This blog post has been prepared by one of our volunteers, Ann Eales.
An article about Sgt W Birchall appeared in the Midland Counties Express in March 1917, with this photograph.
WEDNESFIELD HERO SECURES MILITARY MEDAL AND DCM. Sergeant W. Birchall, second son of Mr and Mrs George Birchall, of 64 Neachell’s Lane, Wednesfield, has brought distinction to his native district by meritorious achievements in the field. He has just secured the Military Medal and the DCM, and we are informed he is the first Wednesfield man to obtain the dual honour. Twenty seven years of age, Sergeant Birchall was abroad with the South Staffords when the war broke out and was sent to France in 1914. He has seen some strenuous engagements, but has escaped injuries. At the present time he is on sick leave at Eastbourne. Sergeant Birchall comes of a fighting family. Mr George Birchall has three sons and a son-in-law. His eldest served for two years and eight months in the South African War, and the youngest, after being in France sixteen months, was discharged. The son-in-law, who has five children, enlisted at the outbreak of hostilities. Prior to joining the Army Sergeant Birchall worked at the Patent Axle-Box works, having been employed there from a boy as a chipper and flier.
Information shown on his Medal Index Card, is “S Staffs SJT Reg no 8569 DCM LG 1-1-17 and CIT 13-2-17.
William Thomas Birchill’s birth was registered in the 4th Quarter of 1888 at Aston, Warwickshire. He was baptised at St James’s Ashted Warwickshire, with George Herbert Birchill and Mary Jane née Trueman being his parents.
The 1891 Census shows the family living at 217 Dudley Port. George Birchall, age 33, born Dudley, Worcestershire, was employed as an annealer, Mary Jane his wife, age 30, was born at Birmingham, Warwickshire and children George age 10 Scholar and Florence May age 4 were both born at Birmingham, Warwickshire too, while Alfred Edwin, age 9 months was born at Tipton, Staffordshire. William Thomas does not appear on this census form so must have been elsewhere on census day, one supposes, although no trace of him elsewhere could be found, whether his surname were spelled Birchill, Birchall or Birchell.
At the time of the 1901 Census the Birchall family were living at 116 Windsor Street Aston Birmingham. The household consisted of George age 43, Mary J age 40, Florence M Birchall age 14 William T Birchall age 12 Susannah G Birchall age 9 Samuel J Birchall age 7, and Amy Spencer age 21, sister-in-law, born Warwick and Lilian Truman age 8, niece, born Aston, Birmingham.
The 1911 Census shows George Birchall, age 53, born Dudley, Warwickshire, Occupation Malleable Iron Annealer in the Railway Castings Industry, Mary Jane, age 50, born Birmingham, and siblings Gertrude age 19 born Dudleyport, Worcestershire Wiring Lubricator for Axle Boxes, John Birchall, age 17, born Birmingham Warwickshire, Assistant wood sawyer in the Railway Castings Industry, living at 64 Neachell’s Lane, Wednesfield Staffordshire. Mr and Mrs Birchall had been married for 32 years and of their 9 children, 5 were still living at the date of the census, 4 had died. William Birchall was in the army at the time of the 1911 census on 2nd April, recorded as a Private in the 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment at South Barracks, Gibraltar.
William Birchall’s marriage to Fanny Elizabeth Wapples on 4th Aug 1917, at age 29, was registered during the 3rd Quarter at Wolverhampton. Fanny was a widow, whose late husband, Private John George Wapples of Wednesfield, had been killed in action and had been employed at the Patent Axle Box Works alongside William Birchall.
William Thomas Birchall survived the war. His wife, Fanny Elizabeth born McConkey afterwards Wapples, and finally Birchall, died in 1967 at the age of 78 as recorded in the Wolverhampton Registration District in the first quarter of 1967. William Birchall lived to the age of 86, his death being recorded in the Wolverhampton Registration District in the first quarter of 1975.