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Sad Story - Express & Star 22 January 1915

Sad Story – Express & Star 22 January 1915

On 22 January 1915 an inquest was held on the body of a 52-year-old woman, Annie Fletcher (nee Smith), of 12 Warwick Street. We hold the inquest file at the Archives, but the essential facts also appeared in an article in the Express & Star on the same day.

Annie Smith was born in Kidderminster in 1862, and married James Pierce Fletcher, also in Kidderminster, in 1888. By the 1901 census, the couple, living at 14A Middle Vauxhall, Wolverhampton, had three children: Elizabeth (aged 14), Arthur Miller (aged 7) and William Henry. Both sons were later to join the army, one of whom was wounded and in a hospital in Essex by the time their mother died.

Statement of James Pierce Fletcher (ref: T-CR/1915)

Statement of James Pierce Fletcher (ref: T-CR/1915)

The circumstances of her unfortunate death are as follows: On the night of Wednesday 20 January 1915, Annie retired to bed at 10.50 pm “in her usual health”, according to her husband’s witness statement. At about 3 o’clock in the morning she woke her husband “and complained of pain in her head, and said the room seemed to be going round. She looked as if she was in a fit.” Mr Fletcher called in a neighbour to assist, Frances Hughes, while he went to fetch the doctor, Dr Munro. In her statement, Mrs Hughes confirmed that she had “found Mrs Fletcher in bed unconscious. She remained unconscioues till her death about half past three.” Shortly before 4 o’clock the doctor arrived and pronounced Mrs Fletcher dead, stating that “I could not have done anything if I had come before.”

Statement of Frances Hughes (ref: T-CR/1915)

Statement of Frances Hughes (ref: T-CR/1915)

The verdict at the inquest was that Annie Fletcher had died of natural causes. However, both witnesses refer to Annie’s concerns about her son at the Front. Frances Hughes states that “she often referred to her son, and would start to cry.” Although neither witness says as much, it is clear that there is some speculation about whether her worry about her son contributed to her death.

And she was right to be worried. Her son, William Henry Fletcher, was killed in action on 1 July 1916. His entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site states that he was the son of James Piree Fletcher, but this is clearly the same man, as it is the same address. He was a member of the 1st/6th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment (number 2154), and is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial. I have not been able to find definitive informaiton about his brother, Arthur. As William was killed in France, it is possible that Arthur was the son who was in hospital in Essex, but that is not necessarily the case.

Annie’s husband, James, went on to marry again.