William Green

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Express & Star, 18 Oct 1915

Express & Star, 18 Oct 1915

On 18 October 1915, the Express & Star published a photograph of eleven men, under the heading “Prisoners of War”. The newspaper had received a postcard from a Private W. Green, of the Worcestershire Regiment, who was a prisoner of war at Gefangenenlager, Doeberitz. He had received food parcels from J. B. Dumbell’s Comfort Fund and thanked them with this postcard. Unfortunately the photograph is not very clear on the microfilm.

There are a number of possible “W. Green”s born in Wolverhampton at around the right date (usually William or Walter), so finding the right one could prove difficult. However, the International Prisoners of War Agency has published online the index cards of each prisoner and detainee during the First World War. This has enabled me to find the entry for a William Green from Wolverhampton of the 3rd Worcestershire Regiment (service number 8303) on a list of 75 prisoners who were being transferred from the camp at Münchsberg to the camp at Sagan on 14 March 1916. Interestingly, the entries are written phoenetically to German ears, so “Wolverhampton” is down as “Wolwerhampton”, and there are other entries on the sheet which illustrate this too, such as “Litschfield” and “Jorkstire”. Unfortunately I have not been able to work out the place name underneath Wolverhampton (“Jiderwoth”), which I believe to be the location where the respective regiments were based, as the heading is “Gouvernement”. Green was taken prisoner at Chevy. His entry on the Worcestershire Regiment’s page of prisoners of war has him down as being in the camp at Gottingen, so he obviously moved around during the War.

Entry for William Green

Entry for William Green

There is also a William Green of the 4th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment listed on the Wolverhampton Roll of Honour, but as this particular Wolverhampton gentleman appears to be have been killed on 7 May 1915, this is clearly a different man with the same name. If anyone is able to fill any of these gaps, please get in touch!

 

Bilston Urban District Council 1916 – 1918

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Continuing from previous blog posts, Bilston Urban District Council covered the following war-related topics during this period:

On 14 December 1916 the General Purposes Committee raised the issue of war bonuses for employees who were taking on extra work. This matter was adjourned. On 22 February 1917, the Council agreed to appoint Councillors W. Wilkins, S. Cornfield, S. Thompson, W. T. Fellows and H. York to a National Service Committee. On 15 March, the Estates Committee granted the use of the Council Chamber and the Library for “staff engaged in preparing for the canvass of the town.” The Council had a few discussions about the make-up of the local Military Service Tribunal for men to be excused or exemption from military service. On 19 April 1917, the General Purposes Committee agreed to appoint Mr D. H. Martin of Handsworth to represent Labour, in place of Mr G. Tarratt.

There is also mention of a local Prisoner of War camp in Ettingshall. The main Council resolved to undertake sanitary services at the Camp on 26 April 1917. In May, there was a discussion with the Captain of the A. S. C., Derby about the cost of the refuse removal, “namely at 10% on the actual cost.”

The Council was keen to support its employees who had enlisted, stating on 15 March 1917 the “that no objection be offered by the Council to enrolment”. By 18 October 1917, they were discussing the production of a Roll of Honour listing the names of all serving employees, to be hung in the Council Chamber. The Council also reported on employees who had already enlisted. For example, on 26 April 1917, they noted that “Satisfactory reports were received of the services of the Engineer of the Council, Lieutenant V. Turner, now on road service in France.” One of Turner’s assistants, Lance-Corporal J. S. Colbourne, was home on leave “awaiting the conferring of a commission upon him.” Bilston Council were also asked on 19 April 1916 whether they would be willing to employ conscientious objectors on national work, such as fire brigades, civil hospitals or asylums. This request was refused, on the grounds “that friction would result amongst their employees.”

As well as military and recruitment matters, the Council also discussed matters closer to home, including rationing and food shortages. On 22 March 1917 the Council was asked “to co-operate in a campaign for reducing the consumption of food throughout the country.”

