‘Our Honoured Dead’: Bristol Road Wesleyan Methodist Circuit, Birmingham
There is a large collection of plans from the old Bristol Road Wesleyan Methodist Circuit, deposited in the Birmingham Reference Library (Archives). The ones for the years 1918-20 list the names of men belonging to the various churches in the circuit who served, – many of whom died – , during World War I.
The Circuit plans of 1918-20 give not only the names, but also their rank. Looking at the plans quarter by quarter we can see, at least, when the men’s deaths were recorded. The first quarter, which contains ‘Our Gallant Dead’, is July 14th to October 12th, 1918. It names 36 men from six of the seven churches in the circuit: 12 from Bristol Road; 8 from Harborne; 1 from Selly Oak; 2 from California; 5 from King’s Norton; 8 from Northfield, plus 2 from Selly Oak noted as ‘officially reported missing’. The listing ends with the words
‘Honour the Brave. Remember the Bereaved. Pray for Righteous Peace
Sgt. Bert Horton Pte. Arnold Pickles
Pte. James Sanders Pte. John T. Hawley
Pte. Harry Patrick Pte. Wm Hadley
Pte. Frank Banner Lieut. Percy Iles, B.Sc.
Cpl. Will Bentley, M.M. Pte. Fred Bracey
Sergt. Will McMillan Seaman Arthur Braham
Pte. A. C. Hostler Pte. W. Hewertson
Pte. Leonard Hicks Pte. Ernest Tasker
Pte. Arthur B. Warr Sgt. Leonard Smith
Gr. Frank Rose L.Cpl. W.J.Cook
Pte. J.H. Gill
Pte. Stephen Henshaw
Pte. Joseph Hodgetts
Gr. A.W. Proverbs Cpl. Joseph A. Lowe
Pte. E.E. Butler Pte. B. Crowther
Pte. A. Troth
Pte. G. Howarth Pte. E. Thorneyctoft
Pte. J.H. Kellett Pte. H. Hodge
Able Seaman J. Lapper Pte. L. Kellett
Pte. B. Pearce Pte. H. Osborne
Officially Reported Missing
Pte. Stephen Westwood, of Selly Oak Church
Pte. Chas James, “ “
The following quarter the heading has been changed to ‘Our Honoured Dead’. So we find that in the October 6th 1918 to January 11th 1919 plan, Pte. F. Parry and Gnr F. Lockwood were added to the King’s Norton total while Pte Chas. James was removed from the missing list. In the January 5th to April 12th 1919 plan Pte. D MacDonald and Pte. R. Harries were added to Harborne, Pte. Chas. James to Selly Oak and Pte. Bert Watton to King’s Norton. The next quarter, April 13th to July 12th 1919 finds Lieut. L. Bladwell and Pte. Harold Pa(y)ne added to the Bristol Road list. In July 6th to October 11th 1919 Pte. Frank Warr joined the Harborne one and Fashoda Road Church recorded the loss of Pioneer J. A. Reynolds.
On the first plan after the cessation of hostilities, January 4th to April 10th 1920, Pte. Ben Rowley and Pte. H. Austin were added to Harborne’s list, but Pte. R. Harries is omitted. In the following quarter, April 4th to July 10th 1920, Pte. Stephen Westwood was transferred from the ‘officially reported missing’ category to Selly Oak’s ‘honoured dead’ and the name of Pte. Howard Budd was also added. The lists are the same for the following two quarters. Thereafter ‘Our Honoured Dead’ list is omitted from the Circuit Plan.
Photographs exist of the Bristol Road Wesleyan Methodist Church War Memorial, which contains the names, but not the ranks. It has two names not listed on the Circuit plan, Fred Brown and Ralph Burton, so perhaps, we might speculate that these two were attenders at the Bristol Road Church, but not members. The church was destroyed by enemy action in October 1940 and presumably the memorial was lost.
In Harborne Methodist Church, a listed building, now unfortunately closed, there is a memorial window to those who died in the 1914-1918 war and it lists all from Harborne Wesleyan Methodist Church who were recorded in the circuit plans. In addition, a carved oak memorial board contains the names of Sunday School scholars who died and it lists B. Rowley. This board has two anomalies in that it records a R. Harries (Pte), who was listed on three plans under Harborne (January 5th 1919 – October 11th 1919), but thereafter is omitted and does not appear on the main Harborne memorial window and A Perry, who is not recorded anywhere else. Presumably he was simply a member of the Sunday School.
Then the circuit plans of July14th– October 12th 1918 and October 6th – January 11th 1919 note that the following local preachers were ‘serving in H.M. Forces’.
J. Clee, 98 Northfield Road, Kings Norton, C. A. Harding, 105 Teignmouth Road, Selly Oak, W. C. Slack, 138 High Street, Harborne, D. Brown, 199 Bristol Road, Northfield and Chas. Smout, 53 Lordswood, Harborne.
The January 5th – April 12th 1919 plan adds W. Hill, 99 North Road, Harborne, but the April 13th– July 12th 1919 plan shows only C.A. Harding, W.C. Slack, and D. Brown as still serving in H.M. Forces. Clee and Smout are still on the Local Preachers list, but Hill is omitted. He is not listed among those who were killed, so we can only speculate that he moved from the circuit. In the July 6th – October 11th 1919 quarter only W. C. Slack, and D. Brown, were still serving and the last plan, January 4th – April 10th 1920, just has D. Brown. By the following quarter he also has obviously been discharged/demobbed.
So on the Birmingham, Bristol Road Wesleyan Methodist circuit plans we have a total of 49 fatalities recorded (plus the mystery of Harries and Hill). By rank, those who died were 2 Lieutenants; 3 Sergeants; 1 L. Corporal; 2 Corporals; 35 Privates; 3 Gunners; 1 Pioneer; 1 Seaman and 1 Able Seaman. No ranks are given for the local preachers, presumably because they all survived and so were not included in ‘Our Honoured Dead’.
The last circuit plan on which ‘Our Honoured Dead’ appears is October 3rd, 1920 – January 8th, 1921. So to summarize: every one of the seven churches in the circuit lost someone.
Assuming that these were members then the following statistics result:
If over 49 men or 6.5% died from one Wesleyan Methodist circuit of 7 churches one cannot help wondering how many died throughout the Connexion as a whole.
2007/08 E. Dorothy Graham
[This article appeared originally in The Society of Cirplanologists’ publication, Cirplan, Vol. 14, No. 1, Issue No. 105, Michaelmas, 2007]