Two men with a local connection are known to have died on 3rd Jul 1916 as a result of their war service:
- Lieutenant Colonel William Burnett DSO, attended Solihull School
- Second Lieutenant Siegfried Thomas Hinkley, attended Packwood Haugh School
William Burnett was born in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire in 1880 and was educated at Solihull Grammar School. An engineer by profession, he became Manager of the Cannock & Rugeley Colliery Co. Ltd, Hednesford, and lived at Rawnsley House, Hednesford. A keen sportsman, he was President of the Hednesford Town Football Club and was Captain of the Cannock & Rugeley Colliery Cricket Club. He was also in the Territorial Forces and commanded the Hednesford Company of the South Staffordshire Regiment (Territorials), having previously been in charge of the Bloxwich Company.
On the outbreak of war, he immediately volunteered and gained rapid promotion from his initial rank of Captain. He was appointed Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel with the 5th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment on 13th November 1915.
He was injured on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, being found alongside the communication trench leading to the advance trench. He had become separated from a group of officers going forward from battalion HQ to check on the situation for themselves and was found with a serious abdominal wound. Stretcher bearers had been sent out to retrieve him and he was again hit by enemy fire whilst on the stretcher, although his original stomach wound would prove fatal in itself, and he died two days later in No. 20 Casualty Clearing Station at Warlincourt Halte. He was 36 years old and left a widow, Agnes Ellen, and one child.
He is commemorated locally on Solihull School’s war memorial.
Siegfried Thomas Hinkley was born in Bangalore, India in 1897, the only son and eldest of the two children of missionary parents Rev. William Hinkley [sometimes also listed as Hinckley] and his wife, Edyth Emma (née Fooks).
William Hinkley was born in Birmingham in 1861 and, by the age of 19, in 1881 he was a public elementary school teacher living in Ladywood. Ten years’ later, aged 29, he had become a theological student at the Lancashire Independent College, Withington. The college was affiliated with the University of London and was established in 1843 to train ministers for the Congregational Church. Religious non-conformists, such as congregationalists, were excluded from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge until 1871.
A thesis by S. J. Sampath Kumar includes in Chapter 6 some details of William Hinkley’s 35-year career in India. Leaving college in 1891, William Hinkley became a missionary for the London Missionary Society in South India, founding and building the church in the Anantapur Mission District. On 25th July 1894 Rev. William Hinkley, a 33-year-old missionary, married 29-year-old Edyth Emma Fooks, herself a missionary since 1892. On the 1891 census, she was a mission worker living with her aunt, Fanny Emma Guinness (née Fitzgerald) at the East London Institute for Home and Foreign Missions. This had been established in 1873 by Fanny and her husband, Rev. Henry Grattan Guinness, a member of the famous Irish brewing family. Both were evangelical preachers.
William and Edyth’s eldest child, Siegfried Thomas Hinkley, was born in India 1897, followed in 1900 by a sister, Veronica Fitzgerald Hinkley. Veronica’s middle name seems to derive from her maternal great-grandfather, Major Edward Marlborough Fitzgerald (born 1802) of the 31st Foot and a member of one of Ireland’s prominent Protestant families. William Hinkley continued his missionary work in India until 1926, after which he returned to England and set up home at Meadowland, Headington, Oxfordshire. He died in hospital in Oxfordshire in 1944 having seen his son, daughter and wife all predecease him.
His daughter Veronica died in Putney Hospital on 10th June 1932. Tragically, her mother Edyth died the following month, on 26th July 1932, as a result of injuries sustained in an accident on 19th July 1932 when she was a passenger in a car that was in a collision with a motor coach in Oxfordshire. Rev. William Hinkley, therefore, lost his wife and only surviving child in less than two months. His only son had died 16 years earlier.
Siegfried Thomas Hinkley was educated in England whilst his parents were in India. Aged 11, he attended Blundell’s school in Tiverton, Devon, as a day boy from January-December 1909, and appears as a 13-year-old boarder at Packwood Haugh in 1911. We don’t know when he enlisted with the Buffs (East Kent Regiment) but he died, aged 19, on 3rd July 1916. He is buried at Ovillers Military Cemetery and his family added a personal inscription to his military pattern gravestone, including the initials of his parents and sister:
“In undying remembrance/Until the day dawn and the shadows flee away. EH.WH.VH.”
If you have any further information about William Burnett or Siegfried Thomas Hinkley, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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