20th September 1917

Five local men were killed in action on 20th September 1917. This was the first day of the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, which lasted until 25th September and marked a change in British infantry tactics.

Although previous attacks had penetrated the lightly-defended German front lines, exhausted troops then came under sustained counter-attack and failed to penetrate the second line. The new strategy was designed to attack a small part of the front line, first with heavy bombardment, and then by troops in strength under a creeping barrage 1000 yards deep, protecting the advancing infantry. Once through the lines and having reached their objectives, troops were then to stop and dig in. A second wave of infantry could then pass through to attack the next objective.

Local men who lost their lives in this action were:

  • Private Richard Sydney Greaves, 6th Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment
  • Private Thomas Henry Lloyd, 10th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment
  • Sergeant Septimus Price, 6th Battalion, Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry
  • Corporal Percy John Shirley, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment
  • Sergeant Harry Taylor, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment

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6th September 1917

Rifleman Charles James Skidmore, 17th Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps died of wounds on 6th September 1917. He was born in Olton in 1894, and was the seventh of the 10 children (four sons, six daughters) of parents Frederick William (a gardener) and Ellen (née Cleaver). Eldest son, John, died in April 1880, aged 16 days. The family lived in the Solihull area from about 1880-1895, before moving to Willicote, Stratford-upon-Avon.

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11th August 1917

23-year-old Private James Howard Watts, 11th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was killed in action on 11th August 1917. He was the elder of the two children of parents Stephen Howard and Catherine (née Hodgkinson) who had married in Birmingham between January-March 1893. James and his sister, Kate Elizabeth, had five half-siblings from their mother’s first marriage to Thomas Ripley (1856-1890) – Margaret, Ferdinand(o) (1886-1964), Elsie, Agnes and Thomas.

The two boys also served in the First World War. Ferdinando served as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers, whilst Thomas was a private in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, serving at home with the 6th (Reserve) Battalion from 2nd November 1914 until being discharged unfit on 2nd August 1916 as a result of valvular heart disease, which he had had for some six years.

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31st July 1917

Four local men lost their lives on 31st July 1917, the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres (also known as Passchendaele, after the surrounding village and ridge). The offensive lasted until the village was taken on 6th November 1917, at a cost of some 310,000 British casualties, and over 260,000 German casualties.

Our local casualties on the first day, the Battle of Pilckem Ridge were:

  • Captain Eric Belfield, 4th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment
  • Private Rudolph Lawley, 2nd Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment
  • Private Joseph James Lines, 10th Battalion, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
  • Private Joseph Savage, 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards

Having no known grave, all of them are commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial

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2nd July 1917

Private William Barry Lane, of Shirley, died on 2nd July 1917 whilst on active service with the 178th Company Mechanical Transport, Army Service Corps. He was the second of the eight children (four boys, four girls) of parents Walter Charles (a billiard marker) and Lizzie (née Barry) who had married in 1886. Of the couple’s eight children, one of the boys and three of the girls had died in infancy by 1911 (Walter Charles 1887-1892, Ethel Annie Mabel 1890-1892, May 1894-1896, and Annie, who was born and died in 1900). Tragically, two more of the boys would die in their 20s – one in the First World War, and one is believed to have died in a private asylum in Knowle.

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14th June 1917

Company Sergeant Major William Joseph Richard Swann, 10th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment died of wounds on 14th June 1917, aged 25. He was the eldest of the two sons of parents Samuel (a Company Sergeant Major (later Military Mechanist Quarter Master Sergeant) in the Royal Engineers) and Kate (née Shakespear) who had married in May 1890 at Chirst Church, Aston Park. In 1891, the couple were living in St Mary’s Barracks, Chatham, Kent. Their son, William, was born in Chatham on 22nd May 1891. Their second child, Sidney Norman Percival Swann, was born in Sheerness on 6th July 1892.

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7th June 1917

Three local men lost their lives on 7th June 1917 during the Battle of Messines in West Flanders, Belgium: Captain Harold Jackson, Royal Flying Corps; Private William Charles Sumner, 33rd Battalion Australian Infantry; and Private Almon John Wills, 10th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment.

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13th May 1917

Two local men died on active service on 13th May 1917. Private Albert Charles Adkins, 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, died in Germany whilst a Prisoner of War. Private James Edward Lees, 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment died in hospital in Liverpool, aged 19, and is buried in Shirley.

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