9th August 1916

Private Arthur Barnwell died on 9th August 1916 whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment. He was born at Meriden Union Workhouse in 1895 and baptised at Meriden parish church. His parents, William Barnwell and Kathleen Capewell, had married at Berkswell on 5th November 1889. William was a labourer and Kathleen a servant.

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30th July 1916

Four local men serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment are known to have died on 30th July 1916 whilst on active service; Olton resident, Private William Dobson, 14th Battalion; Private Howard John Hutchinson, formerly of Shirley, (14th Battalion); Private William John Lawley of Shirley (10th Battalion) and Solihull resident, Lance Corporal John Manning (14th Battalion). Also killed was Meriden’s Lieutenant Reginald Ernest Melly, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment).  Four of them have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. Private Hutchinson was also recorded on the Thiepval Memorial but is now buried at the London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval.

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9th April 1916

Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Courtenay Brabazon Throckmorton, known as Courtenay, was killed at the Battle of Sannaiyat, Mesopotamia (now Iraq) on 9th April 1916. He was aged 49 and was the eldest son of  Captain Richard Acton Throckmorton, whose brother was Sir William Throckmorton of Coughton Court, Warwickshire, 9th Baronet. Courtenay was the heir presumptive to his uncle’s estates.

The local link is that he was a member of the North Warwickshire Hunt, which was based in Meriden.

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13th May 1915

Trooper Percy Edgar Bowen is commemorated on the war memorial at Meriden, which was where he was working when he was called up for active service in 1914.

He was born in Hinckley in 1891, and apparently lived in Hinckley until at least 1911. He was a member of the Leicestershire Yeomanry and was called up for active service when war broke out. It’s known that he first entered a Theatre of War on 2nd November 1914. He died of wounds in Belgium on 13th May 1915 during the Battle of Frezenburg Ridge, the third of six engagements that made up the Second Battle of Ypres. Research by Hinckley Museum indicates that he was initially posted as missing before being declared presumed dead in May 1916.

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8th May 1915

8th May 1915 saw the deaths of two men with a connection to places now in the Solihull Borough:

  • Private Harry Betts, 8th Battalion, Australian Infantry (previously of Castle Bromwich)
  • Major John Cecil Lancaster, 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (member of the North Warwickshire Hunt)

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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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21st February 1915

Cavalry Officer, 26-year-old Rowland Auriol James Beech, the “apple of his parents’ eye” and a fine horseman, was killed in action on 21st February 1915 serving as a Captain with the 16th Lancers. He was the eldest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Rowland John Beech, who died of illness in 1919 after World War I service, aged 63, and is also recorded as a war casualty on the Commonwealth War Graves site.

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18th February 1915

On 18th February 1915, 44-year-old Major Arthur Joseph Clay died of pneumonia at Harpenden, whilst serving with the 2nd/6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. Born on 29th April 1870 at Burton-on-Trent, he was the eldest son of Charles John Clay, barrister at law and Managing Director of Bass Brewery. Arthur’s mother, Agnes Lucy (née Arden) died in 1874, leaving four sons under the age of five. When Arthur was 13, his father married again, and went on to have  two daughters with his second wife.

Arthur attended Harrow School and New College, Oxford. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant with the 2nd Volunteer Battalion Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire Regiment) in February 1893, and rose to the rank of Captain before resigning his commission in advance of the merger of volunteer units in 1908 to create the Territorial Force. He became a Director of Messrs. Bass, Ratcliffe and Gretton,  a Director of the Gordon Hotels and was one of the principal  promoters of the Motor Industry in Burton-on-Trent.

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