Two local men lost their lives on 20th April 1918 whilst on active service in France – 20-year-old Private James Franklin, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and 21-year-old Second Lieutenant Frederick Harold Hoyle of 2nd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own).
James Franklin was born in 1898 in Meriden and was the youngest of the seven children of parents William, a police constable, and Betsy (née Moss), who had married at Shustoke in 1884. One of the children – Leila, born 1892 – died in 1904, aged 12.
The eldest child, Francis Moss Franklin (1885-1958) was baptised at Shustoke, although the parents were recorded as living at Meriden. The family remained in Meriden, with William becoming a Relieving Officer with Meriden Poor Law Union by 1906. Betsy died in Meriden in 1912, and William in 1928.
Francis Moss Franklin became a draper, with a business on The Green, Meriden. However, newspaper records show that he was ordered by a military tribunal in January 1917 to work in a colliery, and he reported that this led to his not being able to devote the necessary time to the business. The result was that he appeared before the Bankruptcy Court in June 1917, with debts of over £138. He ascribed the failure of the business to a loss of trade and bad debts as a result of so many men going into the Army.
It seems that James Franklin must have moved to Berkswell sometime between 1911 and his enlistment in the Army, as his name is recorded on Berkswell war memorial. His name does not appear on Meriden’s war memorial. Private James Franklin is buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery, France.
James’s brother, Ernest Franklin, was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915.
Also commemorated at Berkswell is Second Lieutenant Frederick Harold Hoyle, who was wounded in action on 25th March 1918 and died of his wounds on 20th April.
Born in Queensbury, Bradford, Yorkshire in 1897, he was the youngest of the ten children (six sons, four daughters) of parents William Henry (a Professor of Music) and Elizabeth (née Mayes) who had married in the Bradford district in 1878. William Henry Hoyle had been organist and choirmaster at Holy Trinity Church, Queensbury from 1870 until 1887, taking over the role from his father, William. His grandfather, James Hoyle, was also a singer at the church.
Frederick Harold Hoyle apparently attended Salt Grammar School in Baildon, and became a dental technician, according to research on the men from Shipley and District who served in the war.
In 1911, Frederick was still living in Queensbury with his parents and three of his siblings. However, it seems that the family had moved to Warmleigh, Tile Hill, Coventry sometime between 1911 and 1918.
Frederick volunteered for the Army as a private soldier, joining the West Yorkshire Regiment, and first seeing overseas service in Egypt on 22nd December 1915. He was promoted Lance Corporal, before being discharged to commission. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant (temporary) on 11th October 1917, with effect from 26th September 1917.
Frederick Harold Hoyle was wounded in action on 25th March 1918, and died of his wounds on 20th April 1918. He was buried at St Sever Cemetery, Rouen and is commemorated locally at Berkswell. His family remained in the area until at least the 1930s. His father, William, died in Meriden registration district in 1924, and his widowed mother was living with her married daughter, Frances Mawson, in Coventry in 1939.
Although the family lived in Tile Hill, it seems that they had a connection with Berskwell, as Frederick’s niece, Mary Hoyle, married John Herbert Watson there in 1937. Mary was the daughter of Frederick’s brother, Percy Mayes Hoyle (1887-1971), who was the Director of A and F E Hanson (piano dealers), Coventry.
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Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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