Private Walter Charles Taylor of “C” Company, 7th Battalion, the South Lancashire Regiment died on 5th July 1916. He was recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as being 18 years old, although his service record gives his age on enlistment on 23rd April 1915 as 19 years and three days. It seems that he lied about his age as, although 18-year-olds could enlist, soldiers couldn’t serve overseas until they had reached the age of 19.
27-year-old Albert Theodore Vardy from Lapworth was killed on 4th July 1916, serving as a Second Lieutenant with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was the only son of parents Rev. Albert Richard Vardy and Isabel Mary and was born on 7th August 1888, being baptised at Lapworth on 5th November 1888. He had two older sisters, Winifred Isabella (1874-1931) and Constance Mary (1885-1899).
The 25th September 1915 saw British forces launch an attack on German positions at Loos, Belgium. At the same time, the French attacked German lines at Champagne and Vimy Ridge in the Arras region of France.
The First Battle of Loos lasted from 25th September until 19th October and was the first time that Allied forces used gas as a weapon. 25th September saw German machine guns kill 8,500 men in a single day, the greatest loss of life since the war began. Only 2,000 0f the first-day casualties have a known grave. Seven local men also died on 25th September:
- Private Lawrence George Berry, D Coy, 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
- Rifleman Ernest Franklin, 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles
- Lance Corporal Charles Jones, 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Second Lieutenant Charles William King, 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment
- Private John Thomas Rowley, 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry
- Captain Edward Hanson Sale, 10th (Service) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment
- Private William Henry Wells, 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers
21-year-old George Alfred Griffin died of wounds on 14th September 1915 at the 2nd London Casualty Clearing Station, Merville, France. He was serving as a Rifleman with 12th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps and is commemorated locally on war memorials at Hockley Heath and Lapworth.
His parents, George Alfred (a bricklayer’s labourer) and Amy (née Wagstaff), were married in Allesley in 1892 at the ages of 20 and 18 respectively. Their eldest child, Emily, was baptised in Allesley in 1892 but by 1894, when George Alfred (junior) was born, the family had moved to Lapworth and seem to have remained in Wharf Lane, Lapworth until at least 1911. By the time of the 1911 census, George and Amy were recorded as having had eight children in their 18-year-marriage, of whom three had already died and five were still alive.
16-year-old George Alfred and his 18-year-old sister, Emily, were not living with their parents in 1911 – both were living at the Royal Oak pub in High Street, Solihull, where George was working as a “billiard marker etc.” and Emily was a housemaid. The landlord of the pub was Colin Walton.
Two years later, George Alfred married Mary Durkin, and she is listed as his sole legatee in the Register of Soldiers’ Effects, available on the Ancestry website (free of charge from library computers). Mary remarried after George’s death, marrying James E Baker in 1917. By the early 1920s, she was living in Poppy Cottages, Stratford Road, Shirley.
If you have any further information on the Griffin family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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There seems to be some confusion over the date of death of Lieutenant Rev. Frederick Edward Barwick Hulton-Sams, with some sources (e.g. Commonwealth War Graves website, Soldiers Died in the Great War) giving his date of death as 30th July 1915 and others (e.g. his memorial plaque, Soldiers’ Effects register) as 31st July 1915.
Similarly, there is confusion over his date of birth, with some sources reporting it as 21st November 1881, and others as the 22nd or 23rd.
He was the eldest of the three sons and five daughters of Rev. George Frederick Sams and his wife Sarah Beatrix (née Hulton) and was baptised by his father at Emberton parish church, Buckinghamshire on 9th December 1881. He was educated at Bedford Grammar School 1893-5 before attending Harrow and then going on to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was a boxing blue.
He was ordained as a clergyman at St Paul’s, Balsall Heath, Birmingham and served as a curate there. The local connection is that he also apparently served as curate at the Mission Church, Kingswood, Lapworth, which was in the Solihull Rural District at the time of the war. The Mission Church was founded in 1886 by William Lees, primarily to cater for domestic staff employed by the gentry. The present building in Station Lane was built in 1902 and is now the Lees Chapel independent evangelical church.