Tuesday 12 September 2023

World War One Memorial at St Giles Church Sheldon Birmingham

 Men who died and are commemorated on the WW1 plaque in St Giles, Sheldon Birmingham.

A few days ago, we visited the church in Sheldon Birmingham, St Giles for the Heritage week event. We were able to tour around the church, climb the steep stairs to the belfry and actually rang the church bells. We have visited before but the WW1 memorial on the wall had a stand in front and so I was unable to take a photo. But I managed to take a photograph and when I went online could not find any information on the memorial. So I did a bit of digging and research over the rest of the weekend and today. It was not easy to find the men who died and are commemorated but I think I have it right. If I do not and you know differently please send a message via this blog and I can amend the details.

St Giles church sheldon ww1 memorial plaque

The marble plaque has 1914 and 1918 with "To the glory of God and in memory of those who gave their lives for their country" And below "Sons of this place let this of you be said. That you who live are worthy of your dead. These gave their lives that you who live may reap. A rich harvest ere you fall asleep" "It is better for us to die in battle than to behold the calamities of our people and our sanctuary" 1 Macc iii 59.

The names on the plaque are as following:

Ernest Bray

Robert W Bray

George Caldicott

Herbert Farrow

Horace Hawkes

James Hollins

Frederick Neate

Robert Neate

Leslie Reeve

Fred Symonds

George Townsend

William Townsend

Each of these brave men, I have taken a short biography on their family and where they lived prior to the war. 

Ernest Bray

Ernest is listed on the war graves site as Ernest James Bray from Birmingham who enlisted in Worcester. He died on the 2nd April 1916, KIA. A private in the Worcestershire Regiment. 1st/8th BN. No 2927. His mother, Fanny Bray is listed in his pension ledger. 

Ernest was the son of George and Fanny Bray that originally came from Hereford. In 1901, George Bray a wagoner on a farm lived in Hereford with his wife Fanny and children. Alice 14, Charles 12, George 10, Ernest 6, Edwin 4 and Arthur 1. By 1911 they had moved to Earls Lodge in Worcester. Now a cowman on a farm, George lived with his wife Fanny, Edwin 14, Arthur 11, Victor 5 and a granddaughter Emily aged 4.  Ernest appears to be living in Dewsall Court Hereford, a groom servant aged 16, living with a farmer called James Edwards.

In 1921, George Bray is a widow living in Tile Cross, Marston Green, Birmingham. Tile Cross comes under St Giles parish at that time. He has sons Arthur 21, Victor aged 15 and his daughter Alice now Alice Wier and her husband and family. George was a farm labourer aged 63. 

Robert W Bray

Robert William Bray was Ernest Brother. I can not find him in any of the census records living with his family. But his birth certificate states that he was born on 10th December 1884 at Grendon Bishop, Herefordshire. Father George Bray a labourer. Mother Fanny Bray formerly Pilliner. They lived at Westington Cottages, Grendon Bishop.  

Robert William Bray born 1884

In the war grave records, Robert William Bray born Brindon, Bishop Hereford enlisted in Worcester. He died on the 15th November 1916 aged 33 years, KIA. He was in the Worcestershire Regiment 1st BN number 23620. In 1912, Robert married Christina Emily Tyler and they had one daughter Christine Doris Bray. Robert's wife remarried in 1923 to an Alfred G Taylor, a baker and had another family. She died in 1969. His daughter Christine Bray married Arthur Price and had children. She passed away in 1978. 

George Caldicott

Although there are a few George Caldicott's in Birmingham. It was quite hard to find the George linked to St Giles. However found him at last and like many of the men on this memorial. The simple name inscription does not really give justice to them. 

George Caldicott DCM, MM was a sergeant and acting company sergeant major for the Prince Of Wales Volunteers (South Lancashire Reg) number 7995. He was born in Marston Green on the 17t July 1889. He was the only son of George a Yardley Corporation engine driver and Jane Caldicott nee Millard. In 1901 the family lived in the Mackadown area. George (his father) was then a sewage farm labourer. He had sisters Dora aged 17, Adelaide aged 13 who unfortunately passed away in 1905. George was just 11 and Nellie aged 9. George was educated at Yardley and joined the army in the 1905. Serving 3 years in England and 6 in India, he was discharged and become a rubber worker in Birmingham. Joining the reserves on the 7th March 1914, he married on the 14th March Maud Winifred Cross the daughter of the late Edward Cross a herbalist from Hampton in Arden. 

