Three local men lost their lives in France on 28th April 1917 – Private Albert Cooper, 2nd/5th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment; Private Fred Bernard Pardington, Royal Marine Light Infantry; and Private Alfred Smith, 11th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Albert Cooper was born in Hockley Heath in 1887 and was the second of the eight children (six sons, two daughters) born to parents William (a farm labourer) and Ann Marie (née Gregory) who had married at St Giles’ Church, Packwood in 1884. Sometime between 1885 and 1887 the family moved from Packwood to Sadler’s Wells, Hockley Heath. By 1898, they had moved to Copt Heath, Solihull and, in 1901, were living in Widney Lane.
Parents William and Ann Marie were still in Widney Lane in 1911, living with two of their younger children -Frederick William (born 1898) and Rose Annie (1900-1972). Two of their eight children had died as infants – William Henry (1892-1894), and Alice Elizabeth (born and died 1894).
The three older children had left home – we don’t know where Ernest Alfred (1885-1972) or Albert were living in 1911, although their brother Walter William (1890-1981) was living in Hockley Heath, and working as a waggoner at a timber yard. Youngest child, Sydney William (1901-1945), was also away from the family home on census night in 1911.
Albert married Dora Emily Douglas in the Solihull district early in 1914. Dora was previously a domestic servant, and appears to have been living in Solihull Workhouse in 1911. By the time Albert enlisted in the Army, they were living in Shirley. After Albert’s death, Dora remarried and seems to have continued to live in Shirley. She married William Massey between July-September 1917 and, in 1939, they were recorded as living in Longmore Road.
Albert is buried at Savy British Cemetery, France. He is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Shirley and Solihull.
Fred Bernard Pardington was born on 26th January 1897 and baptised at St Thomas’s Church, Nuthurst-cum-Hockley-Heath. His father, George (1866-1941), was the local postman and he married Annie Morrall in the Solihull district in 1889. Fred was the fourth of their six children (three sons, three daughters).
Fred enlisted at Knowle on 26th February 1916 and transferred to the Royal Marines Light Infantry in October 1916. He was posted as missing, presumed dead, on 28th April 1917. He has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. He is commemorated locally on the village war memorial at Hockley Heath, and on the roll of honour in St Thomas’s Church.
Fred’s mother, Annie, died in 1929 and it seems that Fred’s eldest sister, former domestic servant, Mabel Annie, then looked after their widowed father until his death, aged 74, in 1941. Mabel married James Hooker in 1947, and died in Birmingham in 1978, aged 85. Her two sisters, Beatrice Ethel (1902-1982) and Doris Emily (1910-1984), also lived until their 70s/80s, whilst their remaining two brothers, Ernest George (1896-1954) and Arthur Wilfred (1899-1965) died relatively young.
Also commemorated on the Arras Memorial is Alfred Smith, who was born in Kingswood, Lapworth on 25th April 1881 and baptised at Lapworth parish church on 10th June 1881. He was the only son of parents William (a railway platelayer) and Elizabeth (née Jakeman), a dressmaker, who had married in Coventry in 1875. They also had a daughter, May, born in 1878.
By 1901, 19-year-old Alfred was working as a carpenter, but he had changed jobs by 1911, when he was recorded as a domestic gardener in Rowington Green. He had married Mary Ann Edwards at Rowington on 29th July 1906, and their daughter, Lucy, who appears to have been an only child, was born in 1908.
We don’t know when Alfred enlisted, but he doesn’t seem to have seen overseas service before 1917. He was killed during the Battle of Arleux (28th-29th April) when the 11th Battalion lost the two officers and most of the senior NCOs who had been leading B and D companies. The Battalion War Diary lists the casualties as:
- 2 officers killed, 8 wounded, 1 missing;
- 37 other ranks killed or died of wounds
- 192 wounded (three of the wounded were shell-shocked and six were suffering from the effects of gas)
- 59 missing
Alfred Smith is commemorated locally on war memorials at Hockley Heath and Lapworth. The booklet Lest we forget by Peter A J Hill also notes that Alfred is commemorated on his wife’s gravestone at Lapworth:
IN MEMORY OF / MARY ANN SMITH 1879-1959 / ALSO HER HUSBAND / ALFRED SMITH / KILLED IN ACTION 1916 [sic].
If you have any further information about any of these men, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977