Four local men lost their lives on active service on 26th October 1917. Three of them were serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment – Private Albert Edward Lewis (14th Battalion), Private William Richard Parry (15th Battalion) and Private Albert Charles Thompson (15th Battalion). All three have no known grave and are commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
Also killed was Private Sydney West, who was serving with the 58th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment), having emigrated from Solihull.
Albert Edward Lewis was born in Kenilworth in 1894 and was the younger of the two sons of parents Frederick and Minnie (née Hobday) who had married at Barston in 1887 and were living in Bradnocks Marsh by 1890. Frederick died in 1896 and is buried in Berkswell churchyard. Albert was educated at Temple Balsall School. After her husband’s death, Minnie took her two young sons to live with her widowed father, Frederick Hobday, in Ladywood, Birmingham.
Information from the editor of the Berkswell and Balsall Common Bugle indicates that Albert worked as a page boy at the Midland Hotel, Birmingham. His service record hasn’t survived but his service number of 634 indicates that he joined the 1st Birmingham Pals on its formation soon after the outbreak of war. He first saw overseas in France on 21st November 1915. Originally reported as missing, the Birmingham Weekly Post of 5th January 1918 reports him as killed in action.
His older brother, Frederick George Charles Lewis (1890-1966) also served in the Armed Forces, joining the Royal Naval Air Service on 2nd October 1917, and transferring to the Royal Air Force when it was established on 1st April 1918.
Private Albert Edward Lewis has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium. He is commemorated locally on war memorials at Balsall Common and Temple Balsall.
William Richard Parry was born in Balsall Heath, Birmingham in 1897 and was baptised at Holy Trinity, Bordesley on 2nd June 1897. He was the only child of parents, William James Parry (a draper) and Mary Ann (née Ward). The family had moved to Ilshaw Heath by 1911.
William’s service record appears not to have survived, so we don’t know when he enlisted, nor what his peacetime occupation was. His medal index card suggests that he didn’t see any overseas service prior to 1916.
The card also notes that his Victory Medal and British War Medal were “returned”. This may be because on non-delivery rather than his parents deliberately returning them. As the Commonwealth War Graves database describes his parents as “of Old House, Ullenhall, Henley-in-Arden, Birmingham, formerly of Hockley Heath”, it is possible that they had already moved when the medals were delivered and so were unable to sign for them.
Private William Richard Parry is commemorated locally on war memorials at St Patrick’s, Salter Street, and at Hockley Heath.
Albert Charles Thompson was born in Meriden in 1893, and was the eldest of the three children of parents, Albert (a baker, later an assistant store manager at a tool works) and Lucy (née Cookson).
By July 1895, when the second child, Lucy May, was baptised, the family had moved to Coventry where they then remained. Youngest son, Herbert Frank, was also born there in 1898. All three children appear to have been known by their middle names – Charles, May and Frank – according to how they are listed on the 1911 census.
In 1911, 17-year-old Charles was listed as an apprentice in the litho printing trade. His 15-year-old sister, May, was also working in the publishing industry as a book folder.
We don’t know when Charles enlisted, but he doesn’t appear to have seen overseas service before 1916. He was listed as missing in the Coventry Evening Telegraph of 15th December 1917.
Private Albert Charles Thompson is not included on the Meriden war memorial, presumably as a result of the family having moved to Coventry before he was two years old.
Sydney West was born in Solihull on 7th June 1882 and baptised at St Alphege Church on 9th July the same year. He was the fourth of the six children (three sons, three daughters) of parents, Ambrose and Mary Ann (née Grimes). Ambrose was a farmer, and the family lived at Berry Hall, Solihull from about 1878 until at least 1895.
Ambrose’s wife, Mary Ann, died in 1893 and he married Bertha Elizabeth Dawson in 1895. The couple went on to have three children of their own and moved from Berry Hall to Warwick Road, Solihull between 1895-1901. Ambrose became a butcher and shopkeeper, although by 1911, he had become an outdoor beer licensee and was living with his wife and five of his children in Stratford-upon-Avon. He died in Wootton Wawen in 1926.
By 1901, aged 18, Sydney had become a butcher, and was boarding in Berkswell. In 1904, he emigrated to Canada and he married Harriet Elizabeth Reeves (1887-1971) in Ontario on 2nd August 1906. His brother, Ambrose Joseph West (1880-1957) also emigrated, first to the USA, before settling in Canada.
Sydney West enlisted in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on 21st February 1916, giving his occupation as a mason and his birthplace as Solihull. He gave his wife, Harriet, as his next-of-kin and their address as Exeter, Ontario.
He was killed in action and, having no known grave, is commemorated on the Menin Gate (Ypres) Memorial. With the family having moved away from Solihull by 1911, his name is not amongst those commemorated on the Solihull war memorial.
If you have any further information about any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977