Former Private Leslie William Lively died at home in Shirley on 18th February 1921, aged 29. He was born in Birmingham on 28th May 1891 and was baptised at the parish church of his mother’s home town, Snitterfield, Warwickshire on 2nd August 1891.
His parents were William (a painter and decorator) and Ellen (née Tallis), who had married in Hockley in 1890. The parish register lists William and Ellen’s abode at the time of their son’s baptism as Soho parish, Birmingham.
Leslie William Lively was the eldest of William and Ellen’s four children. He had three younger brothers, Charles Edward Lively (1893-1971), Geoffrey Thomas Lively (1894-1966) and James Noel Lively (1902-1915). Charles was born in Wolston, Warwickshire and was also baptised at Snitterfield. Geoffrey was born in Solihull and baptised at St Alphege Church in 1894, whilst the youngest son, known as Noel, was born in Shirley.
By 1901, the family was living at Ivy House, School Lane, Shirley, where they appear to have been near neighbours to the Pryce family. Four brothers in the Pryce family are known to have served and two – Stanley Theodore Pryce (1893-1916) and Septimus Harcell Pryce (1897-1917) – were killed in action.
On 28th June 1904, Leslie Lively’s 37-year-old father, William, suffered a fatal accident whilst working as a foreman decorator at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, Shieldmuir, Wishaw, Scotland. According to a report in The Scotsman, death was almost instantaneous after he fell about 15 feet from a scaffold, and hit his head on a seat, fracturing his skull.
William’s widow, Ellen, was left with four children aged between 2-14, so it seems she had to work to support them. At the time of the 1911 census, she was working as a temporary nurse and midwife at Ryde, Isle of Wight. As a result, her youngest son, Noel, was living with his aunt, Sarah Elizabeth Hughes (née Tallis) and her family in Birkenhead, 16-year-old Geoffrey was living alone at the family home in Union Road, Shirley, whilst 17-year-old Charles had enlisted in the Army and was a Private with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment at Budbrooke Barracks. We haven’t been able to find Leslie, who would have been 19 years old at the time of the 1911 census.
Charles became a regular soldier and served with distinction. Whilst a Private he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) for service at Ypres, and was then commissioned from the ranks. As Second Lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, he was awarded the Military Cross in 1918 as one of five officers who led raids on “Manor Farm,” on the front line near Ypres on the night of 15th/16th June 1918. The London Gazette of 24th September 1918 carried the following citation:
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This officer commanded one of the groups forming a night raiding party. When held up at one point by a machine gun he destroyed it with the help of another group and then, working his way round, reached two concrete dug-outs, capturing three and killing five of the enemy on the way. He dropped a Stokes mortar bomb into one of the dug-outs which was occupied.
We haven’t been able to find out any details of Private Leslie William Lively’s service, or his pre-war occupation, other than he joined the Army on 31st May 1916 and initially served with the South Wales Borderers before being transferred to the 34th Prisoner of War Company, Labour Corps. The Labour Corps was formed in 1917 and the Prisoner of War companies supervised the labouring work of prisoners of war, as indicated in extracts from “The Lament of the P.O.W. Man,” published in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, Saturday 22nd March 1919:
In an Escourt, that’s what I am, Sir,
In a Prisoner of War Company,
It where they dump all Soldiers
Bent and broken in the War, you see…
We go down in the deep dugouts,
Shell holes and gun pits as well,
Trenches and any other old spot
To find salvage stuff for to sell.
One day we’re scrounging Tin Cans, Sir,
Barb Wire and Old Mine Saps;
The next its’s all sheets of iron,
Empty shells and old nose caps,
Dud shells and all ammunition,
Rifles and bayonets as well,
And any bit of salvage
Like the old rag and bone man
Will buy or sell…
We’re most unfit for the Army,
And we’re most of us crocked I must own,
So please hurry up and demob us
And send us to Blighty once more.
This was written by Sergeant J. Fuller, formerly in the Buffs, the Queen’s and the Royal Sussex Regiments, then in a POW company in France. He was a well-known entertainer in Hastings and had been a member of the Escourt Concert Party and the Abancourt Theatre Company, B. E. F., France.
Private Leslie William Lively was discharged from the Army on 11th July 1919 and was granted a pension on the grounds of his disabilities. These were listed as gallstones (identified as being aggravated by war service) and jaundice (listed as attributable to war service). He initially received an interim award from 12th July 1919 of 20 shillings per week, which was subsequently increased to 40 shillings per week.
Despite his illnesses, he is known to have joined the Merchant Navy after leaving the Army, serving as a cook on board a ship. This was listed on his death certificate as his occupation.
He died on 18th February 1921 at “Rivoli”, Stratford Road, Shirley. The cause of death was given as hypertrophic cirrhosis of the liver, jaundice and asthenia (abnormal weakness or lack of energy). As he was not married and had no children, his pension award ceased on his death.
He is buried in the churchyard of St James the Great, Shirley and, although his name does not appear on the war memorial in the grounds of the church, it is included on the wooden parish war memorial plaque.
It seems likely that Private Lively’s name wasn’t added to the war memorial in the churchyard because there was no room on the final panel. The engraving of which would have, presumably, already been underway by the time of his death, ready for the unveiling of the memorial in 1921. The final name on the stone memorial in the churchyard is that of Captain Charles Murchison Bernays, who died on 6th January 1920, when he was working as a doctor in Dover.
If you have any further information about Private Lively and his family, please let us know.
Library Specialist: Heritage & Local Studies
tel.: 0121 704 6977