Two local casualties lost their lives on active service on 22nd March 1918. Private Edward Vernon Barker, 10th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and Private Joseph Beecham, 2nd/6th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Edward Vernon Barker was born in Barston in 1895 and was the youngest of the three sons of parents Joseph (a farmer) and Sarah Elizabeth (née Moore) who had married at Barston on 23rd April 1889. The family lived in Barston until at least 1906, when Sarah died at the age of 51.
By 1911, Joseph was living in Kenilworth with his unmarried sister, Elizabeth. His son Edward Vernon, who seems to have been known by his middle name, was also in Kenilworth but living with the family of journeyman butcher, Albert Gaydon, and was working as his assistant. His brother, Harry Copeland Barker (1892-1963) was still in Barston, where he was working as a wheelwright. Eldest brother, Sidney (born 1900) was boarding in Hampton-in-Arden, where he was working as a grocer’s assistant.
We don’t know when Vernon Barker enlisted in the Army, but he didn’t see any overseas service before 1916. His father heard the news of his son’s death in May 1918, whilst he was staying at a nursing home in Leamington Spa, recovering from a very badly poisoned hand.
Pte E. Vernon Barker has no known grave, but is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. He isn’t commemorated in his birthplace of Barston, presumably owing to family members having moved away from the area. He is commemorated on Kenilworth war memorial.
Joseph Beecham was born in Berkswell in 1877 but, by 1881, was living with his mother, Emma, and her father Thomas Beecham, in Hay Mills. By 1891, he had moved to Coventry, where he was working as a grocer’s errand boy.
In 1898, he married Selina Cross and the couple set up home in Thurlaston, a hamlet in the parish of Dunchurch, Warwickshire, where Joseph was working as a carter on a farm. They had two children, Frederick Henry (1902-1972) and Hilda Mary (born 1903), both of whom were baptised at Dunchurch.
By 1911, the family had moved to Brinklow, Rugby where Joseph was working as a cowman on a farm. It seems that by the time he enlisted in the Army in Solihull, the family had moved to Catherine-de-Barnes.
The Register of Soldiers’ Effects gives Joseph’s son, Frederick, as his sole legatee, noting that Joseph’s widow was “in asylum”. It seems that this was Warwickshire County Lunatic Asylum in Hatton, which was renamed the Warwickshire County Mental Hospital between 1930-1948. It appears that Selina died there, aged 84, in 1948.
Joseph Beecham has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, as well as on memorials at Catherine-de-Barnes and Solihull.
If you have any further information about either of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977