Tag Archives: Solihull Borough

Their names liveth for evermore

Solihull Remembers

So far, we have the names of 730 people from places now in the Solihull Borough, or in the then Solihull Rural District, who lost their lives as a result of their war service.

We continue to research the names on the 35 memorials we’re aware of, plus those whose names we’ve found who don’t appear to be commemorated locally.

Over the next four years and beyond, we’ll carry on posting details here of those who died, remembering everyone individually by name on the centenary of their deaths, and sharing what we know about their lives. We don’t just want to list their names, but to tell something of their stories and, hopefully, to find out more from family members and from other researchers.

If you have any further information about anyone from the Solihull area who died as a result of their war service, please let us know.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934


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Solihull Remembers: a century on

100 years ago today, 4th August 1914, the horrors of what was to come over the next four years could not have been imagined. Almost every family and every community would be affected by loss and tragedy. Many of those who returned were never able to speak of what they had witnessed and experienced. Many families never recovered from the loss of their loved ones.

Local communities in what is now the Borough of Solihull have their own memorials, and there are events being held locally to commemorate those who served and who died from each area. However, it’s clear that people did live in wider social networks and we know of many casualties who appear on more than one village war memorial, reflecting multiple associations with local places.

At Solihull Council, we are aiming to compile a complete list of those with a connection to places now within the Borough (or in the old Solihull Rural District) who died as a result of their service in the First World War. It’s very much a work in progress, as it’s often not a simple task to identify the correct individual from a brief entry on a war memorial. Staff at Solilhull Heritage & Local Studies Service are immensely grateful to all those people across the Borough who have kindly shared their research and knowledge to ensure we are able to record as many details as possible about the 700+ individuals so far identified. Special thanks must go to Jill Chape and David Gimes who have been diligent researchers and generous in sharing what they have found. Our task would have been much more difficult without their help, and that of Clive Hinsull, whose research on those who served from the Heart of England will be published shortly.

Over the next four years, and beyond, our aim is to remember individually by name all of those from places now in the Borough who died as a result of their war service. Using the hashtag #SolihullRemembers, we’ll be blogging and tweeting their names on the centenary of their deaths, together with as much information about their lives as we can find. It’s important to remember that the names on memorials are associated with real people, who had jobs, interests and families that they left behind. If you can add anything to the information we have, please get in touch. Most of the sources to which we have access focus more on official, bureaucratic records, rather than the more meaningful life experiences of the individual, so we’d particularly welcome any stories or information you have from within the family.

This project is a labour of love for all of us involved, and we will do our best over the years to come so that we can do justice to the memory of those with a connection to places now in the Borough who gave their lives in the ‘Great War’.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

tel.: 0121 704 6934


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Boy soldiers

It is known that about 250,000 boys served on the front line during World War I, whilst being under the age of 19. This was the official age at which overseas service was permitted. This BBC guide gives a useful introduction to some of the reasons for a conspiracy of silence around the enlistment of boys, which was especially prevalent before the introduction of conscription in 1916.

The youngest authenticated combatant of the First World War is Sidney Lewis, from Tooting, South London, who was able to join up at the age of 12 years and 5 months, and saw active service on the Somme for six weeks. A letter to the War Office from his mother demanding his return resulted in his being withdrawn from the front line, discharged from the Army, and sent home.

William Edward Shilvock Wright

In an article in the Birmingham Post 22nd November 1918 reporting the death of his eldest brother, Second Lieutenant John Shilvock Wright, it is mentioned that W. E. S. Wright served at Loos and on the Somme at the age of 15, returning home after being gassed, and then rejoining on attaining military age. He was training for a commission at the time of his brother’s death.

Image of Billy Wright

William Edward Wright, aged 15, in his Royal Field Artillery uniform (courtesy of David Gimes)

Read the rest of this entry »


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Brothers in Arms

In an age of larger families, it wasn’t unusual for a couple to have more than one of their children serving in the Armed Forces and, indeed, to have more than one child killed.

