Two men with a local connection lost their lives on 16th July 1918 whilst on active service – Private Percy Farmer Draycott, Royal Army Service Corps and Private Charles Henry Hiles, 18th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers.
Percy Farmer Draycott was born in Bournemouth on 16th May 1883. He was the youngest of the four children born to parents William Farmer Draycott and Amelia (née Owen) who had married in the Solihull district in 1873.
William Farmer Draycott was a rivet, nail and screw manufacturer, trading in Birmingham. The partnership, Bonny and Draycott, was dissolved in December 1873, with W. F. Draycott thencontinuing the business alone.
The eldest child, William Shirley Draycott, was born in Birmingham in 1873, with siblings Florence (1875-1941) born in Hall Green, and Robert Stanley (1877-c. 1960) born in Leamington Spa.
By 1881, the family had moved to Hampshire, subsequently moving to St Helier, Jersey. William Farmer Draycott died in Jersey in 1890, and his widow temporarily moved back to Solihull, being recorded as living in the High Street with her three younger children at the time of the 1891 census.
By 1896, the family had moved to Dulwich, with Percy attending Dulwich College 1896-1899. In February 1901, Percy was elected a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers, stating on his application that he was a pupil at the Thames Electrical Co. and attending electro-technical classes at West Ham Institute. He gave his address as Forest Gate, London.
By 1911, he was listed as an engineer and was living at Golden End, Knowle, with his aunt and uncle, Ernest Henry and Alice Thompson. His brother, Robert, was living in the Channel Islands where, aged 34, he was recorded as a retired electrical engineer. The eldest brother, William, an architect, was living with his wife in Colchester, whilst their sister, Florence, was living in Moseley with her husband, Frank Edward Dingley, and their two children, Arloe Draycott Dingley (1906-1980) and Trevor Draycott Dingley (1909-1980). One of Trevor’s sons, Peter Waters Dingley, is better known as DJ Johnnie Walker.
In 1912, Percy Farmer Draycott married Ruth Maude Hutton at St Helier, Jersey, and the couple set up home in Solihull where Percy was the proprietor of Solihull Motor Co. on the High Street. He enlisted in the Army Service Corps on 10th December 1915, aged 32 years and six months. Both of his brothers also served in the armed forces – William was a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve, serving in Gibraltar, whilst Robert was a Lance Bombadier in the Royal Garrison Artillery, serving in Jersey.
Percy Farmer Draycott appears not to have seen any overseas service, but died as a result of a septicaemia following a serious motor car accident in Lambeth. He is buried at Robin Hood Cemetery, and is commemorated on Solihull war memorial, as well as on the roll of honour of the Avenue Bowling Club.
Charles Henry Hiles, recorded in some records as, Iles, was born in Olton in 1892. He was the eldest of the seven children (five sons, two daughters) of parents Charles Alfred Wilmot Hiles and Kezia (née Brown) who had married at St Alphege Church, Solihull, in 1891. Kezia was previously a nurse at West Heath Infectious Diseases Hospital, King’s Norton.
At the time of the marriage, Charles gave his occupation as a bricklayer, although he was still an Army reservist until 1892, having enlisted in 1880 and served with the Shropshire Regiment in Egypt, Malta, Sudan and Cyprus, before being discharged to the Reserves.
The family appears to have been in Olton for only a short time as all six of Charles Henry’s younger siblings were born in their father’s home town of Malvern.
The family was still living in Malvern in 1901, but Charles Henry, aged 8, is recorded on the census with his maternal grandparents in Wednesbury.
On the outbreak of war, Charles Alfred Wilmot Hiles enlisted in the Worcestershire Regiment. He attested at Malvern on 24th September 1914, aged 50 years and 341 days, and was transferred to the Chinese Labour Corps in August 1917. He served in France from August 1917 until March 1918, being discharged as no longer fit for military service on 16th July 1918, the very same day as his son was killed in action. The cause of his disability was given as osteoarthritis, exacerbated by military service.
It’s not known when his son enlisted in the Army as Charles Henry’s service record seems not to have survived, although he does not seem to have seen overseas service before 1916. He is recorded as having enlisted in Cardiff, whist being resident in Great Malvern. It looks as if two of his brothers also served in the war Alfred Edward Hiles (1897-1936) as a Driver with the Royal Field Artillery and Harry (1899-1982) as a Gunner with the Royal Field Artillery. The younger boys, William (1905-1994) and Frank (1908-1983) were too young for war service.
Charles Henry Hiles was killed in action on 16th July 1918, and is buried at Abeele Aerodrome Military Cemetery in Belgium. With the family having moved away from Solihull by 1895, his name is not included on the war memorial at St Margaret’s Church, Olton.
If you have any further information on either of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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