John Owen Iles

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ilesJohn Owen Iles was born in Leamington on 18 May 1893, the only son of Mr John Cyril Iles (who became H. M. Divisional Inspector of Schools) and Mrs Enid Agnes Machell Iles of Endhall, Tettenhall Wood. He went to school at Lockers Park, in Rugby. His father was taken ill in the summer of 1915 and died after an operation on 27 July that year, at the age of only 49.

An undergraduate at Cambridge when war broke out, Iles received a commission in the 6th South Staffordshire Regiment (Territorial Force), and in May 1915 was given a  commission in the Regular Army. He rose to become Lieutenant, and was later attached to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He was killed in action during the Battle of Loos in France on 25 September 1915. An article including the above photograph appears in the scrapbook of First World War cuttings held at Wolverhampton Archives. His death was also noted in an article (together with a different photograph) in the Express & Star on 7 October 1915. Finally he appears in the list of local officers who have died, which was published in the Express & Star on 22 September 1916.

John Owen Iles is the only man named on the Christ Church Memorial in Tettenhall Wood, although the memorial goes on to commemorate “all the men from this parish who died for England”. The memorial was dedicated on Sunday 21 April 1918 by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield. According to the article in the Express & Star on 17 April 1918, the memorial included a “tablet reserved for the names of the complete roll of honour”, but it appears that this was never compiled. A full write-up of the dedication service appeared in the Express & Star on 22 April 1918. There was a large congregation in the church, including officers and men of the 4th Battalion Staffordshire Volunteer Regiment, and the vicar read a list of the men from the parish who had died.

Iles is also commemorated on the Loos Memorial in France and on the roll of honour in the Lady Chapel of St Peter’s Church.

Harry Heath

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The Express & Star published a letter on 1 May 1915 from a Corporal H. Heath, who was being held prisoner in Göttingen, in Germany. It appealed as follows:

Sir, – I beg to ask you on behalf of about thirty Wolverhampton N.C.O.s and men of the 1st South Staffordshire Regiment, who are prisoners of war at Göttingen, if any gentleman, lady, or society who are collecting clothes, boots, or groceries for prisoners of war, would kindly forward some of them to be distributed amongst the prisoners here.

The prisoners are urgently in need of them, as they have been here since early November and have not receiving anything owing to most of their parents not being able to assist them. – I remain, your obedient servant,

H. HEATH, Corporal S. S. R.

Harry Heath was born in Wolverhampton on 25 December 1890. His prisoner of war records confirm that he was captured at Ypres on 26 October 1914, that he was not wounded, and was initially held at Cassel. His next of kin was given as his mother, who lived at 15 Zoar Street. He was moved around a bit, and by 1918 he had been wounded in the head. On 25 November 1918 he was repatriated, and was among a list of prisoners of war who had arrived in Southampton. He was listed as “severely sick” and taken to King George’s Hospital in London. He appears to have recovered, as I have not been able to find a record of his death.

Edwin Read Collisson

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collissonEdwin Read Collisson was born in Hampstead in 1887, the son of William and E. M. Collisson. He moved to Wolverhampton in about 1905 and was articled to the local solicitor’s firm, Messrs. Underhill, Thorneycroft and Smith. Later he became managing clerk for Messrs. May and Court, and in 1913 joined the firm of Messrs. G. R. Thorne and Co. He took part in the Wolverhampton Cricket Club, being captain of the second team, and was a close friend of the former vicar of St Andrew’s Church in Whitmore Reans, Rev. E. M. Baker. He also became a churchwarden at the church.

An active member of the Territorials, he had become a lieutenant in the Transport Section of the South Staffordshire Regiment by the time war broke out, and was promoted to captain while on active service abroad. A newspaper cutting in a scrapbook of First World War-related material at the archives, dated 19 October 1915, gives the first intimation of his fate. A meeting of munitions workers had taken place the previous day, at which the speakers were the local MPs Alfred Bird and G. R. Thorne. Among other things, Mr Thorne “had told them that he feared his partner, Captain E. R. Collison [sic], had lost his life.” A report in the Wolverhampton Chronicle the following day gives more details. On 13 October 1915, he was shot through the spine. He remained conscious for an hour before he succumbed to his wounds, but apparently suffered no pain. A small piece appeared in the Express & Star on 25 October 1915, giving details of a memorial service held at St Andrew’s Church for “the brave men of Whitmore Reans”. Among the men being honoured was Edwin Collisson. Collisson was also one of a number of Local Officers commemorated in a piece headed “The Great Sacrifice”, which was published in the Express & Star on 22 September 1916. He is remembered on the Loos Memorial in France.

