service)(1st Birmingham) Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment) on 27th May 1915. His brother, Harold, had enlisted on the previous day. The two younger brothers, George Ronald (1902-1983) and Gerald Arthur (1908-1954) were too young to serve in the war. It seems that Eric and Harold encountered each other whilst on active service, and that a letter sent from Eric to his brother survives.
According to Eric’s commanding officer, he met his death when shot by a wounded German. At the time Eric’s death was reported in the Birmingham Mail, 14th November 1917, his younger brother was reportedly in hospital, having been twice wounded. Harold was discharged from the Army on 5th December 1917 as a result of his wounds.
Private Eric Ashley Ellis is not commemorated on the Shirley war memorial, presumably owing to the family having moved away within a year of his birth.
Charles Haynes was born in Elmdon in 1882 and was the third of the six children (four sons, two daughters) of parents Charles and Annie (née Lock). Charles (senior) was a gardener on the Elmdon Park estate from at least 1881, rising to the position of estate bailiff and gardener by 1911.
Charles (junior) became a bricklayer, prior to volunteering for the Army in November 1914. He first saw overseas service on 22nd March 1915 and was promoted to Lance Corporal in May 1915, Acting Corporal in September 1915 and Sergeant in December 1915. In January 1916 he was Mentioned in Despatches by Sir John French.
We don’t know if any of his brothers – Alfred (born 1877), Herbert (born 1879), or Victor (born 1887) – served in the armed forces. Victor is known to have become a professional footballer, and it seems that he was signed by West Bromwich Albion in 1910, having played for West Ham United during the previous season. It seems that by 1920 he was playing for Stourbridge FC.
Canon Harrison Goodenough Hayter (1855-1934) was Rector of Elmdon 1892-1934 and he kept a list of the men who served from the parish. He noted that Charles Haynes was killed in action whilst leading a platoon of men at St Julien.
Sergeant Charles Haynes has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. He is also commemorated locally at Elmdon.
Albert Bertini Heywood was born on 1st July 1890 and baptised at St Alphege Church, Solihull on 7th September 1890. He was the second of the eight children (six sons, two daughters) born to parents Samuel, a labourer, and Maria Jane (née Smith) who had married in 1886. He was a Choir boy at St Alphege Church and apparently took an interest in Scripture at an early age, leading a small group of lads who met for study.
Between the ages of 15-17, Albert worked for the Great Western Railway as a Lad Porter at Swan Village station, situated between Wednesbury and West Bromwich. At the age of 19, he became an lay evangelist with the Church Army, which was founded in 1882 with a mission to take the gospel to those most in need and who would be unlikely to set foot in a church. One of the methods used was horse-drawn mission caravans which travelled from town to town. In 1911, 20-year-old Albert Heywood was in Norfolk, with his address listed as “Church Army Mission Van”, a vehicle he shared with 23-year-old Church Army Captain, Albert James Hill. He subsequently entered St Aidan’s Theological College, Birkenhead to study for Ministry, spending any spare time he had “amongst the poor of a slum parish in Liverpool, where he was ‘beloved for his kind and happy disposition’.”
A tribute to “in profound admiration for this young and beautiful life so full of hope and promise” in Solihull Parish Magazine February 1918 records that Albert devoted five years to evangelist service in a large parish in Bolton. Rev. A. W. N. Wye, Vicar of St James, Bolton wrote:
There are many who could bear witness to his faithfulness, zeal and spiritual power. He not only preached the word of God, but consistently lived what he preached. His character was beyond reproach and his sincerity was manifest to all who knew him.
Albert Heywood and his brother, Samuel Geoffrey (born 1894) enlisted in 1915 under Lord Derby’s Scheme. Under the scheme, with a birth year of 1890 and being unmarried, if Albert Had chosen deferred service, he is likely to have been in “Group 8”, which was mobilised on 8th February 1916. He joined the London Regiment as a Private before spending six months in training and being commissioned with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was at the Front for six months before his death.
Four of his brothers also served, and other family members contributed to the war effort, as was reported in the Birmingham Daily Gazette 1st March 1916
LOYAL SOLIHULL FAMILY
Five sons of Mr and Mrs S. Heywood of Solihull are serving with the colours – Sergt. Leslie Heywood, Welsh Pioneers; Private Francis Heywood, R.A.M.C.; Lance-Corpl. Martin Heywood, 3rd Warwicks; and Geoffrey and Albert Heywood, who attested under Lord Derby’s scheme.
A daughter is a nurse at Bolton Military Hospital; while Mr Heywood is engaged on munitions, and his wife spends two days every week in assisting at Solihull Red Cross Hospital.
Youngest brother, Martin, was discharged on 7th July 1916, aged 16 years, eight months, “having made a mis-statement as to age on enlistment”. At the time of discharge, he had served for one year and 35 days. His date of birth was given as 9th November 1899 and he attested on 3rd June 1915, meaning that he would have been aged 15 years six months when he joined up, although he gave his age as 19. After undertaking a course in cold shoeing at the Veterinary Hospital, Leamington in August/September 1915, he spent 92 days in France 1st April-1st July 1916 before coming home to be discharged.
