Three men with a local connection died on 8th November 1918 – Gunner John Edward Herbert Harrison, 536th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery; Private Stephen Hastings, 2nd/4th Field Bakery, Royal Army Service Corps; and Sergeant Howard William Smith, 2nd Battalion (Knowle and Dorridge detachment), Royal Warwickshire Volunteers.
John Edward Herbert Harrison, known as Herbert, was born in Exhall on 30th June 1887 and was the second of the three children of parents Amos (a miner) and Sarah. He had an older brother, Stephen Leonard (born 1882/1883, and known as Leonard) and a younger sister, Emma Aveline (1891-1979), who was known as Aveline.
By 1901, Herbert had become a baker’s assistant, although when he enlisted in the Army in 1905, he gave his occupation as a farm labourer. He was discharged from the Army in December 1909 as a result of misconduct. By 1911, he was 25 years old and boarding in Coventry, working as a baker and confectioner. We don’t know when he moved to Solihull, but it must have been sometime between 1911 and whenever he joined the Army for war service. He died at the Military Hospital, Lydd, Kent and was, presumably, based at the artillery camp there, which was known to locals as “Tin Town” and was an important artillery training facility. He is buried at Lydd Cemetery.
It seems likely that he was only in Solihull for a short time, and didn’t have any other family members living there, as his name is not included on Solihull war memorial.
Stephen Hastings was born in Coleshill in 1878 and was the tenth of the eleven children (eight sons, three daughters) of parents Charles (a labourer) and Charlotte (née Freeman) who had married in Warwick in 1862. Three of the children, including twins Eliza and Mary (born and died 1874) are known to have died by 1911.
Stephen became a baker and married Rose Hannah Painter at St Mark’s Church, Birmingham in 1903. They had four children – Charles Edwin (1904-1971), Margaret (1907-1987), Olive (1908-2000) and Christopher John (1915-1997).
Stephen and his wife lived in High Street, Hampton-in-Arden from around 1908 until at least 1911. By April 1918, when 40-year-old Stephen was called up to the Army, they had moved to High Street, Henley-in-Arden.
He arrived in France on 2nd June 1918 as part of a Field Bakery unit. He became ill and was admitted to No. 2 General Hospital, Le Havre on 28th October 1918 suffering from a headache, cough and myalgic pain, with a temperature of 101. His condition gradually became worse, with his temperature rising to 104.4 and his breathing becoming rapid and shallow. He died at 7:55am on 8th October 1918. The cause of death was given as influenza and broncho-pneumonia contracted on military service.
Private Stephen Hastings is buried at Sainte Marie Cemetery, Le Havre and is commemorated on Henley-in-Arden war memorial. Having lived for only a few years in Hampton-in-Arden, his name does not appear on the village war memorial.
Howard William Smith was born in Yardley in 1872 and was the eldest of the four children of parents William Joseph (a labourer) and Mary Jane (née Cox). Mary Jane died between 1878-1882. By 1891, Howard and his three younger siblings – Edgar Joseph (1874-1951), Leah Booth (born 1877) and Charles Frederick (born 1878) – were living in Bordesley, Birmingham with their uncle, Joseph Smith, suggesting their father had died by this date.
Howard was working as a pupil-teacher by 1891 when he was 18 years old. Later census returns show him as a schoolmaster in Erdington in 1901 and in Hampton-in-Arden in 1911, where he was listed as being a schoolmaster at the workhouse, employed by the Board of Guardians. By the time of his death, he seems to have changed jobs and is recorded in probate records as an estate agent living at “Glenthorpe”, Dorridge.
According to The Price a Parish Paid by Michael Harrison, he was an early member of the local volunteer training corps before becoming Commandant of the Knowle & Dorridge detachment of the 2nd Warwickshire Volunteers. He died of illness at Birmingham General Hospital, aged 46. He is not commemorated on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission debt of honour, but is included on the list of names in the Soldiers’ Chapel at Knowle Parish Church. He is buried in Knowle churchyard but the grave is unmarked. Although the Volunteers were part of the British Army, it seems that they didn’t qualify for a Commonwealth War Graves military pattern headstone.
Local researchers have identified whereabouts in the graveyard he is buried, and the plot is marked by the wooden cross in the photo below.
If you have further information on any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977