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26th Jun, 2022

Three Redditch comrades killed on the same day as they rallied the troops

THE month of March 1918 ended with the deaths of three Redditch men, all killed on the same day as the Germans tried desperately to reach the vital railhead at Amiens.

This was the tail end of their Spring Offensive which was by now running out of steam as the attack outstripped its artillery support and their famished troops were sidetracked by the bountiful Allied supplies they captured.

Armel Lacey was born in Feckenham in 1897, one of five children born to Jim and Harriet Lacey.

Jim worked as a farm labourer and the family lived on Walkwood Road.

Armel married Ann Dunn and during the war he served with the 2/8th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment, earning promotion to Corporal.

On March 30, 1918 his unit was south east of Amiens, near the village of Demuin, as the Germans opened up a massive bombardment and proceeded to storm the village.

The 2/8th, along with other British units, had started to retreat under the onslaught.

However they quickly halted and alone, started to push forward, eventually fighting their way to re-occupy their original trenches.

Their example inspired the units on either side of them and they too started to march forward and re-claim the ground they had so recently given up.

The Brigade Diary says: “During this withdrawal the troops on either flank of 2/8 Worcestershire retired and they were left isolated. In spite of considerable machine-gun fire from the right they maintained their position. This proved of great value in getting those who had withdrawn to go forward again.”

The 2/8th were eventually relieved at 2am on March 31, but the action came at a terrible cost, claiming the lives of 36 of its men, including Cpl Armel Lacey.

He is remembered today on the Pozieres War Memorial in France and on the St Lukes War Memorial in Headless Cross.

Arthur William Jackson and Jonathan Southam both served with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, and they too were part of the British 5th Army which found itself bludgeoned by the German attack.

Arthur was born in St Martin’s, Birmingham in 1885, the son of John and Selina Jackson.

His father ran a rubber stamp making firm and by the 1911 census Arthur had taken over the business and was living in Balsall Heath.

He then moved to Redditch and married his fiancee Mary, the couple finding a home at 17 Walford Street.

In the war he served as a Private and was killed in action on March 31.

Little is known of his comrade-in-arms Jonathan Southam, other than he was born in Stratford-on-Avon and that he too was a Private in the 1st Royal Warwickshires.

Both men are remembered today on the St Stephen’s Memorial.

With thanks to Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes.

The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War.

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