Four local men lost their lives on 13th October 1915. They have no known grave and are commemorated on the Loos Memorial:
- Second Lieutenant Ostcliffe Harold Beaufort, North Staffordshire Regiment
- Private Donald Ewen, London Regiment (London Scottish)
- Private Joseph Frederick Harding, Gloucestershire Regiment
- Lieutenant (Temporary Captain) Harley Raymond Russell, Gloucestershire Regiment
Ostcliffe Harold Beaufort, known as Harold, was killed in action just one week before his 22nd birthday. He was born in Handsworth on 20th October 1893 and was the youngest of two sons of photographer John William Beaufort and his wife, Lucy Ann (née Ostcliffe). Harold assisted in his father’s photographic business and was reported as showing exceptional talent in photographic work. The family moved from Acocks Green to Berryfield, Hampton Lane, Solihull between 1901 and 1911, and Harold attended Solihull Grammar School 1906-9 before going on to Wellington College and Birmingham University. He was in the Officer Training Corps (O.T.C.) for eight years whilst at the three institutions and received his commission on 26th August 1914.
He went to the Front in February 1915 and was appointed Brigade Bombing Officer in May 1915. He was in charge of No. 5 Bombing Party of 1/6th North Staffords on 13th October 1915, with the job of turning the Germans out of a trench called “Big Willie”. The day before he had written a letter to his brother, Percival Stanley Beaufort, who later went on to serve in the Royal Air Force:
“We attack tomorrow afternoon, hold the new trenches all night and get relieved the next night. If I see these three days through all will be well and leave will be granted”
The detachment made good headway but were driven back by a fierce German counter-attack. Assuming that the trench would be taken successfully, Lieutenant Beaufort had given orders for supplies of grenades to be brought up the trench ready for an attack on the next objective. When the attack failed, he feared that the grenades would be brought up the line and detonated by a German bomb, he went back along a communication trench to issue further orders to the N.C.O.s in charge of the Brigade Store. A high explosive shrapnel shell burst close beside him and a piece of metal about the size of a cricket ball hit him in the chest and came out of his left shoulder blade, killing him instantaneously. He was buried in the rear of the trenches, along with four other officers who fell.
Donald Ewen was born in Edgbaston, Birmingham on 27th June 1887 to parents Thomas Buttwell Ewen (a mechanical engineer) and his wife, Janet (née Knowles). By 1901 the family had moved to Bromsgrove and, by 1911, they had moved to Sedgemere, Fen End (in the parish of Balsall, but with a postal address of Knowle). Donald was not with the family at the time of the 1911 census. After attending Oundle School (boarding at Sidney House) 1901-1905, he studied metallurgy at Birmingham University, taking his BSc degree in 1909 and his MSc in 1910. He joined the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Teddington in 1911 as a research assistant.
He enlisted in the Territorial Force in 1913, joining the 14th Battalion, The London Scottish as a reservist and then volunteering for foreign service when war broke out. He embarked for France with his battalion on 15th September 1914. Serving on the front line as a Private, he had hoped to be made an officer but the heavy shelling damaged his hearing and he was unable to accept a commission. He was also classed as unfit for frontline duty but he opted to stay at the front as a stretcher bearer, and it was whilst looking for a wounded soldier in No Man’s Land, about 30 yards from the German lines, that he was killed on the night of 13th/14th October. Rather poignantly, a recall to the NPL had just been issued in order that he could take charge of optical glass research. A telegram demanding his recall to England was despatched by the War Office but failed to arrive before he was killed, aged 28.
His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing. He is also commemorated at St Catherine’s Church, Blackwell and on the Holy Trinity Methodist Church memorial (also now in Blackwell St Catherine’s Church). His name is listed in the NPL’s booklet To the Glorious Memory, as well as on the NPL website and there is a ceramic Tower of London poppy displayed in his memory at the NPL reception – https://instagram.com/p/10a8kGDOSb/
Joseph Frederick Harding was born in Hay Mills in 1891, the seventh of at least 13 children. He was baptised at St Margaret’s Church, Olton on 29th August 1897 and his parents were recorded as George and Ann. George Harding was born in Meriden, and Ann Rixom was from London. They were married at St Stephen’s Church, Birmingham on 30th September 1877.
George and Ann seem to have moved to Olton between 1891 and 1893, when their daughter Ellen was baptised at St Margaret’s Church. Joseph Frederick was baptised at Olton on 29th August 1897 at the same time of three of his siblings. It seems that he was actually known by his middle name of Frederick, as he is recorded on the 1901 census as Frederick and on the 1911 census as Fred.
The 1901 census also records George’s wife as Lydia rather than Ann, although her age and birthplace (London) are still recorded as the same as those for Ann in 1891. There’s no evidence of the death of an Ann Harding in the Solihull area 1891-1901, nor is there any evidence of a marriage of George Harding to a Lydia. Although Ann’s baptism in London in 1856 records her name only as Annie Rixom, it does seem likely that Ann and Lydia are the same person.
Frederick’s father died in 1909, aged 64. By 1911 his mother, recorded as Lydia, was working as a charwoman and living in Lyndon Cottages, Sheldon with four of her children, who were aged between 10 and 20. The eldest of them, 20-year-old Fred, was listed as a labourer with the District Council – this is likely to have been either Solihull or Yardley Rural District Councils.
It’s known that one of Frederick’s brothers, Abel James Harding, was a regular soldier, having joined the 2nd Battalion East Lancashire Regiment by 1911, and serving in India at the time of the census. We don’t know when Frederick enlisted, so if you have any further details, please let us know.
Harley Raymond Russell was the only son of Cecil Henry St Leger Russell (1862-1938), who was an Assistant Master at Clifton College, Bristol for 41 years, and his wife, Blanche Wellsted (née Wansey). Harley was born at Bristol on 17th June 1891 and had two younger sisters – Cecil Gwendolen St Leger Russell (1897-1958) and Vivien Russell (1904-1992).
The local connection is that he was a boarder at Packwood Haugh School, before attending Clifton College and then obtaining an exhibition to Magdalen College, Oxford, which he attended from October 1910 until July 1914. Having apparently been wounded in March 1915 with the 3rd Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, he was posted to 10th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment on 1st October 1915, joining the unit whilst it was stationed at Noeux-les-Mines in the Loos Sector. He was killed in action less than two weeks later, aged 24, and was reported in The Times 29th October 1915 as “missing, believed killed.”
As well as being commemorated on the Loos memorial, his name is recorded on the roll of honour at Packwood Haugh School and on a wall-mounted brass plaque at Sennen parish church, Cornwall. The family obviously had links with Sennen, as the Cornishman newspaper of 28th September 1916 records the donation of sphagnum moss by Mrs St Leger Russell of Sennen to the War Hospital Supply Depot (the moss was known for its antiseptic and absorbent properties and was used in surgical dressings, having been harvested from the wild, then dried, treated and stuffed into muslin bags).
If you have any further information about any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934