Two men with a local connection lost their lives on active service on 15th July 1918. Lieutenant Ronald John Gilman, Warwickshire Yeomanry, was 20 years old and he died of injuries received after enemy torpedoes hit his troop ship en route to France. On the same day, Old Contemptible, Private John Richmond, 2nd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment, died in a German Prisoner of War camp.
Ronald John Gilman, apparently known as Robin, was born in Hill Top, Tyseley on 18th March 1898. He was the third of the five children (four sons, one daughter) of parents Henry (an oil and colour merchant) and Lizzie. (née Adcock) who had married at Birchfield in 1893.
By 1901, the family had moved to Warings Green, Tanworth-in-Arden. In 1904, Henry Gilman leased Nuthurst Grange, Hockley Heath, and the family remained there until his death in 1934.
Robin was educated at Lindley House, Nuneaton and at Malvern College (1912-1914), before becoming articled to a Chartered Accountant. He was a Cadet in the Officers’ Training Corps at Malvern College and Birmingham University, and applied for a commission in the Territorial Force in November 1915, aged 17. His commission was granted in December 1915.
We don’t know when Robin first saw overseas service, although he was injured in the Battle of Huj, Palestine on 8th November 1917, receiving a gunshot wound to the back, just below the shoulder. The charge at Huj is renowned as the last classic cavalry charge of the British Army. Malvern School website indicates that he was recommended for the Military Cross as a result of this action.
He died after the troop ship he was travelling on – the Leasowe Castle – was torpedoed on 27th May 1918. He was taken to hospital where he died three weeks later as a result of shock and exposure.
Robin had three brothers and one sister – Joseph Henry Gilman (1894-1914), Richard Sherratt Gilman (1895-1963), Harry Moxham Gilman (1903-1943) and Joyce Marjorie Yvonne Gilman (1905-1981). His sister, known as Yvonne, married Frederick Minshull Arculus in 1931, and their son, who was born in 1936, was named Robin, presumably in memory of her brother.
Lieutenant Ronald John Gilman is buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, and is commemorated locally on Hockley Heath war memorial and the roll of honour in St Thomas’s Church, Hockley Heath.
John Richmond was born in Sheldon on 12th March 1886 and was the 6th of 17 children born to parents David (a labourer) and Lois (née Gardner) who had married in 1880 at Brookthorpe, Gloucestershire. Three of the children had died by 1911, including Arthur (died in Lapworth in April 1900, aged nine days) and Dulcie Edith Mary (died in Harborne in December 1903, aged nine months).
The couple initially set up home in Coleshill, before moving to Sheldon by 1881. They then lived in Lapworth from at least 1893 until at least 1900, moving to Haseley by 1901 and Harborne by 1903. The family then remained in Harborne until at least 1927.
John was educated at Shirley School from 6th November 1899. He enlisted in the Army in 1904 and, in 1911, was serving in India with the 1st Battalion South Lancashire Regiment. Following the outbreak of war, he landed in France on 14th August 1914 with the 2nd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment.
The battalion saw heavy fighting from Mons in August 1914 to Ypres in November 1914, winning ten battle honours for the Colours during that time. Prisoner of War records show that John Richmond was captured at Arras on 21st October 1914 and remained a PoW for almost four years. He died in Wittenberg Camp, which was notorious for its deplorable conditions. He is buried in Berlin South Western Cemetery, Brandenburg. His name does not appear on local war memorials in Shirley or Lapworth.
One of his brothers – William Hugh Richmond (1896-1973), an engine fitter by trade, is known to have served with the Royal Air Force from April 1918.
If you have any further information on either of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977