Two men with a local connection lost their lives on 18th September 1918 whilst on active service – Private William Cleaver, 10th Battalion Notts and Derby (Sherwood Foresters) Regiment and Private William John Reynolds, B Company, 12th Battalion,, Hampshire Regiment.
William Cleaver was born in Elmdon Heath in 1894. He was the fourth of the 12 children of parents William (a labourer) and Charlotte (née Ivens) who had married in the Southam district in Warwickshire in 1888. One of the children – Thomas Bertie (born and died in 1898) – died in infancy.
The couple seem to have moved around fairly frequently. Their eldest daughter, Elsie Laura (1888-1943) was baptised in Long Itchington, whilst the next two, Lily Ann and Minnie were born in Hall Green in 1891 and 1892 respectively. William was the only one of the children born in Elmdon Heath, as the family had moved to Handsworth by 1896 when his sister Henrietta (Hetty) was born. By 1899 the family was in Erdington, where their son Frank was born, moving to Maxtoke by 1901 where twins Alfred and Sidney were born. The next two children – Walter Wilfred (born 1903) and Illeen [sic] Gertrude (born 1905) were born in Leicestershire. Youngest child John Leonard was born in 1907 in Nottinghamshire, where the family seem to have remained.
William became a railway worker, and married Teresa Smith in North Bierley, Yorkshire in 1918. The couple appear to have set up home in Nottinghamshire and it looks as if Teresa then married Thomas Smith in Basford in 1919.
William is buried at Villers Hill British Cemetery, Villers-Guislain, France. He is also commemorated on Mansfield war memorial (apparently listed as William W G Cleavers). Having left his birthplace before the age of two, his name does not appear on any memorials in the Solihull area.
William John Reynolds was born in Langley, Claverdon on 8th April 1898. He was the fifth of seven children (five sons, two daughters) of parents Arthur (a labourer) and Ellen (née Matthews) who had married in Solihull in 1888. Their eldest children – Ellen Elizabeth and Fanny – were born in Monkspath in 1890 and 1892. By 1893, they had moved to Langley Common, Claverdon, and they stayed in Langley until at least 1911.
Sometime between 1911 and 1915, when William enlisted in the Army, the family moved to Hockley Heath. William first entered a Theatre of War on 21st September 1915. He was killed in action on 18th September 1918 and, having no known grave, is commemorated on the Doiran Memorial, Greece. He is also commemorated on Hockley Heath war memorial, and on memorials at St Thomas’s Church, Hockley Heath and Umberslade Baptist Church.
He was initially posted as missing, and the Birmingham Gazette 21st October 1918 carried an appeal for information from his father. The article mentioned that two of his brothers were also serving with the colours.
If you have any further information, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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