Private Frederick Thomas Gardner, 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died of wounds on 1st October 1915 aboard the hospital ship, Formosa. Born in Crewkerne, Somerset, on 17th September 1896, he was the elder of the two children of parents, Thomas (a butcher) and Elizabeth (née Dunster) who had married in Winchester district in 1894. His brother, Edwin James (1898-1950) was born in Yeovil on 20th September 1898.
Private William Burley, 10th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, died of wounds on 30th September 1915. He was born on 5th November 1895 in Islington, London and was the youngest of nine children born to George (a hairdresser) and Elizabeth (née Mocock) who had married at St Mark’s, Shoreditch on 19th December 1882.
George Lindon was born in 1891 in Packwood, the only son of the four surviving children of Daniel, a farmer and gardener, and his wife, Charlotte Eliza (nee Hull). George became a gardener at Knowle Hall but joined the Army within a month of the outbreak of war. He was killed in action, aged 24, on 28th September 1915, serving as a Private with the 2nd Battalion The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).
Two local officers, both aged 21, died of wounds on 27th September 1915. Second Lieutenant Archibald Ure Buchanan, who lived in Olton, died in Flanders whilst serving with the Gordon Highlanders, and Lieutenant Albert William Buchan Carless, who had been a boarder at Packwood Haugh school, died in France whilst serving with the Middlesex Regiment.
19-year-old Lance Sergeant Alfred Arculus of Earlswood was killed in action on 26th September 1915 whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. A pre-war regular soldier, he enlisted on 6th March 1914, aged 18 years and 171 days, giving his occupation as a farm labourer. He was promoted Lance Corporal on 28th July 1914 and was mobilised 0n 5th August 1914, spending time at Millbrook training camp in Plymouth from 9th August until 17th December 1914. During this time he was promoted Corporal on 5th October. On 18th December, he was moved to Fort Tregantle in south-east Cornwall, which was used for musketry training, and embarked for France on 27th December 1914.
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
Company Sergeant Major Harry Edwards, from Tanworth-in-Arden, was killed in action on 24th September 1915 having served with the Army for 18 years, 291 days. He was a regular soldier who enlisted with the Worcestershire Regiment in December 1896 at the age of 18 years two months, giving his previous occupation as an engine driver. He extended his service in 1904, and was re-engaged in 1908.
He served in South Africa during the Boer War, subsequently being promoted to Corporal in March 1906 and to Lance Sergeant in September 1911. He was mobilised to Egypt on 5th August 1914. After a brief spell of home leave in October/November 1914, he was sent to France on 5th November 1914 and served on the front line until his death. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) in February 1915 for gallantry in the field on the 9th January 1915 at Neuve Chappelle, in an attack on a German trench during which 30 occupants were killed or wounded. In March 1915, he was promoted to Colour Sergeant and appointed Company Sergeant Major.
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
tel.: 0121 704 6977
Corporal William Enos Smith from Solihull was killed in action on 1st September 1915, aged 29, serving with the 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
An insurance agent by profession, he appears to have had quite a difficult start in life. His father Robert Enos Smith, a brickmaker, died, aged 40, when William was just two years old. William’s mother, Emma, was left a widow with six children aged between one and 11. William was the fifth child and second son. Following her husband’s death, Emma seems to have taken in boarders at the family home in New Road in order to make ends meet. She died in 1903, aged 56, when William was 16 years old.
By 1911, William was living on his own, aged 24, in Warwick Road, Solihull. His Army service record seems not to have survived but it’s known that William first entered a Theatre of War on 18th July 1915, less than two months before he was killed. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. His name is also recorded locally on the Solihull war memorial in the Square, Solihull.
An announcement of his death appeared in the Birmingham Daily Mail on 8th September 1915:
SMITH. – On the 1st inst., killed in action, Corporal William Enos Smith, 10th Royal Warwks, second son of the late Robert Enos Smith of the firm of Enos Smith and Sons, Brick Works, Solihull.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
Harry Mitchell Harris and Sydney William Wootton, two men with a connection to Knowle and Castle Bromwich respectively, died on 30th August 1915 but we don’t know exact details of the local link in either case.