20-year-old Sapper Eustace Bertram Wagstaff (listed as Wagstaffe in some records) was killed in action on 6th April 1918 serving with the 69th Field Company, Royal Engineers. He was the second of the four children of parents William Charles (a coachman) and Harriet (née Freeman) who had married in London in 1891.
Nine local men lost their lives on 4th October 1917 whilst on active service:
- Lance Corporal Edwin John Adams, 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Eric Ashley Ellis, 13th Company, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry)
- Sergeant Charles Haynes, 1st/5th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Second Lieutenant Albert Bertini Heywood, 10th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
- Private Lewis James Knight, 30th Battalion, Australian Infantry
- Lance Corporal George Henry Pegg, 1st/6th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private William Savage, 1st Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
- Private William Thomas Tropman, 1st/8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Gunner Arthur Whinfrey, 256th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery
Three local men are known to have lost their lives on 24th June 1917 whilst on active service: Second Lieutenant Rupert Edward Everitt, 299th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery; Private William James Leake, 1st/7th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment; and Gunner Henry Smith, 207th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery.
Daniel Joseph Ferns died of tuberculosis at his home in Dingle Lane, Solihull on 27th October 1916. Having been discharged from the Army on 5th August 1916, the former Sapper isn’t included on the Commonwealth War Graves records. However, he is recorded on Solihull war memorial so was obviously considered by the community to have been a war casualty. A letter dated 27th December 1916 awarding a pension to his widow also indicates that the War Office accepted that his death was as a result of his war service.
Lance Corporal Frederick Edwin Hollis, ‘C’ Company, 1st/8th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment was born in Packwood in 1890 and died on 27th August 1916.
He was initially reported missing, and there was an announcement in Knowle parish magazine in August 1917 suggesting he was a prisoner of war. In fact, he had been killed on 27th August 1916 in the attack on the German “Constance trench” (so named by Australian troops), which ran near Mouquet Farm (apparently known to the British as “Mucky Farm” and to the Australians as “Moo-cow Farm”). The farm was completely destroyed by three weeks of fighting and had to be completely rebuilt after the war.
Zero-hour on 27th August was 7pm, when the field artillery would commence an intense shrapnel barrage on the front of the attack, and ‘C’ and ‘D’ companies mounting ladders from their trench, advancing up to the barrage. At zero plus five, the barrage would lift to allow the leading wave to enter the enemy trenches. The Battalion War Diary reports that ‘C’ Company reached its objective but was heavily bombed and forced to retire, suffering heavy losses in the process. (Information from unpublished research by the late Alan Tucker).
Seven men with a connection to Solihull or Shirley are known to have died on 1st July 1916:
- Private James Burton, Middlesex Regiment
- Private Harold Clifton, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Frederick Percy Cooper, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Second Lieutentant William Henry Furse, Northumberland Fusiliers
- Private John Palmer Lyndon, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private Richard James Smith, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
- Private James Webster, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Four young men from the Solihull area lost their lives on 4th June 1916 whilst on active service in the First World War: Private Matthew Richard Barlow; Private Stanley Holt; Lance Corporal Austin Geoffrey Leigh (all serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment); and Second Lieutenant Philip Leslie Patterson, North Staffordshire Regiment. All four men were aged between 17 and 21.
Private George William Kippen was killed in action in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) on 5th April 1916, serving with the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was the eldest of five children born to parents George (born 1861), a gun screwer, and Jane (née Farrington) and he seems to have had rather a difficult life before enlisting in the Army in March 1914. Two of his three brothers are also known to have served in the Armed Forces.
Private Arthur Watton, also with the 9th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died of wounds on the same day in the same place. The Battalion was mobilised for war in June 1915 and sent to Gallipoli. Owing to severe losses from combat, disease and harsh weather, the Division was evacuated to Mudros and then Egypt in January 1916. On 16th February 1916 the Battalion embarked for Basra from Suez to defend British interests against Turk forces, arriving on 28th February 1916.
Both men are commemorated on the Basra Memorial.
Private John Charles Smith was killed in action at Givenchy on 22nd December 1914, aged 21. He died just over four months after enlisting in the Coldstream Guards.
According to the information in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour, he was the third son of Joseph and Ann Smith of Park Lane Corner, Berkswell. He was born on 12th April 1893 at Temple Balsall and was educated at Burton Green, near Kenilworth, and Temple Balsall. He enlisted on 18th August 1914 and was posted to France in December, shortly before he was killed.
He is commemorated at Berkswell and he is one of more than 13,400 soldiers with no known grave who is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.