Wolverhampton’s Great War: 1914-1921


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Wolverhampton”Great War 1914-1921

Wolverhampton’s Great War 1914-1921
A new publication
Zeppelin air-raids,
Hospital treatment of battle casualties,
The impact of the ‘Spanish ‘flu’,
The Sankey family
Planting of trees as war memorials.
Case-studies of local service personnel –
Wulfrunians- national heroes:

Roland Elcock and Douglas Harris.

Wolverhampton’s Great War,1914-1921 written by Wulfrunians:
Jim Barrow
Mark Cooper
Ben Cunliffe
John Hale
Heidi McIntosh
Mick Powis
Richard Pursehouse
Beverley Reynolds
Roy Stallard
David Taylor
John Thomas
Chris Twiggs

Wolverhampton’s Great War 1914 – 1921
The Wolverhampton Society BOOK LAUNCH EVENT
This event is part of Wolverhampton LiteratureFestival.
Wolverhampton Art Gallery
Saturday, 1 February 2020 from 12:00-13:00
Follow the blue link above to secure your free tickets.

Thomas Babbs


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Thomas was born in around 1879 in Bilston. I have not been able to find out much about his family, although at some point he married a lady called Annie Elizabeth, and they later lived in Tipton.

On 10 May 1899, he attested with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (service number 6075) at Wednesbury. During the First World War he served with the 1st Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (service number 9036). He was killed in action on 7 November 1914, and is remembered at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Ralph Howl


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Thanks to Margaret and Elizabeth Howl for sharing Rohan’s school project.

Ralph Howl born 12/7/1898 Woodsetton nr Dudley Staffordshire son of Oliver & Mary Howl they ran a family  brick making engineer business. Ralph enlisted with 2nd North Midland Brigade Royal Field Artillery, joined 160th Wearside Brigade 2/12/1917 posted ‘D’ battery. He was taken prisoner by the Germans 21/3/1918. Ralph survived the war and returned home to family business Lee Howl Engineering Company Tipton. Died 4/5/1994.

Edward Wigg, was also taken prisoner that day.
Edward Wigg: 101276, Born 1895 of Ettingshall Wolverhampton former Labourer, enlisted 24/10/1915. joined D/160’13/7/16 served  brigade until POW 21/3/18. He also survived the war.

Several more Wolverhampton men are mentioned in the book:
Idle and Dissolute The History of the 160th (Wearside) Brigade Royal Field Artillery by Phillip William Adams

Thomas Abbott


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The son of Esther Abbott, Thomas was born on 17 Mar 1896, and he was baptised at St Leonard’s Church, Bilston on 5 April 1896. At some point, his mother married a William Edwards. By 1911, Thomas was living with his mother, step-father, sister Nellie, brother William, and half-sister Dora, at 8 Pipes Meadow, Bilston.

Thomas served in the First World War, and was remembered on the roll of honour of Bilston Church, but I have not been able to confirm details of his military service. He survived the war, and married Ada Moore in Wolverhampton in 1916, and the couple had four children – Thomas W. (1917), Arthur R. (1920), Geoffrey (1926), and Denis (1930). In 1939, he was living with his family at 9 Union Mill Street, Wolverhampton, and was working as a body builder and mounter. Thomas died in Wolverhampton in 1981.

Heritage Open Day: Crowdfunding success.


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On Friday 13 September 2019 the Outside Centre celebrated a crowdfunded project that successfully raise over £3000 to restore three WW1 memorials in the City of Wolverhampton. This was a Heritage Open Day event in the Wolverhampton City Suite, hosted by the Mayor of Wolverhampton.


Two of the memorials from Wolverhampton Art Gallery have been restored, and the third, the Street Shrine memorial in Thornley Street, is in the process of being restored. This event celebrated the City treasures in the Mayoral Suite, as well as saying thank you to those who engaged and contributed to this First World War commemoration project and events. The event included an exhibition, a walk and presentations on the all restored memorials: Wolverhampton City Council’s Head of Arts and Culture, Marguerite Nugent, spoke, along with University of Wolverhampton PhD student Claire Jones. Claire shared her research on the Street Shrine, which will be published in a book later in the year.

Big thank you to The National Heritage Fund and Awards For All for their support in funding projects, enabling the development of a map of war memorials across the city and tree planting – an exciting chance to learn and discover the history of Wolverhampton’s World War One story and how it has been incorporated into our city’s landscape.


Do you know which club this is from? Please help us to trace this memorials origins…





Wolverhampton City Council’s Head of Arts and Culture Marguerite Nugent talking about the restorations.


