Saturday 9 August 2014

In memory of Donald Hankey, Second Lieutenant, Royal Warwickshire Regiment

I found this book amongst my late uncle's things. It is called A Student in Arms in memory of Donald Hankey. A Second Lieutenant of the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment who was killed in action on the Somme.  Now I think it belonged to my grandfather Michael (Mick) Hart who was also in the RWR as a private.

The book is a mixture of fact and fiction in essay form from a serving officer during World War One. It recounts the sights and smells of the men and the conditions they were in. From signing up to the actual marches to the battles and when stationed in the trenches.

This is the inscription at the front of the book. Now I think it says Sharples ???? from C M ? F, September 12th 1918. But I may be wrong. Anyone else see what it actually says?

It is a very easy to read book and I managed this in one afternoon. But I do read far to fast according to my husband! Well worth reading if you are interested in WW1. Its still available quite cheaply on the internet to buy.

One passage caught my eye in the chapter A Student, His comrades, And Church. The men and boy here stand out in character and you know who they were in an instant. It just gives such an in site into life in 1915 and early 1916:

"Then there were the boys of the old platoon. There was Wullie, the dour pessimist from Manchester way, who died in England. Wullie was, I doubt not, a good workman in civil life: but he was sadly awkward at his drills. The student who was his sargeant, was ever pointing out his deficiencies, as it was his business to do; but Wullie could bear it no longer, and losing his temper told the sergeant in plain language of the North Country that had him set, and did not give him a chance. And because the student who was his sargeant kept his temper and was able to recognize the genuine grievance of a real trier, and answered with a soft encouraging words, Wullie never forgot it, and was his staunch supporter till the end.
Then there was Tommy, the Londoner with the big nose and the lively temperament. Tommy was Wullie's chum, because both were straight, clean-living men, and faithful to their wives. And though their temperaments, aye, and their class, were the same, and both had suffered for them in the rough life of the working world.
There was Dave too. Dave was a pit lad from Lancashire. His speach was plain and homely, not to say pungent. His humour was quaint and pithy. His strength and will to work were without equal. He was a faithful and loving husband and father to the little woman and kiddies in the far Lancashire village; and because the student who was his sergeant was able to help him a bit to go and see a child who was dying, Dave never forgot it. And when the sergeant fell from his high estate, Dave said "nowt," but used to purloin his mess tin and make it shine like silver, for in the art he was mighty cunning; and the student knew what he meant, and will not forget.
Then there was little Jim, from Brum, at sixteen. He was the awkward grace of a colt, and the innocent, pathetic eye of an antelope, mischief and secret mirth lurked in the corners of his mouth, and his heart was strong and undismayed like the heart of a lion. Jim shall not be forgotten"

Donald William Alers Hankey. Who died aged 31 on 12th October 1916. Son of Robert and Helen Alers Hankey, who lived at 1 Chesham Place, Brighton. He is remembered with honour on the Theipval Memorial.          

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Olton Friary Cemetery, Solihull war graves

Years ago now, I went to visit the Olton Friary cemetery looking for an ancestors grave. Not at that point was I recording war graves and I can not really remember why, but I took a couple of photographs of three war graves in this cemetery. A little later researching the war graves I discovered 20 graves erected by the War Graves Commission were situated in the Olton Friary's cemetery.
The Cemetery and Catholic church are in the grounds of the building that was erected in 1873. Initially as a the St Bernard's Catholic Seminary or a place that priests trained. This was moved in 1889. The plot was taken over by the Capuchin Friars and it became the Franciscan Monastery of Immaculate Conception.. In 1981 it again changed hands and was taken over by the Sacred Heart fathers and brothers of Betharram. the Church of the Holy Ghost and Mary Immaculate, also known locally as the Olton Friary was built in 1929.
I am not sure if there is a war memorial plaque in the church but here some of  the war graves in the attached church yard.

 Private P Larkin of the Royal Arm Service Corps who died the 11th April 1921. 0/28806
This was Patrick Larkin who was 25. Residence at 6 Back 60 Bordesley Street, Birmingham. A tool maker by trade who died from TB. His mother Margaret was a widow and charwoman. When researching I sent for several death certificates. Patrick's was one of them.

Private F Merchant of the the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry. Number 44512. Who died on the 20th August 1920 aged 23. He was the son of Alexander and Catherine Merchant of 59 Blythswood road, Acocks Green in Birmingham.
Francis Joseph Alexander Merchant was an apprentice diamond mounter in Birmingham. Alexander Merchant his father was an accountant and Francis was one of three children and their only son. 

Now the War Grave Commission has 20 names but in the "scatty Sue" tradition I have only written down 19. So I will update this blog with the 20th name and more photographs later this year after I visit again.

Here are the men that I have with some research:

William Narey Boocock, second lieutenant of the Royal Warwick Regiment (retired). He was 26 years old when he died on the 3rd March 1919. Son of James Henry and Mary Boocock. He was born in Bradford in Yorkshire.

