12th January 1917

Two local men died on 12th January 1917 whilst on active service – Private Philip Hugh Gwyther, who was born in Castle Bromwich, and Private William Thomas Price. Private Gwyther was serving with the 1st Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment, whilst Private Price was with the 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

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17th September 1916

Two local men died on 17th September 1916 whilst serving in the Armed Forces. 19-year-old Lieutenant John Cyril Hodges, Royal Flying Corps, was born in Lerwick, Shetland and was killed in a flying accident at Castle Bromwich aerodrome. 26-year-old Private John Frederick Lewis Hornsby died in France whilst serving with the Wellington Regiment, New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

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1st July 1916 – Knowle etc

Nine local men with a connection to the area around Balsall Common, Knowle and, Dorridge died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916:

Three of the men – John Balkwill, Thomas Cooper, and Stratford Ludlow, are commemorated in a stained glass window in the Soldiers’ Chapel at Knowle Parish Church, which was given in memory of Stratford Ludlow by his father, Brigadier-General Ludlow. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Birmingham on 5th June 1921.

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14th October 1915

Donkeyman Wilfred Gowing of merchant ship SS Combe, died when the ship was lost en route from Liverpool to Archangel, Russia. Wilfred was born in Cranworth, Norfolk on 16th September 1891 and was the fifth of the seven children of parents Horace, a gamekeeper, and Mary Ann (née Wilkins) who had married at Mary’s home parish of Temple Balsall in 1883.

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30th September 1915

Private William Burley, 10th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, died of wounds on 30th September 1915. He was born on 5th November 1895 in Islington, London and was the youngest of nine children born to George (a hairdresser) and Elizabeth (née Mocock) who had married at St Mark’s, Shoreditch on 19th December 1882.

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V. E. Day in Solihull, 1945

Tuesday 8th May 1945, Victory in Europe Day, saw much rejoicing as the fighting in Europe officially came to an end and some of the men held as prisoners of war started to return home. At 3pm on Monday 7th May Prime Minister Winston Churchill made the official announcement that the following two days would be public holidays. However, it’s clear from newspaper articles in the Warwick County News that people were very mindful that war with Japan was still ongoing. The newspaper summed up the local celebrations as:

“typical of others throughout the land where people had gathered together to give thanks that the nightmare of the last grey years was over, and, while remembering that men in far distant lands were still in danger of their lives, to enjoy the day that their individual effort had made particularly their own” (Warwick County News, 12th May 1945)

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22nd December 1914

Private John Charles Smith was killed in action at Givenchy on 22nd December 1914, aged 21. He died just over four months after enlisting in the Coldstream Guards.

According to the information in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, he was the third son of Joseph and Ann Smith of Park Lane Corner, Berkswell. He was born on 12th April 1893 at Temple Balsall and was educated at Burton Green, near Kenilworth, and Temple Balsall. He enlisted on 18th August 1914 and was posted to France in December, shortly before he was killed.

He is commemorated at Berkswell and he is one of more than 13,400 soldiers with no known grave who is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

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