41-year-old Private John Jones from Shirley was killed in action on 25th January 1917, serving with the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. Also killed on the same day was Private John Henry Watkins, an Old Silhillian, who was serving with the 9th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment. Both men are buried in Amara War Cemetery, situated in modern-day Iraq.
John Jones was born in Birmingham on 20th January 1876 and was the eldest child of the six children (five sons, one daughter) of parents Samuel and Charlotte (née Green). He was born in Birmingham and worked as a carter before becoming a “coffin furniture dresser”.
He married Fanny Eliza Letts at St Gabriel’s Church, Birmingham on 18th April 1897 and they had three children Lizzie (born 1898), Samuel (born 1900) and Walter (1901-1981). The family had moved to Shirley by the time John enlisted in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment after war broke out.
He first saw overseas service in the Balkans on 17th December 1915, and was killed in action on 25th January. He is commemorated locally on the war memorial at St James’s Church, Shirley.
John Henry Watkins was born in Knockin, Shropshire in 1896, and was one of a pair of twins born to parents, Henry Halford Watkins (born Shrewsbury) and Annie Eliza (née Barrow), who was from Bloxwich. The couple married at All Saints Church, Bloxwich in 1894 when Henry was aged 43, and Annie was 38.
Henry was a clerk working in Lord Bradford’s estate at Knockin when the children were born, but they were baptised at Rugeley on 3rd November 1896. Tragically, John’s twin, Kathleen Nina Annie Watkins, drowned in a tub of water at the family home in Knockin in March 1899.
A report of the coroner’s inquest in the Wrexham Advertiser 25th March 1899 noted that Kathleen was playing with another child (presumably her twin brother) when her mother left them for a few minutes whilst she went to dress. On her return, Kathleen was face down in the tub and, despite attempts at artificial respiration, never regained consciousness.
By 1911, Henry Halford Watkins had retired and was living in Streetly, Walsall. His 14-year-old son, John Henry, was a boarder at Solihull School. According to Solihull School during World War I by John Loynton, John Henry Watkins was a goalkeeper for the school football team, and played in the First XI cricket team before he left school in 1916.
No service record survives, but John Henry Watkins must have enlisted in the army shortly after leaving school. He was killed in action on 25th January 1917 and is commemorated locally on the war memorial at Solihull School.
If you have any further information on either of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
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