Two local men lost their lives on active service on 9th April 1918. Captain Edward Grafton Herbert MC, Royal Warwickshire Regiment but attached to the Machine Gun Corps, and Pioneer Eric Stones, 3rd Special Company, Royal Engineers. Coincidentally, both men had worked for the same Birmingham brassfoundry.
Edward Grafton Herbert was born in Moseley on 22nd June 1894 and was the only son and the eldest of the three children of parents Arthur Grafton Herbert, a brassfounder, and Lilian Bertha Forshaw (known as Lilla) who had married at St Thomas’ Church, Clapton Common, London in September 1893. The couple set up home at “Copthorne”, Church Road, Moseley, Birmingham, where Edward and his younger sister, Lilian Anderson Herbert (1896-1998) were born. The youngest child, Florence Anderson Herbert (1897-1993) was born in Packwood.
By 1897, the family had moved to Packwood Lodge, Knowle and were still living there at the time of the 1901 census. Edward was admitted to King Edward’s School, Birmingham in January 1906 and was awarded a Foundation Scholarship in 1907 and 1909. According the the King Edward’s School website, Edward was a gifted linguist and a regular competitor in the school gymnastics competition.
In 1911, Lilian and the children were living at “Sunnyside”, Kingswood, Rowington. 16-year-old Edward was listed as an apprentice to a brassfounder. It seems that he was working for his father – Arthur Grafton Herbert was a manufacturer whose business was Herbert, Kershaw & Co., Highgate Works, Birmingham. The company made stamped brasswork such as sail eyelets and rings, curtain hooks, fancy nails and safety pins. In 1914, the firm was employing some 400 people.
Arthur doesn’t appear to be listed on the 1911 census and it seems that it was in April 1911 that he left the family home for good, having spent much time away. Lilian was granted a divorce in 1913 on the grounds of his desertion and adultery with “a person unknown” to her.
In 1914, Arthur married Norah Kathleen Payne (1884-1968) and they are known to have had one son, David Grafton Herbert (1915-2003) before Arthur died, aged 55, in 1921.
On the outbreak of war in 1914, Edward Grafton Herbert was training on Salisbury Plain with the University Officer Training Corps (OTC). He joined the Warwickshire Yeomanry as a Trooper and, in March 1915, was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, first seeing overseas service in June 1916. In 1917, he was attached to the Machine Gun Corps, and promoted to Captain. He was mentioned in divisional dispatches in February 1918 and was killed in action on 9th April 1918. In September 1918 he was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for an action in which he apparently held up a German advance almost single-handedly.
He is commemorated at Croix-du-Bac British Cemetery, Steenwerck, France. He is also commemorated locally in the Soldiers’ Chapel, Knowle.
Eric Stones was born in 1891 in Sale, Cheshire and was the elder of the two children of parents Elizabeth (née Holmes) and John Herbert Stones, a paper merchant. In 1893, aged 30, John died suddenly at his home, Northern Lea, Northenden Road, Sale, leaving his widow with two children aged under three.
Elizabeth married Joseph Edwin Taylor at Altrincham in 1896 and, by 1901, had moved with him to “Ravenswood”, Homer Road, Solihull, where they were still living in 1911 when Eric was listed as a warehouseman in a stamped brass foundry. Joseph died in 1914, aged 64.
According to the Birmingham Daily Post, 10th May 1918, Eric joined the Volunteer Rifle Brigade on the outbreak of war before enlisting with the Royal Fusiliers in 1916, hoping to obtain a commission. However, on the death of his younger brother, Shepherd Stones, in November 1916, he transferred to the Royal Engineers.
He mother was originally told in May 1918 that he was missing since 9th April. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial. Locally, his name is included on the Solihull war memorial and his mother, Elizabeth, also paid for the restoration of the altar in St Anthony’s Chapel, St Alphege Church, Solihull, in remembrance of her only children, Eric and Shepherd Stones.
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