Local families we know of where several siblings served are: Read the rest of this entry »


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More September 1914 casualties

Three more men from places now within the Solihull Borough are known to have died in September 1914. They were:

  • Private Albert Newell, of West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own), died 20th September 1914. He’s commemorated at Bickenhill and Marston Green.
  • Private George Edward Paston, of King’s (Liverpool Regiment), died 21st September 1914, aged 32. He was apparently born in Berkswell but was living with his wife and his son at his father-in-law’s home in Leicester. His peace-time occupation was a brick-burner. As far as we know, he’s not commemorated in the Solihull Borough, so please tell us if you know differently.
  • Corporal Claude Percival Wilks, of the 2nd Battalion, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, died 26th September 1914. He’s commemorated on memorials at Catherine-de-Barnes, Elmdon and Solihull.

If you have any information about any of these soldiers, please let us know – email or phone 0121 704 6934.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian


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Solihull was the only former Rural District Council to become a Metropolitan Borough Council in its own right under the 1972 Local Government Act, which came into effect on 1st April 1974. A little more than 40 years before, workers were taking up the cobbles in Solihull’s High Street – a graphic illustration of the incredibly rapid growth of the Borough. The population had more than doubled in 7 years, from just over 25,000 in 1932 to 52,610 by 1939.

Taking up the cobblestones from the High Street in the 1930s.

Taking up the cobblestones from the High Street in the 1930s.

By 1974, Solihull was described as “the quickest growing town in Britain” and the then Minister of Housing and Local Government, Sir Keith Joseph, commented that:

Above all, Solihull is remarkable in its unparallelled rise in status and population over the past 30 or so years. It can claim to be unique in having such a success story

Original proposals for the reorganisation of local government in the 1970s (The Times, 17 Feb 1971, p.4) suggested that the new Metropolitan Borough covering the Solihull area (given the working title “District 15f”) would include Solihull County Borough, parts of four Birmingham wards, part of Meriden Rural District and part of Stratford-on-Avon Rural District. By the time the proposals got to Parliament in November 1971, the Birmingham wards were no longer part of the proposed District 15f, leaving just Solihull County Borough, about one-third of Meriden Rural District and the parish of Hockley Heath from Stratford-on-Avon Rural District.

Representatives of the 10 Meriden parishes were not keen on the name of the new Metropolitan Borough being ‘Solihull’, which was the preference of Solihull County Borough councillors. The representatives from the 10 affected Meriden parishes (Balsall, Barston, Berkswell, Bickenhill, Castle Bromwich, Chelmsley Wood, Fordbridge, Hampton-in-Arden, Kingshurst and Meriden) selected ‘Hemlingford’ as their preferred name, having also considered Arden, Bickenhill, Blythe Valley, and Elmdon.

The choice of Hemlingford wasn’t universally popular – the Marston Green writer of a letter to the Castle Bromwich, Chelmsley Wood and Castle Vale News on 17th November 1971 described the choice as open to mispellings and said it would be “the bane of stammerers and stutterers everywhere”. As Solihull and Meriden councils couldn’t agree, it was left to the Department of the Environment to arbitrate. Despite the department’s own official circular advising that merged authorities should take a new name rather than continuing with the name of one of the previous councils, the Department of the Environment ruled in favour of ‘Solihull’ as the new name.

The new Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council officially came into existence on 1st April 1974. Maybe we should declare 1st April every year to be Hemlingford Day…?

Heritage and Local Studies Librarian


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‘Elevation’ clock, 1964

'Elevation' clock, 1964

The clock in Brueton Gardens, which was set in motion on 5th May 1964.

The clock was erected in 1964 to mark Solihull’s elevation to a County Borough, meaning the council took over responsibility from Warwickshire County Council for running services in the Borough.

The clock was paid for by public subscription, including through the proceeds of a ‘teenage dance’ at Solihull Civic Hall. The dance featured local groups, including the Applejacks (Solihull’s Beatles).

Were you there? Do you remember the dance or have any photos of it? Please let us know – email or fill in a memory sheet.

Heritage and Local Studies Librarian


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