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The 720 men on Dudley's WWI memorial

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 30, 2014

By John Hale

  • Dudley War Memorial Tower

  • Volunteers marching along Priory Road, Dudley

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LOCATED on Priory Street, opposite the Saracen's Head public house, the names of Dudley's fallen of the Great War are carved on the walls of a vaulted memorial lobby at the base of the clock tower.

The gates of the lobby are opened for public viewing of the memorial for a few days each year around the time of Remembrance Sunday, so for most of the time the memorial is closed and hidden away from the gaze of the people of Dudley. Many of those regularly driving or walking past must not be aware of its existence; I was one such.

Construction of the memorial tower was overseen by Alderman T.W. Adshead, Chairman of the Dudley Patriotic Committee and Mayor of Dudley for 1918-20; he laid the foundation stone on April 14, 1926. The clock tower memorial was part of a wider civic construction project which included a coroner's court, magistrate's court and town hall. The memorial was formally opened on October 26, 1928 in the presence of the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin.

Carved on the balcony above the iron gates of the lobby are four lines of poetry by Thomas Hardy:

"If you think, have a kindly thought,

If you speak, speak generously

Of those who as heroes fought

And died to keep you free"

So how did a poet from Dorset with no obvious connections to the Black Country come to write some lines of poetry for Dudley's war memorial? The genesis of these few lines lay with James Smellie, the Mayor of Dudley at the time of construction of the memorial; three of his sons had fought in the war and returned home.

Inspired to write a few lines of poetry to embellish the war memorial, he had the brilliant (or cheeky) idea of submitting them to England's greatest living poet for his opinion before they were forever carved in stone. Thoughtfully, an SAE was enclosed so by return of post Thomas Hardy provided the quatrain which was carved thereon; it is based largely on Mayor Smellie's original draft. The correspondence between the two men is now safely lodged with Dudley Archives.

Learning of the existence of the war memorial for the first time in 2010, I visited the building and looked through the wrought iron gates and saw all the names carved on the walls of the lobby. I took digital photographs of all the panels to record the names, and a list of the names was then compiled.

That task completed, I then began to wonder who these men were who were commemorated? Using the resources of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website I set out to identify those men commemorated on the walls. Over three years later, these investigations are almost (but perhaps never will be) concluded: at August 1, 2014, I have yet to identify 16 of the men and a further four men have only partial information discovered.

Strangely, I have discovered that three of the men's names appear twice on the walls. Thus, while 720 names are carved only 717 men are commemorated.

Feeding the information gathered on these men into a spreadsheet, noting their service number (where issued), rank, unit, date of death and place of burial, some interesting patterns began to emerge.

Brothers

1. William and Albert Abrahams

2. Frank and Walter Baker of the Worcs. Yeomanry; Frank was only 17

3. Walter and William Baker

4. Harry and Thos. Bruton, MM

5. George and Henry Bunney

6. Arthur and Samuel Carter

7. James and Joseph Edwards

8. Albert, John, Samuel and Samson Ennis – five brothers served: only William came home.

9. John and Thomas Fleming of 11th Worcesters

10. Frederick and Samuel Gillard

11. John and James W Heath

12. Samuel and Emanuel Hughes of the 9th Worcesters

13. Arthur and Richard Humpage

14. John, George and Joseph Knott

15. Wm. and John E Newey of the 2nd Worcesters

16. Joseph and John Price, DCM

17. Joseph and Simeon Richards

18. Robert and Sidney Shorter

19. Samuel and John Thos. Wood

20. Charles, Joseph and John Sorrell

21. Eli and John Mansell – cousins?

22. Harry and James Westwood

Young and Old alike

Gnr S Mattocks, No. 2 Depot RGA – age 49

Pte John Welch, 1st South Staffs – age16

The First and the Last

14/09/14 – Pte Thomas Slimm, 2nd Worcesters

21/10/26 – Pte Joseph McNaney, 4th Worcesters

Pals

In view of their consecutive regimental numbers these men were probably standing in line together at the recruiting office: whether they knew each other before that day can only be speculation.

