AMONG the many groups that preserve the Black Country's rich heritage are the Woodside Memory and History Group, Dudley. They have set themselves the task of researching the stories behind every man from their area who lost his life in the First World War.
Their dedicated team includes Val Worwood, Mike Smith, Chris Smith, Don Kirby and Janette Hughes and they have supplied us with the following details of some of the men they have investigated.
William Rubery, known as Willie, was born in June 1887, the son of Thomas and Mary Ann Rubery. The family home was in Pensnett and in 1895 Willie was admitted to Oldswinford Hospital School, Stourbridge. The headmaster described him as a boy of moderate ability and in October 1901, aged 14, Willie became an apprentice to Mr A. Hancox, wheelwright, of Pensnett.
In 1909 Willie married Gertrude Lloyd at St Augustine's Church, Holly Hall, Dudley, and the couple set up home in Low Town, Holly Hall. Their son William was born in 1911.
Willie was working for a local coachbuilder before he enlisted in the First World War. He served with the 1/8th Worcestershire Regiment, which landed at Boulogne in March 1915 and fought in France and Flanders before transferring to Italy in November 1917 and returning to France just under a year later.
Willie rose to the rank of sergeant but he was killed, aged 30, on August 17, 1917, and is buried at the New Irish Farm Cemetery, near Ypres, Belgium.
Samuel William and Emanuel Hughes were brothers killed in the war. Their parents were Samuel, a coal miner, and Alice, who had married at St Andrew's Church, Netherton in 1886. Their home was in Cross Street, Woodside and they had a large family of 14 children.
Samuel William was the eldest, born in 1887. In 1908 he married Selina Shakespere at St Augustine's Church and they had three children – Samuel Joseph, Florence and Norman.
Samuel William also became a miner but in 1914 in answered the call to arms and enlisted with the 9th Worcestershire Regiment.
In June 1915 the battalion was sent as reinforcement to Gallipoli, landing on the Turkish peninsula on July 13.
In August 1915 the battalion engaged in the Battle of Sairi Bair, the last Allied attempt to seize control of Gallipoli. The offensive failed and the stalemate continued. In high summer conditions in the trenches became unendurable, and diseases such a dysentery swept through the Allied lines. This was followed by a hard winter of heavy rain and blizzards before the Allies withdrew in December 1915.
Samuel William Hughes died October 9, 1915, aged 27. He has no known grave but his name is recorded on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli.
Emanuel Hughes was born in 1891 and census returns record that he worked as a blast furnaceman. In 1914 he married Sarah Round at St Augustine's Church.
Like his brother, Emanuel served in the 9th Worcesters. He survived the Dardanelles fiasco, after which the battalion withdrew to Egypt and then was posted to Mesopotamia in March 1916.
Lance Corporal Emanuel Hughes died on April 5, 1916, aged 25. He too has no known grave but is commemorated on the Basra Memorial in Iraq.
John Hoare was born in 1890, the son of ironworker Edward Thomas Hoare and his wife Ellen Webb. They had married at St Thomas' Church, Dudley, in 1877 and they had six more children – Reuben, Joseph, Edward, Ellen, Walter and Louisa. Their family home was at 2 Cross Street, Woodside.
John worked as a labourer and he married Sarah Harper at St Augustine's Church in 1916. He served in the 815th Mechanical Transport Company Army Service Corps in Mesopotamia and the Caucasus. He died on September 19, 1918, aged 28, and is buried at the Tehran War Cemetery, Iran.
John Thomas Owen was born around 1892 and in 1915 he married Beatrice Brettle at St Augustine's Church. The couple lived at 14 Cross Street, Woodside.
Details of his war service are sparse but when he died on September 27, 1918, aged 26, he was serving in the 1st Royal Marine Light Infantry, Royal Naval Division. He is buried at the Sucrerie British Cemetery, Graincourt-les-Havrincourt in the Pas de Calais, France.
All of these men lived in the same ward of Dudley but when summoned by the call of duty they left their homes to die in foreign lands, some amid the mud-rimed trenches of France and Flanders and others in the fly-blown sands of the Middle East. But still, 100 years later, there are those in their native borough determined that their sacrifice is not forgotten.
Have you an ancestor that fought in the First World War? Please share any pictures or stories you have, contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle .co.uk or write to us at 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL