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”
Two local men died on 16th February 1917: Private Percy William Elliott, 1st Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and Private Frederick William Mander, 1st/6th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Private Victor George Houghton, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was killed in action on 14th July 1916, serving with the 1st/7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was born in Hockley Heath in 1897, and was the third of the four children (three sons, one daughter) of John (a shoemaker) and Ruth Elizabeth (née Waters) who had married in 1892.
Private Philip Salt, 8th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, was killed in action on 10th July 1916. Born in Handsworth in 1890, he was the only child of parents John (a coachman, born in Upton Warren, Worcestershire) and Eliza Jane (born in Dunley, Worcestershire), who had married in 1889.
By 1901, the family had moved to Bentley Heath, moving to Copt Heath by 1911. Philip became a gardener, and was living at Umberslade in 1911. His service record appears not to have survived but his medal index card indicates that he entered a Theatre of War (France) on 26th August 1915, so it’s known that he was a volunteer, not a conscript.
Philip Salt was initially posted as missing, and the Birmingham Weekly Post of 30th September 1916 carried an appeal by his father for further information. His body was never found, and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on war memorials at Solihull and Knowle.
Tragically, his mother, Eliza, was killed in February 1925 when a tree fell on her during a gale where the winds reached 78 miles per hour. His father, John, continued to live in Copt Heath and, by the time the 1939 Register was taken on 29th September 1939, he was aged 79, living alone in Jacobean Lane, with his occupation listed as retired groom. He died later that year.
If you have any further information about Philip Salt or his family, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6977
We don’t have very much information about Company Sergeant Major Arthur Callaghan who was killed in action on 7th July 1916 whilst serving with the 9th Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He is also commemorated locally on the Hockley Heath war memorial, as well as on memorials in St Thomas’s Church, Hockley Heath, and Umberslade Baptist Church.
Thomas Freeman of Hockley Heath died of wounds on 9th December 1915 whilst serving as a Private with the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He is buried in France at Sailly-sur-la-Lys Canadian Cemetery and also commemorated locally on Hockley Heath village war memorial, and on memorials at St Thomas’s Church, Hockley Heath, and Umberslade Baptist Church.
He was commemorated at a service on 3rd September 1916 at St Patrick’s Church, Salter Street, which gave his date of birth as 27th March 1886. This would suggest that his full name was Thomas Ernest Freeman, son of Ellen Freeman, and who was baptised at St Thomas’s Church, Nuthurst on 25th July 1886. Umberslade war memorial also includes mention of a T.E. Freeman. There is another baptism of a Thomas Freeman at Nuthurst on 27th December 1885, but this family seems to have moved to Bordesley by 1891 and stayed there whereas Soldiers Died in the Great War suggests that the Thomas Freeman who died on 9th December 1915 was resident at Hockley Heath when he enlisted.
It looks as if Thomas grew up living with his grandparents, Charles (1828-1899) and Susannah (1832-1908) and two of their sons who were only ten and eight years older than their nephew, Thomas. His mother, Ellen, a domestic servant, married James Ganderton, a labourer, at St Mary Magdalene Church, Tanworth-in-Arden on Christmas Day 1890, when Thomas would have been four years old.
After spending a few years in Tanworth, the couple moved to James’s home town of Beoley, Worcestershire around 1900, and they remained there until at least 1911. They had 13 children, of whom one died in infancy.
One of James and Ellen’s son, James Frederick Ganderton, is also known to have joined the Machine Gun Corps when he was aged 18 years and one month. He enlisted on 10th December 1915, the day after his half-brother Thomas was killed. James was posted to Army Reserve the day after he enlisted and was not mobilised until 30th September 1918. He was invalided out of the Army, aged 21, in February 1919 with chronic bronchitis, which it was noted on his service record was not attributable to his war service. He died on 10th June 1920, by which time his mother was living in Highgate Road, Sparkbrook. He is buried at Brandwood End Cemetery, Birmingham. Ellen Ganderton’s death, aged 70, was registered in Birmingham between January-March 1940.
If you have any more information about Thomas Freeman, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934
William Hands Perkins was born in 1892 in Weston-sub-Edge, Gloucestershire, and was baptised there on 27th November 1892, the sixth child of George Frederick Perkins (a labourer) and his wife, Rose (née Court). William was killed in action at the age of 23 on 7th December 1915 serving as a Private in the 6th Battalion Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry.
At first sight, it’s not clear why he’s commemorated locally at Hockley Heath and Umberslade. Soldiers Died in the Great War gives his birthplace and residence as Weston-sub-Edge, although he enlisted in Birmingham. His parents appear to have remained in Weston all their lives, as did his youngest brother, Allen Nelson Perkins, whose burial, aged 71, is recorded in the parish registers there in 1971. William himself is recorded on the 1901 census in Weston but isn’t there with his parents in 1911 and we haven’t been able to track him down elsewhere.
However, researching William’s siblings sheds some light on the local connection. Although in Gloucestershire, Weston-sub-Edge is only about 26 miles from Hockley Heath and, as is often the case with migration, it looks as if one family member moved first, to be then followed by others.
Private Thomas Henry Parkes, from Solihull and Hockley Heath, died of wounds on 24th October 1915 at Gallipoli, serving with the 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment). He was the youngest of the seven surviving children (out of 12 born) of parents William Parkes, a bricklayer, and his wife Rhoda (née Hayes) who had married at St Alphege Church, Solihull on 27th July 1874.
Frank Baulcombe was born in Kenilworth on 18th February 1891, the fourth child and eldest son of the ten children born to parents Frederick (an insurance agent, previously a confectioner and baker) born in Eastbourne, Sussex and Selina (née Clarke), born at Moreton Bagot, Warwickshire. The couple had married at Claverdon on 5th January 1886. Frederick was a widower – he had married his first wife, Mary Page, on 31st January 1882 in Kenilworth and their only child, Marian Bertha Baulcombe, was born in Leamington at the end of the year. Mary died in 1884, aged 28.
Frank, a gardener before the war, was killed in action at Neuve Chappelle on 5th October 1915, whilst serving as a Private with the Oxford and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry. He was 24 years old.