1. 3461 – Clarence Woodall, 2nd/7th Worcesters, d.23/10/16

2. 3462 – Stanley Woodall, 2nd/7th Worcesters, d.04/07/16

3. 8190 – Ernest Tranter, 2nd Worcesters, d.16/05/15

4. 8191 – Wm Mansell, 1st Worcesters, d.01/04/18

5. 8939 – John Harcourt, 9th Worcesters, d.08/01/16

6. 8940 – Francis Hanley, 3rd Worcesters, d.16/06/15

7. 9718 – John Beese, 3rd Worcesters, d.03/09/16

8. 9719 – Joseph Knott, 3rd Worcesters, d02/04/15

9. 9720 – John Chancellor, 3rd Worcesters, d28/05/18

10. 9741 – W.H. Richards, 3rd Worcesters, d.12/03/15

11. 9742 – Edward Davies, 3rd Worcesters, d.12/03/15

12. 9743 – Walter Evans, 3rd Worcesters, d.05/04/15

13. 12890 – Jo. Barnett, 1st South Staffs, d.07/03/15

14. 12891 – Jo. Wheeler, 8th South Staffs, d.06/11/16

15. 13479 – Wm. Cotterill, 3rd Worcesters, d.16/05/15

16. 13480 – Emanuel Yarnall, 3rd Worcesters, d.08/05/15

17. 14611 – Chas Bruntnell, 6th Worcesters, d.20/06/19

18. 14612 – Thos. Hill, 10th Worcesters, d.20/09/17

19. 14613 – Harry Smith, 1st Worcesters, d.09/07/16

20. 15249 – Ben Marsh, 9th Worcesters, d.16/08/15

21. 15250 – Stephen Haywood, 9th Worcesters, d.10/08/15

22. 15359 – Claude French, 9th South Staffs, d.25/01/16

23. 15360 – Samuel Bennett, 9th South Staffs, d.06/11/15

24. 15953 – Wm T. Smith, 5th Ox & Bucks, d.24/09/15

25. 15954 – Samuel Astley, 5th Ox & Bucks, d.24/08/16

26. 16432 – Joseph Raybould, 4th Worcesters, d.06/08/15

27. 16434 – Hiram Hinton, 4th Worcesters, d.28/04/15

28. 16435 – Geo. Pickett, 4th Worcesters, d.22/08/15

29. 18142 – John Fleming, 11th Worcesters, d.12/10/16

30. 18143 – Thos. Fleming, 11th Worcesters, d.08/07/17

31. 19427 – Thos. Childs, 4th Worcesters, d.07/01/16

32. 19428 – John Price, 11th Worcesters, d.25/04/17

33. 19434 – Wm. Allcock, 3rd Worcesters, d.24/08/16

34. 19435 – Geo. Tucker, 9th Worcesters, d.17/01/17

35. 19440 – John Wood, 10th Worcesters, d.23/04/16

36. 19441 – John Stevens, 9th Worcesters, d.07/01/16

37. 19610 – Wm. Ward, 9th Worcesters, d.23/07/15

38. 19611 – John Ricketts, 9th Worcesters, d.10/08/15

39. 19888 – Thos. Shakespeare, 2nd Worcesters, d.03/10/15

40. 19889 – Ben Jukes, 2nd Worcesters, d.02/11/17

41. 19890 – John Newey, 2nd Worcesters, d.26/09/15

42. 21105 – Wm. Crowshaw, 9th Worcesters, d.25/01/17

43. 21106 – Arthur Evans, 10th Worcesters, d.03/07/16

44. 21676 – Oliver Hollies, 15th Cheshires, d.27/03/18

45. 21677 – John Haywood, 16th Cheshires, died 21/09/16

46. 30075 – John Jones, 16th Warwicks, d.01/01/17

47. 30076 – Fernie Kneale, 16th Warwicks, d.03/09/16

48. 30885 – Joe Westwood, 9th Worcesters, d.25/01/17

49. 30886 – Henry Chattin, 9th Worcesters, d.25/01/17

Unlucky Surnames

13 men named Davies are commemorated. The next most unfortunate surname was Smith, with 11 names carved. There are 10 each named Hughes and Price, and 7 Bakers.

