The Fallen

The background to the five Dadlington men who lost their lives during World War I.

This article first appeared in The Stoker (Nov 14 & Dec 14/Jan 15)
   
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning.
We will remember them.”
 
These words, said annually at Remembrance Day services, ask us to remember those who have died fighting for their country. At Dadlington we honour six men whose names are inscribed on the war memorial plaque inside the church. But who were Harry Lee, Stanley Barratt Scrivener, George Taylor, Walter William Towers and William H. Welland, who all died in the first World War? With the aid of military and family history records online, and the excellent ‘For King & Country’ by Denis Cash, I set about finding out.
 
One can only speculate what brought Harry Slade Lee, a bricklayer’s labourer, to the midlands from his native Kent some time after 1901. We know that he married a local girl, Hagar Freeman in 1909, and by the time of the 1911 census, they were both settled in Dadlington with a young family. However, in the first months of the war, Harry was to set off back to Kent, to enlist in the Queen’s Own West Kent Regiment. He was 25 years old and it is unlikely, as they waved goodbye to their father, that 4 year old Henrietta and 3 year old Joseph ever saw their him again. It He was killed in action on 14th October 1914, somewhere in the region of La Bassee in northern France in the early stages of the conflict. His body was never recovered but he is remembered on Le Touret memorial in France and also on the gravestone of the wife he left behind, Hagar. She lived until 1970 and is buried in the churchyard at Dadlington.
 
There had been great optimism at the start of the war. It was generally thought that it would all be over by Christmas, and those volunteering at the start of hostilities little realised what lay in store. Harry, like many patriotic young men at the time, was a volunteer, and so was George Taylor, a farm labourer who appears on the 1911 census at the home of his sister and her husband in the village. The family came originally from Osbaston and had arrived in Dadlington via Barwell and Stoke Golding. We think he was unmarried and, at the age of 40, he had already seen service with the Tigers - the Leicestershire Regiment. He enlisted four weeks after Britain declared war on Germany and was called up on 12th December 1914. He embarked soon afterwards with the British Expeditionary Force, leaving from Southampton.
 
We know quite a lot about what happened to George because his records have survived unlike many that were destroyed by fire following Luftwaffe raids on London during the Second World War. We don’t know exactly where and when he was injured, but we do know that he died in hospital at 8am on the morning of 15th March 1915, from a gunshot wound to the head. His record shows the personal effects that were returned to his mother once the war was over: one knife, two razors, a letter, a bag and his pipe. He was the oldest Dadlington man to perish in the conflict and he’s buried in the military cemetery in the French community of Merville.
 
 
    
The lych gate at the entrance to St James' churchyard is the memorial to these five men and alsoJohn Freeman, who died in WWII.

These deaths, so early in the conflict, must have caused great sadness in the village, but there then followed two years in which no lives were lost at all. Then the other three men remembered on the war memorial were all killed over a seven week period in May and June 1917.  Walter Towers was the first. He had also joined the Leicestershire Regiment and prior to embarkation to France, the regiment moved to Louth in Lincolnshire. Ironically, it was to Louth, Walter returned in May 1917, to the Red Cross hospital there, suffering from fatal injuries sustained at the front. When he died on 4th May, his body was returned to his parents Henry and Matilda Towers and they buried him in Dadlington churchyard: his last resting place is marked by a Commonwealth war grave. He had just turned 19.

25 year old Stanley Barratt Scrivener was the son of local farmer Edward and his wife Clara. He initially joined the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry but then transferred to the machine gun corps of the Tank Corps, where he was a corporal. He was killed at Messines Ridge on 7th June and buried nearby. He is remembered, not only on the war memorial, but on a plaque in the chancel of St James church. His death, coming so soon after that of Walter Towers, would have hit the village hard and increased the worries of those families who had sons and husbands serving their country.

The 1911 Dadlington census shows 46 men and boys who would have been eligible to fight between 1914 and 1918 if they were still living in the village three year later. The minimum age to join was 18, although you had to be 19 to serve abroad. Many were allowed to enlist at a younger age as recruiting officers didn’t appear to ask too many questions. When conscription was introduced in 1916, men up to the age of 41 were called up, and this was raised to 51 in the last few months of the war. Not all of those living in Dadlington would have been called up - the unfit, doctors, teachers and some industrial workers were exempt - but a good many local lads would have set off for the front. Had about 40 men fought, then the loss of five in Dadlington would amount to a 12.5% casualty rate, almost exactly that suffered overall in Britain during the conflict.

The last man to die, William Welland wasn’t from Dadlington, but in March 1915 he’d married Ada Wale, the daughter of Dadlington residents James and Annie Wale. When William and Ada’s son Frederick was born, just over a year later, they were living in Nuneaton with Wiiliam recording his job as a labourer at the Electric Works on his son’s birth certificate. His own family lived in Hartshill and that probably explains why he comes to be remembered on two war memorials – Hartshill and Dadlington. He’d enlisted on 3rd September 1914 into the King’s Royal Rifles but a month later he’d been dismissed for being unfit for service. The records do not elaborate on the nature of his health difficulties, but whatever they were, it did not stop him from joining up again later in the year, this time joining the 33rd company of the infantry’s machine gun corps.

He was killed in action, aged 23, on 10th June 1917 and like Harry Lee, the first Dadlington man to die, his body was not found. His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate at Ypres where a daily service still commemorates all those soldiers killed in Flanders who have no grave. He was the last of the Dadlington fallen: five individuals, missed and mourned by families now long gone themselves. But at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will still remember them.
For King & Country – a record of those named on the war memorials of Stoke Golding and Dadlington by Denis Cash can be found on the Stoke Golding website at http://www.stokegolding.co.uk/For_King_and_Country_Booklet.pdf

If you have any further information about the men on the Dadlington war memorial, then please contact dadlington.history@gmail.com . We would love to hear from you.
By M. Dix
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