British Legion War Memorial, Solihull Cemetery

At 3pm on 16th October 1938, a war memorial erected by the Solihull, Shirley, and Olton branches of the British Legion was unveiled at Robin Hood Cemetery. The intention was that the The Old Comrades’ grave would provide “a resting-place for old soldiers who die friendless or whose relatives cannot afford the cost of private burial.”

The memorial was dedicated by the chaplain, with Brigadier-General Sir Walter Ludlow and Brigadier-General Lord Seymour D.S.O. (Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire) in attendance, as well as Captain Oliver Bird. Almost 400 members of Solihull and other branches of the British Legion witnessed the event, and a party of members of the Disabled Ex-servicemen’s Association was also in attendance.

Solihull Council donated the plot, which had space for 32 graves, and Solihull British Legion enclosed the plot and erected upon it a Cross in Cornish granite bearing a Crusader’s sword and Legion badge in bronze, with the inscription:-

Within this Plot are laid ex-Service men of the Great War, 1914-1918, Buried by their comrades of Solihull British Legion.

At the time of the dedication in 1938, there were four ex-servicemen buried there, including Edwin Coggins, who had died in Solihull Public Assistance Institution (formerly known as Solihull Union Workhouse) on Sunday 26th April 1936.

The 54-year-old had been admitted to the Casuals’ Ward at the institution on the Friday evening before his death, and had done the work requested of him the following day, without making any mention of being in poor health. He was found dead in bed on the Sunday morning.

Dr Edward Ferdinand Page carried out a post mortem and declared that the cause of death was angina pectoris. He had found nothing abnormal apart from signs of “old pleurisy.” Mr Coggins’ daughter said that her father had not had pleurisy but the conditions that the doctor described would have been as a result of her father having been gassed during the war. The coroner declared that the death was due to natural causes.

Edwin Coggins, who had served in the Boer War and the First World War, was buried with full military honours by the British Legion in one of the Old Comrades’ graves on 30th April 1936.

In November 1943, members of the British Legion paid a visit to the Old Comrades’ grave in preparation for the the Remembrance Sunday service and found that the Legion badge had been removed and the massive sword blade, which was fixed securely to the granite cross, had been levered off and smashed.

The restored memorial was re-dedicated on Sunday 24th October 1948, by which time eight soldiers who had served in the First World War were buried there.

If you have any further information, please let us know.

Library Specialist: Heritage & Local Studies

tel: 0121 704 6977

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