Gunner Eric Powell Davies, Base Details, Royal Field Artillery, attached to the 1st Army School of Mortars, died in France on 28th November 1917. The Register of Soldiers’ Effects indicates that he was electrocuted, but gives no further details.
Private George Henry Kettle also died on the same day. Known as Harry, he died of wounds serving in France with the 5th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment.
William Leslie Davies, younger brother of Eric Powell Davies, died of malaria just one month before his brother, on 22nd October 1917, serving as a Gunner with the Royal Field Artillery in Salonika. William’s service record has survived, indicating that he enlisted on 3rd September 1914. As his original service number (1573) is only slightly higher that of his brother’s (1460) is seems likely that they enlisted around the same time, although neither saw overseas service before 1916.
Parents, William Oakley Davies (a manufacturing jeweller, and Emily Powell, daughter of a wholesale grocer, had married at St James’ Church, Handsworth in April 1891. They were still in Handsworth by the time their daughter, Gladys Powell Davies, was born in 1893, but had moved to Hampton-in-Arden by the time their eldest son, Eric, was born in 1895. Eric was baptised at Hampton-in-Arden on 7th July 1895.
The family had moved to Balsall Heath by the time youngest son, William Leslie, was born in 1897. It seems that the couple also had a fourth child who died in infancy, meaning that three out of the four children predeceased the parents.
By 1911, the family had moved to 73, Alcester Road, Moseley, and they were still living there by the time of the death of William Oakley Davies in 1933.
Eric Powell Davies is buried at Aire Communal Cemetery, France. He is not commemorated on the war memorial at Hampton-in-Arden, where he was born, as the family had moved away so soon after his birth. He is commemorated, together with his brother, on Moseley war memorial.
The family received next-of-kin memorial plaques (often known as “dead man”s penny”) for both boys and these seem to have been mounted and framed as a pair, presumably kept as a treasured item in the family home. They were later sold at auction.
Harry Kettle was born at Solihull in 1882 and was baptised George Henry at St Alphege Church on 12th November 1882. His parents were Charles Joseph Kettle (a gamekeeper from Berkswell) and Laura Maria (née Bartlam) who had married in Birmingham in 1881. They had two other children: Charles Bartlam (1886-1953) and Ralph Bernard (1893-1957). Harry and Charles were born in Solihull, whilst Ralph was born in Lincolnshire.
The family lived in Solihull from at least 1882 until 1891. At the time of the 1891 census, they were living at Ravenshaw but, by December that year, had moved to Boothby, Lincolnshire. Ten years later, they had moved to Oxfordshire, although 17-year-old Harry wasn’t at the family home but was boarding in Allesley, and was working as a gardener.
In 1909 he married Sarah Ellen Crumpton in Stourbridge, and they set up home in Allesley. THeir only child, Ralph Henry, was born in 1914. Harry was gardener to Archdeacon William Bree, Rector of Allesley and was also Ringing Master at Allesley Church, ringing his first peal as conductor on 14th December 1912. He also served two years as Honorary Secretary of the Warwickshire Guild of Bell Ringers.
According to an article in the Coventry Standard, 1st December 1916, Harry was joining the Armed Forces that week. He was given a present of “cigarettes and tobacco together with a pipe and pouch, which had been subscribed for by the ringers of Stoke and Allesley, as a token of their esteem.”
In January 1917, Private H. Kettle was listed as one of the pallbearers at the funeral of Venerable Archdeacon Bree, who died aged 94. Harry Kettle was also one of the named servants who received a legacy (£10) from Mr Bree.
One of Harry’s letters from the Front was quoted in the Coventry Standard 8th June 1917:
“I am glad to say that I am getting on fairly well up to the present, and have taken to soldiering much better than I thought I should do at the first. I have been out here some time now. The country where we are is very pretty, and in an adjoining town there are some very beautiful churches… The majority of the roads here are lined with avenues of poplar trees, on which a lot of mistletoe grows. There are also some immense pine woods, which stretch for miles, and a few days exploring all round would be most interesting, but I am afraid we shall not be allowed to go, much as we should like to. You will see that I have been put in the Berks Regiment ; we were transferred to that at C— where we were trained…
I am glad to say that I get the Coventry Standard each week, and so am able to see all that goes on in Coventry and district…”
Private George Henry Kettle is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery and is also commemorated at All Saints Church, Allesley Village Hall and on a Peal Board in All Saints Belfry. His name also appears in The Great War Memorial Book of Church Bell-Ringers in St Paul’s Cathedral, London. Having moved away from his birthplace, his name is not included on Solihull war memorial.
On 15th December 1916 a Peal of Bob Minor (5040 changes) was rung at Allesley in memory of Harry Kettle, with the bells half muffled “as a token of respect and esteem”.
If you have any further information on either of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977