26th September 1914

Corporal Claude Percival Wilks (listed as Wilkes in some records), 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, was killed in action at the Battle of Aisne on 26th September 1914, aged 22. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Le Ferté-sous-Jouarre Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Catherine-de-Barnes, Elmdon, and Solihull.

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21st September 1914

Private George Edward Paston, of 1st Battalion, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, died of wounds on 21st September 1914, aged 32. He was the first of three brothers to die in the war.

George was born in Berkswell in 1883, and baptised there on 29th July 1883, with parents listed as George (a labourer) and Ann. By the age of 7, he had moved with his parents and siblings to Burton Hastings, on the Warwickshire/Leicestershire border. His younger siblings were born in Stoneleigh, Balsall, and Berskwell, indicating how the family moved around. It looks as if the move to Burton Hastings took place in 1890/1. The family’s move from Berkswell is presumably why George Edward Paston’s name isn’t included on Berkswell war memorial.

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14th September 1914

It appears that the first of the World War I casualties in the field from places now within the Borough of Solihull died on 14th September 1914. This was during the First Battle of the Aisne, which marked the change from mobile warfare to trench warfare.

The locally-commemorated men who died were:

  • Rifleman Robert William Baker, born in Olton
  • Rifleman Eric Gordon Birch, born and lived in Castle Bromwich
  • Private Richard William Choate, commemorated at Olton
  • Captain Lord Guernsey, commemorated at Bickenhill and Forest Hall, Meriden

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5th September 1914

The second casualty from places now within Solihull to die as a result of enemy action appears to be Private William Henry Wright of the Royal Marine Light Infantry (RMLI), also called the Red Marines. He was on board the scout cruiser, H.M.S. Pathfinder, sunk on 5th September 1914 by U-boat U-21 in the North Sea off St Abbs Head, Berwickshire, Scotland with the loss of over 250 men. His name appears in the Birmingham Daily Post 8th September 1914 as one of those missing. This was apparently the first ship ever to be sunk by a locomotive torpedo fired from a submarine.

According to the Royal Navy and Royal Marines War Graves roll on the Ancestry website (available free of charge from computers in Solihull Libraries), William Henry Wright was born in Rowington on 30th October 1895. At the time of the 1901 census, he was still living in Rowington with his parents, John and Anne. John was a general agricultural labourer, who was himself also born in Rowington.

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25th August 1914

Lance Corporal Richard Victor Arthur, 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards was the first casualty from the Solihull district to die in France during the war. Born in Shirley on 9th February 1892, he enlisted in the Army in October 1908 and was killed in action at Landrecies at 8.30pm on 25th August 1914 during the retreat from Mons.

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11th August 1914

Although Tanworth-in-Arden is not in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull, it was part of the Solihull Rural District 1894-1932 and, before that, was part of the Solihull Union Rural Sanitary Authority 1872-1894.

The first casualty from Tanworth, also claimed as Birmingham’s first casualty, is Moseley-born Captain Edmund William Beech, of the First North Midland Field Company, Royal Engineers. He was a Chartered Accountant who lived with his wife and three children at The White House, Tanworth-in-Arden.

As an officer in the 1st (North Midland) Field Company, Royal Engineers, Territorial Force, he was called up on the outbreak of war. On Tuesday 11th August 1914 he was in a field adjacent to Smethwick Drill Hall, collecting horses and vehicles for army service when one of the horses bolted. Captain Beech’s spur caught in  a wagon, causing him to fall, and the wheels of the wagon to which the runaway horse was attached went over him. He was severely injured and he died the same day in Birmingham’s Central Hospital.

He is listed on the Commonwealth War Graves website and is commemorated locally at Tanworth-in-Arden. He is buried in Birmingham, at Brandwood End Cemetery, King’s Heath, in the same grave in which his father, George Beech J.P. (1835-1916), was also later interred. His name is also included in Birmingham’s Roll of Honour as one of the 12,320 Birmingham citizens who lost their lives in the First World War.

The 1911 census (available free of charge via the Ancestry and Find My Past websites at Solihull Libraries) shows him as a 35-year-old Chartered Accountant, living at Peterbrook, Solihull Lodge, with his wife, Mabel, and five-year-old daughter, Florence, as well as three live-in servants. The census shows that the couple had been married for 11 years, and had three children. It seems likely that the other two children were away at boarding school. Edmund is listed as having been born in King’s Norton.

Ten years earlier, the family was in Edgbaston, with their seven-month-old son, George Edmund Basil Beech (1900-1977).

Captain Beech is commemorated on Moseley war memorial in St Mary’s Church, and The Moseley Society has carried out detailed research on the casualties.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

More September 1914 casualties

Three more men from places now within the Solihull Borough are known to have died in September 1914. They were:

  • Private Albert Newell, of West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own), died 20th September 1914. He’s commemorated at Bickenhill and Marston Green.
  • Private George Edward Paston, of King’s (Liverpool Regiment), died 21st September 1914, aged 32. He was apparently born in Berkswell but was living with his wife and his son at his father-in-law’s home in Leicester. His peace-time occupation was a brick-burner. As far as we know, he’s not commemorated in the Solihull Borough, so please tell us if you know differently.
  • Corporal Claude Percival Wilks, of the 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, died 26th September 1914. He’s commemorated on memorials at Catherine-de-Barnes, Elmdon and Solihull.

If you have any information about any of these soldiers, please let us know – email heritage@solihull.gov.uk or phone 0121 704 6977.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

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