By 17 May 1917, the number of Belgian refugee families in the area had been reduced to two. This meant that the Chairman of the Belgian Refugees Committee (C. W. Harris) suggested that use of the present Hostel be disctonited, and the families be moved to unoccupied rooms in the house at Hickman Park. This was agreed by the main Council on 24 May 1917, “provided that they can make satisfactory arrangements with the tenant Mr R. Lees.”

Enemy air raids were also discussed. It was noted on 13 December 1917 that the Government “had decided to make ex. gratia awards in cases where personal injury had resulted in death or permanent disablement, and where the injured person or his dependants, as the case may be, are unprovided for.” Details of the scheme were included in the minutes.

Finally, the people of Bilston were praised by the Mayor of Wolverhampton on 28 February 1918 for their “excellent results…in connection with National War Bonds during the Wolverhampton Tank Bank Week.”

Thomas Barrett

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The tragic death of Thomas (Tom) Barrett, did not occur during the First World War, but afterwards, and was to change the rules of motor racing forever.

Thomas Barrett was born on 21 November 1891 to parents George Barrett and Annie Walton, of Prestwood Road. In 1901, they were still living at 233 Prestwood Road, and the household consisted of Tom, his parents, his brothers William, Albert and Alfred, and sisters Emily, Jessica and Lilian. He attended Holy Trinity School, and the admission registers that we hold indicate that he was admitted to the Infant School on 22 April 1896, and the Junior School on 1 November 1899. He left on 17 November 1905 to start work.

Having served an apprenticeship at Culwell Works, Barrett worked for Guy Motors on the Dragonfly and Wasp aero engines. As these were seen as vital war work, Barrett was excused from military service during the First World War. On 27 June 1915, Barrett married Lillian Ivy Worthington-Roberts, and the couple moved to Burleigh Road. They later had a son, Dennis.

After the end of the War, outstanding wartime orders for Guy Motors’ aero engines were cancelled, so Barrett moved to Sunbeam to continue working on these engines. Later on he worked as a mechanic on the company’s racing cars.

In the 1924 Spanish Grand Prix, Sunbeams’ drivers were Henry Seagrave and Kenelm Lee Guiness, along with two mechanics (who at that time took part in the race with their drivers), Barrett and an Italian man, Marocchi. Originally Barrett was meant to drive with Seagrave (who went on to win the race), but as Guinness did not speak any Italian, they agreed to switch. The track was slippery due to recent rain, and on the eleventh lap Guiness lost control of his car. As it span and rolled over the track, both occupants were thrown out, and Barrett was killed instantly.

On 16 October 1924, Barrett was buried at Holy Trinity Church in Heath Town, with many of his former colleagues attending. This action resulted in a rule change in motor racing, and mechanics no longer rode in the cars during the race.

Benjamin Patrick

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A small report in the Express & Star on this day a hundred years ago states the following:

A private in the South Staffordshire Regiment, stationed at Lichfield, named Benjamin Patrick, was charged at Wolverhampton Police Court today (Wednesday) with being a deserter.

Evidence of arrest was given by Detective-sergeant Murphy, and Patrick, who indifferently admitted he had deserted, was remanded to await a military escort.

In the 1901 census, there is a Benjamin Patrick who is a 15-year-old pauper in the Union Workhouse, working as a bobber at a nail factory, and it seems likely that this may be the young man in question. I have not been able to find any other records to corroborate further information about this man. The incident above is noted in the Wolverhampton Police Force’s Public Office Book (which normally detail names and ages of prisoners, prosecutor or complainant, name of officer, details of the charge, and the magistrates’ decision) but his age has been left blank.

Albert Henry Bestwick

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There is an A. H. Bestwick listed on the Roll of Honour of the Weldless Steel Tube Company Ltd, which means he was an employee of the company who joined the forces during the First World War.

