23rd October 1918

Five men with a local connection died on 23rd October 1918:

  • Lance Corporal Harry Matthew Bradburn, 20th Battalion Manchester Regiment
  • Private Oliver Cranmer, 2nd Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
  • Corporal Frederick Alfred Johnson, A Battery, 115th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
  • Shoeing Smith Frank Selfe, Z Battery, 5th Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery
  • Private John Howard Whittle, 1st/8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment

Harry Bradburn was born in Tanworth-in-Arden in 1887 and was the fifth of the six children (four sons, two daughters) of parents Richard (a gardener) and Amy (a laundress) who had married in Worcester in 1876. His brother Richard (born 1881) was killed in action in April 1918.

Harry’s birth was registered just as Henry, and he appears on census records as Harry. The middle name Matthew only appears in his Army records. By 1911, aged 24, he was lodging in Barnt Green and working as a gardener. We don’t know when he enlisted in the Army but he didn’t see any overseas service before 1916.

He was killed in action and is buried at Pommereuil British Cemetery. He is commemorated locally on Tanworth-in-Arden war memorial.

Oliver Cranmer was born in Lapworth in 1898 and was the seventh son and the youngest of the ten children born to parents William and Jane of Drawbridge Farm, Lapworth. He was one of four brothers known to have served, and one of two to be killed. His brother, Christopher Henry Cranmer (1896-1916), died in 1916, after volunteering in September 1914 with older brothers Frank (1884-1964) and Bert (1895-1975).

Oliver died of wounds in France and is commemorated locally on Lapworth war memorial. Lest we forget by Peter A J Hill also notes that there is a brass plate on the choir stalls in chancel of Lapworth Church with the inscription: “Private Oliver Cranmer / Successively Sunday Scholar, Choir Boy / Choirman, Crucifer, and Altar Server / Fell in Action in France / Oct 23 1918”. He is also commemorated on his parents’ gravestone at Lapworth.

Frederick Alfred Johnson was born in Solihull in 1881, and was the seventh of the ten children (six sons, four daughters) of parents William (a labourer) and Isabella (née Butler) who had married in Birmingham in 1862.

The family moved to Tilehouse Green, Bentley Heath c. 1869, and then to Tan Yard, Warwick Road, Solihull by 1881. They were in Mill Lane by 1891 and Warwick Road by 1901. Isabella died in 1910, aged 67. William died in 1911, shortly after the 1911 census which showed him, aged 71, living alone in Streetsbrook Road and working as a road labourer.

Frederick joined the Royal Field Artillery in 1900, attesting on 15th August 1900 and being appointed Acting Bombardier in 1902. He was transferred to the Reserves in October 1904 without having seen any overseas service. He re-engaged in August 1912 and was mobilised on 6th August 1914, although it wasn’t until 19th September 1915 that he was posted to France. On 1st December 1917 he was posted to the Mediterranean where he served until his death from malaria on 23rd October 1918.

In 1909, Frederick had married Annie Ruth Adeline Meeks at St Alphege Church, Solihull, at which time he was a labourer living in Streetsbrook Road. The couple are known to have had three children – George Frederick (1911-1982), Annie Ruth May (1914-1995) and Lily (1916-2006).

Frederick Alfred Johnson is buried at Doiran Military Cemetery, Greece and is commemorated locally on memorials at Robin Hood Golf Club, Shirley and Solihull.

Frank Selfe was born in Plaistow, London in 1891, and was the youngest of the ten children (five sons, five daughters) of parents Henry John Selfe and Elizabeth Coveney Rigden who had married in Brentford district in 1872.

By 1911, Frank had joined the Royal Horse Artillery and was stationed in India with “Y” Battery.  In 1915, he married Eva Hands at Berkswell parish church, giving his occupation as a Shoeing Smith with the Royal Horse Artillery, and his abode as Leamington Priors. The couple had one child, Frank, born on 27th February 1918, who died in Warwickshire in 2004.

Sergeant Frank Selfe was killed in action and, having no known grave, is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial. He is commemorated locally on Berkswell war memorial.

John Howard Whittle was born in Overbury, Worcestershire in 1876 and was the third of the eight children (five sons, three daughters) of parents Job and Honor (née Luker) who had married in Overbury in 1872. His birth was registered as Howard John Whittle, but his forenames became transposed between 1891-1901, indicating he was known as John.

By the age of 15, he was working as a farm labourer and, in 1896, he married Bertha Taylor in the Pershore district. The couple set up home in Upton Snodsbury, where John was working as a carter on a farm and where their eldest child, Agnes Gertrude, was born in 1899. They are known to have had eight children, of whom four died in infancy.

By 1905, the family had moved to Bentley Heath, where they had two children – Clara Doris and Leonard – who were born in 1904 and 1906 respectively. They moved to Stratford Road, Shirley by 1910, with a daughter, Ethel, being buried at St James’s Church in October 1910, aged 12 hours. Their son, John Lloyd George Whittle, also died in Shirley in November 1911, at just six hours old.

It seems that the family moved to Knowle sometime between 1911-1918, as John Howard Whittle is commemorated on Knowle war memorial. He is buried at Pommereuil British Cemetery, France.

If you have any further information on any of these men, please let us know.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6977
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

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