20-year-old Sapper Eustace Bertram Wagstaff (listed as Wagstaffe in some records) was killed in action on 6th April 1918 serving with the 69th Field Company, Royal Engineers. He was the second of the four children of parents William Charles (a coachman) and Harriet (née Freeman) who had married in London in 1891.
Charles and Harriet appear to have set up home in Kent, where their first child, William Charles (1891-1962) was born. By 1897, when Eustace was born, the family was living in Bentley Heath, although they had moved to Statford, near Tamworth, by 1901. Sometime between 1901 and 1907 they moved to Wylde Green, where the two youngest children – Winifred Gladys (1907-1975) and Marjorie (born 1911) were born.
Eustace joined the Army at Rugby in 1914 and seems to have lied about his age, as he was only 17 years old. He was sent to France on 31st May 1915, still aged 17, although the legal minimum age for enlistment was 18, and armed service overseas was 19.
He was killed in action and was buried at Senlis Communal Cemetery Extension, France. When the military pattern headstone was erected, his family requested the addition of a personal inscription “The Gates of Heaven were opened and a gentle voice said come”.
Having moved out of Bentley Heath and away from the area by 1901, his name is not included on any war memorials within Solihull, although his name does appear on the Roll of Honour at St Michael’s Church, Boldmere. Family members are known to have lived in Sutton Coldfield until at least the 1930s.
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Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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