Private Christopher James, recorded as aged 36, died on 3rd May 1916, serving with the 11th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. There is a slight discrepancy with his age, as he would actually have been 39 when he died. He was born in 1876 in Pencoyd, Ross, Herefordshire to parents James (a farm labourer) and Harriet. Soldiers Died in the Great War also has an error in the birthplace – listing his place of birth as St Leonard’s, Hertfordshire.
On 25th January 1916, two local men died as a result of their war service:
- Temporary Captain, John Harry Hartill, aged 52, General List
- Private William Lovegrove, aged 23, 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
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.
Regular soldier Sydney Alfred Cockayne, from Catherine-de-Barnes, died of wounds on 17th May 1915 whilst serving as Acting Sergeant Major with the 1st Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
He was actually baptised as Alfred Sidney Cockayne, and appears as Alfred on the 1891 and 1901 censuses before being recorded as Sidney Cockayne in 1911. Presumably, preferring to be known by his middle name, he switched the order of his Christian names when he joined the Army. Certainly, all his Army records refer to him as S. A. Cockayne.
On 30th March 1915, 19-year-old Rifleman Leslie Wilson from Catherine-de-Barnes, died of wounds in France whilst serving with the 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade, which had been in France since 6th November 1914, although Leslie joined them on 26th January 1915, according to his medal index card.
On the same day as Private Wilson died in France, Stoker 1st Class, David Bradbury, returning from leave, was fatally injured falling from a train as it passed through Castle Bromwich.
The first of the 95 casualties from the Solihull area to die in 1915 was Royal Naval Chaplain, Rev. George Brooke Robinson, who died on New Year’s Day 1915 whilst serving on H.M.S. Formidable. This was the first British battleship to be sunk in the First World War. Rev. Robinson was the most senior Royal Navy chaplain to die in the war, and the fourth of 19 navy chaplains to be die on active service 1914-1919.
Born in Bombay, India on 6th April 1870, George Brooke Robinson appears on the 1881 census, aged 10, at boarding school in Brighton. By 1891, he was living in Cambridge with his widowed mother, Agnes. He studied at Pembroke College, Cambridge, obtaining a B.A. in 1894, and an M.A. in 1898. He was ordained as a Deacon in December 1895 at Worcester Cathedral, and served as curate at Solihull 1895-97. Traditionally, the curate at St Alphege took charge of the Mission Church at Catherine-de-Barnes, which is why his name appears on the village war memorial there. Unusually, the war memorial at Catherine-de-Barnes takes the form of a brass plaque on an oak font.