Jane Mildred Barr

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A Miss Mildred Barr served in the VAD Auxiliary Hospital at Hatton Grange, Shifnal, from October 1916 to January 1919. Her home address was given as The Vicarage, Codsall.

Jane Mildred Barr was born in 1876 in West Derby, Lancashire, the daughter of Charles George Barr. I have not been able to find a record of Jane’s mother, so presumably she died young. Among other schools, Jane attended the Girls’ Collegiate School in Sandgate Road, Folkstone, in Kent. By 1901, the family were at Acrise Rectory, Kent, and Jane and her father were living with her sister Emily G. S. Barr, along with two servants, Clara Ann Tubby and Sophia Copeland. By 1911, they had moved to Codsall Vicarage, Jane’s sisters full name was given as Emily Gertrude Sophia, and their two servants were Elizabeth Thomas and Sophia Copeland.

Jane does not appear to have married, as she died in March 1921 in Battle at the age of 45.

William Leighton

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This blog post has been prepared by one of our volunteers, Ann Eales.

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William Leighton was born to a Bradley family, although his parents moved to Smethwick when he was born. He began his working life in the Post Office, but moved to Moxley, where he carried on business as an iron and metal merchant. Leighton was first elected to the Urban District Council, as a Conservative representative of Bradley Wood in July 1926. During his service to the council, Leighton sat on numerous committees. He was a representative for the Council on the Air Raid Precautions Area Advisory Committee, and the South Staffordshire and North Worcestershire Joint Town Planning Committee. During World War I he served with the Royal Sussex regiment in 1916, serving in Africa and India until December 1919. Leighton was elected Mayor of Bilston in 1939. Additional information has now been traced.

A search for his military records via the Ancestry website located show Leighton’s details as “Regtl No G/22340, Rank Pte., 2/6 R Suss., Highest rank held A/Sergt.”. These appear on the ROYAL SUSSEX REGIMENT OR CORPS ROLL OF INDIVIDUALS entitled to the Victory Medal and/or British War Medal granted under Army Orders 266. Place: Hounslow Date: 22 Jan 1921. Similar Information is shown on his Medal Index Card record.

William Leighton appears on the 1881 Census, age 2, born at Smethwick, and living at 194 Middlemore Road, Smethwick with his parents Thomas age 43, Occupation Iron Stock taker, born at West Bromwich, and Elizabeth age 40. born at Willenhall, and his 8 siblings, Enoch age 21 occupation Lab. in Iron Works, Rose age 20 both born at Willenhall, Thomas age 17 born at West Bromwich, Sarah age 16, Mary age14, and Elizabeth age 13 Scholar all 3 born at Darlaston, Elijah age 9, and Eva age 6, both Scholars born at Bilston. By the time of the 1891 census the family lived at Handsworth, and consisted of Thomas now age 54, a Stock Taker, Elizabeth age 51 now shown as born at Portobello, Elijah age 18, Assistant Stocktaker, Eva age 16, both born Hale Field Bilston, William age 12 Scholar, and Margaret age 9 also Scholar, both born at Smethwick. In 1901 William at age 22 is living at 9 Field Street Sedgley, a “Stock Taker Ironworks”, like his father Thomas, who is now age 64. Elizabeth is now age 60, and the other members of the household are Margaret now 19 and Eva Andrews identified as “daughter” age 26. born at Bradley. On the 1911 census William age 32 is married and a Scrap Metal Merchant living at High Street Moxley Wednesbury with his wife Mary Ann age 38, occupation Pawnbroker’s Assistant, born at West Bromwich.

On Saturday October 14th 1939, the Bilston and Willenhall Times carried an article under the headline “Bilston’s next Mayor – Alderman W Leighton accepts nomination.” We learn that he had become Alderman earlier in 1939, was a member of the Royal British Legion, was keenly interested in music, was choirmaster at several churches, and was secretary and member of the old Bilston Choral Society.

leightonOn Saturday November 11th another article appeared in this newspaper, with a picture of Mr Leighton and his wife, see aside.

