“NEXT morning the downpour continued. The state of the ground, bad enough before, became worse. The great bog of shell-holes had become almost impossible, a vast wilderness strewn with corpses and dotted at intervals by wrecks of smashed tanks.”
– That’s how the diary of the Worcestershire Regiment describes conditions on August 27, 100 years ago as the Third Battle of Ypres – Passchendaele intensified.
Over the next 48 hours seven men from Redditch were to lose their lives in the mud and blood as they continued the attack on either side of the Belgian village of St Julien.
Corporal Thomas William Hawkins was born on December 5, 1884, one of four children born to Thomas, a chimney sweep, and Ann Hawkins.
The family home was in Bradley Green.
Young Thomas married Ada Lewis at St George’s Church in Redditch on October 19, 1912 and together they lived at 113 Prospect Road, where they had a daughter, Ida. Thomas meanwhile worked in the cycle industry.
He enlisted as a reservist in 1914, joining 2/8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment, and had been in several battles before being killed in action on August 27.
His commanding officer, 2nd Lieutenant Notts, wrote that he was one of the best NCOs and would have shortly made sergeant.
He is remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium, and on the St Stephen’s war memorial.
Jesse Clifford Hemming was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1/8th Battalion, Worcestershire Regiment when he was killed in action.
The third son of William Edward and Elizabeth Hemming, his family were prominent needle and fishing tackle manufacturers and lived in Park Road, Redditch.
He was born in 1879 and grew up to be a local government valuer in Birmingham and played cricket with the Redditch Union Club.
In 1915 he enlisted as a Private in the Artists’ Rifles but was commissioned into the Worcs in 1917 following an appeal for officers, who were particular targets for snipers.
Such a fate befell Jesse as he led his men into battle for the first time on August 27. He was 38 and is remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial and on the St Stephen’s war memorial.
William T Crow was a Redditch resident who enlisted in Birmingham, and was posted to 1/6th Battalion-Territorial, Royal Warwickshire Regiment.
Little is known of him, other than he had attained the rank of Corporal when he too died on August 27.
He is remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial, the St Stephen’s war memorial, and on the memorial at St Stephen’s CofE School.
Harold Frederick Lilley, like Cpl Thomas above, had enlisted in the 2/8th Worcestershire Regiment.
One of seven children, he was born in 1894, the son of Henry, a hairdresser, and Harriet Francis Lilley.
The family lived at White Cottage, Ipsley, and by the 1911 census Harold was helping his dad in the barber shop.
He too was killed on August 27 and is remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial and on the St Stephen’s war memorial.
Charles Percival Palmer – Percival – was born in Redditch in 1892 and was christened that year on March 27 at St Stephen’s Church.
The son of Charles Palmer, a corn dealer, and his wife Ann, he was one of six children living in the family home at 17 Alcester Street.
By the 1911 census he was working as a draper’s assistant in Aston and living on the Lozells Road in Birmingham.
He was in the 1/8th Worcs and was killed on August 27 in an explosion during a German counterattack.
He too is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial and on the St Stpehen’s Church war memorial and at St Stephen’s CofE School.
Corporal George Mustin Goodall had been in the Territorials before the war and was in uniform from its outbreak with the 1/8th Worcs.
Born in 1895 to Edward and Fanny Goodall, he was one of seven children who lived at the family home in Birchfield Road, Redditch.
He was educated at St Lukes School and for many years was in the church choir.
Edward worked for Royal Enfield while George, aged 16 was working as a warehouse clerk for British Needle Mills.
He was wounded in the chest and shoulder leading an attack on August 27 and died of his wounds two days later.
He is buried at Dozinghem Military Cemetery and is remembered on the St Lukes war memorial and Headless Cross CofE School memorial.
Ernest Griffin served with the Worcestershire Territorial Force Artillery, known as 241 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, in ‘C’ Battery, the Redditch battery.
He was born in 1881, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Griffin. His father worked in the needle industry but had died by 1891 leaving his mum to support the family from her earnings as a fish hook paperer.
The family initially lived in Adelaide Street, but by 1901 were in Marsden Road, witth Ernest recorded as a fish rod maker.
He married his sweetheart Edith in 1903 and by 1905 they had a son, Leslie, and were living at 7 Mount Street.
Ernest had also changed jobs, working as a brass turner.
He served as a gunner at Passchendaele and was killed on August 28. He is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium and is remembered on the St Luke’s war memorial.
Finally, as a snapshot of the losses suffered on August 27, 1917, the 1/8th Worcs suffered 108 men killed or wounded, the 2/8th Worcs 146.
With thanks to Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes; Remembering – Battle of Passchendaele by Gillian Coombes; The Worcestershire Regiment in the Great War.