Streets of Sacrifice

At least 71 of the men identified lived on Kates Hill

112 lived in Netherton. 12 lived in Wolverhampton Street, 16 lived in St James' Terrace and 18 in Stafford Street – including the Ennis brothers.

We all make mistakes

At least 19 of the men commemorated on the memorial have spelling mistakes in their surnames, made either during the original compilation of the Roll of Honour or when being carved on the walls. The most extreme example is that of 4783 Rifleman John Frisby of the KRRC, who was recorded in the Roll of Honour as Trisey; he is thus commemorated on the walls as Trisey, J.

And what must Mrs Addis, Mrs Mattocks, Mrs Jewkes and several others of the war widows who had been invited to take tea and buns with Stanley Baldwin after the grand opening have thought when they looked in vain on the walls of the newly-erected memorial for the names of their dead husbands? Their husband's names had been inscribed as Abbis, Maddocks and Jukes; were they distraught? Did they complain? If they did, the names were never changed and they remain incorrect to this day.

You only live twice…

Pte Joseph Morris, 1st/7th Worcesters, appears in the Roll of Honour with his original regimental number of 4177 and also with his new number 201754 (allocated after the 1917 re-numbering of the men of the territorial battalions). His name has therefore been carved twice, as no-one at the time realised that Pte 4177 J Morris and Pte 201754 J Morris were one and the same man.

Rifleman John Frisby's name was recorded in the Roll of Honour as Trisey (see above). Thankfully, his name must have been submitted to the committee separately so he is also commemorated in his correct name: he therefore appears twice, once as Frisby and again as Trisey.

E. Malugani and E. Malugaine are thought to be the same person.

Deaths by Year

1914 – 23

1915 – 134 (54 of these at Gallipoli)

1916 – 170

1917 – 180

1918 – 171

This relatively equal distribution would suggest that the men of Dudley volunteered in their droves during 1914 and 1915, or were already regulars or members of the Territorial Army.

Also, the dispersal of the conscripts of Dudley throughout the BEF is shown by the absence of any clustering of deaths within a single battalion during 1918, despite the ferocity of the fighting, which was such a feature of the earlier casualties.

Men of Dudley died on 399 days of the War; 20 died post-war and were eligible for recording by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Several died after the closing date to qualify for a CWGC headstone in 1921, and there are also some who should have qualified but are not commemorated by the CWGC.

Burials

There are Dudley men buried in 219 cemeteries, from Adanac to Zouave Valley.

A truly "world" war – 113 of our fallen are buried (or commemorated on a memorial) away from the Western Front.

1. Amara, Iraq – 9 men buried

2. Baghdad North Gate, Iraq – 4 men buried

3. Damascus, Syria – 1 man buried

4. East Mudros – 2 men buried

5. Gallipoli Pensinsula - 8 men buried

6. Gaza, Israel – 2 men buried

7. Haifa, Israel – 2 men buried

8. Ramleh, Israel – 1 man buried

9. Karasouli, Greece – 2 men buried

10. Doiran, Greece – 2 men buried

11. Italy – 2 men buried

12. Karachi, Pakistan – 1 man buried

Four of our sailors perished in the waters off the coast of Chile in the Battle of Coronel.

Memorials – near & far

1. Thiepval Memorial – 72 men recorded. That's a staggering 10% of Dudley's fallen

2. Helles Memorial, Turkey – 52 men

3. Tyne Cot Memorial – 28 men

4. Menin Gate – 26 men

5. Arras Memorial – 26 men

6. Ploegsteert Memorial – 18 men

7. Loos Memorial – 13 men

8. Pozieres – 11 men

9. Basra Memorial, Iraq – 10

10. Le Touret Memorial – 9 men

11. Portsmouth Naval – 9 men

12. Soissons Memorial – 6 men

13. Vis en Artois Memorial – 5 men

14. Jerusalem Memorial – 5 men

15. Plymouth Naval Memorial – 3 men

16. Cambrai Memorial – 2 men

17. Kirkee Memorial, India – 2 men

18. Doiran Memorial – 2 men

19. Tehran Memorial, Iran – 1 man

20. Vimy Memorial – 1 man

21. Tower Hill - 1 man

A total of 273 men are recorded on 21 memorials around the world and so have no known grave – 38% of the men commemorated.

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