One hundred years ago today, 21st August 1914, the first British soldier is believed to have died on the Western Front.
John Henry Parr was the son of a milkman from Finchley, London. He joined the army in 1912, giving his age as 17, although the census a year earlier shows him as 13 years old in 1911. He was baptised at St John’s Church, Holloway on 4th September 1898. He would, therefore, have been about 14 years of age when he joined the Army in 1912 as a Private with the Middlesex Regiment.
By the time war broke out in 1914, he was a reconnaissance cyclist, obtaining information to take back to senior officers. On 21st August 1914, John Parr was sent out on patrol and was never seen again, although it took some months for his family to be told. His gravestone gives his age as 20 but he was actually about 17.
In 1921, a national memorial to all cyclists who died as a result of their war service was erected in the Centre of England – Meriden, now in the Borough of Solihull.
The war memorial at Hockley Heath lists only initials and surnames, and doesn’t include details of rank, regiment, or year of death. This can make it difficult to research the casualties in official records.
We’re struggling to identify some of the people named, and would be very grateful if anyone can give us any further details on the following:
H J Keel
If you have any further information on any of these men, please let us know.
It can be very difficult to identify in official records people who who have minimum information included on the war memorial.
The war memorial at Castle Bromwich is one of several that lists only initials and surnames, not ranks, regiments or years of death. We are struggling to identify the following people who are mentioned on the memorial:
B. T. Harris (is this Benjamin James Thomas Harris, died on Royal Edward 13/8/1915?)
A. W. Watton
If you have any further information on these men, please let us know. We’re especially keen to know their full names and when they died, so that we can be sure that we remember them on the centenary of their deaths.
It can be very difficult to identify in official records people who have only minimum information included on the war memorial.
The Lychgate memorial at Temple Balsall is one of several that includes only names, not ranks, regiments or years of death. We are struggling to identify the following people who are mentioned on the memorial:
Albert E. Lewis
If you have any further information on these men, please let us know. We’re especially keen to know when they died, so that we can be sure that we remember them properly on the centenary of their deaths.
We’ve been delighted to have on loan to us for our ‘Solihull Remembers’ exhibition, a wooden memorial plaque, which was rescued by Mr G. Bragg from floods at St James’s Church, Shirley.
It seemed a good idea to count up the names on the plaque and compare them with those on the war memorial that stands outside St James’s Church. We were quite surprised to find that there were 62 names on the wooden plaque and 61 names on the memorial in the churchyard, so we set about trying to identify who was missing.
This turned out to be Private Leslie William Lively, who died on 18th February 1921 and is actually buried in St James’s churchyard. He is listed on the wooden plaque, but not on the Shirley War Memorial, which has 20 names on two of the stone panels, with 21 names on the third panel.
The final name on the memorial in the churchyard is that of Captain Charles Murchison Bernays, who died on 6th January 1920, when he was working as a doctor in Dover. An obituary in The Times says his death was “due to haemorrhage, resulting from his having been badly gassed while on active service in 1917.”
It seems likely, therefore, that Private Lively’s name wasn’t added to the war memorial in the churchyard because there was no room on the final panel (engraving of which would have, presumably, already been underway by the time of his death, ready for the unveiling of the memorial in 1921). His burial in the churchyard, however, does mean that he is commemorated on a gravestone in his local parish.
The wooden plaque must have been completed after February 1921. A major advantage of the plaque for researchers is that the 62 names are clearly legible, which has helped in identifying names that are badly worn on the memorial that stands in the churchyard. In particular, the name of Private John Worrall is almost impossible to make out from the memorial but is quite clear on the plaque.
The plaque has been temporarily withdrawn from our ‘Solihull Exhibition’ for the period 29th July-5th August, so that it can be on view at a commemorative event in Shirley. It will be returned for the remaining month of the ‘Solihull Remembers’ exhibition, which is in the Heritage Gallery of Solihull Central Library until 13th September.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0121 704 6934.
As part of the commemorations marking 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, we’re trying to get together a definitive list of individuals from places now within the Solihull borough who died as a result of war service.
We’re aware of the following war memorials that bear names of those killed:
Barston (Memorial Institute, and plaque in St Swithin’s Church)
Berkswell (chapel, St John the Baptist Church)
Bickenhill (St Peter’s Church)
Catherine-de-Barnes (font cover, St Catherine’s Church)
Copt Heath Golf Club
Dorridge (St Philip’s Church)
Earlswood (St Patrick’s Church, Salter Street)
Elmdon (St Nicholas’s Church)
Hockley Heath and District
Hockley Heath (St Peter’s Church)
Hockley Heath (St Thomas’s Church)
Knowle (Avenue Bowling Club)
Knowle (Soldiers’ Chapel, and plaques inside parish church)
Marston Green Garden of Remembrance
Meriden (St Laurence’s Church)
Meriden (cross, jcn of Berkswell Rd and Birmingham Rd)
Olton (St Margaret’s Church)
Olton (United Reformed Church)
Shirley (St James’ Church)
Solihull (St Alphege)
Are there any that we’ve missed? Please let us know by leaving a comment here, emailing email@example.com or tweeting @SolihullLife