Now when researching, I discovered that the mens graves were not always where you thought they should be. The above is William's death certificate. He died in Gloucestershire, Bristol of the flu and pneumonia. His father lived in London and William gives his last address as being Ben Rhydding, Warwick rd, Acocks Green in Birmingham. It appears that the family run a hardware store probably on the Warwick road.

Martin Carty a sergeant flight engineer of the Royal Airforce Volunteer reserve. He was 36 when he died in December 7th 1944. Number 2221707. Son of Michael ( a police constable) and Ann Carty of Birmingham. Husband of Phyllis Ada Carty of Billesley in Birmingham.

James Cooney, a private in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment 4th Battalion. He was 26 in November 11th 1916, when he died of the flu. His number was 22427 and his last address was 52 Willis Street, Ashted, Birmingham.

He died at the military hospital on the Isle of Wight.

James Brian Egan, Sergeant (W OP/Air Gnr) of the Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserve, number 2220647. He was 20 on the 18th April 1945 when he died. Son of Joseph and Winifred Clara Egan of Olton, Birmingham. James lived at 111 Reservoir Rd, Olton.

Peter Heritage Firkins second lieutenant Royal Armoured Corps 1st Gloucestershire Hussars. Aged just 22 on the 10th July 1943. Service number 261951. Son of Raymond and Philippa Marguerite Firkins of Edgbaston.

George Cruise Griffin pilot officer of the Royal Airforce Volunteer Service Reserves 165 squadron. Number 118532. He died on the 8th November 1942. His last address was 1 Hurst Green road, Bentley Heath.

Arthur Guest corporal in the Royal air Force (Auxiliary) 916 Balloon Sqdn. He was 32 in February 12th 1943 when he died at the Emergency Medical Service Hospital, Warwick. Son of George Frederick and Emily Guest Husband of Mary Olga Irene Guest of 374 Warwick Rd, Solihull.

Thomas Bernard Hames, private Royal Army Ordinance Corps. He died on the 8th March 1943. Service number 7593427. Son of Edwin Percy and Maud Hames of Birmingham and husband of Winifred May Hames of Balsall Heath. Born in 1917 in Bromsgrove and aged 26 years when he died.

Bernard Francis Hare, Aircraft man 1st class of the Royal Airforce 44 sqd. He was 21 and died on the 14th November 1940. Service number 648104. Son of Bernard Thomas Hare (silversmith) and Mary Hare (nee Hyland) of Birmingham. He was born on the 4th November 1919 in Birmingham. This family was so sad to research. Mary Hare was widowed in 1930. She lost a daughter at 2 years and then her only son at 21.

Claud Ambrose Harris, Craftsman of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. Aged 38, he died on the 12th April 1945. Husband of Christine Frances Harris and son of Clement and Florence Harris. Service number 14276558. He is interned in the family grave. His last address was 133 Stratford Rd, Shirley. Claud died in the Military Hospital in Lincoln.

Dennis William Harris Flight Sergeant (Nav) of the Royal Airforce Volunteer Reserve number 1580053. He was 23 and died on the 18th December 1944. Son of William Clarence and Gertrude Agnes Harris of Kings Heath, Birmingham. Unfortunately I could find no information about this young man.

Edward Peter Jackson, private Lincolnshire Reg, York and Lancaster Reg 11th bn. Number 14733056. Son of Thomas C Jackson and Margaret Jackson of Acocks Green. he died at 19 on the 5th January 1945. Again I can find no further information on Edward.

L Jones, private in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was 32 when he died on the 15th March 1920. Son of Thomas H Jones and husband of Catherine Jones of 13 Leason Lane, Low Hill Wolverhampton.

Edward Mortimer Lane was a gunner in the Royal Artillery 120 Field Reg. At 20, he was just too young to die on the 1st May 1940. Son of Charles Henry and Charlotte Elsie Lane of Kings Heath, Birmingham. Little to add only that his death was registered in Warwickshire.

Gerard Scully sergeant (bomb aimer) of the Royal Airforce Volunteer reserve, 77 squadron. Service number 1219445 and son of Thomas and Freda Veronica Scully of Edgbaston. He died at 21 on the 13th May 1943.

Anthony Smith, staff sergeant of the Royal Army Service Corps. Aged 42, he died on the 10th November 1945. Son of Albert and Rose Julia Smith. His father Albert Smith was a town postman in Birmingham.

Frederick Clarence John Whitehouse, private of the South Staffordshire reg, 5th battalion and number 4918028. He died on the 1st March 1940 aged 20 years old. Son of Arthur James Whitehouse and Jane Anne Whitehouse of Harborne Birmingham.

Joseph Francis Wooley sergeant (pilot) Royal Airforce Volunteer reserve 350 (Belgian) squadron He died on the 8th July 1944 aged 21. Son of Joseph Wooley and Edith Wolley, nee Shakespeare.

As said previously there is another name to add to this list and so I will do soon.

At the going down of the sun. And in the morning we will remember them. 

