SIX soldiers from Redditch were killed 100 years ago this week in the build up and launch of the Battle of Menin Road, the next phase of the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele.
Of these, three served in the Royal Field Artillery indicating that out of the frontline didn’t mean out of danger due to the Germans targeting British gun emplacements.
Percy John Stockbridge was one such soldier.
He was born in Redditch in 1892, the son of William and Francis Stockbridge who lived at 33 Bromsgrove Road.
William ran a draper’s shop but the 1911 census shows he had died and Francis was running the shop on her own. Percy meanwhile was working as a clerk in Islington, London.
During the war he was a gunner and died oof his wounds n September 19, 1917 as the British guns pounded the German lines of the eve on the Menin Road offensive.
He is buried in the Potijze Chateau Lawn Cemetery in Belgium and is remembered today on the St Stephen’s war memorial.
Hubert Saunders was a driver in the Royal Field Artillery.
Little is known of his early life, but he was born around 1893 and is family lived in Ipsley Street.
He was a career soldier and had seen a lot of combat when he died in action on September 20, 1917.
An officer, writing to his mother, who was now living in Hunt End, wrote: “He was a fearless soldier, always ready in time of need. A truer friend no man ever had”.
He is buried at La Clytte Military Cemetery in Belgium and is remembered today on the war memorial at The Bridge Church on Evesham Road.
Bertram Hawthorn’s name isn’t marked on any of the main war memorials in Redditch and details of his life are few.
What is known is that he was born in Redditch around 1883 and he too was a career soldier and also a driver with the Royal Field Artillery.
He died of his wounds on September 22.
The other three victims who died this week 100 years ago were infantrymen attacking the German line.
William Henry Bourne and Albert Hill both served with the 10th Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment, and both died on September 20.
On that day the British attacked at dawn – 5.25am – and quickly overran the German defences, which were caught by surprise.
However as the attack progressed the regimental diary says: ‘some venomous machine-guns in Wood Farm caused many casualties’.
Such was the intensity the battalion lost a third of its strength, including 27 killed, 28 missing and 101 wounded.
William Bourne was born in 1895 to George and Annie Bourne of Mount Pleasant. The 1901 census has the family living in George Street and his parents both working as needle filers.
By the 1911 census William, aged 16, was a ‘swivel worker’ and living at 43 Millsboro’ Road with his aunt and uncle.
He married Winnifred Elizabeth and they lived at 225 Beoley Road.
During the war he had reached the rank of Sergeant by the time of his death. He is buried remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium and St Stephen’s and St George’s war memorials and in Redditch.
Albert Hill was born around 1887, the son of John and Louisa Hill of 209 Mount Pleasant. By the 1901 census the family lived at 33 Evesham Road, Headless Cross, and by 1911 he was a fish hook maker and living at 238 Mount Pleasant with his wife Lizzie.
He is remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium and on the war memorial at The Bridge Church, Headless Cross.
Samuel Wilkinson was born in 1894, the son of John Wilkinson, the publican at the Park Inn on Evesham Road, and his wife Florence.
The family lived at 5 Evesham Road, but by the 1911 Samuel, aged 17, was living with his Uncle Jonas and Aunt Louisa next door at 3 Evesham Road and working as a fish hook filer. A keen footballer, he played for Headless Cross FC.
In 1916 he married his sweetheart Elizabeth Adams.
He served asa rifleman in the 2/11th Battalion, London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles) and died during a heavy bombardment by German artillery. He has no known grave but is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium and on St Stephen’s and The Bridge Church war memorials and the Headless
Cross C. of E. School war memorial.
With grateful thanks to Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes; The Diaries of the Worcestershire Regiment, and Remembering Battle of Passchendaele by Gillian Coombes.