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26th Jun, 2022

No let up in the killing 100 years ago as First World War neared the end

Ross Crawford 30th Sep, 2018

LESS than eight weeks before the Armistice, readers might be thinking that the casualty list of Redditch soldiers fighting in the Great War might be going down.

On the contrary both September and October, proved to be particularly bloody months.

Sydney James Laight was just 19 when he was killed fighting with the 8th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment in the Battle of Epehy, between St Quentin and Cambrai, which had begun on September 18.

British casualties up until then had been horrendous – 180,000 in the previous six weeks – but it was still decided to press ahead with an attack.

The battle is also significant as it saw the first mutiny by Australian troops, who, after a stunning success in their own attack refused to go to the assistance of the British.

The 8th had pushed forward and had reached their objectives with few casualties. However strong enemy counter attacks on September 20, 1918 resulted in more deaths, including that of Private Laighton.

He’d been born in Alcester in 1898, the second son of Frederick, a farm labourer, and Bertha Laight’s four children.

He is remembered today on the Vis-En-Artois Memorial in France, the War Memorial at The Bridge Church – St Luke’s – and also at Cookhill Village Hall.

William Henry Robert Mitchell is one of those Redditch soldiers with no known memorial.

He served as a Lance Corporal with the 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was killed in action ‘in France and Flanders’.

Details of his life are few – he was born around 1892 the son of William and Jane Mitchell who lived on Arrow Road in St George’s.

He married Mabel Florence and at the time of his death they were living on Birmingham Road in Studley.

Charles Albert Chillingsworth served with the 14th (later 95th) Battalion Machine Gun Corp.

The son of Henry and Jane Chillingsworth of Salters Lane, Redditch, he was one of four children who survived infancy.

In 1916 he married Nellie K Lewis in Bromsgrove District and the family set up home at 2 Back, Windsor Street in Redditch.

He was killed in action on September 21, 1918, aged 22 and is buried in the Grootebeek British Cemetery near Poperinge in Belgium and is remembered today on the St George’s Church War Memorial.

Victor Norman Clarke had enlisted in the Worcestershire Regiment on December 8, 1915.

The eldest son of Alfred and Mary Jane Clarke, he’d been born in Bromsgrove in 1895 the family later settling in Astwood Bank high street.

His father, a police officer, died when he was just five years old and as he grew up Victor found work as a needle stamper.

On enlisting he was described as 5ft 7ins tall and weighing 114lbs and was regarded as reliable and intelligent.

However disease was rife in the trenches and by September 1916 he was complaining of feeling unwell.

By May 1918 and suffering from a persistent cough he was regarded as physically unfit and invalided out to England, where he was admitted to hospital.

Suffering from tuberculosis he was formally discharged on September 19, 1918 and died three days later on September 22.

Victor is buried in Edgioke Cemetery in Astwwood Bank and is remembered today on the Astwood Bank War Memorial.

With thanks to:

Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes.

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