In Memory of those killed in 1918
The following articles by Edwina Rees tell the stories of men killed in 1918 and commemorated on the St Mary’s Church war memorial.
1. Captain Reverend James Leitch Cappell – James was the youngest son of Thomas Cappell, who served for twenty-one years with the 78th (Highlanders) Regiment and was part of the relief of Lucknow in 1857 under Sir Henry Havelock. James, a curate at St Mary’s Church, Moseley from 1912, enlisted in 1915 as a Chaplain 4th Class and was based at the 1st Southern Cross Military Hospital at Dudley Road. In March 1916 he was selected for duty with the BEF and as part of the Army Chaplain’s Department was attached to the 1/9 Royal Scots. He was wounded in September 1917 and spent Christmas at home with his wife and son at 40 Forest Road, Moseley. Back in the field in January he contracted dysentery and died of pneumonia on 23rd January at Hospital in Le Havre.
2. Private Frederick Arthur Woodcock – Frederick was an only child. He was one of the first to sign up in the 1st Birmingham Pals Battalion on 8th September 1914. He served throughout the war until he was taken ill and died from a disorder of the heart at a hospital in Sheffield on 3rd February 1918. He is buried in Brandwood End Cemetery.
3. Second Lieutenant Francis Claude Uzzell – Francis worked for the National Provincial Bank in Birmingham. He enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment in 1915. In May 1916 he was wounded in action and returned to England. On recovery, he returned to France as a 2nd Lieutenant with 2/5 Royal Warwickshire Regiment. On 1st February 1918 near Arras, Francis was wounded in action and died two days later at Ham Clearing Station.
4. Second Lieutenant Harold Welford Sheffield – Harold joined the Royal Military College at Sandhurst when he left school in 1915. During the course of 1916/1917, he was twice injured and returned to England to recover. In January 1918 he returned to France but was killed on 23rd March when the Germans overran the British Lines in the Arras area in what was known as Operation Michael. His body was never found.
5. Second Lieutenant Robert Stanley Thomas MC – Thomas was a chorister at St Mary’s Church, Moseley. In 1915 he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers. On 1st December 1916, he was accepted for Officer Training at Balliol College, Oxford. In May 1917 he went to France as a 2nd Lieutenant with the 4th Battalion Worcester Regiment and became their Intelligence Officer. In March 1918 when the Battalion was in Ypres, Robert was killed by German artillery in an unlucky strike on the Battalion HQ, at Pill Box 83, on 24th March. He was posthumously awarded the MC on 3rd June 1918.
5a. Private Walter William Clayton one of the men from eight families living in Coldbath Road who were killed in the war and commemorated on both the St Mary’s and St Agnes’ war memorials. He enlisted in the Royal Berkshire Regiment in 1916 at the age of 19 and was killed in the successful offensive to retake the town of Villers Bretonneux, the first occasion in which tanks from each side fought each other. Additional details have kindly been provided by Walter’s great-niece Georgina Whateley.
6. Gunner Herbert Leslie Tomlinson – During his time in France, Herbert was twice gassed and wounded. He was killed when the German’s bombed the British Hospital at St Omer on 22nd May 1918 where he was a patient at the time.
7. Private George Herbert Potter – George had been in France for just six weeks when he was killed in action. His regiment, 1st Gordon Highlanders, was involved in an attack to stem the tide of the German Spring Offensive near Bethune on 14th June.
8. Rifleman Stanley Alfred Augustus Marriott – Stanley was underage when he enlisted. He died from wounds on 23rd July 1918, aged nineteen. His regiment, 6th London, was in the process of being relieved by an American infantry regiment (part of the Illinois Army National Guard) on the front line near Albert when he was wounded.
9. Private George Watson Page – George left King Edward VI Grammar School Camp Hill in 1914 and joined the General Electric Co Ltd at its London HQ. He joined the 15th (Service) Battalion Hampshire Regiment based near Ypres in Spring 1918. He died from wounds at a clearing station in Esquelbeck in France near the Belgium border on 31st July 1918. He was nineteen years old.
