Four local men lost their lives on 14th April 1918 whilst on active service. Private George Bellamy, Labour Corps; Gunner Francis Thomas East, 83rd Battery, 11th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, Lance Corporal Walter Mucklow, 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and Private John Tonks, 2nd/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
George Bellamy was born in Lapworth on 23rd February 1886 and was the eldest of the three sons of parents George (a labourer) and Mary Ann (née Jesson) who had married in 1885. Between 1891 and 1901, the family moved to Hockley Heath where they seem to have remained until the 1930s.
By 1901 George, aged 15, was working as a farm labourer although he had become a postman by 1911 when he was still living with his parents and younger brother, Thomas (born 1891), at Hockley Heath. It seems that his father, George (senior) was working on the Umberslade Hall estate, owned by the Muntz family. The middle brother, Joseph (1887-1953) was boarding nearby with the family of William Douglas, estate forester, and was working as a carter (haulier).
George’s service record seems not to have survived, so we don’t know when he enlisted in the Army. It seems likely that he was called up for service, rather than volunteering, as it doesn’t appear that he saw any overseas service before he died. He was originally posted to the Dorsetshire Regiment, before being transferred to the Labour Corps. He died of illness at Winchester on 14th April 1918 and is buried at Umberslade Baptist Church. His name is also recorded on the Umberslade war memorial, alongside that of his brother, Thomas, who died on 5th November 1918.
Francis Thomas East was born in Olton in 1891 and was the fifth of the seven children (three sons, four daughters) of parents Thomas (a labourer) and Maria who had married in 1879. The couple seem to have set up home in Acocks Green before moving to Olton sometime between 1884 and 1889, and then moved to Hay Mills around 1895, where they remained.
By 1911, Francis was living in the family home at 2 Hay Road, Hay Mills, and was working as a wire rope spinner. His father and his brother, George (1880-1940), were also working in the wire manufacturing industry.
In 1912, Francis married Violet Field at Aston and their daughter, Florence Lilian East, was born the following year. We don’t know when Francis joined the Army but he didn’t see any overseas service before 1916.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Having moved away from Olton as a child, his name doesn’t appear on Olton war memorial.
His widow, Violet, married Clarence Howell in November 1919, and appears to have had four more children with her second husband before his death, aged 44, in 1939.
Walter Mucklow was born in Knowle in 1886 and was the eldest of the seven children born to parents John James Mucklow (a gardener) and Emma Jane (née Finch). Three of the children had died by 1911, including twins William and George (born and died 1892).
The family had moved from Knowle to Yardley by 1887, and remained there until at least 1901, moving to Small Heath by 1911.
In February 1905, aged 18 years and five months, Walter enlisted in the Army. His service record has survived and indicates that he was a groom, and was also serving in the militia with the Worcestershire Regiment. He signed on for nine years with the colours and three with the reserves. He was posted to Malta 1905-1906, then Egypt in 1906, before returning to Malta 1906-1908, and then India 1908-1912.
With the outbreak of war he embarked for France on 30th August 1914 with the British Expeditionary Force, returning back to England on 29th December 1914 until 3rd August 1915. During this time in England, he married Lena Evelyn Irene Vera Savage at St Benedict’s Church, Bordesley, Birmingham in February 1915. Their daughter, Vera Irene, was born in Solihull on 14th January 1916.
Walter was posted to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force 4th August 1915-19th March 1916 and then served in France from 20th March 1916 until 26th January 1917, when he was invalided to the UK suffering from severe bronchitis. He returned to France in December 1917, having been promoted Lance Corporal on 8th November 1917. He joined his unit in the field on 4th January 1918, and was killed in action on 14th April.
Walter Mucklow has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial. Having moved away from his birthplace as an infant, he is not commemorated in the Soldiers’ Chapel at Knowle parish church, although he is listed in the Books of Remembrance at the Hall of Memory, Birmingham.
His widow, Lena, married George Austin Norton (1890-1972) in 1923, and they set up home in Balsall Common, where they had two daughters, Kathleen N. (born 1924) and Joan Margaret (1926-2004). Lena died in 1980, aged 85. Her daughter from her first marriage, Vera Irene (known as Irene) died in Solihull in February 2000, aged 84.
John Tonks was born in Birmingham in 1899. He was the fourth of the eight children (two sons, six daughters) of parents John and Alice (née Hopkins) who had married in 1891. The couple’s eldest child, Alice Sarah Ann died in 1893, aged under one, as did the fifth child, Leslie (born and died 1903), leaving John as the only surviving son.
By 1911, the family had moved to Fairview, Earlswood Road, Dorridge, although John was not recorded as living in the family home with his parents and sisters, and we haven’t been able to trace where he was. We don’t know when he enlisted in the Army, but it is likely that he was called up shortly after his 18th birthday. He was still only 18 when he was killed.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial. His name is also included on war memorials at St Giles’ Church, Packwood, and Hockley Heath.
If you have any further information on any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977