Three local men lost their lives on active service on 9th October 1917:
- Lance Corporal Joseph Richard Andrews, 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Albert Edmund Biddle, 148th Company, Machine Gun Corps
- Private Walter Reuben Clark, 1st/7th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment
Joseph Richard Andrews, known as Dick, was born in Small Heath, Birmingham on 11th April 1897 and was baptised at Knowle parish church on 27th June the same year. He was registered and baptised as Joseph Richard Andrews but appears in Army records as Richard Joseph Andrews.
He was the only child of parents, Richard (a railway plate layer) and Ellen Elizabeth (née Grantham) who had married at Knowle in February 1897. Richard died five months after the wedding, leaving his 18-year-old widow with a baby son. By 1901, Ellen was living next door to her parents, Joseph and Mary Grantham, in Knowle so was, presumably, receiving help from the extended family.
In October 1905, Ellen married again. Aged 26, and giving her address as Chessetts Wood, she married George Frederick Coates at Knowle parish church. They are known to have had two children – Florence Emily, born 1907, and Ernest, born 1912.
At the time of the 1911 census, Joseph Richard Andrews was still in Chessetts Wood, living with his aunt and uncle, John and Alice Annie.
We don’t know when Dick enlisted in the Army but he doesn’t appear to have seen overseas service before 1916.
He is buried at Buttes Wood New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood, Belgium and is also commemorated locally at Balsall Common, Chessetts Wood, Knowle and Temple Balsall.
Albert Edmund Biddle was born in Naseby, Northamptonshire in 1894. He was the only son of parents, Joseph (a farm labourer) and Edith (née Cole) who had married at Coventry in 1893. By 1898 when their daughter, Edith Agnes, was born, the couple were living in Banbury, Oxfordshire. The family had moved to Canley by 1901 and were still there in 1911.
Joseph Biddle died in 1912, and Edith married John Lewis in the Meriden district in 1913. The couple seem then to have set up home in Berkswell.
Albert became a labourer, and was employed at the Rover Works, Coventry for four years before he enlisted in December 1915 when he was aged 21 years and three months. He initially joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment but was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps in July 1917, four months after arriving in France in March 1917. On August 18th, 1917, Private Biddle was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in the field.
There appears to have been some confusion about his middle name, with some military records listing his name as Edward rather than Edmund. Soldiers Died in the Great War lists him as living in Balsall at the time of enlistment.
He was killed in action and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and also on war memorials locally in Balsall Common and Temple Balsall.
Walter Reuben Clark was born in Hay Mills, Birmingham in 1892 and was baptised at Bordesley on 13th April 1892. He was the eldest of the six children (four daughters, two sons) of parents John, a horse driver and labourer on the roads, and Annie (née Scrivener) who had married in 1891.
By October 1895, when twins Thomas George (1895-1982) and Eleanor Isobel (1895-1971) were born, the family had moved to Warwick Road, Solihull. The three youngest children – Charlotte May (1897-1948), Evelyn Minnie (1900-1969) and Constance Alice (1902-1939) were also all born in Solihull.
The children’s father, John, died in 1908 and, by 1911, his widow, Annie, was working as a laundress and living in Mill Lane, Solihull with her six children. Walter was aged 19, and was working for a whip manufacturer. It seems that he married sometime between 1911 and 1917, as the Register of Soldiers’ Effects lists his widow, Edith A. Clark as his sole legatee.
Walter Clark, recorded in official military records as Clarke, was killed in action and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial as well as locally on Solihull war memorial.
If you have any further information on any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage and Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977