FOR many survivors of the First World War the sense of guilt that they had come home when so many of their brothers in arms had not must have been overwhelming.
One Black Country soldier to return was William Tombs, who returned to his native Black Country but his brother Bert Tombs did not.
This photograph of William has been given to us by his nephew, Harry Smith of Cradley Heath. It shows William standing third from right on the back row of a group of Worcestershire Regiment soldiers, somewhere in France.
It appears they are in fresh-built billets, judging by the relative cleanliness of the huts and the duckboards laid over the mud.
William was born in 1889 and Bert in 1894 and both served in the Worcestershire Regiment. Harry has some of the letters that they wrote home.
In one Bert wrote, "I went to Chelmsford on Friday to see the soldiers review by Lord Kitchener. There was about twenty five thousands soldiers there. I saw Kitchener. Will's lot started at three o'clock in the morning and didn't get back till seven thirty at night, so they had enough for one day I should think."
Both brothers were wounded and even though they were treated at the same hospital they were unable to see each other while they were there.
Bert fought in Gallipoli, where he was injured, and afterwards on the Western Front. He rose to be a sergeant but was killed in action on April 23, 1917. With no known grave his name is recorded on the Arras Memorial, France.
William survived the war but never again enjoyed full health and died in 1932, aged 43.
Bert Tombs was not the only man from his home town to serve in the Worcesters and lose his life in the war and Harry has supplied us with this list of all Cradley Heath men, and the streets where they lived, killed in the regiment in WWI:
Corngreaves Road: Pte Caleb Clarke, 3rd Batt., April 5, 1918; Pte Alfred Hodgetts, 3rd Batt., September 24, 1914; Pte Wesley Homer, 3rd Batt., May 13, 1916; Pte George Wellings, 1st Batt., March 13, 1915; L/Cpl L. Wilmot, 10th Batt., July 23, 1916.
Graingers Lane: Pte John Gillam, 4th Batt., April 28, 1915; L/Cpl George Hill, 4th Batt., October 18, 1916.
King Street: Pte Edward Stringer, 1/7th Batt., April 25, 1917; Sgt Harry Willetts, 3rd Batt., July 23, 1916.
Foxoak Street: Pte William Bloomer, 2/8th Batt., November 26, 1918; L/Cpl Charles Hill, 9th Batt., April 19, 1916; Pte George Homer, 4th Batt., August 6, 1915; Pte Samuel Timbs, 4th Batt., September 5, 1916; Pte George Weston, 4th Batt., September 18, 1916.
Clyde Street: Pte N. Coley, 1/8th Batt., October 24, 1918.
Lawrence Lane: Pte Albert Shaw, 11th Batt., April 24, 1917.
Beehive Street: Pte Herbert Woodhouse, 10th Batt., July 3, 1916.
Bannister Street: Pte Frederick Guest, 4th Batt., August 6, 1915; Pte Jeremiah Homer, 9th Batt., July 22, 1915.
Tibbetts Gardens: Pte Frederick Hall, 3rd Batt., July 7, 1916; Pte Frederick Shaw, 1st Batt., July 31, 1917; Pte George Southall, 1st Batt., November 3, 1917; Pte Fred Tibbetts, 4th Batt., December 7, 1915; Sgt Bert Tombs, 4th Batt., April 23, 1917.
Queen Street: L/Cpl Edwin Grosvenor, 3rd Batt., April 20, 1917.
High Street: Pte Ernest Dunn, 7th Batt., November 20, 1916.
Dudley Wood Road: Pte David Newton, 2nd Batt., September 26, 1915: Pte Edward Weaver, 10th Batt., December 30, 1917.
Meredith Street: Cpl Joseph Hampton, 1st Batt., July 10, 1916.
Hollybush Street: Pte Harry Skitt, 4th Batt., November 27, 1915; Pte Horace Tromans, 4th Batt., December 26, 1915; Pte Adam Williams, 3rd Batt., June 16, 1915.
Pearson Street: Pte Thomas Sidaway, 3rd Batt., October 15, 1916; Pte Bert Smith, 1st Batt., March 15, 1915; Pte Ebenezer Stevens, 1/8th Batt., July 6, 1916: Pte Thomas Turley, 10th Batt., February 13, 1917.
Spinners End: Pte Wilfred Whittle, 4th Batt., October 30, 1918.
Address not known: L/Cpl Harry Hadley, 10th Batt., July, 26, 1917; Pte Percy Price, 4th Batt., December 6, 1915; L/Cpl Joseph Priest, 3rd Batt., June 16, 1916; Pte Sydney Walker, 4th Batt., February 3, 1918.
Share your WWI photos and stories; contact dshaw@black countrybugle.co.uk