THE LIGHTS went out across Redditch as residents gathered to reflect on the sacrifices of those who fought and lost their lives in the First World War.
Homes and businesses were urged to place a solitary candle in their window or leave just a single light on at 11pm on Monday (August 4) to mark the 100th anniversary of Britain’s entry into what was supposed to be ‘the war to end all wars’.
The simple act signified the words of Sir Edwin Grey, Foreign Secretary at the time, who on the eve of Britain’s entry into the war stood at the window of the Foreign Office, watching the lamps being lit at dusk, and said: “The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
At St Philip’s Church in Webheath a special vigil was held to mark the occasion. Prayers were said for those left widowed and fatherless by the conflict and there were several periods of silent reflection. At regular intervals candles were extinguished until the final one was blown out at 11pm.
Rev Richard Clark, who led the service and whose great great grandfather died on the Somme in 1916, said: “Together we remember those from Redditch, rich and poor, those from this nation and other nations who were drawn into this conflict because of a decision made this night.
“We reflect before the Lord on all those things set in motion this night 100 years ago, the effect that had on so many people and how in four years an estimated 37million people lost their lives. How in that time the map of Europe and parts of the globe were changed, how during that time hundreds of thousands of refugees were created, millions of women became widows, many millions of children found themselves fatherless.
“Economies were wrecked, lives and history itself changed forever and yet, it was not the war to end all wars it was another war that brought forth another war.”
A similar service was held at the war memorial outside St Nicholas Church in Alcester. Services were also held in Inkberrow and Studley on Sunday (August 3).
St Philip’s Church is also hosting the Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes exhibition throughout the week uncovering the lives of some of those killed during the First World War.
Redditch Mayor Pat Witherspoon, who opened the exhibition on Monday, said: “This morning I spent with children at a Church Hill community event, this afternoon I spent remembering the reason why we are free to enjoy such community events.
“I feel really proud to be part of what’s happening here to honour all those who fought and gave their lives 100 years ago so I and everyone else in Redditch can feel safe in this lovely country of ours.”
These are some of the stories of some of those from Redditch who lost their lives in The Great War featured at the exhibition. A book containing the background on the 400 plus soldiers commemorated on the main war memorials within the borough will be published in time for this year’s Remembrance Sunday event.
Philip B Jarvis
Philip Bayliss Jarvis was born in July of 1896 in Millsboro Road, Redditch. He was the eldest of Walter, a coal merchant, and Emily Jarvis’ three children. The family lived at 7, Archer Road and between working as a timekeeper at Millward’s needlemaking factory Philip was also a Methodist lay preacher on the Redditch circuit.
He joined the Army on December 10th, 1915 aged 19 years and five months, enlisting just a month after the death of his father.
Philip wasn’t actually required to go to war as he was in an exempt occupation at the time the conflict broke out, working for Huin and Seden, but he felt it was his duty to go.
Described as 5ft 10ins tall, Philip served as a gunner with the 289th Siege Battery unit of the Royal Garrison Artillery, first entering the war on September 4th, 1916.
He was to survive just over a year before being killed in action on October 27th, 1917 aged 21. He was buried in the Klein- Vierstraat Cemetery in Ypres, Belgium.
Artefacts later returned to his mother included a bible, photographs, wallet, a shaving brush and a pair of gold rimmed spectacles. His mother acknowledged receipt of the items by adding ‘with sincere thanks’ at the end of the official form.
Following news of his death his employer Mr F C Huin wrote to Philip’s mother. In the letter he described him as ‘unselfish at all times, so trustworthy and faithful’ and who felt it was his duty to go and fight.
“He was as cool when asked to go to France as though he was about to start on an ordinary holiday.” the letter added.
The end of The Great War did not come soon enough to save the life of Robert Shrimpton who was killed just 19 days before the armistice was declared.
He was born in Redditch about 1878 to John Shrimpton and Ellen Canadine who had married just seven years before. John helped run the family business Thomas Shrimpton and Son created by his father and which manufactured needles. They lived at 47 Evesham Street which has now been demolished to make way for the Kingfisher Shopping Centre. Robert was the second eldest of seven sons.
By the age of 13 Robert was working as an errand boy before going on to work as a builder’s carter. His mum passed away prior to 1901 and his dad also lost his life in 1906, by which time the family had left Redditch and were living in Aston in Birmingham.
Robert did not go into the family business though. He married Blanche in 1904 and earnt a living as a tobacconist running his own shop. They had two children Clifford and Irene.
During the First World War he was a sapper in the Corps of Royal Engineers but was killed in action in France on October 23rd, 1918.
H Cheape and L S Cheape
The Cheape family story is one littered with wealth but also tragedy in which the First World War plays a leading part.
Hugh Annesley Cheape, Leslie St Clair Cheape and George Ronald Hamilton Cheape all went off to fight in the conflict, but only one of them came back.
They were the three sons of Mary Maude and George Cheape, a wealthy landowner from Fife in Scotland. George died in 1900 and Mary became known as ‘The Squire’ moving back to England to live at Bentley Manor. She was the daughter of Richard Hemming who owned the manor and was a prominent needle maker in the area.
Hugh was the eldest son born on November 15th, 1878. He went on to study at Cambridge University graduating in 1897. He took the name Gray Cheape upon his marriage to his wife Carsina and they lived at Norgrove Court.
He fought in the Boer War commanding the Worcester Squadron of the Imperial Yemonary in Egypt and Gallipoli.
In 1915 he took command of the Warwickshire Yemonary as Lieutenant Colonel and fought in Palestine. Two years later on November 8th, 1917 he led one of the last cavalry charges by the British Army at Huj winning a great victory which earnt him a Distinguished Service Order. He remained in Egypt until leaving for France with the Warwickshire Yeomanry in 1918. Shortly after leaving Alexandria the ship he was on, the HMS Leasow Castle was torpedoed and he drowned.
In his will he left the sum of £3,359 18s to his wife and a gentleman by the name of Samuel Crabtree Thornton Jagger.
The Cheape’s youngest son Leslie St Clair Cheape was born on October 5th in 1883. He was a captain in the 1st Dragoon Guards attached to the Worcestershire Yeomanry. He was wounded in action in Egypt earlier in the war but while sustaining an injury to his right arm he was not seriously hurt.
However on Easter Sunday 1916 Leslie was fighting with the Worcestershire Yeomanry at Katia in Egypt when it was almost completely wiped out. Leslie was reported as missing and later confirmed dead, his death date recorded as April 23rd, 1916.
The tragedy did not stop there for the Cheape family. Maude’s eldest daughter Catherine was among the 1,012 people who drowned on the Empress of Ireland on May 29th, 1914. Dubbed ‘Canada’s Titanic’ the ship was making its 96th transatlantic crossing when it collided with the SS Storstad on the St Lawrence River and sank in 11 minutes. The Squire had already lost another of her daughter’s Helen Margaret who drowned when she was 12 in a lock on the Isle of Mull.
It meant by the end of the war just George Ronald Hamilton Cheape – born in February 1880, winner of the Military Cross and Croix de Guerre – and Maude Anne remained of the Cheape’s six children.
Residents gathered at St Philip’s Church to reflect on the impact of the First World War. Picture by Ian Dipple (s).
The lights went out to mark the significance of Monday’s anniversary. Picture by Ian Dipple (s).