Two local men from Shirley were killed in action in Belgium on 11th October 1917. Private James Edwards, aged 41, died serving with the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards and Private William John Worrall was killed with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
James Edwards was born in Shirley in 1876 and was the eldest of the 14 children of parents Thomas, a hay trusser, and Clara Jane (née Wells) who had married at Solihull in 1875. Four of the couple’s children had died by 1911.
After working as a letter-carrier in his early teens, James became a carpenter and worked at the BSA (Birmingham Small Arms Company) in Armoury Road, Small Heath before he enlisted in the Army in August 1915.
James married Eliza Fullard in the Aston area in 1899 and they set up home in Small Heath, living at 78 Hobmoor Road. They went on to have seven children, although their eldest sons, twins Albert Ernest and James Thomas, born in 1900, both died as infants in 1902 and 1900 respectively. They had three daughters – Gertrude (born 1901), Louisa (born 1910) and Clara (born 1913) – and two more sons – John Leslie (1907-1989) and Charles James (born 1908).
James died on 11th October 1917 and is buried at Canada Farm Cemetery, Belgium. He is also commemorated locally on the war memorial at Shirley.
In contrast to James Edwards, William John Worrall was born in Small Heath but took up residence in Shirley. He was born on 9th March 1882 and had a twin brother, Albert Joseph, who (together with the eldest brother, Charles (1862-1946), seems to have followed their father, David, into the family’s lacquer manufacturing business in Birmingham. Albert died, aged 78, in 1960.
David Worrall and his wife, Mary Ann (née Davis) married in 1862 and had 14 children (seven sons and seven daughters), of whom four had died by 1887. David Worrall’s business is listed in trade directories in 1884 and 1888 as being situated at 1 A B row, Birmingham. The street – believed to be Birmingham’s shortest street name – apparently marked part of the boundary between Aston and Birmingham. Presumably, the family home, “A B House”, Coventry Road, Hay Mills, was named after the location of the business.
William John Worrall, believed to have been known by his middle name, is listed at the family home in 1901, aged 19, working as a furniture maker. By 1911, he had changed career and was working for the Prudential Assurance Co. as a insurance agent. He married Annie Price in 1905, and they are recorded on the 1911 census at “Ashbourne”, Olton Road, Shirley with their six-year-old daughter, Annie Price Worrall.
We don’t know when William John Worrall enlisted in the Army but he didn’t see overseas service before 1916. He was killed in action and, having no known grave is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. He is also commemorated on the Shirley war memorial, where he is recorded as Private John Worrall.
If you have any further information about these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977