Three officers with a local connection lost their lives on active service on 27th September 1918 – Major Percival Charles Edwards DCM, 15th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment; Captain Edgar Godfrey Izon, 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment; and Lieutenant Maurice Jones, of the East Lancashire Regiment, attached to the 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The 14th and 15th Warwicks were attacking African Trench on 27th September, the first day of the Battle of the Canal du Nord. The trench was 1500 yards west of the village of Gouzeaucourt.
Percival Charles Edwards was born in Wellington, New Zealand on 28th September 1878 to parents James and Mary Jane (née Bond), both of whom were born in England but who moved to New Zealand in the mid-19th century. His birth was registered as James Percival Charles Edwards, but it seems that he dropped the first name and was known as Percy. He appears to have been the third of the couple’s eight children (five sons, three daughters). Percy was the eldest son, and one of three boys to survive infancy – brothers Norman Richard Henry (1886-1887) and Vernon Harry Nithdale (1890-1891) both died at the age of one.
His surviving brothers both served in the First World War. William Thomas Stanley Edwards (1880-1965), a warehouse manager, served as a Second Lieutenant with the 3rd Otago Infantry (promoted Lieutenant in February 1919), having enlisted as a non-commissioned officer in October 1916. Victor Clive Stuart Edwards (1897-1949) joined the Canterbury Mounted Rifles as a Trooper on 27th August 1914, and served in Gallipoli. A bank clerk by trade, he received a shrapnel wound to the foot, and was invalided back to New Zealand in October 1915. He was discharged in March 1916 as medically unfit for military service.
According to unpublished research by the late Alan Tucker, Percy joined the Imperial Yeomanry in 1899 as a trooper. It seems he served with 35 (Middlesex) Company 11th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry, receiving a battlefield commission as Lieutenant with attached to the Buffs. He was twice Mentioned in Despatches in 1901, and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the London Gazette of 27th September 1901, exactly 17 years before he was killed.
In February 1905, he married Bertha Louisa Mary Elkington (1876-1955) at St Cyprian’s Church, Dorset Square, London, giving his address as 23 Dorset Square. By 1911, they were living in Staple Hall Road, Northfield, at which time he was described as a retired Army officer. An obituary in the Gloucestershire Echo 12th October 1918 indicated that he never really recovered from wounds received in the Boer War, and had to retire from the Army.
On the outbreak of war, Percy received a temporary commission in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, being a Captain at the time he was hospitalised in May 1916 with a gunshot wound to his back. He was discharged to his regiment the following month.
Percy and his wife moved to “Windlesham”, Station Road, Dorridge, sometime between 1911-1918, and this was the family home at the time that Major Percy Edwards was killed in action at Haplincourt. By the 1920s, his widow had moved to Leamington Spa. They are not known to have had any children.
He is buried at Lebucquiere Communal Cemetery Extension in France and is commemorated locally in the Soldiers’ Chapel, Knowle.
Edgar Godfrey Izon was born on 15th September 1891 and baptised at Temple Balsall on 14th February 1892. He was the youngest of the nine children (six sons, three daughters) of parents William Izon and Mary Woollaston Ward who married at Edgbaston in 1871. William was a japanner, but had become a farmer by 1881. Two of the children – William (1874-1875) and Maurice (1878-1880) – died as infants.
The couple initially set up home in Balsall Heath, moving to Seison, Staffordshire by 1881 and Sutton Coldfield by 1891. They had moved to Hermitage Farm, Little Packington by 1901, and were still there at the time of William’s death in March 1907, aged 58. It seems that William was in poor health and had been worried and depressed over financial matters, leading him to take his own life. A curate who had lodged with the family for a time and discovered the body hanging on a bush, gave evidence at the Coroner’s inquest that Mr Izon was a “remarkably intelligent man, very fond of reading books of history.” He went on to say that Mr Izon tended to worry about trifles and he had the idea that the man’s mind was temporarily deranged.
William Izon left a note for his wife, in which he said “Sell most of the furniture and let the boys go out at once to Canada; you and the girls as soon as you can.” It seems that the eldest two sons, Wilfrid (1876-1953) and John (born 1883), had emigrated to Canada in 1906. They were joined by younger brother, Hubert (1885-1970). Confusingly John and Hubert are both recorded on the 1916 Canadian census as having arrived in Canada in 1899, although the 1911 Canadian census gives their year of arrival as 1905.
Within a few months of her husband’s death in March 1907, Mary Izon had moved to Fern Cottage, Meriden. This was the address given when her son, Edgar Godfrey, enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in November 1907, giving his occupation as a farmer. Mrs Izon had moved to “Hillside”, Meriden by the 1920s.
It seems that Edgar Godfrey Izon may have been known by his middle name as the Coventry Herald 14th November 1914 listing the 31 men from Meriden serving with the Army includes the names H. Izon and G. Izon. Hubert Izon is known to have enlisted with the Royal Canadian Dragoons in September 1914.
Mrs Izon, the boys’ mother, also appears to have been involved in the war effort, and is listed is a regular weekly subscriber to the Meriden Poulty Club, established in 1913, and of which she was a founder member, sending eggs to the wounded at the Front.
At the beginning of the war, Edgar Godfrey Izon was a Corporal with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, first seeing overseas service on 4th October 1914. He received a battlefield commission as Second Lieutenant, and was acting Captain at the time of his death.
He was killed in action and is buried at Achiet-le Grand Communal Cemetery Extension. His name also appears on Meriden war memorial, as well as on his mother’s grave in Meriden churchyard. Having left his birthplace as a young child, his name is not included on the war memorial at Temple Balsall.
Maurice Jones was born in Louth, Lincolnshire on 25th March 1888, and was the youngest of the six children (five sons, one daughter) of school master John Jones and his wife Jane (née Young). Two of the couple’s sons – Arthur Robert (born and died 1875) and Lewis (1881-1884) – died as children.
Maurice and his two surviving brothers – John Gilbert (born 8th March 1877) and Robert Ward (born 22nd November 1879) – all attended Louth Grammar School. Maurice, John, and sister Margaret Suddaby Jones (later Eiggert) all became teachers.
By 1911, Maurice was living in New Road, Solihull, and was a master at Solihull School. According to The History of Solihull School by John Loynton, he was the first teacher from the school to join up. In Solihull School During the First World War, John Loynton notes that Maurice Jones was wounded in the last of the failed attempts to relieve Kut in Mesopotamia.
Hospital records show that Lieutenant Jones of 13th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, attached to 6th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, was admitted to No. 19 General Hospital in Alexandria in June 1916, suffering from a gunshot wound to the left shoulder. It was noted that he had completed three years six months on active service, and eight months with the field force.
In 1917, Solihull School’s magazine, The Shenstonian, reported that he had been invalided home with a shrapnel wound to the left arm, and he was understood to be about to undertake recruiting work in the home service. Later, The Shenstonian reported that he was not completely recovered from his wounds and his experiences at Mesopotamia but he had rejoined at Parkhurst. A final entry in The Shenstonian reported the death of Mr Jones from his wounds and noted “many will remember him as a master for his kindly and cheerful disposition and his readiness to give help whenever needed.”
Maurice Jones is buried at H.A.C. Cemetery, Ecoust-St. Mein, France and is commemorated locally at Solihull School. He is also commemorated on Louth war memorial.
If you have any further information about any of these men, please let us know.
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