Second Lieutenant Albert Heywood, was killed in action and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, as well as locally at Catherine-de-Barnes and Solihull.
Lewis James Knight was born in Steeple Aston, Oxfordshire in 1886. He was the fourth child and eldest of the three sons of parents David (a labourer) and Eliza Ann (née Wheeler), who had 13 children, of whom one had died by 1911. The family moved from Oxfordshire to Castle Bromwich sometime between 1893-1897 and, apart from a brief stay in Solihull c. 1900, and then Packwood c. 1911, seem to have remained in the Castle Bromwich area until at least the early 1940s. His parents, David and Eliza, seem to have died in Castle Bromwich in 1936 and 1942 respectively.
In 1911, Lewis James Knight married Elizabeth Palmer in the Solihull district. In July 1912, they emigrated to Australia, sailing from London aboard the Beltana, having contracted to land at Sydney. Lewis gave his age as 24, and his occupation as a farmer, also stating that Australia was his intended country of future residence. His wife, Elizabeth, was just 20 years old.
On 2nd January 1916, Lewis enlisted with the Australian Imperial Force (A.I.F.). He arrived back to England in June 1916 and, after just under three months in the country, embarked for France on 5th September 1916 with 30th Battalion, A.I.F. On 14th September he was detached to the 9th Machine Gun Company.
Private Lewis Knight was killed in action on 4th October and is buried at Perth Cemetery (China Wall). He is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Knowle and Dorridge, presumably as a result of the family living in the Packwood area around the time of the war.
George Henry Pegg was born in Shirley, Solihull in 1893. He was the third child and eldest son of parents John (a waggoner on a farm) and Mary Ann (née Blunn) who had married in 1889. The couple are known to have had 12 children (two sons, ten daughters) of whom two – Eleanor Eliza (1895-96) and Gertrude Ellen (1901-1904) – had died by 1911.
At the time of the 1911 census, George was aged 17, living in the family home at Stratford Road, Shirley and working as a “nurseryman’s youth”. We don’t know when he joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, but it seems that he didn’t see any overseas service before 1916.
His brother, John (1899-1979) would have turned 18 in February 1917 and become liable for conscription, unless medically unfit or in a reserved occupation. However, if he did serve, it doesn’t appear that his service record has survived.
George was killed in action and was buried at Dochy Farm New British Cemetery, Belgium. He is also commemorated locally on Shirley war memorial.
William Savage was born in Hampton-in-Arden and baptised there on 2nd February 1896. He was the younger of the two children of parents, Joseph (a railway platelayer) and Eliza (née Cheatham, formerly Sloane). Tragically, William’s only sibling, older brother Joseph, also died in the war, being killed on 31st July 1917, just a few weeks before his brother.
By 1911, 15-year-old William had become a wood sawyer, and was living in Railway Cottages, Hampton-in-Arden with his parents and brother. He must have volunteered for the Army soon after war broke out, as he first saw overseas service on 11th March 1915.
He was killed in action on 4th October 1917 and has no known grave. He is commemorated on Tyne Cot Memorial and, locally, at Hampton-in-Arden.
Also commemorated at Tyne Cot is William Thomas Tropman, who was born in Shirley in 1898. He was the second child and eldest son of parents Albert Thomas Tropman (a gardener) and Fanny (née Lane), who lived in Longmore Road, Shirley. The couple married in 1895 and had five children (three sons, two daughters). William’s siblings were: Ethel Mary (1896-1971); .May Elizabeth (born 1900); George Henry (1903-1962); and Ernest Albert (1905-1943).
William appears to have been the only son old enough to serve in the First World War. Tragically, the youngest son, Ernest Albert Tropman, died during the Second World War, aged 38, whilst serving with the Pioneer Corps. He is buried in St James’s Churchyard, Solihull.
William and Ernest are both commemorated on Shirley War Memorial.
Arthur Whinfrey was born in Berkswell on 2nd April 1896 and was the youngest of the three children of parents, Frank (a butler) and Mary Annie (nee Boyson) who had married at Monks Kirby in 1888. The couple had two other sons, Charles George (1889-1961) and Frank (1893-1968).
Charles emigrated to the USA in 1917, and became a naturalised US citizen in 1924. An article in Berkswell Parish Magazine, November 1917 indicates that Charles’ grandson came to Berkswell to be married in 1984. Frank (junior) worked as a boot salesman before enlisting in the Army in 1915, joining the Royal Horse Artillery as a Gunner and serving in France from June 1916 until 22nd November 1918.
Arthur became a draughtsman before enlisting in the Army in December 1915. He was posted to the Army Reserve before being mobilised in July 1916 and embarking for France in February 1917. He was killed in action at Broodseinde, and is buried at Buffs Road Cemetery, Belgium. He is commemorated locally on Berkswell war memorial, and on the Coventry Roll of Honour.
The boys’ father, Frank (senior), died at Yew Tree Cottage, Berkswell in May 1938. It seems that his widow, known as Annie, went to live in Dursley, Gloucestershire, with their son, Frank (junior) and his family, where she died in February 1939.
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