4th October 1918

Private Matthew Willison, 17th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery died of wounds on 4th October 1918, aged 28. Born in Birmingham in 1890, he was the youngest of the three sons of parents James (a labourer) and Clarissa (née Breese) who had married at St Andrew’s Church, Bordesley  in 1882. It seems that James had previously been married to Clarissa’s sister, Jane Fawn Breese, who died in 1881, aged 29. James and Jane had one son, Arthur Ernest (born 1876).

Despite several attempts to change the legislation, marrying the sister of a deceased wife was prohibited under the Marriage Act 1835. It wasn’t until 1907, when the Deceased Wife’s Sister’s Act was passed by Parliament, that it became lawful. Similar legislation enabling widows to marry the brother of their deceased husband wasn’t passed until 1921.

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8th October 1916

35-year-old Private Harry Edgington died in France on 8th October 1916 serving with the 13th Battalion Canadian Infantry.

He was born in Earlswood and, although his date of birth is given in Army attestation papers as 23rd December 1882, it seems he was three months old at the time of the 1881 census, so it’s likely that his birth was actually on 23rd December 1880.

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1st July 1916 – Solihull and Shirley

Seven men with a connection to Solihull or Shirley are known to have died on 1st July 1916:

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26th September 1915

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.

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6th June 1915

Harold Leonard Darby was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham in March 1893 and died in France on 6th June 1915, aged 22, whilst serving as a Lance-Sergeant with the 1st/6th Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He is commemorated on the war memorial at St Patrick’s Church, Salter Street, but is listed as Sgt. Harold Derby [sic]. An order of service for a memorial service at the church on 3rd September 1916 records him as Sergeant Harold Leonard Darby, although this indicated he died in May 1915, not June.

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7th November 1914

30-year-old Private George Bullivant died on 7th November 1914 serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers. He was born in Earlswood in 1885 and was still living there, aged 6, in 1891 with his parents, George (a bricklayer’s labourer) and Rose (also listed in other records as Rosanna(h)). George (junior) was the second youngest of the couple’s nine children (they seem to have had seven boys and two girls). The eldest child, John, was recorded with the family on the 1891 census, aged 25, but must have been home on leave as his occupation was recorded as a seaman in the Royal Navy.

George (senior) and Rosannah had both died by the time of the 1901 census – George in 1897 and Rose in 1900. Their youngest child, Albert (also recorded as Bertie), would have been just 13 when he was orphaned.

By 1901, George (junior) was aged 16 and still living in Earlswood, working as a groom and living in the household of farmer, John W. Lea. It’s not known when he enlisted in the Army, as his service record appears not to have survived. He also does not appear to be in the Earlswood area on the 1911 census, so it is possible that he was in the military at this point.

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