On 7th November 1915, 24-year-old Private John Henry Woolley from Castle Bromwich was killed in action in France, serving with the 11th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was born in 1891, the eighth of the eleven known children of parents, George James Woolley, farm labourer, and his wife, Kate (formerly Batchelor), who had married at St Peter & St Paul’s, Aston in 1878.
Private Thomas Henry Parkes, from Solihull and Hockley Heath, died of wounds on 24th October 1915 at Gallipoli, serving with the 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment). He was the youngest of the seven surviving children (out of 12 born) of parents William Parkes, a bricklayer, and his wife Rhoda (née Hayes) who had married at St Alphege Church, Solihull on 27th July 1874.
27-year-old Private Joseph Court died on 18th October 1915, aged 27, whilst serving with the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards. He was born in Haseley, Warwickshire, on 11th February 1889, and baptised at Haseley on 17th March 1889. His parents were Joseph, recorded as a soldier, and Caroline, both of whom were born in Shrewley, Warwickshire, as was their eldest child, Catherine (born 1887).
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.
Four local men lost their lives on 13th October 1915. They have no known grave and are commemorated on the Loos Memorial:
- Second Lieutenant Ostcliffe Harold Beaufort, North Staffordshire Regiment
- Private Donald Ewen, London Regiment (London Scottish)
- Private Joseph Frederick Harding, Gloucestershire Regiment
- Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) Harley Raymond Russell, Gloucestershire Regiment
19-year-old John Alfred Cross was one of four brothers who had been inmates in Marston Green Cottage Homes and went on to serve in the First World War. He joined the Rifle Brigade on 2nd September 1914, being posted to France on 22nd August 1915 after spending two weeks in a military hospital in Purfleet with an abscess on his tongue. He received a gunshot wound to the chest on 5th October 1915, dying of wounds at the Australian Hospital, Wimereux, France on 11th October 1915 according to his service record. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Register of Soldiers’ Effects both give his date of death as the 10th October. His brother Harry was also killed in the war, whilst brothers Francis James and Thomas William were apparently war casualties but survived.
John and Harry are both commemorated locally on a war memorial plaque that was hung outside the chapel on the site, which later became Chelmsley Hospital.
The war memorials at Catherine-de-Barnes and Solihull both include the name of Lance Corporal James Uriah Hill of the Coldstream Guards, although his local connection with the area isn’t known. He was killed in action at Vermelles, on 9th October 1915.
He was born in Saltley to parents James Uriah and Mary Ann (née Wragg) who had married at Nechells in 1877. His birth was registered in 1892, although there is a slight discrepancy in age with other official records suggesting a date of birth of 1889/1890. The couple did have another son called James Uriah, born 8th September 1883 at Nechells but this child seems to have died aged one, and is buried in Witton Cemetery, Birmingham. It was common practice in the past for a child to have the same name as a dead sibling to ensure that a favourite name continued for another generation. Mary Ann herself died in 1900, aged 44, and James Uriah married Sarah Clay in 1905.
Frank Baulcombe was born in Kenilworth on 18th February 1891, the fourth child and eldest son of the ten children born to parents Frederick (an insurance agent, previously a confectioner and baker) born in Eastbourne, Sussex and Selina (née Clarke), born at Moreton Bagot, Warwickshire. The couple had married at Claverdon on 5th January 1886. Frederick was a widower – he had married his first wife, Mary Page, on 31st January 1882 in Kenilworth and their only child, Marian Bertha Baulcombe, was born in Leamington at the end of the year. Mary died in 1884, aged 28.
Frank, a gardener at Umberslade before the war, was killed in action at Neuve Chappelle on 5th October 1915, whilst serving as a Private with the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He was 24 years old.
20-year-old Private Alfred Abel Hall, a former boy scout, was killed in action on 4th October 1915 whilst serving with the 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment in France. He was born in Honiley, Warickshire in 1896 but had moved to Heronfield, Knowle by the time of the 1901 when he was four years old. The family was still at Heronfield in 1911 when 14-year-old Alfred Abel was recorded as a farm labourer.
Albert Herbert Farrow, who seems to have been known as Herbert, was born in Roughton, Norfolk on 25th August 1885 to parents Jonathan and Sarah Farrow. He enlisted as a regular soldier with the Coldstream Guards on 10th January 1905 and served five years with the colours, including two years in Egypt. He then joined the Reserve, when he became a gamekeeper. On the 1911 census he is shown as living at Marston Green and his occupation is recorded as under gamekeeper.