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


The Minutes of the Bilston Urban District Council meeting held on 26 April 1917 noted that Lance-Corporal J S Colbourne, one of the assistants to the Council Engineer ,”was home on leave awaiting the conferring of a commission upon him.”

Article in the Black Country Bugle

Article in the Black Country Bugle

When Diane Pye wrote in the Black Country Bugle on July 9th 2009, about Letters Home, she mentioned an officer who wrote a reassuring card to his sweetheart, Miss Doris Adams at Tynedale, Wellington Road.

The article tells us that 2/Lt J.S. (Jack) Colbourne, who was serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment attached to the North Staffordshire Regiment, was taken prisoner and interned in the Officers Prisoner of War Camp at PFORZHEIM, in the Baden area, on the railway between Stuttgart and KARLSRUHE, near the German/French border. Possibly 2/Lt Colbourne had been captured whilst serving in France, then transported across the border to the nearest officers’ prisoner of war camp. It is impossible to tell from the card how long he had been detained, however he may have been treated relatively well as there was a certain amount of respect for officers in POW Camps. Back home in Bilston, the Colbourne family, like many, would have lived with the daily fear of the black-edged telegram. But, on August 10th 1918 they received this censored card which surely put their minds at rest. Their dear Jack was still safe. The picture accompanying the article (see copy above) shows the neat handwriting addressing the card, and has various printed details, all in German.

His message had been written on July 10th 1918, but did not arrive in Bilston until a month later, and says:

My Dearest Doris, Tons of thanks for your ever welcome letters of 21st May and 7th June, also for the parcel you packed, which was top hole. I am delighted to hear that you are in the pink Dearie and also those at home. The bottom drawer must be getting quite full now and I’m dying to look inside it. Thank you ever so much for letting me know about my valise Dearie. I should like a photo taken at the parcel packing room. Please thank “Mr Dumbell and staff” very much on my behalf and tell them how much their efforts are appreciated and how grateful I am for their kind interest. Please give my best love to Mother and Helen and Dad. Must close now.

With Fondest Love and Heaps of Kisses. Yours for Ever. Jack.

Mr Dumbell and staff refers to the Comfort Fund which had been set up jointly by the Express & Star and James B Dumbell to send troops, and sailors, parcels with the comforts of home. A dinner and entertainments (“Peace Dinner”) organised by the proprietors of the Express and Star was held in March 1919 for returned prisoners of war, at the Baths Assembly Rooms in Wolverhampton. A copy of the Programme can be inspected at Wolverhampton Archives. It includes a list of all prisoners of war on the roll of the Express and Star and JB Dumbell’s Comforts Fund; amongst the names is COLBOURNE, JS, 2nd Lieut., Royal Warwicks, 17, Queen Street, Bilston.

The J B Dumbell of the Comforts Fund was the Managing Director of the Turner Motor Manufacturing Company Limited, car manufacturers. At the beginning of the First World War, Turner’s manufacturing came under the control of the Ministry of Munitions who gave them a contract to produce machine tools.

The name J S Colbourne appears on the Record of British Officers taken Prisoner of War 1914-1918. His rank is shown as 2nd Lieutenant with the 6th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, attached from the Warwickshire Regiment. Date Missing is 21st March 1918, and Repatriated 11th December 1918. So, he waited a month after the official end date of the War before he was sent back to England. His Medal Index Card shows that his regimental number in the South Staffordshire Regiment as a private was 2950, he entered the Theatre of War on 5th March 1915, his regimental number was changed to 24057, and he subsequently joined the Royal Warwickshire regiment as a 2nd Lieutenant. The card also mentions that he re-applied for the Silver War Badge on 10th June 1920, when he was living at Brooklands, Elm Street Bilston, the medal card having been previously annotated “Ineligible SWB Auth min 2 60/3861”. The final entry is “Further EF/9 20.7.20.” The EF/9 seems to have been some sort of form that had to be submitted for medal requests and presumably for corrections or alterations. The EF/9 reference is frequently to be seen on the medal index cards.

John Sylvester Colbourne’s birth was registered at Wolverhampton in the 4th Quarter of 1894. He was baptised at St Marys Bilston on 4th November 1894, parents James and Edna were present.

At the time of the 1901 Census John Colbourn was age 6, and living at 9 Price Street Bilston with his parents James age 45 who was a Ball Furnace man at an Iron Works, Edna his mother age 40, and 2 brothers James age 8 and Alfred age 4. All were recorded as born in Bilston. The 1911 Census recorded the family living at 72 Beckett Street Bilston. James age 56 was an iron Worker, his wife Edna age 52 was a Housekeeper, James Cecil age 18 was a Pattern Maker, John S age 16 was a clerk at the Urban District Town Hall, and Alfred Leslie the youngest son was a Fitter in the General Engineering Industry.

J S Colbourne’s Marriage to Doris M Adams was recorded at Wolverhampton in the Quarter ended September 1919. The records indicate that the couple had children, as two were born in Wolverhampton whose mother’s surname was Adams. Geoffrey A Colbourne’s birth was registered in the quarter ended December 1926 and Elizabeth A Colbourne’s in the quarter ended March 1931.

There is a probate record for John Colbourne “of Cherry Trees 23 Jeffreys way died age 60 16th April 1963 at The Musgrove Park Hospital Taunton.” Probate at Bodmin on 30th May was to Doris Margaret Colbourne Widow. Effects were £4641 6s 6d.” Doris Margaret Colbourne’s death at age 80 at Taunton was recorded in the quarter ended December 1979.