September 22nd, 2016

Battalion’s gas horror before death of Redditch man on Somme 100 years ago

Battalion’s gas horror before death of Redditch man on Somme 100 years ago Battalion’s gas horror before death of Redditch man on Somme 100 years ago
The Worcestershires on the march in the First World War
Updated: 11:57 am, Aug 26, 2016

THIS week we remember two Redditch men who died on the Somme this week, 100 years ago while fighting in the First World War.

According to the invaluable Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes, Francis Albert Kilsby was born in Alcester in 1891, one of five children born to Charles and Harriet Ann Kilsby.

Charles was a cab driver and the family lived at 54 Park Road, Redditch, and Francis, like hundreds of other local people, went on to become a needle pointer.

He joined the Worcestershire Regiment, and was a member of the territorial unit the 1/8th Battalion, starting out as a Private before being promoted to Corporal.

His regiment was actively involved throughout the Somme campaign, and suffered hundreds of casualties in the process.

In early August, the 1/8th Worcestershires had been involved in a gas attack which had gone disastrously wrong and to recuperate they were sent back down the line and then on to the seaside at Cayeux to recover.

However, on August 21 they were ordered back into the line, with many still unwell for active service.

Despite this, by August 27, they were back on duty facing Beaumont Hamel and being subject to German shell fire.

It is not known how Cpl Kilsby died, but it is likely to have been as a result of artillery fire, by far the biggest killer on the Western Front.

He was buried at the Euston Road Cemetery, Collincamps, France and is remembered on the war memorial outside St Stephens Church.

The other local man who died was Harold Bowen who was born in Rose Cottage, Upper Bentley in 1888.

He was one of eight children born to John and Emma Bowen and by 1901 the family was living in New Road, Studley, his father was now a retired farmer.

By 1911 his father had died, his mum had gone to live with her son Alfred while Alfred was working as a hunt kennelsman at Roundway Park, Devizes in Wiltshire.

He enlisted in the army on December 21, 1914, serving with the 11th Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment and the 21st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers, both service battalions.

Both regiments fought at the Somme but after two years of service Harold was invalided home suffering from bronchitis.

He died at the Northern General Hospital in Leeds on August 30 1916, aged 27. He is buried at Tardebigge Church and remembered on the war memorial at St Philip’s Church in Redditch.

* With thanks to Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes and and especially staff at the Mercian Regiment Museum.