Birm­ing­ham he­roes who died on last day of the Great War

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

SEVEN soldiers and sea­men from Birm­ing­ham died on the last day of World War One.

They had sur­vived un­til the last day of the hellish war – would not live to see an­other.

Harold Smith, James Rollings, Wil­fred Townsend, and William Hadley were four of those who died on Novem­ber 11, 1918, ac­cord­ing to the records of the Com­mon­wealth War Graves Com­mis­sion (CWGC).

The other three are known only by their ini­tials: C Ben­nett, a 20year-old pri­vate in the King’s (Liver­pool Reg­i­ment); HF Coysh, 24, a very but Royal Navy Vol­un­teer Re­serve; and HE Dixon, a 31-year-old pri­vate in the South Stafford­shire Reg­i­ment.

It was Ar­mistice Day – the day a treaty signed in Paris brought to an end fight­ing on land, sea and air af­ter four years, three months and one week of the First World War.

Yet, in a bru­tal demon­stra­tion of the sheer scale of the car­nage dur­ing the Great War, a to­tal of 910 Al­lied soldiers lost their lives that day be­fore peace was de­clared at 11am.

But few died in bat­tle. Many had al­ready been shipped back home, only to suc­cumb to their wounds.

Oth­ers had fallen to the deadly Span­ish Flu that was sweep­ing the de­pleted con­ti­nent.

Able Sea­man Smith was, like HF Coysh, a mem­ber of the Royal Navy Vol­un­teer Re­serve. He was the hus­band of Gertrude Louisa Smith, of Esme Road in Sparkhill.

Records sug­gest he died in Tid­worth Mil­i­tary Hos­pi­tal in An­dover af­ter suf­fer­ing from pneu­mo­nia.

He was 24 when he died, and is buried in Smeth­wick Old Church­yard.

James Rollings, a me­chanic in the Royal Air Force, was the hus­band of Lily Rollings, who lived in Newcombe Road in Handsworth.

His par­ents were Joshua and Ellen Rollings.

Lit­tle has been writ­ten about how he died, although he is buried in Handsworth Ceme­tery.

Pri­vate Townsend, 29, had been serv­ing in the South Stafford­shire Reg­i­ment, like many Birm­ing­ham­born soldiers.

He lived with his wife Betsy in Soli­hull Road in Sparkhill. He is buried in Rouen in France. Cor­po­ral Hadley was a 26-year-old cor­po­ral with the Royal War­wick­shire Reg­i­ment. Be­fore the war, he had lived in Mus­grave Road in Win­son Green.

The records also show Pri­vate Ben­nett had been born in As­ton, and Able Sea­man Coysh was born in Birm­ing­ham be­fore his par­ents moved to Crouch End in Lon­don.

Pri­vate Dixon’s fa­ther, Thomas Dixon, lived in Mont­gomery Street in Spark­brook.

In all, the First World War claimed the lives of nearly 16 mil­lion. The CWGC holds records of more than one mil­lion deaths among the Al­lied forces alone.

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