Special thanks to University of Wolverhampton PhD student Claire Jones for sharing her research on the Little Lanes’s Street Shrine (now Thornley Street).






heritage_open-_day_0016_48727135298_o-1A big thank you to everyone who came along, especially the Mayor and Mayoress of Telford, whose presence very much added to the occasion.

Charles William Dunn


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Charles was born in Wolverhampton in 1882, the son of Charles and Mary Ann Dunn. In 1891, they were living at Dean Road, Wednesfield, along with his siblings Thomas and Hannah. He married Phoebe G. Willetts in Wolverhampton in 1911, and the couple went on to have seven children: Alexandra M. (1911), Annie (1913), Price William (known as Sonny – 1914), Ellen (1920), Mary (1922), Eileen (1928) and Jean M. (1933). Unfortunately, their only son, Price, died in 1930 at a young age after falling down a mine.

At the age of 16, Charles lied about his age to join the Staffordshire Cavalry, and was later in the Infantry. He served in the Siege of Cape Colony and the Siege of Mafeking, as well as being a guard at Queen Victoria’s funeral in 1901. He served during the First World War, including in the Battle of the Somme in France.

After leaving the Army he worked at the “Five Field” mines, due to his knowledge of explosives. Charles died on 12 May 1941 of pneumonia in Moseley Village, Willenhall.

Thank you very much to Edith Geurts-Schreuders for the information concerning her grandfather. Her mother Eileen married a Dutch officer in 1948, and they moved to the Netherlands. She is keen to find out more about the family, including a brother of Charles’s who apparently died in the First World War, so if anybody has any further information, please get in touch!



Harold Bagley


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Harold was born in Wolverhampton in 1893, the son of Amelia and John T. Bagley. By 1901, he was living with his widowed mother at 102 John Street, Bilston.

Harold enlisted with the 8th Service Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (number 15456). On 14 May 1917, his name was listed in the Express & Star as having been wounded. Unfortunately, this information was incorrect, as he was killed in action on 15 February 1916. He is remembered at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium

‘Old Bill’ – a message from our ANZAC past


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Information for the following post has been provided by Bill’s descendant, Steve Dean.


  • A young Frederick William (Bill) Dean arrived in Albany, Australia, from Wolverhampton a couple of years before the outbreak of WW1.
  • He was one of the original Gallipoli ANZACs serving throughout all of that campaign in 4 Field Ambulance and later on the Western Front as an infantry Sergeant.
  • Following the evacuation of troops at the end of the Gallipoli campaign he became seriously ill with ‘Jaundice’ (possibly hepatitis) and was shipped back to Australia for three months ‘debility’. Discharged as medically unfit upon arrival back in W.A.
  • Reenlisted (somehow) just a few weeks later and served as an infantry Sergeant on the Western Front (16 Battalion) until the end of the war. Wounded (Gas) in 1918 losing partial sight in one eye.
  • Married the girl from down the street (Gatis Street in Wolverhampton) and returned to Australia living in the wheatbelt towns of Bruce Rock, Goomalling and Northam where he operated small businesses, was a JP and an RSL member.
  • Had two children Betty (dec) and Bob (now 85 years of age).


deanBill’s grandson Steve clearly recalls conversations with him about the war. Although like most war veterans reluctant to recount his experiences, he would recount them in some cases. They tended to be phrased in a ‘parable’ like way always with the intention of making a compelling point (the war being a disaster, a catastrophe….).

Steve recalls his grandfather talking about that very first day at Gallipoli and commenting along the lines of “We’re in a real spot of bother here – I’m going to have to be lucky to get out of this alive and probably won’t.”

Stretcher Bearers at Gallipoli were unarmed, often fully exposed to the enemy and defenceless. It was a job that demanded cold hard courage day after day, along with the demands of looking after men who were all too often beyond help. Not surprisingly their casualty rate was very high, even by the awful statistics of WWI. Steve recalls him mentioning that you just had to carry on never knowing when a sniper’s bullet might come your way.

It doesn’t pay to be too tall in war!

One day a sniper’s bullet did come Old Bill’s way just touching the top of his hair. The fellow next to him was not so fortunate. “It doesn’t pay to be too tall in war”!

The truce at Gallipoli

Steve also remembers his grandfather talking about the brief truce at Gallipoli on 24th May 1915 where fighting was suspended for a brief period so the dead could be buried. He expressed great respect for the character and decency of the Turkish soldiers (a sentiment still strong today between the two nations), sitting with them sharing rations and so on. The brutal truth though was that the ground was so littered with putrifying corpses that it was impossible to keep fighting.

