ACROSS the country all eyes are on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day on November 11.
But there was an Armistice Day, signed on November 3, 1918, at Villa Giusti near Padua which ended the war in Italy.
It came just two days late for Redditch man William Thomas Brookes who was serving as a driver with the 54th Field Company Royal Engineers.
His unit had spent four years in France and Flanders fighting in some of its biggest battles, but in June 1918 had been transferred to Italy to fight the Austrians.
William was born in 1897, the only son of William Henry and Laura Brookes.
The couple had four children, one of whom died in infancy and the family lived at 97 Lodge Road, Redditch, which still stands today.
His father was a cycle polisher and William followed him into the bicycle trade before joining the Army.
He was killed on November 1 and is buried in Cremona Town Cemetery, Italy, and is remembered today on the Cenotaph in Plymouth road, Redditch and the War Memorial at St Stephens Church.
On the Western Front, and just one day later, another Redditch soldier, Albert Edwin Hall, died of his wounds on November 2.
Albert was the son of W.E. Hall of The Ridgeway in Astwood Bank, and enlisted in the 2/8th Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment in Worcester.
At 1.30am on November 2 his unit moved out to exploit a bridgehead over the River Rhonelle near Artres, part of a major assault on the city of Valenciennes.
The attack proved a stunning success, but just as the 2/8th were digging in a German counterattack, led by seven captured British tanks, swept in.
The unit retreated back to the village of Maresches where they waited all day under fire for relief. It was dark by the time that came, Albert’s battalion dropping back first into reserves and finally into their billets by 3.30am the following day.
Their casualties had been severe – 130 men killed, wounded or missing out of a battalion strength of 600. Among them were Albert, who died of his wounds.
He was just 19 years old and is buried in the Cambrai East Military Cemetery, in France and is remembered today on the Astwood Bank War Memorial, at Inkberrow St Peter’s Church and at Cookhill St Paul’s Church World War 1 Memorial and its Roll of Honour.
James Danks was a career soldier.
He is described as a 24-year-old Private serving in India in the census of 1911 and by the time of his death on November 4, 1918, he was a Corporal in the 1/8th Batttalion the Worcestershire Regiment.
The son of Joseph Danks, a fish hook filer and Sarah Ann Stockton, a needle eyer, he was born in 1888.
In his early years the family lived on both Evesham Road and Hill Street.
He too enlisted in Worcester and must have been involved in numerous battle throughout the war before his luck ran out.
His unit was involved in a dawn attack across the Sambre Canal, just south of Artres, the men using rafts made of petrol cans to paddle to the other bank, all under fire.
However the attack was a success, forcing the Germans to pull back, but not before they had killed four members of the 1/8th, among them James, and wounded 61 men.
He is buried in the Landrecies British Cemetery, to the east of Le Cateau in France and is remembered today on the St George’s Church War Memorial and also on the Redditch Cenotaph War Memorial.
Edward Stringer was just 18 when he was killed, on November 9, 1918, two days before the Armistice was signed.
He’d been born in 1900 in Bromyard but at some stage the family had moved to Redditch, via Worcester, to set up home in Silver Street.
The eldest son of Edward and Elizabeth Stringer, he served with the 1/5th Lancashire Fusiliers which ended the war near Haumont near Mauberge.
Edward lies buried in the Plymouth Road Cemetery, in Redditch and is remembered on the Redditch War Memorial and the St Laurence Church War Memorial in Alvechurch.
With thanks to:
Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes
Research by Jillian Coombes.
War Diaries of the Worcestershire Regiment