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Dudley Great War soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 21, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • Sarah Welch and children Laurence, Dennis and John

  • Memorial card for Corporal John Welch

  • John Welch (standing) and an army comrade

  • Walter Dyke

  • Walter Dyke's sisters, from left, Gladys, Harriet, Clara and Louisa

  • John and Annie Chancellor

  • John Chancellor's grave at Chambrecy British Cemetery, France

  • Embroidered card sent by John Chancellor with Worcestershire Regiment insignia

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OVER recent years the Woodside Memory and History Group have researched the lives of all the men listed on the war memorial at the Church of St Augustine of Hippo, Holly Hall, Dudley. In 2011 they produced a book Holly Hall Heroes Remembered which covered the lives of those killed in the Second World War.

The group have continued to work hard gathering photographs and information on the dead of the First World War from the Holly Hall, Woodside, Low Town, Scotts Green and Harts Hill areas of Dudley. The pictures and details here have been provided by Val Worwood, Mike Smith, Chris Smith, Don Kirby and Janette Hughes.

The men of the old Woodside ward were typical of all communities across Britain. They answered the call to arms, fully prepared for the ultimate sacrifice. One road, Cross Street, Woodside, illustrates the heavy toll families paid as their loved ones did not return. This one street lost seven young men – John Hoare, Frederick Barker, John Thomas Owen, Phares Pearson, Walter Dyke, and brothers Samuel and Emmanuel Hughes.

Many more men from the area died while on active service, among them John Richard Chancellor who was born on October 20, 1884, in Dudley Road, Lye, one of four children to John Chancellor and Clara Soley. They had married on December 28, 1884, at Netherton parish church.

While the family were living in Terrace Street, Harts Hill, Clara died of typhoid fever on January 28, 1888, aged 23.

Aged 25, John married Annie Honor Incher at the Church of our Blessed Lady and St Thomas, Dudley, on April 30, 1910. At the time his home was listed as 3 Vine Street, Harts Hill. The couple had four children, Jane, Jack, Clara and Elsie.

In the First World War John enlisted in the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. He was promoted to corporal but was killed in action on May 28, 1918, and is buried at Chambrecy British Cemetery near Reims, France.

Among the mementoes carefully preserved by John Chancellor's family are some embroidered postcards, typical of the time, that he sent home.

One card is decorated with his regimental insignia – the lion and star badge with the motto "Firm" and above that a naval crown and the date "1st June, 1794".

This refers to the Battle of the Glorious First of June, a naval battle of the French Revolutionary Wars fought in the north Atlantic some 400 nautical miles west of the French island of Ushant. The Royal Navy was short of Marines at the time so they were supplemented by men of the Worcesters. Over 400 men of the regiment took part in the battle and they fought with great distinction, particularly the 81 men aboard HMS Brunswick. For their actions the regiment was awarded the naval crown.

Walter Dyke was born in 1897, the son of coal miner Thomas Dyke and his wife Hannah E. Smith, who had married at St Augustine's Church, Holly Hall, in 1892.

The family home was in Cross Street, Woodside and Walter had 10 brothers and sisters, Joseph, Edward, Harold, Sidney, Clara, Thomas, Charles, Harriet, Gladys and Louisa. Their father was a "buttie" in charge of a group of miners at Cochranes Pit in the Newland Grove area of Holly Hall.

Walter served as a gunner with D Battery, 161st Brigade Royal Field Artillery. On June 24, 1918, Walter died, aged 21, of influenza in the epidemic that swept the world at the end of the war. He is buried at the Wailly Orchard Cemetery, near Arras, France.

John Welch was born around 1887, the son of John Welch and Elizabeth Scott, who had married in 1873 at St Thomas' Church, Dudley. The family home was in Netherton and John had four siblings, Mary, Henry, Ellen and Thomas.

John married Sarah Raybould at St Edmund's Church, Dudley, in 1907. The 1911 census records the couple, with their children Laurence, Dennis and John, living in Wood Street, Woodside.

John worked as a colliery labourer before enlisting in the war with the 1/7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment. He became a corporal and fought in the protracted nightmare of the Battle of the Somme, dying near Thiepval on August 21, 1916. With no known grave his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial along with those of over 72,000 men missing from the battlefield.

The Woodside Memory and History Group holds monthly meetings at Woodside Community Centre, Highgate Road, Woodside, Dudley, DY2 0SN. For more information contact chairman Len Hughes on 01384 565291.

Please send any stories or photographs you have of Black Country servicemen of the First World War. Contact dshaw@blackcountry bugle.co.uk

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