The only likely man is an Albert Henry Bestwick, born in Wolverhampton in 1891. In the 1901 census, he is living with his family at 43 Grove Street, Heath Town. The household consists of Albert’s widowed mother, Elizabeth, his four brothers George, Joe, John and Thomas, and sister Fanny. He married May Jones in 1910, and they went on to have four children: Elizabeth, Annie, Sydney and May between 1910 and 1915. Two of these children appear to have been registered in the same year, the first in June 1910 and the second in September 1910. Given the surname does not appear to be that common, we can assume this is the same family. Perhaps they were twins registered at different times? Unfortunately, May, the baby, died in 1916.

I have not been able to find Albert’s medal card or service records , so I am unable to confirm the details of his service during the First World War. It is possible that he is down as “Albert Beswick” in those records, as there are a number of those in the National Archives. Suffice it to say that he survived the war, and died aged 77 in 1969. If anyone has any further details, please get in touch!

Howard Raymond Davies

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Howard R. Davies on an AJS motorcycle, c. 1920s

Howard R. Davies on an AJS motorcycle, c. 1920s

Howard Raymond Davies was born on 27 June 1895, at 351 Ladypool Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, to parents Bertha and Frank (a carriers clerk). They moved to Wolverhampton where Howard attended Wolverhampton Municipal Grammar School in Newhampton Road. His interests were swimming, music and horses. He left school and obtained an apprenticeship with A. J. Stevens (A.J.S.), but was more interested in racing than motorbike mechanics, and later joined Clyno to get on to the Subeam racing team. After coming back from the Scottish six day trial as a member of the Sunbeam team, he was sacked for unauthorised extended absence. He managed to get back into Sunbeam, and finished in second place at the Isle of Man Senior T.T. races in 1914.

When war broke out, Howard joined the Royal Engineers as a despatch rider in France. He then trained as a pilot before being posted back to France where he was shot down and taken prisoner. Further details appeared in the Express & Star on 19 Apr 1917:

About a fortnight ago Flying Lieutenant Howard R. Davies, formerly employed at Sunbeamland, Wolverhampton, was at the works, and among his experiences he told how while flying at the front the controls of his machine were shot out of his hand, but he managed to spiral down and drop in No Man’s Land. He got back to the British lines.

Information was received by telegram on Wednesday that Lieutenant Davies has been missing since the 14th inst.

Express & Star, 19 Apr 1917

Express & Star, 19 Apr 1917

This article also talked of his many triumphs on the moto cycling circuit prior to the war, including winning a gold medal in a trial from Birmingham to York and back.

He returned to Wolverhampton after the war and got a job with Aston Motor Accessories, before starting to ride for A.J.S. He joined the A.J.S. racing team for the 1920 Isle of Man Junior and Senior T.T. races, but had to retire early due to mechanical problems. However, in the same year he won a gold medal on an AJS machine in the Scottish six day trial, and another in the A.C.U. trial around Darlington, along with other speed events. Amongst the other events of 1921, on 24 May, Howard also broke four world records at Brooklands. Later he set up his own motorcycle company. He died in 1973 from cancer. His wife Maisie died two days later, and they had a joint funeral at the Robin Hood Crematorium in Solihull.

Richard Thomas Ivens

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Not originally from Wolverhampton, Richard Thomas Ivens was born in West Bromwich in 1894, to parents Richard Edmund and Annie Matilda Ivens (nee Griffiths). In the 1901 census the family were living at 109 Pargeter Street in Walsall, together with Richard’s sister, Mary. By 1911, they had moved to Wolverhampton, and were at 68 Park Road South, Blakenhall, together with a cousin, William Joseph Leslie Hyall. Ivens became a chemical manufacturing clerk. Later, the family moved to 15 Allen Road.

Richard enlisted in the 1st/6th South Staffordshire Regiment (number 3036), and first fought in France in March 1915. On 2 July 1916, Richard died of his wounds, aged 22. He is commemorated at the Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery, Saulte, in France. He is also listed on the memorial of the Higher Grade School and the Newhampton Road Wesleyan Church Memorial.

