Four local men lost their lives on 26th September 1916 serving with the British Army in France – Lance Corporal Herbert Arculus, 16th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment; Private William Herbert Keel, 9th Battalion, Notts and Derby (Sherwood Foresters) Regiment; Major Guy Egerton Kidd, “A” Battery 70th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery; and Corporal Sam Chidler Ravenhall, 64th Brigade, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).
31-year-old Private Alfred Knibb was killed in action on 20th August 1916 serving with the 1st/9th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was born in 1885 in the parish of Tanworth-in-Arden and was the 9th child and youngest son of parents Edwin and Ellen (née Keen). The couple had married in 1867 in Knowle and went on to have 12 children, of whom 11 (five sons, six daughters) were still living by the time of the 1911 census.
Lieutenant Theodore Newman Hall died at Rouen on 15th August 1916 from wounds received on 23rd July whilst serving with the Oxford & Bucks Light Infantry. He was an only child and was born on 12th November 1894 in Sligo, Ireland.
His father, Rev. William Aidan Newman Hall, known as Aidan, was a minister with the Congregational Church, who moved to Sligo in July 1892, having previously attended Mount Pleasant Church, Hastings and been a student at Cheshunt Hall, Hertfordshire. He married his wife, Alice, in the same year.
Nine local men with a connection to the area around Balsall Common, Knowle and, Dorridge died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916:
- Second Lieutenant John Balkwill, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Jermyn Brand, General List (attached 101st Trench Mortar Battery)
- Private Thomas Cooper, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Walter Jennings, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Nicholl Kennard MC, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own)
- Captain Stratford Walter Ludlow, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Alfred Mutlow, North Staffordshire Regiment
- Private George Arthur Smitten, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Captain Willingham Franklin Gell Wiseman, Lincolnshire Regiment
Three of the men – John Balkwill, Thomas Cooper, and Stratford Ludlow, are commemorated in a stained glass window in the Soldiers’ Chapel at Knowle Parish Church, which was given in memory of Stratford Ludlow by his father, Brigadier-General Ludlow. It was dedicated by the Bishop of Birmingham on 5th June 1921.
27-year-old Second Lieutenant Aubrey Herbert Bower Webster, 6th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, was accidentally killed on 25th April 1916 when a bomb exploded prematurely whilst he was on a training course in France.
He was born in Dorridge on 25th June 1888, during the time that his father, Rev. John Webster, was curate there. He lived in Packwood as a boy and was educated at King’s School, Worcester, where his name appears on the roll of honour. His name is also included on the King’s School window in Worcester Cathedral Cloisters, as well as on a memorial plaque at St Andrew’s Church, Ombersley, Worcestershire and on the village war memorial. As far as we know, he isn’t commemorated on a memorial in the Solihull Borough.
The last of the known casualties from places now within the Solihull Borough to die in 1915 died on 29th December 1915.
Eric Arthur Walker, who enlisted as a Private with the Warwickshire Yeomanry before being commissioned on 26th February 1915 as Second Lieutenant 9th Battalion (attached 6th Battalion) King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. He first entered a Theatre of War on 16th October 1915, just over two months before he died on 29th December, aged 20.
Corporal Archibald Haye Neill, 1st Garrison Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died in Sudan and is buried in Khartoum Military Cemetery. His name was added to the Hampton-in-Arden War Memorial in 2015, 100 years after his death.
There is a discrepancy in records as regards the age of Squadron Sergeant Major William Bloomer, who died on 2nd December 1915 whilst serving with the 3rd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists his age at death as 42, suggesting a birth year of 1873. However, an announcement in the newspaper gives his age as 40, which fits with census returns, and gives a suggested birth year of 1875:
Information has been received in Birmingham that Squadron-sergeant-major William Bloomer, of the 3rd Canadian Mounted Royal Rifles, has been killed in action in France. He was the second son of Mr and Mrs Giles T. Bloomer, of Dorridge, and was forty years of age.Birmingham Daily Mail, 11th December 1915
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.
Three days after the death of Private Joseph Williams aboard the hospital ship, Valdivia, another local man also died of wounds on board the same ship.
Lance Corporal Charles Thomas Hutchings, only surviving child of parents Thomas (a tailor) and Matilda Hutchings of Bentley Heath, Dorridge and Knowle, died on 16th August 1915, serving with the 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. He is recorded as a Lance Corporal in Soldiers Died in the Great War but as a Private on the Commonwealth War Graves website.
Charles was born in 1895 in Birmingham but by 1901 he and his parents were living at Bentley Heath with his grandfather, Richard Hutchings, who was a widower, aged 54. By 1911, Charles and his parents had moved to Tile House Green, Knowle. Charles was the couple’s only surviving child, but the census notes that he had had a sibling who had died.
Charles was educated at Solihull School and was a member of the Officers’ Training Corps there. He joined the Army on 17th August 1914, and first entered a Theatre of War (Balkans) on 4th July 1915. He is commemorated at Dorridge, Knowle and Hockley Heath war memorials, and at Dorridge Cricket Club, although he is not included on the war memorial at Solihull School.
If you have any further information about Charles Thomas Hutchings, please let us know.
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Private William Henry Smitten of Knowle was killed on 9th May 1915, just one week after first arriving in France with the Royal Warwicks. On the same day, 25-year-old Lieutenant Thomas Edwin Turner of Solihull and London also died serving with the London Regiment (Kensington Battalion).