Two local men lost their lives on 1st November as a result of their war service. Captain William Alfred Foley, 1st Battalion, Princess Victoria’s (Royal Irish Fusiliers) died of wounds after being hit by a bullet and Second Lieutenant Richard Alured Waller, 5th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers died of pneumonia.
William Alfred Foley was born on 31st May 1895 in Queensland, Australia and was the youngest of the five children of parents, John Edward and Susan (née) Kerr who had married in the bride’s home country of Ireland in 1885. They seem to have moved to Australia shortly after the wedding, arriving in September 1885 aboard the Duke of Buccleuch.
All of the children were born in Queensland between 1886-1895, although it seems the family was in England for a short period during 1894, as they all sailed back to Australia in October 1894.
By 1901, Susan Foley and her five children were living in Lozells, Birmingham with her 77-year-old widowed mother, Annie Kerr. Susan was recorded on the census as married, although her husband, John Edward, was not resident with the family. It seems that he was actually in Tientsin, China, working as Traffic Manager of the Imperial Railways of North China. He had been appointed to this role in March 1898, following 12 years with the railways in Queensland, including five years as Chief Clerk in the Northern Railway Department at Townsville.
John Edward Foley was awarded various honours by foreign rulers for his work on the Chinese railways, including: the Insignia of the Second Class (Third Grade) of the Imperial Chinese Order of the Double Dragon, from the Emperor of China (1902); the Sixth Class of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, from the Emperor of Japan (1904); the Fourth Class of the Order of the Red Eagle, awarded by his Imperial Majesty the German Emperor, King of Prussia (1905).
William Foley attended several schools in the Birmingham area. On the 1911 census he is listed as a boarder at Stanley House School, Bristol Road, Birmingham, which was advertised in 1916 as a preparatory school for boys, set in fifteen acres of ground in open country, and offering “a good sound education at moderate fees.” He is also known to have attended King Edward’s School, Birmingham, and Solihull School.
It seems that he intended to have a career as an Army Officer, as he entered the Royal Military College Sandhurst on 4th February 1914 as a Gentleman Cadet. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant on 29th September 1914 and left the college on 1st October, taking up duties with the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Army Lists indicate promotion to Lieutenant by 1916, and Soldiers Died in the Great War indicates that he was Acting Captain at the time he was killed.
The Battalion War Diary for 27th October 1917 notes that Captain W. A. Foley was wounded by a bullet at a range of about 2,200 yards adding the comment “wound serious”. Four days later, he died of wounds at 48 Casualty Clearing Station and is buried at Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery. Although he is recorded on the serving roll of honour for Solihull School 1914, his name was omitted from the War Memorial, which was erected in 1953.
Richard Alured Waller was born in Little Packington, Warwickshire on 11th February 1884. He was the youngest of the nine children (three sons, six daughters) of Rev. Canon Ernest Alured Waller (1836-1910), Rector of Packington, and Mary Louisa Barton (1842-1919), who had married in 1864. The couple’s eldest son, Ernest Henry, became a Lieutenant in the Royal Fusliers and died, aged 26, in 1893.
Richard was the great-grandson of Sir Jonathan Wathen Waller (1769-1853) who was Groom of the Bedchamber to King William IV and was created 1st Baronet Waller of Braywick Lodge, Berkshire in 1816. The 4th Baronet, Sir Frances Ernest Waller, was Richard’s second cousin, and was killed in 1914, whilst serving as a Captain with the Royal Fusiliers. Both cousins were members of the Woodmen of Arden, which meets at Meriden.
Educated at Marlborough and University College, Oxford, Richard became a schoolmaster, and is shown on the 1911 census as Resident Assistant Master at Copthorne Preparatory School Crawley. He married Ethel Gertrude Drake in 1912, and they set up home at the Cottage, Crawley Down.
Soon after the outbreak of war, Richard Alured Waller enlisted as a private soldier (no. PS/10728) in the Royal Fusiliers, first entering a Theatre of War on 15th August 1916. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant on 25th April 1917 and returned to France in June 1917. He was apparently wounded in August 1917 and had only just returned to the Front when he died of pneumonia at a Casualty Clearing Station.
His only child, Margaret Patience Waller, was born on 21st September 1917, just a few weeks before her father’s death. She never married and was still living at the family home, the Cottage, Crawley Down, when she died, aged 76, in 1993.
Second Lieutenant Richard Alured Waller is buried at Tincourt New British Cemetery and is commemorated on the war memorial at Copthorne School. He is commemorated locally at Forest Hall, Meriden (home to the Woodmen of Arden).
If you have any further information about either of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977