In the 1916 Kelly’s Directory of Staffordshire there is a William Leighton who is a haulier by trade, at High Street, Moxley, Wednesbury. The Kelly’s 1924 Staffordshire Directory shows William Leighton as a scrap metal dealer at High Street, Moxley.

It has been found not possible to trace the registration of William’s birth. William Leighton’s marriage, to Mary Anne Carpenter, was registered at Wolverhampton in the quarter ended March 1902. They do not appear to have had any children. His death, at the age of 71, was registered at Wednesbury in the quarter ended March 1950. On the National Probate Calendar this entry appears: “Leighton William of 52 High-street Moxley Wednesbury Staffordshire died 24 January 1950 Probate Birmingham 31 May to Barclays Bank Limited. Effects £1203 5s. 10d.”

John Francis Henry Merrick

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This post has been prepared by one of our volunteers, Ann Eales.

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John Merrick appears on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission website, and the Bilston Town Memorial has details too. Bilston Town Memorial is between Railway Drive and Oxford Street. Three plaques, one for each of the three Bilston Wards, are set on a wall, and record the names of the Bilston men who fought and died in both World Wars. The New Town Ward plaque has information as follows:

MERRICK JOHN FRANCIS HENRY

Private

G/15498

2nd Bn Royal Fusiliers Formerly 84605 Royal Field Artillery

Killed in Action 01/07/1916

Age:32

Son of Mrs. Sarah Jane Merrick of 49 Ashley St. Bilston.

Grave/Memorial Reference: Pier and Face 8 C 9 A and 16 A. Cemetery: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL

???????????????????????????????In the Midland Counties Express of 18th November 1916 this photograph appears, and we read:

A GALLANT BILSTON MAN PROUD TO “DO HIS BIT”.

Private John F H Merrick, who was the eldest son of Mrs Merrick, 49 Ashley Street Bilston joined the Army on January 26th 1915, and in October of the same year proceeded to the scene of battle with a section of the Royal Fusiliers. He met a gallant death while in action on July 1st, and when he was 31 years of age. This stalwart Bilstonian who in civil life was an employee of Councillor J Sylvester was educated at the Wesleyan School Darlaston. His bereaved relatives also include sisters and brothers. One of the latter is at present ‘doing his bit’ and his friends will wish him a safe return when duty is finished.

His medal index card records that the Theatre of war he first served in was the Balkans, date of entry 15-12-1915.  No other military records for John Merrick seem to have survived.

The birth of John Francis H Merrick was registered at Walsall in the quarter ended December 1884. The 1891 census has the Merrick family living at 7 Darlaston Road, Moxley. John age 50 is a Bricklayer, born at Wrexham N Wales, his wife Sarah, age 36, was born at West Bromwich. Daughters Mary M age 15 and Sarah age 8 were born at Moxley as were their 3 brothers, John age 6,Victor age 3 and Fred age 1.

By the time of the 1901 Census Sarah, age 45, was widowed, working on her own account as a Laundress, and living at 41 High Street, Moxley with her 8 children, Martha age 26 also a Laundress, Mary Skitt age 25, now married, John 16 occupation Groom (domestic), Victor 13, Fred 11, Elsie age 9, Alexander 5, Lily 8 months and William Skitt, son in law, age 35, Occupation Iron plate worker like Sarah’s children, at Moxley.

In 1911 the census form, signed by John Marrick, has Sarah as age 56, no occupation shown, living at no: 30 Oxford St, Bilston with John age 26, occupation Carter, General Carrier industry, Victor age 23 also a Carter, Fred age 21 a General Labourer, Elsie age 19, Alexander age 15. Learning Pipe Fitting at a Steel Works, and Lily now age 10.

 

 

 

 

 

Further updates

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  • bosworthAn article appeared about Richard Bosworth in the Midland Counties Express of 25 November 1916, including this photograph. This states that he had four children, and had himself attended St John’s School as a boy. The newspaper had two letters from his officers. One stated that he was buried in a separate grave in the presence of his officers and some of his comrades. He had been slain by a German sniper and “died at his post doing his duty”. His father-in-law was also at the front, along with his brother-in-law.
  • It seems that that F. Eastwood who died on 23 July 1917 is the same man who had links with Heath Town. Frederick was born and enlisted in Blackpool, the 1901 census records the family living in Blackpool, his mother older brother and sister were born in Wolverhampton and his father was born in Stafford. So far have not been able to find the family in the 1911 census other than his brother James who by that time was married and still living in Blackpool.
  • There is a small piece about John Goucher in the Midland Counties Express of 25 November 1916, including the same photograph as appeared in the Express & Star. This also includes the additional detail that his wife lived at 5 Pipers Row and he attended Monmore Green Council School as a child.
  • Frederick Charles Mander’s grave is in Merridale Cemetery and one of our Facebook friends has posted a picture of it there.
  • William Padmore’s medal index card refers to him serving in the Balkans from November 1915, so this may be the reason he received the Rumanian award.

