Private Wilfred Garner died of pneumonia on 28th June 1919 at 250 Highbridge Road, Boldmere, Sutton Coldfield, aged 20. He had served in the Army from 1915 until discharge on 20th March 1919.
Wilfred Garner was born on 6th August 1898 and was baptised on 11th September 1898 at St Stephen’s Church, Birmingham. His parents, James (a chandelier maker) and Jane (née Freeman) who had married in Birmingham in 1888. Wilfred was the fourth of the couple’s nine children. One of the children had died by 1911.
After their marriage, James and Jane set up home in Dudley Road, Birmingham where, at the time of the 1891 census, James was working as an attendant at the asylum. By 1901, the family was living in Ford Street, Birmingham and James was working as a tramway labourer.
It seems the family struggled to make ends meet as Wilfred was admitted to Marston Green Cottage Homes on 4th November 1908. He was still in the Homes, aged 12, at the time of the 1911 census along with three of his younger siblings – Thomas (11), James (7) and Gladys (5). Their mother was living in Newhall Hill, Birmingham with the youngest child, Lizzie (aged 2) and the three older children – James Bernard (known as Bernard), a 21-year-old turner, George Ernest (19, assistant sawyer) and Harold (14, plater at a wire mill). Lizzie was subsequently admitted to the Cottage Homes as this is given as her address c.1922 when she was aged 14.
Wilfred volunteered for the Army, enlisting in the Worcestershire Regiment at Birmingham on 27th October 1915, giving his age as 19, his occupation as labourer, and his address as 4 back 59 Newhall Hill Parade, Birmingham. He was briefly posted to the Machine Gun Corps in January 1916 but returned to the 1st Battalion Worcestershire Regiment in February 1916.
He first saw overseas service in November 1916, sailing from Southampton to Rouen. He was appointed Lance Corporal on 1st June 1916 but was subject to a court martial in April 1917 “for prejudice of good order and military discipline.” He was sentenced to one year imprisonment but this was suspended for the duration of the war under the terms of the Suspension of Sentences Act 1915.
He received a gunshot wound to the buttock on 4th December 1917 and was treated at no. 19 Field Ambulance and 57 General Hospital in Boulogne before returning to England on 8th December 1917. He was posted to 6th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Dovercourt, Harwich on 4th January 1918 and held the rank of unpaid Lance Corporal from 7th February 1918 until 4th April 1918.
He was discharged to pension on 20th March 1919, giving his intended address as 250 Highbridge Road, Wylde Green, Sutton Coldfield, which seems to have been the home of his brother, Harold, and is the address where Wilfred died. The Absent Voters’ List 1919 gives Wilfred’s address as 15 Cox Street, Birmingham, which seems to have been the home of another brother, George Ernest Garner.
Wilfred worked as a baker’s vanman after his discharge from the Army. It’s not known where Wilfred is buried, but he is commemorated locally on the war memorial for those from Marston Green Cottage Homes. Researchers from the Royal Sutton Coldfield Great War Project have also found that he was commemorated on the Roll of Honour at St Michael’s Church, Boldmere, Sutton Coldfield.
One of his older brothers, George Ernest Garner (1891-1965), also served in the war, volunteering in 1914 and being discharged in 1917 as no longer fit for military duties.
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