I have previously written about War Graves in Sutton Coldfield in relation to commemorating those men whose names appear on the Sutton Coldfield War Memorial. To that end I have visited both the Sutton Coldfield Town Cemetery and the churchyard of my local Parish Church, St James Hill, in Mere Green.
If one was not already aware that there were War Graves in Sutton Coldfield Town Cemetery, there is a discrete Commonwealth War Graves sign informing the many who walk past that there are War Graves in the cemetery. In fact there are 48. There is no sign outside St James’s to inform the community that there are war graves in the Churchyard.
If seeking tranquillity you did set foot in the Churchyard, you might notice the sign indicating the presence of First World War, War Graves. On a quick walk around the cemetery you might come to the conclusion that there are in fact six war graves, four from World War 1 and two from World War 2. There are in fact eight graves designated by the CWGC as War Graves, as there are two graves which do not have the CWGC headstone which are designated as War Graves.
One of these graves without the Commonwealth War Graves headstone is that of 2ND Lieutenant Harry Clements Ansell, Army Service Corps (MTC) who had served in Italy. He died suddenly on May 8th 1920. Described as a keen sportsman he had been playing golf the previous day at Little Aston where he was the Club Captain. He did apparently have some heart problems but it is not clear whether these in any way related to his military service.
The Ansell name will be familiar, and he had a few months earlier taken over from his father as Chairman of the Brewery Company. The success of the Company can be illustrated by the fact that the 1911 Census showed the family to be living at Moor Hall in Four Oaks, (now a Hotel and Golf Course) and that they had at the time eleven servants. In his will Harry Clements Ansell left over £109.000.00
Buried close to Harry Ansell, and also in a War Grave but with no CWG headstone is Cadet Leslie E James, Royal Air Force. He died on 27th November 1918, his death being registered at Headington, Oxford. Little is known about him and why he is buried at St James. The names of neither Harry Clements Ansell nor Leslie James are on the Sutton Coldfield War Memorial but both are on the St James Roll of Honour.
The CWGC Graves Registration Report for the Churchyard at St James, Hill, indicates that another soldier from World War 1 is also buried in the cemetery. He is Private 268217 A F Tomlinson, Warwickshire Regiment. He died at some time in 1919, and a decision appears to have been made that this should not be considered a war grave. I and others will endeavour to find out more about Private Tomlinson. His name is not on the Sutton Coldfield War Memorial
I was interested to discover what the criteria were for designating a war grave. A qualifying period was set for deaths from 4th August 1914 to 31st August 1921. If those criteria were met there were three categories of casualty that were considered.
Category 1 was for those who were killed in action, died of wounds illness or accident, suicide homicide or Judicial killing in any theatre of war. The CWGC maxim being that all casualties should be treated equally and all must be commemorated under the terms of the Royal Charter.
Category 2 is for personnel who had been discharged from or retired from military service before their deaths but during the same qualifying period. They could have died of an injury or illness caused by or exacerbated by their service. Such cases would qualify only if it could be proven to the satisfaction of the authorities that the death was attributable to their service. It is not clear what might constitute proof, and the difficulty some had in proving they were entitled to a pension might give cause for some concern.
Category 3 allowed for members of some civilian organisations to qualify if they met various criteria. There was room for interpretation but the death would have occurred due to war related activity and while serving overseas. Deaths which occurred later which could be linked to war service would also qualify. The qualifying dates still applied.
Organisations whose members qualified during World War 1 included the Mercantile Marine, British Red Cross, the YMCA, and VAD’s.
The point has been made that any reading of any Newspaper across the length and breadth of the UK in the following years would show the continuing deaths of men due to the injuries and conditions that they suffered. Many of these would occur after the 31st August 1921 deadline.
In From The Cold Project
Tina Ambrose, St James Church