Stoker 1st class, William Heathcote Gee, from Shirley, was on board the destroyer H.M.S. Falcon on 28th October 1914 when it was hit by a German shell, which killed one officer and eight men, including William Gee. Another officer and 15 men were wounded. The Dover Express, 30th October 1914, reported that the bodies of those killed were taken to the mortuary at the Prince of Wales Pier, Dover. The newspaper noted that the ship had been based in the town for several years and the crew were well known in the town.
Lieutenant Frederic Roger John Tomlinson, 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, was killed by a shell on 26th October 1914 whilst being taken to the base hospital near Ypres. He had fought through the night of 25th October and had captured six German snipers when he was wounded in the arm. He was 23 years old.
Two men who died on Sunday 25th October 1914 are commemorated locally. Private Alfred Hector Rowland Gwinnett is believed to have been killed by a sniper whilst serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He is commemorated locally at Solihull and Knowle.
Captain Sir Francis Ernest Waller Bt. died on the same day, serving with the Royal Fusiliers (6th Battalion, but attached to the 4th Battalion). The Evening Despatch 25 November 1914 reported that Sir Francis had been ordered to take some lost trenches and guns, which he did successfully. However, when he was rising to urge his men to the final charge, he was severely wounded and died a few hours later. He is commemorated locally at Forest Hall, Meriden (home to the Woodmen of Arden).
On 23rd October 1914, Edward and Annie Barker of Bradnock’s Marsh, Berkswell suffered a double tragedy when two of their three sons, George Edward Barker and Henry Barker (known as Harry), were both killed on the same day. Harry was the couple’s eldest child, born in Australia c. 1884. Their fourth and youngest child, a daughter, Mary, born about 1894, was the only one of their children to be born in England.
The couple’s three sons were all born in New South Wales, Australia. Harry (born c. 1884) and George Edward (born c. 1893) both became Sergeants with the 1st Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI). The medal index cards for the brothers indicate that they both entered a Theatre of War on the same day, 10th September 1914. It’s known that there was a third brother, Arthur, born in Australia c. 1891 but, as yet, we’ve been unable to discover if he also enlisted. If you know any more details, please let us know.
Private George Frederick Brown was killed in action with the 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 21st October 1914. Confusingly, the Soldiers Died in the Great War volume lists his death as being on 11th May 1915.
Luckily, Rev. Thomas William Downing, the Vicar of Knowle from 1901 until his death in 1932, kept a detailed register of men from the parish who served during the war. Canon Downing’s list – Knowle Men – is now at Warwickshire County Record Office (ref.: DRB56/268/1) and it featured on their Friends’ Facebook page as Document of the Month in June 2014. The list clearly shows that George Frederick Brown, apparently known as Fred, was posted missing on 21st October 1914. It wasn’t until 1916 that he was officially declared killed in action – this was reported in the parish magazine of June 1916.
It seems that Private Brown was a regular soldier but only served on the front line for exactly one week before being killed, as his medal index card gives his Qualifying Date (the date on which he entered a Theatre of War) as 14th October 1914.
Unfortunately, it looks as if Private Brown’s service record was one of those destroyed by bombing in the Second World War, so we don’t have much information about his service in the army. If you have any further details, please let us know.
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Lieutenant John Edward Ratcliff, apparently known as Jack, was killed in action near Becelaere, Belgium on 19th October 1914, aged 23. He was serving with 2nd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, having previously served with the militia. Soldiers Died in the Great War records his death as being on 20th October 1914, but the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour and the probate indexes list him as being killed in action on 19th October.
Former bricklayer’s labourer, Henry Simmons (known as Harry), died on 13th October 1914, serving as a Private with 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
On the same day, former painter, Private William Shenstone of Bordesley, Birmingham, also died whilst serving with the Worcestershire Regiment. Information from Packwood Haugh School is that this could be the same W. Shenstone who is listed on the school’s roll of honour, although there is some doubt about this.
Lieutenant Alexander Nigel Trotter, 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) died of wounds in France on 12th October 1914, less than a month after his twentieth birthday.
Nigel, as he was known, was born in London on 17th September 1894 to parents Alexander Pelham Trotter and his wife Alys Fane Trotter (née Keatinge). Nigel had an older sister, Gundred Eleanor Trotter (1889-1975), known as “Gunda”, who was also born in London. Nigel’s local connection with the Solihull area is that he was educated at Packwood Haugh Preparatory School. Referred to now as “The First Packwood”, the school occupied a site in Glasshouse Lane, Hockley Heath from 1892 until 1940, when the school moved to “The Second Packwood” in Ruyton-XI-Towns near Shrewsbury, where it remains today. The original building in Glasshouse Lane has now been turned into 12 apartments, known as Fetherston Grange.
Private Joseph Lenten Austin, a regular soldier who had served through the Boer War 1899-1902, died on 6th October 1914 whilst serving with the 3rd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. He was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and lived in Tanworth-in-Arden.
He appears on the 1881 census, aged four, living with his parents, Joseph and Ursula, at the Cross Keys public house, Ely Street, Stratford, although his middle name appears to have been written down as Denton, rather than Lenton (or Lenten). His father, Joseph, is listed as the inn keeper. By 1891, the family had moved to Haselor, with Joseph (senior) now working as a gamekeeper, and 14-year-old-Joseph (junior) listed as gamekeeper’s assistant.
Corporal Walter William Timms, 1st Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was killed in action on 29th September 1914. He is commemorated locally on the lychgate memorial at Temple Balsall and on the war memorial plaque in St Peter’s Church, Balsall Common.
His baptism at Berkswell is recorded in parish registers held at Warwickshire County Record Office, and on microfilm at Solihull Central Library, which are now also available on the Ancestry website (free of charge from computers in any Solihull Library). He was baptised on 27th July 1891, to parents Walter Tom (a labourer) and Helen Matilda. Their abode was listed as Balsall.