Five brothers from Cov who all went to war
FEW families have a prouder military tradition - and a more tragic story - than the Reddingtons.
When the First World War broke out five brothers from the Hillfields family went to the front to fight for their country, and just one failed to return.
Back home their mother Sarah Reddington was left raising another eight children on her own, with little food and even less money.
Her plight was so desperate that she was even hauled in front of the city’s magistrates because she chose to send her daughter for a bite to eat instead of school.
Times were so tough that Mrs Reddington died in 1917, a year before her four surviving sons returned home.
The battle for survival, both at home and abroad, was uncovered by relative Derrick Oldham when he started researching his family tree.
Derrick, of Astley Avenue, Foleshill, said during an interview in 2014: “I had been doing all this research and then all of a sudden it started to come together.
“Parts of it were like something out of a Dickens novel - it’s enough to move anyone to tears.”
Sarah and her 13 children lived together in Vauxhall Terrace, off East Street. When war broke out her five boys, brother and brother-inlaw, went to fight.
The oldest brother to fight for his country was William Reddington, who left the Sparkbrook Cycle Company to join the 4th South Midland Howitzer Brigade early on in the conflict.
He was eventually joined by Arthur, Jack, Herbert and Alfred who each joined different regiments and headed to the continent.
The Midland Daily Telegraph hailed the family as war heroes in March 1915, listing their regiments and achievements so far in the conflict. Less than eight months later Sarah had been ordered to attend court.
She was charged with failing to send one of her six remaining children to school regularly.
The court heard that she had been trying to support her family on 12s 1d a week and nearly half of that went on rent.
The money came entirely from one of her sons fighting abroad and the wages of one child, but it wasn’t enough to feed them all, with Mrs Reddington explaining that she sent the child to her aunt instead of school so she could get something to eat. The magistrates asked her why she didn’t apply to the guardians - groups who administered relief to those in poverty - and face up to a stint in a workhouse.
Mrs Reddington said she was afraid she had little choice.
If poverty wasn’t enough for Sarah to deal with she then got word that one of her brave soldier sons, Jack, had been caught up in enemy machine gun fire.
Sgt Reddington, of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, managed to get back to his own lines but despite the efforts of medics he didn’t survive the injuries.
The 23-year-old had been married for just over a year. The next tragedy for the Reddingtons came in 1917 when Sarah passed away aged 50, a year before Arthur, Herbert, William and Alfred returned home.
Derrick says all of this came as a shock to him when he started researching, as Alfred, or Fred, was the only brother he knew.
“Every time we would go to a funeral there were five of these guys and they would all look the same,”