Police Constable Moss

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A small article in the Express & Star of 3 August 1914 entitled “Wolverhampton Reservists leave” tells of Police Constables Moss and Boyer, both Naval Reservists, who have received their papers and left to join their respective stations. The article goes on to state that around 20 members of the Wolverhampton Police Force were eligible for servce in the event of Army Reservists being called out. The Chief Constable’s Report Book corroborates this statement, listing the 18 men (including Moss and Boyer) who have been called up by 5 August 1914.

P. C. Boyer will be examined in a separate post. P.C. Moss reappears in the Express & Star on 13 October 1914, following a letter he wrote to Police Constable Williamson. Moss has become a Gunner in the Royal Navy, but has come to Plymouth for a period of time to recuperate. He writes:

They tell you nothing of what you are going to do, or where you are going to. One week you are at one place, and all of a sudden you are steaming off, and only the captain knows where he is going. All the crew have to do is ‘wait and see’, like Mr Asquith says.”

He tells of spending time in the Atlantic watching the trade routes, and capturing ships loaded with nitrate and grain etc. He also “described the work as monotonous, and says he has lost about two stone.”

From what he has seen of the Deadnought battleships, he is confident that they can defeat the Germans, as the “H. M. S. Tiger, the latest Dreadnought, can fire, at one time, seven tons of steel, which will penetrate 24in. of armour-plating at seven miles.”

I have been unable to track any further history of P. C. Moss, as without his first name it is difficult to pin down his birth details or his military service history. He did, however, survive the war and presumably rejoin the police force, as there is a note in the Chief Constable’s Report Book on 7 July 1919 to the effect that P. C. Moss has tendered his resignation, and had his superannuation of £16/5 returned to him.

Percy James Morgan

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Percy James Morgan was born in Wolverhampton in 1895, the son of James and Annie Morgan. In 1901 he was at 24 Cardiff Street with his parents, sister Dorothy and uncle Charles Jefcoate. By 1911 they are at 15 Jeffcock Road, together with Percy’s parents, sisters Dorothy Evelyn and Hilda Iris, and a servant, Louisa Hale. Percy was taught at Wolverhampton Grammar School and later worked for the Sunbeam Motor Company.

His sister, Hilda, died in November 1912 at just 10 years old. His father, James, died on 23 March 1913 from a factured skull, having been knocked off his motorcycle by a car coming in the opposite direction on the Penn Road. Percy’s mother, Annie, also died in March 1914, so his only surviving next of kin was his sister, Dorothy.

Percy initially enlisted with the 7th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (number 9942) and served in Gallipolli. However, he was badly injured when a sniper’s bullet shattered the roof of his mouth, and he was sent home to recover. When he recovered he joined the Royal Flying Corps and became an Air Mechanic First Class. On 12 July 1918 he was flying in a DH6 training aeroplane (piloted by Canadian Lt. Osbert Calverley) which collided with another plane over Cambridgeshire, killed all the men onboard. He is buried in St Philip’s Churchyard, Penn Fields, and is commemorated at Beckminster Methodist Church.

A Wolverhampton “Tommy” wants to smoke

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A small piece appeared in the Express & Star on 31 August 1914. It described a letter received by a Mr and Mrs Turner of 35 Red Cross Street, from their son, Private W. Turner, of the 4th Infantry Brigade. The letter stated as follows:

The people don’t half make a fuss of us out here. We can get anything we like to ask for except money. Send me some tobacco, as we cannot get none out here. I have started smoking a pipe, so don’t forget to send some.

Without any further details, in particular the first name or military details of the soldier concerned, I have been unable to track down any further information on this man, and what happened to him. However, it does give a bit of an insight into daily life for the men at the Front during this period.

The full article is on our Flickr site.

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