Saturday 7 June 2014

After D Day 1944 - What happened Uncle Fred

Yesterday the 6th June 1944 - D Day was the 70th anniversary to remember those men that lost their lives for this country on Normandy coast and to those who fought in the conflict against Germany.
I know that the company my Great Uncle Fred was attached to took part in the D Day landings. He lived through this invasion but lost his life "Some where over France" on the 28th June 1944.
It is only now that I so wish that I had written down or taped the memories of my granddad. He told us great stories of his family when I was young. But the ignorance of youth believes that they will always be their in your memory, as well as your granddad will always be there!
So now it has been difficult to piece together my ancestors lives on the Ward's side and I know very little about my Great Uncle Fred. I don't know where he worked before the war, his childhood or did he have a girlfriend? What was he doing when he died? Worst of all we do not have any photographs of him.

My granddad, Joseph Ward and grandmother Doris ward in the 1950s.

My mom and uncle remember him on leave and fearless. The bombs were being dropped over Solihull. They were staying with their nan, my great great grandmother Elizabeth Ward. Who lived at the beginning of Valley Rd, Sheldon - which is now part of Solihull. As usual they were all under the stairs in the hope that if a bomb dropped on them. They would live and that the strong part of the stairs was enough to save their lives. Two houses very close, one at the very top of Rangoon road and one just around the corner on Jillcot Road were bombed during the war and people lost their lives there. The anderson shelter hadn't been built then. It was buried on the corner of Valley road and Old Lode Lane.  Uncle Fred was on leave and just sat on the settee. He refused to move, saying that he was not afraid and Hitler wouldn't get him! He was just 27 when he died.  

Jane Elizabeth ward. 

Wednesday 14 May 2014

The Imperial War Museum needs your help for WW1 family stories

The Imperial War Museum have launched a website to record the stories and lives of the men and women who served in the First World war. There were 8 million people who served in the Great war and for this years centenary the museum is asking for your help.

The website is and you can join for free and search for information on your ancestors and upload any information and photographs that you may have. They hope to give a voice and make this people not just a name - but what happened to then following the war or anything for the war casualties about their lives previously.

This is a great project and the museum are providing information from the National Archives for this database. Off now to join and look - may be some time..................

Thursday 8 May 2014

War plaque WW1 United Reformed Church, Olton

Just down Kineton Green Road in Olton is the United Reformed Church. It is sat on two road's corner with the church and the church hall joined together. Inside the church is a small plaque dedicated to men who died during WW1. This church was formerly the Olton Congregational church (1895 - 1972), known at one point as the church amongst the trees.

1914 - 1919

To the glory of God and in dear and honoured remembrance of the men of this church who laid down their lives in the Great War.

Archibald Ure Buchanan
John Evelyn Biddle
Gilbert Bick
Herbert Clement
Arthur Llewellyn Cooper
William Dobson
Francis George England
Gilbert Harold Halstead
Edward Jones
Thomas Lloyd
Walter Rotherham
Donald George Harding Truman

We will remember them.

On one wall of the church is a smaller plaque that is a dedication for one of the above again.

To the glory of God and in loving memory of:
Arthur Llewellyn Cooper
Who gave his life for his country
19th March 1913 aged 20 years
I am the resurrection and the life
This tablet was placed here by his parents

Arthur Llewellyn Cooper once lived with his parents on the Warwick Road in Acocks Green. His parents were an upholsterer and a china dealer. He was born in 1898 and died in 1918 in Flander, France. A private in the Royal Army Medical Corps, he died from wounds and gas inhalation.

Archibald Ure Buchanan died on the 27th September 1915 from wounds received in action on the 25th September at the Hooge. He was a second lieutenant in the Gordon Highlanders having transferred from the Warwickshire Yeomanry six months prior. Born in Dundee on the 3rd December 1895. He was the son of Robert Buchanan of Clarinnis, Olton and Elizabeth Dunlop from Dundee. Archibald was said to attend King Edwards Grammar school, Birmingham, but I have been unable to find any mention in the service record book for the school.

Donald George Harding Truman was born in 1891 in Aston, Birmingham and was killed on the 1st July 1916 at the Somme. He was a lieutenant for the 5th Battalion Territorials, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. His parents were George E Truman a commercial traveller and Caroline Truman, one of many brothers and sisters. Unlike the boys above who were either an only child or one of two. Donald had already been training to be a soldier at Hatton, Budbrooke in 1911.

Since I wrote this blog post. The church is no longer owned by the United Reformed church. It is now a community centre for the local people.         

Sunday 30 March 2014

Not forgotten!

I haven't forgotten this blog. Just finding it difficult to get the time to add some more memorials. Yes I do have many more from around Birmingham, Solihull, Warwick and Windsor. So at some point I will get the time.
As the weather improves. Husband and I will be on our travels and will be visiting more churches, graveyards and memorials. It gets us out, its free! and its underrated history. Plus you never know when you might find a grave of someone in your family that completes a little more to your family history research..

I would like to say thank you to all the people who have contributed and commented on this blog posts. Its really nice to know your thoughts and views.

My brother and I about 1964 in our back garden in Haymills, Birmingham. Yes it shows of things to come my love of gardening and nature as well. Though our front garden has certainly gone to nature this year!