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They were just ordinary blokes doing an honest day's work before the needs of the country intervened as the war began

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 21, 2014

  • A copy of the Roll of Honour poster exhibited by the company at all L&NWR stations

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LAST week the life of John Bradley, a former employee of the London and North Western Railway and a soldier of the Great War who survived the fighting but succumbed to pneumonia shortly afterwards, was remembered because of an astonishing historical artefact, a Roll of Honour compiled by the railway company and presented in 1921 to the next of kin of those employees who had died as a result of the war.

The book was brought to our attention by Maurice Ivor Birch from Aldridge whose wife Beryl was Private Bradley's great niece. During the Bugle's diligent research the full impact of the war on this single employer and the railway infrastructure of the Black Country was realised revealing more than one hundred other L&NWR employees from the area who died fighting for their King and Country.

The policy of the Bugle over the duration of the First World War commemorations (2014-2018) is to mention as many of the Great War fallen as possible, and there will be more stories to follow in the future. But when such an amazing piece of history arrives at Bugle House it is important to be as comprehensive as possible. We have therefore turned this feature into a memorial for all those brave Black Countrymen whose names appear on the Roll of Honour.

Unfortunately the Great War had a habit of accumulating the most dreadful statistics after almost every forward advance or hasty retreat, and the Roll of Honour is yet another addition to the collection. Every man mentioned had left behind grieving loved ones and a gap in the lives of family and friends that would never be filled. We therefore remember them.

At the outbreak of the Great War the railway was essential for the transportation of passengers and freight all over the country, and the L&NWR was one of the biggest railway companies in the country. During hostilities they ran 74,311 special trains for naval and military purposes, exclusive of upwards of 16,000 trains conveying coal to the Grand Fleet, etc. An additional 13,318 trains were provided for the wounded, refugees and prisoners-of-war, and it is estimated that apart from troops using existing services, the company carried upwards of 25.4 million members of the forces, together with horses, guns, baggage, etc, and a total number of 3,672 tanks and larger guns.

There are 146 names mentioned on the Roll of Honour, and several of the soldiers were awarded gallantry medals. W. Lockley who worked as a porter at Wolverhampton station received the Distinguished Conduct Medal; there were 23 recipients of the Military Medal, two who received the French Croix De Guerre, one the Meritorious Service Medal, plus others mentioned in dispatches and those brought to notice for valuable services.

The jobs these men did before joining up were wide and varied, just ordinary blokes doing an honest day's work before the needs of the country intervened. At the Walsall and Bescot stations twenty-six engineering labourers were killed in action or died as a result of the war; the deaths of thirty-eight porters at several stations across the Black Country were recorded; fifteen goods clerks; fourteen cleaners in the locomotive sheds; eight carters. Others included a call boy for the traffic department, an assistant lampman, a train recorder, bridge painter, a boatman, sandman, shunter, toolman and claims inspector.

As well as producing the Roll of Honour in 1921, the Company also exhibited a poster at all LNWR stations that included the following information. A total of 31,742 employees nationwide left for service with His Majesty's Forces, and the names of 3,726 are listed on the Roll of Honour.

The following are the names of Black Countrymen who died while in the employ of the L&NWR , plus the station they worked at: W. Lockley DCM (Wolves), B.C. Archer MM (Bescot), W.G. Belsham MM (Bescot), F. Butler MM (Walsall), F. Carless MM (Bescot), F. G. Cartwright MM (Bescot), T. W. Felton MM (Wolves), H. Firman MM (Spon Lane), I. Gibbons MM (Dudley Port), H. Gleeson MM (Bescot), F. Griffiths MM (Wolves), T. Hall MM (Wednesbury), R. Kendrick MM and Bar (Bescot), W. Moran MM (Walsall), H. Pennell MM (Tipton), F. Perry MM (Walsall), E. Pitcock MM (Wednesbury), A. Roberts MM (Tipton), A. Spiers MM (Walsall), J. H. Tyler MM (Dudley), W. H. Walters MM and Bar (Walsall), J. Wigley MM (Walsall), A. Wilkins MM (Walsall), F.W. Willetts MM (Wolves).

