Our War Memorial
In our church is a brass memorial to the memory of the men from the then new Methodist church at Four Oaks who died in the First World War. It is a focus of worship on Remembrance Sunday, but otherwise it may seem unremarkable and many visitors may not notice it.
A retired member of our church did some investigation into the seven men whose sacrifice is mentioned on the memorial. All of them were men from the families who formed the first generation of our church, who attended Sunday School here as children and who left friends and family in our church.
In keeping with the tradition of the time most of the men served with the local regiment, the Royal Warwickshires, and as was so often the case in the Great War this meant that the community suffered especially hard when the local regiment was involved in a major battle. Of the seven men listed on our memorial, three were killed in action on the same day, 4 October 1917. On that day the 143rd (Warwickshire) Brigade was committed to the Battle of Broodseinde, part of the conflict that would become known as Passchendaele.
These are their stories.
Sydney Norton Cavit
Sydney was killed in action near Ypres in Belgium on 4 October 1917. He was 19, and a private serving with the 7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He is buried at the Cement House Cemetery in Belgium. In the 1911 Census, Sydney is recorded as a 12 year-old boy living with his parents and two older sisters in Lichfield Road. His father worked in a furniture business.
Frederick Henry Cobb
Frederick died a week after the Armistice on 18 November 1918. He was 31 and a corporal serving with the Durham Light Infantry. He had been captured in May and was a prisoner of war at the time of his death, and is buried at Niederzwehren Cemetery near Kassel in Germany. Originally from Norfolk and the son of a saddler, Frederick had been a commercial traveller before the war. The 1911 Census reported him living in Four Oaks. He left a widow and one child and the Ministry of Pensions awarded them £1-!s-8d a week (£1.08).
Cyril George Colbourn
Like Sydney, Cyril was killed in action near Ypres on 4 October 1917. He was 19 or 20, serving as a private soldier with the Machine Gun Corps (infantry). His name is recorded along with nearly 12,000 others on the Tyne Cot Memorial which is one of four memorials to those missing in Flanders. In the 1911 Census Cyril was indicated to be 13 years old and living with his parents, a younger brother and three younger sisters in Lichfield Road. He had left school by then and was working as a school hairdresser's assistant.
William died on 28 May 1918 as a result of wounds sustained in combat and is buried at the Denain Communal Cemetery in France. He was 22. He had served as a private soldier with the 10th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The 1911 Census records William as working in a factory doing odd jobs and living with his father John Gilbert, a railway platelayer, his mother Lucy Gilbert, four brothers and one sister. The family lived across the road from the church in Station Drive.
Edward Holbeche MM
Edward is one of two of our fallen to have been awarded the Military Medal. He died on 6 November 1918 at the Brook War Hospital in Shooters Hill, Woolwich in London after succumbing to the Spanish flu epidemic. He was 32, and is buried in the churchyard at one of our neighbouring churches, St James' in Mere Green, the only one of the seven with a grave his family could visit. Edward was a sergeant in the Royal Horse Artillery and the Royal Field Artillery and before the war was a bricklayer's labourer. He left a widow, Ellen and they lived with her brother in Mere Green Road.
Arthur Johnson MM
Arthur was killed in action near Ypres on 4 October 1917, most probably in the same action that took the lives of Sydney and Cyril. He was 31. He was serving as a private soldier with the 1/5 (Territorial) Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment and like Edward he had been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry. Arthur is buried at the Dochy Farm New British Cemetery in Belgium. He was described in the 1911 Census as being single and from Sutton Coldfield and living in Wylde Green with his father, Arthur Caleb Johnson (a director of a public company, possibly the bicycle saddle manufacturers, JH Brookes & Co Limited) and his mother and sister. Their census return described Arthur as a departmental manager, possibly with the same company as his father, and they may have been relatively well to do as they had a domestic servant.
Primrose Logan Larnach
Primrose was killed in action near Cambrai in France on 5 December 1917. He was 19, and was serving as a private soldier with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. He is commemorated along with more than 7,000 others lost at Cambrai on the Memorial to the Missing at Louverval Military Cemetery. The 1911 Census records Primrose as still at school, living in Four Oaks Road with his mother Mary Ann, a cook and domestic servant, together with a younger brother and sister. His father, a bricklayer died in 1915. On our memorial Primrose's surname is misspelt "Larnoch", but is correctly spelled on the memorial outside Sutton Coldfield Town Hall. Primrose is now an unusual male name, but was not so uncommon at the time.