ONE hundred years ago this week the opening phases on the Battle of Passchaendale had taken place.
Seven soldiers from Redditch had already lost their lives but atrocious weather had prompted an early halt to the offensive.
On August 10 the attack resumed, claiming the lives of hundreds more British soldiers, including two more Redditch soldiers.
Private Alfred Ernest Faithful was only 20 years old when he was killed.
He was one of seven children born to Alfred and Emma Jame Faithful who lived at 111 Mount Pleasant, Redditch.
His father was a stoker at a bicycle company and his mother a dressmaker. By 1911 at the age of 14 Alfred is recorded as working as a bicycle enameller.
He enlisted in Worcester and was sent to the 1st (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers) London Regiment.
It isn’t known how Alfred died, only that he was killed in action on August 10, which is the day the British launched their attack to capture the hamlet of Westhoek.
Although the attack was deemed a success it came at a considerable cost due to concentrated German machine gun fire and counterattacks.
Pte Faithfull is remembered today on the Menin Gate memorial in Ypres in Belgium and on the St Stephen’s war memorial and the St Luke’s (The Bridge) war memorial.
Ernest Charles Hicks was a gunner with the 341st Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery.
Born in 1890 he lived with his grandparents John and Julia Hicks at the Forresters House in Feckenham.
By the 1911 census he was working as a printers press man but by 1914 he was employed as a chauffeur.
He enlisted into the Redditch battery (3rd Worcester), Royal Field Artillery, 2nd South Midland Brigade, on August 5, 1914, the day after Britain declared war on Germany.
In 1916 Ernest was granted leave during which he married his sweetheart Eleanor Colebrook in Feckenham.
He returned to the front and after a bout of sickness was back at his unit for the start of the Third Battle of Ypres.
Here he was wounded in action and died of his injuries on August 12, 1917.
He is buried in Mendinghem Military Cemetery near Poperinge in Belgium and is remembered today on the St John the Baptist war memorial in Feckenham and Feckenham School war memorial.
The Feckenham World War 1 project of last year produced a walking tour of the village highlighting the homes of those local soldiers who fought in the Great War.
It includes the home of Ernest Hicks and is available to download here.
With thanks to The Feckenham World War 1 project, Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes, Jill Coombes: Remembering Battle of Passchendaele, Richard Pearce and http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/