We’ve been delighted to have on loan to us for our ‘Solihull Remembers’ exhibition, a wooden memorial plaque, which was rescued by Mr G. Bragg from floods at St James’s Church, Shirley.
It seemed a good idea to count up the names on the plaque and compare them with those on the war memorial that stands outside St James’s Church. We were quite surprised to find that there were 62 names on the wooden plaque and 61 names on the memorial in the churchyard, so we set about trying to identify who was missing.
This turned out to be Private Leslie William Lively, who died on 18th February 1921 and is actually buried in St James’s churchyard. He is listed on the wooden plaque, but not on the Shirley War Memorial, which has 20 names on two of the stone panels, with 21 names on the third panel.
The final name on the memorial in the churchyard is that of Captain Charles Murchison Bernays, who died on 6th January 1920, when he was working as a doctor in Dover. An obituary in The Times says his death was “due to haemorrhage, resulting from his having been badly gassed while on active service in 1917.”
It seems likely, therefore, that Private Lively’s name wasn’t added to the war memorial in the churchyard because there was no room on the final panel (engraving of which would have, presumably, already been underway by the time of his death, ready for the unveiling of the memorial in 1921). His burial in the churchyard, however, does mean that he is commemorated on a gravestone in his local parish.
The wooden plaque must have been completed after February 1921. A major advantage of the plaque for researchers is that the 62 names are clearly legible, which has helped in identifying names that are badly worn on the memorial that stands in the churchyard. In particular, the name of Private John Worrall is almost impossible to make out from the memorial but is quite clear on the plaque.
The plaque has been temporarily withdrawn from our ‘Solihull Exhibition’ for the period 29th July-5th August, so that it can be on view at a commemorative event in Shirley. It will be returned for the remaining month of the ‘Solihull Remembers’ exhibition, which is in the Heritage Gallery of Solihull Central Library until 13th September.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian