Commemoration of Westwood Heath Relatives
This section is dedicated to armed forces personnel related to current Westwood Heath residents.
It came about after research into local soldiers who are commemorated by the memorial in the Westwood Church. Their stories can be found at this link.
Walter Lawrence Webster 1899-1918
Westwood Heath resident, Karen Newman, shared the story of a young man, Walter Lawrence Webster. Although he was her great uncle, she never met him, for he died at 19 years of age very close to the end of the war.
Walter was born in Greenwich and was one of a family of 5. In 1911, the family were living in Rotherhithe, where Walter’s father, after whom he was named, was a labourer at the gas works.
Walter enlisted with the 18th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, responsible for the provision and maintenance of services to the front line. Thus, Walter would have found himself repairing trenches, tunnelling, laying rail tracks, revetting canals, amongst other tasks.
He was injured in September, 1918 and on 23rd September, died of his wounds. He is buried at Beaulencourt British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Before the armistice, this area was the burial ground for nearby Casualty Clearing Stations.
Walter Tansley 1884-1915
Coventry-born Walter Tansley was settled with a wife and young family when he enlisted with the 10th Scottish Rifles in February 1915.
After a short period of training he and his company were bound for the Western Front. After a period of engagement in France, Walter was killed on the very first day of the Battle of Loos, September 25th 1915. This was the biggest British attack of 1915 but despite improved methods and better equipment, British casualties at Loos were twice as high as German losses. The battle ended on 8th October.
Initially, Walter was declared missing and, poignantly, an appeal appeared in the local press for any information to be sent to Ada. She did the same when his death was confirmed, asking for any soldier who knew the circumstances of his death to get in touch.
Walter’s sacrifice is commemorated on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais. This memorial commemorates over 20,000 officers and men with no known grave who fell in the period from the first day of the Battle of Loos to Armistice Day.
The memorial forms the back and side of the Dud Corner Cemetery where Walter is buried along with 1,700 killed at the Battle of Loos.
We are grateful to Walter’s great-great granddaughter, Louise Hughes of Westwood Heath, for sharing Walter’s story.
Arthur Hutt V.C. 1889-1954
Coventry –born Arthur Hutt’s story is a remarkable one and we are very grateful to his grandson, Steve Taylor, for sharing it with us.
Arthur was born in Earlsdon on 12th February, 1889, the son of Samuel and Jane. After attending Holy Trinity School, he worked for Courtaulds. When they formed a company in the Warwickshire Territorials in 1909, Arthur enlisted, little knowing the impact this would have on his life.
He married Alice Lenton in 1913 and the couple were living in Caludon Road in 1914 when war broke out. The following year, he found himself bound for France with his battalion, the 7th Warwickshires. During this time he would become involved in some of the most famous battles in history: the Somme, Ypres Salient and Passchendaele.
However, he is now known for his exploits during the Battle of Passchendaele, in which he showed conspicuous bravery, resulting in him being awarded the Victoria Cross – the first person born in Coventry to have that honour.
On 4th October, 1917, Arthur was amongst the Warwickshire Battalion of 143rd Brigade (48th Division) near a German stronghold, Terrier Farm. The men had run into difficulties in the sodden, crater-riddled ground surrounded by fortified farms and Germans in camouflaged positions. They came under very heavy German fire, resulting in significant casualties for The Warwickshires, including the loss of all officers, leaving the men effectively leaderless in an extremely vulnerable situation.
Arthur took the bold decision to lead his men to safety around the farm, all the while bombing it and then firing at the Germans, killing an officer and 3 men. The rest surrendered.
He then assumed command of this post, fending off more German attacks – a remarkable feat considering at this point he had more prisoners than men under his command. Subsequently, he made the decision to withdraw, covering his men by bombing the enemy and then making his retreat alone. Along the way, he discovered an injured man, tended his wounds under fire and helped him to safety.
Fearful that the Germans would capture wounded British soldiers lying out in the open, Arthur again disregarded his own personal safety by rescuing 4 of them, one by one, under constant sniper attack at close range. An officer in his battalion later wrote,
“Throughout it all he behaved with a coolness and a daring that I have never seen equalled. The officers and men who saw him declare that they never imagined any man could be so cool under such circumstances.”
Even the Germans remarked upon his leadership, one officer commenting that he ought to be made an officer.
Sadly this was not to be; he was made a Corporal instead. However, his accolade came in the form of the Victoria Cross, awarded to him on 26th November, 1917.
He returned to Coventry on 12th January 1918 to a hero’s welcome. Flags, bunting and banners adorned his street and a Civic Reception was held in the Council House. He was the guest of honour at the Drill Hall and was presented with war bonds.
Following his demobilisation in 1919 Arthur took various jobs, latterly with the Standard Motor Company. In 1920, daughter Victoria was born. Sadly, Arthur’s family life was affected by separation from his wife and subsequent periods of estrangement from his daughter. Grandson Steve remembers him visiting wearing a long coat and sharing some cheese biscuits with him…he was only 3 years old at the time.
Arthur Hutt’s spirit of public service did not leave him: On the eve of World War II, he joined the Auxiliary Fire Service and later the Home Guard. He died at the age of 65 on 14th April, 1954. The following year a memorial to him was erected in the War Memorial Park in Coventry. A wreath is laid here annually on Armistice Day by a former member of the 7th Battalion.
Steve received Arthur’s medals as a 21st birthday present. Happily, members of the family have been reunited in recent years and many have now been able to view the medals for the first time.
S.Snelling. VCs of the First World War: Passchendaele 1917. The History Press, 1998.
Photographs used with kind permission of Steve Taylor
Arthur Taylor was born on 21st January 1900 and lived in Balsall Common for most of his life. During WWI he joined the army and fought in France and Belgium.
Arthur joined the army at a young age. He was one of nearly 250,000 teenagers under 19 years of age who responded to the call to fight. Even 14 year old boys were not prevented from joining the Army at that time. We believe one of the photos is of Arthur with his friend, Charles Adkins.
Conscription began during the First World War when the British Government passed the Military Service Act in January 1916. The Act specified that single men aged 18 to 40 years old were liable to be called up for military service (unless they were widowed with children or Ministers of Religion).
Arthur was called up and served as a Gunner with the 1st Battalion unit of the Gloucestershire Regiment during WWI. He fought at the Battle of The Somme and in Flanders.
He often told his grandchildren stories of the reality and horror of life in the trenches but how it was important to serve his country. He sometimes sang songs with his comrades during the many hours in the trenches.
The audio track in this video is Arthur singing some of those songs to his grandchildren (Recorded at the Taylor home in Berkswell, July 1973). One is a variation of ‘Hanging On The Old Barbed Wire’. A keyboard-synth track was added to the 2nd song by his Grandson, Mark, in October 2018.After the war, Arthur became a toolmaker by profession. He never wanted to return to France or Belgium. In his retirement years, he lived in Burton Green, near Kenilworth. Arthur’s willingness to serve his country will always be remembered.
(Written by his Grandson, Mark, in October 2018).