10. Lieutenant Grahame Heath – Grahame was the eldest son of George Heath, founder of George Heath Motors. In WW1 he joined the RNAS/RAF. He was a pilot and flew Sopwith Camels from one of the British Navy’s first aircraft carriers HMS Furious. He was mentioned in despatches for his courage in bringing down a German seaplane while on patrol in the North Sea, only to be killed in a flying tragedy a month later. His father sponsored a Spitfire in WW2, named in his honour, which was attached to the squadron of his youngest son, a Wing Commander in the RAF.
10a. Private Colin Rowland Taylor was part of the Charles Taylor manufacturing dynasty of well known Birmingham lathe manufacturers, which was founded in 1860 and closed in 1999. Colin served in the 1st Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was killed during the major Allied offensive of August 1918 capturing objectives in the face of fierce German resistance around Riez de Virage on 8th August.
11. Gunner Albert Edward Eaton – Albert, a groom, lived with his family at Sandon Cottage, Billesley Common. He joined the Royal Field Artillery when WW1 war was declared. He was killed in action on 2nd September 1918, the last day of the battle for the ‘impregnable’ Drocourt-Quéant Line. It was a victory for the Allies and a red letter day in the annals of British and Canadian WW1 history.
12. Second Lieutenant James Mennie – James, clerk and private secretary to the Duke of Portland before the war, was part of the very successful Allies’ offensive in September 1917 known as the ‘Advance to Victory’ which captured 17 miles of German occupied territory east of the Canal du Nord. He was killed on 18 September 1918 in exceptionally fierce fighting to capture the village of Epehy, aged just 19.
13. Lance-Corporal George Frederick Lane– George served in the Machine Gun Corps supporting the very successful Allied offensive known as the ‘Advance to Victory’ pushing towards the Hindenburg Line. He was killed on 17 September 1918 in an attack on German outposts near the village of Epehy.
14. Major Percival Thomas Priestly RAMC – great-great-great nephew of Joseph Priestley, the renowned scientist and member of the Lunar Society, who was a victim of the Priestley Riots. Percival enlisted as an officer in the Royal Army Medical Corps and served in Gallipoli and Salonika before contracting influenza and dying of pneumonia in September 1918. (Revised version containing additional detail)
14a. Private Harold Freeman Wood – the son of an ornamental japanner who died young leaving his wife to bring up seven children under 12 on her own, enlisted in the 15th Royal Warwickshires in 1916 and was killed in an offensive to capture German trenches in the area of the Canal du Nord in the face of heavy German artillery action on 29 September 1918. The story also highlights the demise of the 15th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment after a gas shell killed nearly all of its senior officers at their HQ on 29th September 1918.
15. Private George Henry Goodison – George was the youngest of two sons born to Frank and Eliza Goodison. Both sons were killed in WW1, Frank in 1917 and George in the Fifth Battle of Ypres in 1918.
16. Captain Charles Walter Hughes – Charles, a traveller brewer with Bass Ratcliff and Gretton, enlisted in the 1st Birmingham Pals in September 1914 at the age of 34, succumbed to trench fever in 1917 and was killed in an assault on African Trench as part of the successful drive to push the Germans back beyond the Hindenburg Line in September 1918, when he was 38 years old.
17. Corporal Howard Ernest Mortiboys – Howard was the son of Alfred Ernest Mortiboys, head of a family drapery business in Sherlock Street, Birmingham. Howard was wounded on 29th September when the 1st Duke of Cornwall’s Regiment attacked the retreating German Army at the village of La Vacquerie, France. He died ten days later 11th Stationary Hospital, Rouen. He was just nineteen years old.
18. Lieutenant Frederick Harry Humby – Frederick came from a three-generational family of brewers. In September 1914 Frederick enlisted in the 1st Birmingham Pals Battalion but remained in the Reserve until November 1916 when he was posted to France. In 1917 he was injured in an accident which kept him at home until April 1918. On his return to France, he was attached to the 2/7 Royal Warwicks as a Platoon Commander. He was wounded on 25th October in an attack on the village of Sommaing. He died two weeks later, two days before the Armistice.
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