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Family memories of Great War fallen preserved for 100 years

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 24, 2014

By Dan Shaw

  • Memorial picture of James Haney presented by the Tanfield family

  • Official letter sent to family of Private Frederick Stanley

  • Frederick Stanley's mother Florence and his sister Queenie

  • The original picture of Private Joseph Wheeler

  • Composite picture with Elizabeth Wheeler's image imposed on that of her dead husband

  • Elizabeth Wheeler with children Joseph and Elizabeth

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THE work of the Woodside History and Memory Group to record the stories of all the men from that historic Dudley ward who lost their lives in the First World War continues.

The team involved, Val Worwood, Mike Smith, Chris Smith, Don Kirby and Janette Hughes, have sent us details of more men from the Woodside, Holly Hall, Scotts Green, Harts Hill and Low Town areas of Dudley who went to war and did not return to their families.

James Haney was born in 1895 at Netherton, the son of James Henry Haney, a boiler plater, and Eliza Wilkins. They had married at St John's Church, Kates Hill, Dudley, in 1893. The couple had 10 children – Richard, James, Eliza, John, William, Phoebe, David, Maria, May and Martha.

In 1917 James married Minnie Bailey at St Augustine's Church, Holly Hall and their son William James was born later that year.

James and his brother Richard enlisted in the war and both served with the Worcestershire Regiment, James with the 3rd Battalion and Richard with the 14th.

Richard was wounded and invalided out of the army in 1915. James' luck held until the closing months of the war. He died on September 27, 1918, aged 23, roughly in the midpoint of the Allies' 100 Days Offensive, otherwise known as the Advance to Victory. He was fighting in the Bethune area and was probably treated at the No.1 Casualty Clearing Station at Chocques before dying. He is buried at Chocques Military Cemetery along with 1,800 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and 82 German graves.

James' descendants still have the photograph of him in an elaborate commemorative frame given to them by the Tanfield family. These frames were presented to the families who had lost a husband, brother or son in the war.

Thomas William Tanfield was a Dudley lawyer, with the firm Tanfield and Tanfield at Fountain Chambers in the Market Place, a magistrate and a local councillor. He represented the Woodside ward on the council and was Mayor of Dudley 1922-23. He was also secretary to the Dudley and District Benefit Building Society. His home was on Stourbridge Road at Scotts Green.

Miner George Albert Stanley and Florence Mercy Cross married at St Luke's Church, Dudley, in 1898 and the following year their son Frederick was born. The couple had seven more children – Georgia, Harold, Florence Maud, Elsie Jane, Isabelle, Georgina (known as Queenie) and Lily. The family home was in Low Tow, Holly Hall, a slum district that was cleared in the 1950s.

Frederick Stanley served with the 10th Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He was killed, aged 19, on October 19, 1918, after volunteering for extra combat duty, just three weeks before the armistice. He is buried at the Romeries Communal Cemetery Extension.

Frederick's family still have the official letter passing on the king and queen's sympathy for their loss, signed by Viscount Alfred Milner, the German-born Secretary of State for War in Lloyd George's coalition government during the closing months of the war.

Joseph Wheeler was another young man to hear the bugle's call and march off to war never to see his loved ones again. He was born in 1888, the son of a canal labourer, William Henry Wheeler and Annie Chambers, who had married at St Thomas' Church, Dudley in 1878. The family home was in Quarry Bank and the Wheelers had five more children – Thomas, Edwin, Phoebe, May and Annie.

In 1908 Joseph married Elizabeth Hammond at St Augustine's Church and the 1911 census shows them living in Stourbridge Road, Harts Hill, with their children Elizabeth and Joseph.

Joseph served with the 8th South Staffordshire Regiment and was killed in the closing days of the Battle of the Somme, on November 6, 1916, less than two weeks before the British offensive ground to a halt having cost 419,654 British and 202,567 French casualties and the defending Germans having lost 465,181 men.

Joseph's body is among the tens of thousands lost on that battlefield and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

Among the pictures of the Wheelers that their family have preserved over the decades is one of Elizabeth and Joseph that is a composite picture made up after he died, in which an image of Elizabeth has been added to a picture of Joseph in uniform. Perhaps the couple had never had their picture taken together and the grieving Elizabeth had this one made up as a reminder of the husband she had lost forever.

No corner of the country was left untouched by the slaughter of the First World War. The sacrifices made by young men 100 years ago and the heartbreaking loss suffered by their families is still remembered today. If anything, the sense of duty in honouring the fallen has grown stronger as the great battles retreat into the past and groups such as the Woodside History and Memory Group, and many other individuals, work hard to preserve the memory of those that died.

Have you any WWI stories or pictures to share with readers? Please contact dshaw@blackcoun trybugle.co.uk or write in to our usual address.

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