Territorial Recruits

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Express & Star 12 September 1914

Express & Star 12 September 1914

On this day exactly a hundred years ago, 500 territorial army recruits engaged in a display march around Wolverhampton. Their route, which was lined with spectators, was along Goldthorn Hill, Coalway Road, through Bradmore, and on to Dunstall Park via Tettenhall Road, Albert Road and Leicester Street.

This was reported on in the Express & Star on the same day. Once at the racecourse, despite the damp grass, the men engaged in skirmishing practice:

The men had to drop as commanded; in war, they were told, it would be the choice of a bullet in the head or wet clothes. They therefore indulged in the latter now.

They marched on to the Drill Hall in Stafford Street, singing “It’s a long way to Tipperary.”

Roll of Honour of the Weldless Steel Tube Company Ltd

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We recently received a small collection of material from the Wednesfield-based Weldless Steel Tube Company Ltd, mainly product brochures and publicity material. In amongst the photographs is a photo of the company’s roll of honour:

Roll of Honour of the Wedless Steel Tube Company Ltd

Roll of Honour of the Weldless Steel Tube Company Ltd

We do not appear to have any other references to this roll of honour, and it is not mentioned on Doug Lewis’s excellent Wolverhampton War Memorials site, so presumably the current location of this plaque is unknown. The roll of honour consists of the surnames and initials of all employees of the firm (both from the Birmingham and the Wednesfield Works) who joined His Majesty’s Forces during the Great War. Those marked with a gold cross had died for their country.

If anybody has any more information about the plaque itself, or the people named on it, we would be delighted to hear it!

Updates

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Further updates on individuals mentioned previously:

  • Frank Rhodes Armitage was born in Edinburgh, in Scotland. He was a school boarder along with a younger brother, in Northamptonshire in 1901. In 1911 he was living at home with his parents, brother and sister, plus four servants at 58, Waterloo Road, and both he and his father were surgeons at that time. His father was born in Margate. His probate entry records him at 52 Waterloo Road, Captain in the R. A. M. C., who died on 30 July 1917 in France or Belgium. His effects, which were divided between his widow Frances Marie Armitage, stock broker Edward Howorth Armitage and Inglis merchant Ernest Alexander, amounted to £3723 12s. 4d. He is commemorated on the Wolverhampton Grammar School World War One website and on the Oundle School Roll of Honour.
  • Frank Jarvis was a Lance Corporal, not a Lieutenant, as can be seen from his medal card. His service records don’t seem to have survived so it is difficult to find much more about him, especially as there is a record of another Frank Jarvis (Private, and different regt. number) in the Border Regt. being killed in October 1918. Mary Joyce Rayner was living at 114 Harrow Road in Paddington in the 1911 census, age 13. This is confirmed at the time of her marriage in 1921 when she is 24.
  • According to “Canada, Soldiers of the First World War 1914-18″ on Ancestry.com, Alfred William Morris was born 9 Oct 1892 in “Shrewsburg” [presumably Shrewsbury], Shropshire, England. The 1916 Canadian census of Calgary [also on Ancestry] shows that Alfred and Gladys migrated in 1914. At this time he was employed as an accountant. The 1911 census of Wolverhampton shows 18 year old Alfred working as a clerk for the railway. He was living at 22 Manby Street with his parents and two younger sisters. In 1901, the family were resident in Shrewsbury (St. Chad), Shropshire. Alfred’s father was working as a railway clerk.
  • Alfred Tonks: Elsie’s son from her second marriage, Ken, believed that Alfred was shot in the head by a stray bullet while he was peeling potatoes. The suggestion is that it may have been ‘friendly fire’, but we cannot be certain of this.
  • James Tranter married Emily Bettelly in 1903. 1901 he was at home with his parents James and Sarah and siblings. By 1911 they were living in Peascroft Lane in the 1911 census with their 3 small daughters. A James Tranter, 1st Battalion Scottish Border Regiment, was demobbed on 13 March 1919, which appears to confirm that he was not, in fact, killed in action. He had enlisted early in the war as he was in The Balkans 1915.
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