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Edward James Shelley was born in Wolverhampton in 1893, the son of Arthur and Emma Shelley. In 1901, Edward appears living with his grandparents, Edward and Emma, his parents, and his sisters Lily Hilda, Elizabeth and Gertrude, at 71 Bushfield Place, Tettenhall. By 1911, the 17-year-old Edward has become a gardener, and is living with his parents, two of his sister, and his now widowed grandmother, at 21 Wrottesley Road, Tettenhall. On 2 June 1915, Edward married Selina Margareta Lockley in Linbury North, in Shropshire. The couple went on to have three children – Phyllis Margareta, Freda May and Ronald Arthur – between 1916 and 1923.

Edward enlisted in the Durham Light Infantry (number 23857) on 11 December 1915, by which date his address was given as 40 Regis Road, Tettenhall. During his service, he suffered a gunshot wound to his left forearm, along with a further gunshot wound which disabled him by 50%. He was declared “no longer physically fit for service”, and was awarded a pension of £27 6d. for 23 months, followed by £11 9d. for life. A further allowance of £5 10d. for his children was allocated as long as they were eligible. Edward died in 1954 in Bilston at the age of 61.