Don’t hesitate – not even for a second!

Another ‘parable-like recollection’ was that of leading a patrol later in the war on the Western Front. Resting with his patrol quietly against a stone wall he heard footsteps approaching along the other side of the wall and German voices. Two bombs (one in each hand apparently!) were immediately thrown over the top. Old Bill found a photo on the body of the German soldier who had been leading that patrol. It showed a happy family scene – the tall fellow in full uniform, one child sitting on his shoulders, wife standing alongside with another child. Many years after the war Bill recounted this event to Steve – showing him that very photo. A message about the futility of war, his disgust at it and profound sorrow followed. Also delivered at the same time was a message about “not hesitating even for a second in war – that’s why I’m alive and he’s not.”

Why I lived in the wheatbelt after the war

Old Bill recounted that he suffered from bad bronchitis after the war and that a doctor advised him to live in a dry, warm climate. The W.A. wheatbelt fitted that bill. The reality was far more harsh than that – most men gassed on the Western Front did not live much past 50 – such were the injuries inflicted by this terrible new form of warfare. The wheatbelt must have helped as Bill died not far short of his 89th birthday.

So what would Old Bill’s message be to us today?

Probably pretty similar to what grandson Steve recalls from the 1960s & 70s i.e.

  • WW1 was a disaster, a catastrophe in fact with too many good men on all sides dying, being maimed and so on.
  • Our nations should be able to settle their differences peacefully, and whilst we must always be capable of defending ourselves, war must be a final resort.
  • We need to learn as a nation to keep our noses out of other people’s bloody business (an oft expressed sentiment of his).
  • A good first port of call might be to set up a boxing ring in the middle of a paddock and have the leaders of quarrelling nations fight it out themselves without involving others (a frequently expressed sentiment of his during the time of the Vietnam War – he felt our involvement in it was a mistake although he admired the people we sent there to fight).

Like most surviving WW1 veterans, Bill was a man profoundly affected by his experiences and struggled with his demons for the rest of his life – and he was one of the lucky ones.

An interesting aside – fast forward to 2012

During early 2012 an interesting artefact was found in the linen cupboard of Bill’s daughter Betty (now deceased). In amongst the contents of her linen cupboard was a long piece of cross stitching carefully folded with a stainless steel needle still embedded in it., bearing the words Egypt 1916, the Pyramids & Sphinx, the words ‘Advance Australia’ and the flags of a number of nations. Steve believes that this work was completed whilst Bill was a patient in hospital shortly after the completion of the Gallipoli campaign. It was probably quite a brilliant idea of the nursing staff to occupy traumatised minds for extended periods with few available resources.

A coincidence

Grandson Steve’s wife, Catherine, is the grand daughter of Harold James (Sam) Bacon – a Queenslander, also one of the original ANZACS who served as a runner with the 9th Battalion throughout the Gallipoli campaign and on the Western Front until the war’s end.




Charles Henry Lack


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Charles was born in Wolverhampton on 5 November 1896, the son of Emma G. and Thomas H. Lack. In 1901 they were living at 30 Paradise Street, Wolverhampton, with Charles’s sister, Emma. From 1906 onwards, Charles attended Dudley Road Primary School, and from 1907 until 1909 he was at Causeway Lake School. By 1911, they were at 5 Bromley Street, Wolverhampton, with an additional three children – Edith, John and Lily. Charles was working as an errand boy for a grocer.

In 1913, he enlisted with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers at the age of 17 (service number 11627). In 1916, he joined the 5th Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment (number 19083). At some point he also transferred to the Royal Defence Corps (number 45200). Charles died on 12 November 1918 in Wolverhampton, and is buried in Wolverhampton Cemetery. He is also remembered at St John’s Church.

Frederic John Iliff


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The son of Fanny and John Spencer Iliff, Frederic was born in Burton-on-Trent in 1884. In 1901 they were still living in Burton, together with Frederic’s sisters, Margaret A. and Helen H. By 1911, he had moved to Wolverhampton, and was living on his own at 199 Lea Road. He was working as the manager of a gear cutting works for a motor manufacturer.

Frederic enlisted in the 6th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant. His name was listed in the Express & Star on 30 October 1914 as one of the local men who had signed up to serve his country, with his address now being 3 Goldthorn Hill, Penn Fields, Wolverhampton. However, he was killed in action on 13 October 1915. He is remembered at the Loos Memorial in France, as well as in the Lady Chapel of St Peter’s Church and on the memorial at St Philip’s Church, Penn.