S. Davies MSM and French C de G (Tipton), W. Cox (Walsall), E. Everton (Walsall), H.A. Harper (Wolves), A.W. Johnson (Wolves), G. Rutter (Bescot), T. Wellings (Tipton), T.A. Wilson (Bescot), J.B. Dunkley French C de G, S. Brookes (Walsall), G.H. Machin (Walsall), E.J. Trafford (Wolves).

F. Allott (Wolves), H. Allen (Bescot), F. Antill (Walsall), L.R. Baker (Wolves), B. Beech (Walsall), J.C. Beech (Walsall), J. Bent (Dudley Port), S. Biffen (Walsall), A. Bond (Walsall), R. Bott (Walsall), A. Bradley (Bescot), F. Bruntnell (Dudley Port), G. Buckley (Walsall), A. Carless (Bescot), H. Cartwright (Wolves), E.H. Carter (Wednesbury), J.H. Churm (Walsall), H.J. Clarke (Bescot), G.E. Clemson (Dudley Port), J.T. Clews (Walsall), J.W. Clutterbuck (Bescot), C. Cooper (Tipton), W. Cotterill (Wolves), W. Cox (Walsall), F. Coxon (Walsall), G. Cyster (Bescot), H. Daft (Walsall), J. Dallaway (Walsall), W, Davenport (Wolves), F.S. Deeley (Bescot), F. Dewsbury (Wednesbury), W. Doughty (Bescot), R. Downing (Walsall), J. Eastilow (Wolves).

F.W. Fairclough (Wolves), J. Farroll (Darlaston), J. Finlan (Wolves), S. Forrester (Wolves), T.R. France (Bescot), F. Greenfield (Brierley Hill), J. Griffin (Dudley), T. Grigg (Wednesbury), E.J. Groves (Walsall), J.W. Hall (Walsall), E. Hansor (Bescot), P. Harrington (Tipton), W. Harris (Bescot), T. Haynes (Wolves), A. Hendy (Walsall), E.J. Holmes (Walsall), A. Humphries (Willenhall), F.C.H. Huskisson (Oldbury), A.W. Jones (Wolves), J.E. Jones (Walsall), A. Kendrick (Wolves), T. Kennedy (Walsall), T. Keogh (Walsall).

M. Lawless (Wolves), E. Lazenby (Walsall), W.J. Lloyd (Walsall), F.J. Lockley (Wolves), E. Martin (Walsall), J. Martin (Tipton), S.B. Martin (Wolves), C.E. Mason (Wolves), G. Mason (Bescot), W. Mason (Walsall), J. McCarthy (Wolves), W.E. Millerchip (Bescot), J. Minton (Walsall), W.R. Morgan (Wednesbury), E.L. Mould (Wolves), W.J. Nabbs (Wolves), J.E. Naven (Wolves), A.E. Naylor (Wolves), J.Norton (Smethwick), E.G. Owens (Tipton), J. Patrick (Wolves), H. Perry (Wednesbury), H. Phillips (Smethwick), W. Plester (Walsall), R.C. Poynton (Walsall), A.E. Reeves (Walsall), C.J. Russell (Bescot).

S.E. Saunders (Walsall), F.S. Shinton (Wolves), F. Simkins (Wednesbury), F. Skidmore (Brierley Hill), E.C. Smith (Tipton), J.J. Smith (Bescot), G. Stait (Walsall), J.R. Stant (Wolves), P.Talbot (Walsall), T. Turner (Bescot), A.S. Walker (Bescot), E. Walker (Walsall), F.E. Walker (Wolves), M. Walters (Walsall), G.N. Ward (Wolves), G.W. Webster (Walsall), T. Whitmarsh (Wolves), E. Williams (Wolves), T. Williams (Wednesbury), W. Willis (Tipton), T.J.H. Wisdom (Bescot), S. Worley (Walsall), S. Worthington (Walsall), G.A. Wraggg (Wolves), A.E. Wright (Dudley), W.A. Wright (Wolves).

The list of names is very long, but each and everyone deserves a mention for the sacrifice they made. If any of the aforementioned names are recognised and as a result more information can be added to the individual's story, contact jworkman@blackcountrybugle.co.uk.

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