Nine local men lost their lives on the first day of the German Spring Offensive (Operation Michael), which saw British troops subjected to one of the longest artillery bombardments of the war. Lasting for five hours from 4:20am, the barrage of over one million artillery shells smashed vital communication lines, and was followed by waves of elite German troops coming over No Man’s Land, which was shrouded in thick fog. The Germans made swift and significant gains, with the British suffering some 50,000 casualties. British troops were ordered to withdraw, giving up much of the Somme region. However, it was not a decisive defeat, and the British were able to establish new lines of defence, whilst the rapid advance caused German supply lines to become overextended. Continue reading “21st March 1918”
Second Lieutenant John Drummond Wyatt-Smith, 28th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, died in a flying accident in northern Italy, just a few days after joining the squadron. His plane stalled on take off, nose dived and then crashed to earth. Known as Jack, he was 19 years old, and was the second of two brothers to die on active service. His older brother, Hugh, died of appendicitis on 17th February 1916 after falling ill whilst on embarkation leave.
Second Lieutenant Robert Dyott Willmot, 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, was killed in action on 17th February 1918, dying at St. Julien Dressing Station Cemetery at Langemark-Poelkapelle, West Flanders. He was the second of the two sons of parents, George Dyott Willmot and Nellie Pratchett Willmot (formerly Heatley) to be killed in the war. His elder brother, John Dyott Willmot, had been killed on 3rd July 1915.
30-year-old Richard Lander Sale died of wounds on 15th January 1918, whilst serving as a Lieutenant with the Royal Horse Guards. He was born in Atherstone, Warwickshire in 1887 and was the second of the four sons of parents, Alfred (a solicitor) and Annie Gertrude (née Cheshire) who had married in Witherley, Leicestershire in August 1885.
Two local men lost their lives on 3rd January 1918 whilst on active service. Private Frederick Herbert Jones, aged 27, died at no. 12 Stationary Hospital, St. Pol, whilst serving with the 402nd Motor Transport Company, Army Service Corps. On the same day, Lieutenant John Francis Tryon‘s submarine, HMS G8, went missing.
Solihull’s final casualty of 1917, Lieutenant Arthur Lewis Jenkins, Royal Flying Corps, was killed whilst night flying at Helperby, Yorkshire on 31st December 1917. Born in Bristol in 1892, Arthur was the eldest of the seven children (five sons, two daughters) of Sir John Lewis Jenkins, Indian Civil Service, and his wife Florence Mildred (née Trevor) who had married in India in 1890.
On 3rd August 1917, Second Lieutenant Roger Paul Hepburn M.C. died in Ypres at Casualty Clearing Station, no 10, of wounds received in action serving with the Royal Engineers (30th Signal Company, attached. 21st Infantry Brigade). He was 24 years old, and had enlisted in the Army on the day war broke out, driving through the night with two friends on their motorcycles, who offered themselves as despatch riders for service with the expeditionary force. The group didn’t ask permission to go, simply leaving a note to say they had gone. Roger served for eight months at the front in this capacity, before being commissioned with the Royal Engineers and returning to the Front in November 1915 after training as a signaller. His two friends – T. Daish and J. N. Perks – both survived the war.
The local connection is that Roger was educated at Packwood Haugh School, in the Solihull rural district, between 1905-1911, when he joined Rugby School before studying natural sciences at Magdalen College, Cambridge, and taking his degree in June 1914. Whilst at Cambridge, he was also a member of the Officer Training Corps (OTC).
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.
Private Sidney William Dawes, 11th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was killed in action on 30th April 1917. He was born in Knowle in 1893 and was the youngest of the ten children (seven sons, three daughters) of parents Robert (a nurseryman) and Mary Annie (née Field) who had married in 1871.