George took part in the retreat from Mons and later wounded. Returning to the front in March 1915. However on the 15th June 1917, he died from wounds received in action at Messines Ridge. He is buried 1000 yards East of Messines and is commemorated on Ypres(Menin Gate) memorial. Awarded the DCM September 1916 and MM June 1917. His life is recorded in the UK, De Mivigny's roll of honour 1914 - 1919 V3. See below

George Caldicott
I think he is also the G Caldicott inscribed on St Edburgha's Church memorial in Yardley, Birmingham. 

Maud remarried in 1919 to Ernest Tye a works fireman and had a son with Ernest called Arthur Tye. George Caldicott senior died in 1919 and his mother Jane in 1930. The family is buried at St Giles's cemetery.

Herbert Farrow.

Albert Herbert Farrow was born on the 25th August 1885 in Alymorton Norfolk. His parents were Jonathan Farrow, a gamekeeper and his wife Sarah Ann Farrow nee Mason, daughter of Thomas Mason. Herbert enlisted on the 10th January 1905. He was a private in the Coldstream Guards 3rd BTN, number 5335. Serving 5 years with the colours then 2 years in Egypt before joining the reserves. In 1911 he is living in Bickenhill and employed as an under game keeper. Marrying Amy Upton in 1912 on the 8th July. Amy was born in Sheldon and lived by the Chapel, High House Tile Cross, Marston Green in 1891 with her grandfather Henry Upton a farm labourer and worked as an assistant laundress. 

Herbert re-joined the army at the start of the war but died of his wounds in a field ambulance on the 3rd October 1915. He is buried at Mazingarbe, Bethune, France. 

Amy Farrow never remarried and in 1939, she is a daily help to her mother Harriet E Kelsey and her husband Charles Kelsey at 80 Park Hill, Harborne, Birmingham.

Albert Herbert Farrow

Luckily he is pictured on this synopsis of his life in this role of honour.

Horace Hawkes.

Horace Alfred Hawkes of Lyndon Green, Sheldon, Birmingham. He was in the 4th Worcester's number 40601. Born in 1895 in Leek, Wooten Warwick, son of Thomas, a gardener and Emily Hawkes of Lyndon Green, Sheldon. He died on the 23rd December 1918 - just 23 years of age.

1901, Horace aged 5, lived in Lyndon Green with his parents, Siblings Louisa E Hawkes aged 17, Charles T Hawkes aged 15, Edith Hawkes 12, Winifred A Hawkes 9 and Mabel H Hawkes aged 2.  

In 1911 at 15 he was employed as a domestic gardener. Living with his parents and two sisters Winifred Ada Hawkes aged 19 and Mabel Hilda Hawkes aged 12 years. He died in the UK in Leamington and is buried in St Giles Churchyard. However I did not take a photograph of the Commonwealth War Grave. 

Horace is also commemorated on the memorial at St Margaret's Church in Olton. 

James Hollins

James Piggott Hollins is the oldest soldier on this memorial. He was the hotel manager of the Wheatsheaf Hotel in Sheldon in 1911.

Wheatsheaf Hotel, Sheldon Birmingham

 As the temporary Quartermaster & Honorary Lieutenant 13th Service Battalion Liverpool Reg. He succumbed to valvular disease in France on the 3rd February 1916 aged 47 years old. He is buried at the Reninghelst New Military Cemetery in Belgium. 

James Hollins was the son of James and Elizabeth Hollins of Stoke On Trent. As a young man he worked for the postal service as a telegraph operator. Joining the old 8th Kings Own, Liverpool Reg. James spent 22 years with the army and retired 7 years ago in 1909. When the war broke out he volunteered but contracted rheumatism during the winter months. 

He was an all round sportsman and a fine swimmer & shot. He had connections with both Birmingham gymnastic club and Sheldon gun club. Married in 1891 in Stoke On Trent to Sarah Graham Hollins nee Williamson for 25 years. Their two children had died in infancy. 

 A sister in law Mrs Williamson was one of the passengers saved from the ill fated liner HMS Hesperian that was torpedoed in 1915 travelling from Liverpool to Canada.

 Frederick Neate

Frederick Neate was a private in the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry 1st BN number 10811. He died on the 24th September 1918 aged 25 years. He is buried at Trefron British Cemetery, Caulaincourt France. 

