In Memory of those killed in 1917

The following articles by Edwina Rees tell the stories of men killed in 1917 and commemorated on the St Mary’s Church war memorial.

The first casualties whose stories are told below were involved in the first Allied Offensive in February and March 1917, preliminary to the main Spring offensive, the Second Battle of Arras from 9th April to 16th May 1917.

1. Private Leslie Edwin Smith – who served in the 7th Royal West Kent Regiment and died of wounds sustained in the front line in an attack on the German lines at Grandcourt on 20 February 1917, aged 19.

2. Private John William Husbands – a journalist who served with the 4th Leicestershire Regiment and was the only casualty of a German bombardment of the trenches at Hannecamp on 21 February 1917, dying of his wounds on 4 March 1917, aged 39.

3. Air Mechanic 1st Class Sydney Clifford Lamplugh RFC– who declared himself to be 19 years old when he enlisted so that he could serve abroad, when he was actually only 17. He initially joined the 3rd Birmingham Pals before transferring to the RFC.  His letters home, which have never been seen in public before, tell of his wartime experiences in France as an Air Mechanic and his love of motorbikes. He was on the verge of becoming a qualified observer and had aspirations of becoming a pilot like his elder brother Alfred when his life was cut short in a flying accident on 6 March 1917.  Edwina Rees says “I have been very privileged to have been given help in writing the article on Mechanic First Class Sydney Clifford Lamplugh from Minnie Lamplugh de Smith his great niece who allowed me access to Sydney’s letters home. I also have Alison Wheatley, archivist for KES, Edgbaston, to thank for information from the school archive and for putting me in touch with Minnie.”

4. Lance-Corporal S V Pickering – a banker who joined the Middlesex Regiment and died on 15 March 1917 in an assault on the Bihucourt trench, aged 22.

5. Second Lieutenant Stanley Tom Horton –  a chorister at St Mary’s Church, Moseley, who joined his father in the family jewellery business when he left school. In September 1914 he joined the 4th Battalion Public Schools Battalion and then transferred to the 3rd Battalion Duke of Edinburgh’s Wiltshire Regiment on commission in 1916. He was killed in the Battle of Arras on 9th April 1917.  His name is incorrectly written as S J Horton on St Mary’s WW1 memorial, but there is no doubt if you look at the evidence in the attached article that it must be Sydney Thomas Horton.

6. Rifleman Sydney Currie Betts  – who enlisted in the 15th Battalion Rifle Brigade in April 1915 but was transferred four months later to the 7th Rifle Brigade for active service in France. He survived the Battle of the Somme in 1916 but was killed in the Battle of Arras on 11 April 1917. Interestingly, his grandfather was the gamekeeper for Lady Sitwell of Renishaw Hall, Derbyshire, used by D H Lawrence for his inspiration of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

7. Private Harold Leslie Pearce –  a copper plate engraver, who enlisted in the 2/8th Royal Warwickshire Regiment on 8th December 1915 and was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal.  He embarked for France in May 1916 just in time for the Battle of the Somme. In a month into the battle, Harold noticed difficulties with his eyesight and myopia was diagnosed, making his position as a Lewis gunner untenable.  At his own request, he reverted to a private. Harold was killed in action on 21/22 April 1917 in the last days of the Battle of Arras near St. Quentin.  Note that  Harold Leslie Pearce was erroneously listed under 1915 deaths on the WW1 memorial at St Mary’s Church, Moseley, instead of under 1917.