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Remembering the brave Belbroughton boys lost in Great War

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: February 04, 2014

  • Belbroughton war memorial and INSET George Henry Collins

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THE chances are that many of you will have visited the pretty village of Belbroughton not far from Stourbridge.

Perhaps it was during the Beer Festival or maybe the famous Scarecrow Festival?

If you go, next time stop awhile and look at the War Memorial on the grass outside Holy Trinity Church and give a thought to the names of those who gave their lives from the village in the First World War.

Belbroughton is not a Black Country village but neither is it a typical farming village.

For several hundred years Belbroughton had its heart in the scythe-making industry with the Isaac Nash scythes going all over the world and so, like many people in the Black Country, its people were metal workers.

Of the 19 men listed on the memorial seven were working in the scythe industry and three Belbroughton men had Black Country connections.

The first isn't on the memorial but his family were living in Belbroughton when he died.

Charles Dutton had joined the 2nd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment at the end of the Boer War. In the 1911 census he was recorded as a sergeant.

As a regular soldier he was dispatched with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to stem the tide of the German advance in Belgium and Northern France in August 1914.

As such he would have fought in the retreat from the Marne and the First Battle of Mons in which the BEF fired their Lee Enfields at 15 rounds a minute causing the Germans to believe that they had machine guns!

What hell he must have seen as the BEF fought on but were gradually decimated by the overwhelming odds and the industrial war!

He survived two more years rising to the rank of Captain in the Easter of 1916.

As such he was classed as a temporary gentleman, a phrase that was an insult to this gallant, brave man. July 1916 saw the commencement of the awful Battle of the Somme with 50,000 casualties on the first day. Charles survived and continued to lead his men in the South Staffs with distinction.

On July 29, 1916, following the Allies taking Delville Wood at enormous cost, there was fierce hand-to-hand fighting to the north east near Pozieres.

During this fighting Charles was killed. His parents received a telegram from the King and Queen expressing their regret.

Thomas Baylis was Belbroughton born and bred but worked at the Halesowen Railway Station before the war where he was described as 'a steady, industrious man and much respected'.

He was a reservist in the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment and as such he was also one of the early contingents sent to France and would have fought through many of the same battles as Charles Dutton.

He was the first to die from the village. His regiment was involved in the Battle of Festubert in May 1915. On May 16 they took part in a night attack on the German lines.

On the right of them were the Inniskillings and on the left an Indian Regiment. The attack was supposed to be a surprise but the Inniskillings rose with a shout and all hell broke out. The Worcesters went forward in a hail of bullet and shells with the sky lit up by flares.

Few reached beyond the barbed wire and they retreated to their lines as best they could. A total of 250 were missing and among them was Thomas Baylis.

George Henry Collins was born in Bloxwich. He married Minnie Portman and went to live with her and her family in Hartle Lane, Belbroughton.

He enlisted in the 9th Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps, as part of the New Armies raised by Lord Kitchener and was sent quickly to France after initial training.

His battalion was the first to experience one of the new horrors of war, flame throwers.

In July 1916 he too was also involved in the Battle of the Somme and in the same area as Charles Dutton, around Delville Wood. Backwards and forwards the sides went, killing and maiming each other. What was once a wood was now a shattered, muddy, lunar landscape.

As the Germans tried to regain the wood George Collins was killed. When he joined up in November 1914 four others from Belbroughton joined up with him. All were killed. It has been a privilege researching what happened to these brave men recorded on the monument, not forgetting those who survived some still whole but others without limbs or forever psychologically damaged.

Nothing can be done to change what happened but we can show our respect by remembering those who fought and died as we commemorate the anniversary of the beginning of this 'war to end all wars'.

Have you any stories on your local war memorial or done any research on villagers who went to fight in the Great War? Contact us on 01384 567678 or email editor@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to us at 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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