Born in 1893, son of Charles and Sarah Neate of Castle Lane, Olton Birmingham. From a large family of 12 children by 1911 with 10 children still alive. Frederick was a domestic gardener in 1911 living at Hatchford Hill, Coventry Rd, Birmingham. 

Robert Neate

The family also lost Robert Neate. of the 16th BTN of the Royal Warwickshire Reg. Number 22220. Born in 1885 and died KIA aged 33 on the 28th June 1917. Son of Charles and Sarah Neate of Castle Lane, Olton. Husband of Mary Neate nee Robert who he married in 1913 of 121 Warnen Road, Washwood Heath. 

In 1911 Robert 26 was on milk delivery living at 261 Washwood Heath Rd, Birmingham. A servant to Charles Robert, Dairyman. 

In 1921, their mother and father lived at Olton End Cottage, Dovehouse Lane, Solihull with 2 daughters and a son. Charles was a farm labourer at Olton Farm. 

Robert's wife Mary Neate lived at Warren Rd Washwood Heath with 3 other women who were boarders. She passed away in 1963 and did not remarry.

Leslie Reeve

Leslie Richard Reeve of Birmingham died on the 23rd April 1917. A private in the Royal Tank Corps number 206154 formerly Machine Gun Corps number 32101. He died of wounds in the Western European Theatre. Buried in Warlingt Court Halte British Cemetery, France

In 1901, Leslie lived with his parents Arthur Reeve a publican and his mother Alice and brother Arthur Stanley Reeve. He lived in a pub that looks to be the old Clock public House on the Coventry Rd, Bickenhill, though it is not named in the census.

In 1911, Leslie lived in Knowle with his uncle and worked in motor spares.

The family had lived in Elmdon and Sheldon for many years. Leslie's grandfather was a farmer in Elmdon. And his father Charles, a commercial traveller for a brewery died in 1929. 

Fred Symonds

Frederick George Symonds was born in Worcester in 1892. He was living in Marston Green at the outbreak of WW1. Joining the Royal Warwickshire Regiment 16 BTN, number 18200 as a Private. He died of wounds in France on the 19th of September 1916.  

 Son of William a cow man on a farm and Harriet. By 1911 the couple had had 7 children with 5 surviving. Fred at 19 years old was a farm labourer living with his parents. On the 25th December 1913, Fred was a witness at his older brother's wedding at St Giles. His brother Herbert Charles Symonds married Florence Parker. On the 10th May 1919, his younger brother also married at St Giles. Albert Henry Symonds married May Alice Smith. It must have been a bitter sweet occasion for the family to have their brother missing from this joyous celebration. 

George Townsend

Another family to suffer the loss of more than one son to this horrible war. Lance Corporal George Townsend joined the Kings(Liverpool Reg) 12 BN number 25397. George joined the army in 1915. He endure being wounded twice and 3 winters in France before his death. He died on the 26th of January 1918 in France aged 25 years. He is buried in the Villers Station Cemetery, Villers-Au-Bois, France. 

William Townsend

William John Townsend enlisted in Birmingham and lived in Sheldon. He also joined the Kings (Liverpool Reg) 18 BN number 25398. William was killed in action in France on the 18th October 1918. He was 23 years old. Just 2 years younger than his older brother. William is buried at Le Cateau Military Cemetery in France. 

George and William's parents were John and Harriet Symonds who lived in Tile Cross in 1901. John a wagoner on a farm had Ada 11, Annie 10, George 8 and William 6. In 1911 William is 16 a farm labourer living with his parents along Sheldon Lane, Sheldon. By 1921, the family were living at 6 Oak Cottages, Lyndon End, Sheldon. In 1939, John has retired and had had another son Wilfred in 1910.  

George worked as a servant in 1911 in the Briy Bells, Church Road, public house in Yardley. Living with the manager Walter Bagley and his family. This pub was later known as The Ring O Bells public house demolished in 2015.

I have researched many different memorials on here. However I have found this was one of the most touching memorials I have researched. Maybe because such a simple plaque did not convey the lives of the men listed. Or that the beautiful church has so much history of the Sheldon area and does not seem to have a lot of information on the internet. 

Any further info is very welcome. Please send via this blogs message link. I also post the churchyard grave stones inscriptions on Find My Grave website. A free resource for finding burial places across the world.

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