25th August 1914

Lance Corporal Richard Victor Arthur, 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards was the first casualty from the Solihull district to die in France during the war. Born in Shirley on 9th February 1892, he enlisted in the Army in October 1908 and was killed in action at Landrecies at 8.30pm on 25th August 1914 during the retreat from Mons.

Continue reading “25th August 1914”

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James Evans of Solihull

Solihull War Memorial includes two people with the name James Evans – Driver James Evans of the Army Service Corps, and Private James Evans of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

We haven’t been able to identify these men on the Commonwealth War Graves website, or in the Soldiers Died in the Great War list.

If you have any information on either of these individuals, please let us know.

Tracey
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6934
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

Private John Parr – the first British death on the Western Front

One hundred years ago today, 21st August 1914, the first British soldier is believed to have died on the Western Front.

John Henry Parr was the son of a milkman from Finchley, London. He joined the army in 1912, giving his age as 17, although the census a year earlier shows him as 13 years old in 1911. He was baptised at St John’s Church, Holloway on 4th September 1898. He would, therefore, have been about 14 years of age when he joined the Army in 1912 as a Private with the Middlesex Regiment.

By the time war broke out in 1914, he was a reconnaissance cyclist, obtaining information to take back to senior officers. On 21st August 1914, John Parr was sent out on patrol and was never seen again, although it took some months for his family to be told. His gravestone gives his age as 20 but he was actually about 17.

In 1921, a national memorial to all cyclists who died as a result of their war service was erected in the Centre of  England – Meriden, now in the Borough of Solihull.

Image of unveiling of Cyclists War Memorial
The unveiling of the National Cyclists’ Memorial, Meriden on 21st May 1921, witnessed by over 20,000 cyclists

Private Parr was particularly remembered at the Cyclists’ Memorial Service held in May 2014, marking one hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War.

A memorial service for cyclists who died in the war has been held at Meriden every year since the memorial was unveiled in 1921. This British Pathé film clip shows the 1950 event.

Can you help identify casualties from Hockley Heath?

The war memorial at Hockley Heath lists only initials and surnames, and doesn’t include details of rank, regiment, or year of death. This can make it difficult to research the casualties in official records.

We’re struggling to identify some of the people named, and would be very grateful if anyone can give us any further details on the following:

  • S Capewell
  • G Hawkins
  • J James
  • H J Keel
  • T Perkins

If you have any further information on any of these men, please let us know.

Tracey
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6934
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

11th August 1914

Although Tanworth-in-Arden is not in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull, it was part of the Solihull Rural District 1894-1932 and, before that, was part of the Solihull Union Rural Sanitary Authority 1872-1894.

The first casualty from Tanworth, also claimed as Birmingham’s first casualty, is Moseley-born Captain Edmund William Beech, of the First North Midland Field Company, Royal Engineers. He was a Chartered Accountant who lived with his wife and three children at The White House, Tanworth-in-Arden.

As an officer in the 1st (North Midland) Field Company, Royal Engineers, Territorial Force, he was called up on the outbreak of war. On Tuesday 11th August 1914 he was in a field adjacent to Smethwick Drill Hall, collecting horses and vehicles for army service when one of the horses bolted. Captain Beech’s spur caught in  a wagon, causing him to fall, and the wheels of the wagon to which the runaway horse was attached went over him. He was severely injured and he died the same day in Birmingham’s Central Hospital.

He is not listed on the Commonwealth War Graves website, although he is commemorated locally at Tanworth-in-Arden. He is buried in Birmingham, at Brandwood End Cemetery, King’s Heath, in the same grave in which his his father, George Beech J.P. (1835-1916), was also later interred. His name is also included in Birmingham’s Roll of Honour as one of the 12,320 Birmingham citizens who lost their lives in the First World War.

The 1911 census (available free of charge via the Ancestry and Find My Past websites at Solihull Libraries) shows him as a 35-year-old Chartered Accountant, living at Peterbrook, Solihull Lodfe, with his wife, Mabel, and five-year-old daughter, Florence, as well as three live-in servants. The census shows that the couple had been married for 11 years, and had three children. It seems likely that the other two children were away at boarding school. Edmund is listed as having been born in King’s Norton.

Ten years earlier, the family was in Edgbaston, with their seven-month-old son, George Edmund B. Beech (1900-1977).

Captain Beech is commemorated on Moseley war memorial in St Mary’s Church, and The Moseley Society has carried out detailed research on the casualties.

Tracey
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

Can you help identify casualties from Castle Bromwich?

It can be very difficult to identify in official records people who who have minimum information included on the war memorial.

The war memorial at Castle Bromwich is one of several that lists only initials and surnames, not ranks, regiments or years of death. We are struggling to identify the following people who are mentioned on the memorial:

  • B. T. Harris (is this Benjamin James Thomas Harris, died on Royal Edward 13/8/1915?)
  • C. Stone
  • A. W. Watton

If you have any further information on these men, please let us know. We’re especially keen to know their full names and when they died, so that we can be sure that we remember them on the centenary of their deaths.

Tracey
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6934
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

Can you help to identify casualties from Temple Balsall?

It can be very difficult to identify in official records people who have only minimum information included on the war memorial.

The Lychgate memorial at Temple Balsall is one of several that includes only names, not ranks, regiments or years of death. We are struggling to identify the following people who are mentioned on the memorial:

  • William Burley
  • Albert E. Lewis

If you have any further information on these men, please let us know. We’re especially keen to know when they died, so that we can be sure that we remember them properly on the centenary of their deaths.

Tracey
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6934
email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk

Solihull Remembers: a century on

100 years ago today, 4th August 1914, the horrors of what was to come over the next four years could not have been imagined. Almost every family and every community would be affected by loss and tragedy. Many of those who returned were never able to speak of what they had witnessed and experienced. Many families never recovered from the loss of their loved ones.

Local communities in what is now the Borough of Solihull have their own memorials, and there are events being held locally to commemorate those who served and who died from each area. However, it’s clear that people did live in wider social networks and we know of many casualties who appear on more than one village war memorial, reflecting multiple associations with local places.

At Solihull Council, we are aiming to compile a complete list of those with a connection to places now within the Borough (or in the old Solihull Rural District) who died as a result of their service in the First World War. It’s very much a work in progress, as it’s often not a simple task to identify the correct individual from a brief entry on a war memorial. Staff at Solilhull Heritage & Local Studies Service are immensely grateful to all those people across the Borough who have kindly shared their research and knowledge to ensure we are able to record as many details as possible about the 700+ individuals so far identified. Special thanks must go to Jill Chape and David Gimes who have been diligent researchers and generous in sharing what they have found. Our task would have been much more difficult without their help, and that of Clive Hinsull, whose research on those who served from the Heart of England will be published shortly.

Over the next four years, and beyond, our aim is to remember individually by name all of those from places now in the Borough who died as a result of their war service. Using the hashtag #SolihullRemembers, we’ll be blogging and tweeting their names on the centenary of their deaths, together with as much information about their lives as we can find. It’s important to remember that the names on memorials are associated with real people, who had jobs, interests and families that they left behind. If you can add anything to the information we have, please get in touch. Most of the sources to which we have access focus more on official, bureaucratic records, rather than the more meaningful life experiences of the individual, so we’d particularly welcome any stories or information you have from within the family.

This project is a labour of love for all of us involved, and we will do our best over the years to come so that we can do justice to the memory of those with a connection to places now in the Borough who gave their lives in the ‘Great War’.

Tracey
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

email: heritage@solihull.gov.uk
tel.: 0121 704 6934

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