As many local historians know, the research element can be tiring and frustrating. But a trail – in fact, any trail – can bring such remarkable events and lives to us that those hours spent trawling are invaluable. Over the course of the last couple of years, I have researched the names on the World War I memorial in Beacon Street, Lichfield, amongst the churches and schools of the city. In due course, my researches will be fully published and will hopefully be a useful tool for many family historians. As with many other memorials countrywide, many of the men listed were believed to be locally born and bred. However, this myth has now been broken in regards to Lichfield, and I have been able to prove that the names are from all over the United Kingdom. With this in mind, I was intrigued by the soldiers listed as being from Burntwood and Chase Terrace. Even more enticing was the fact that four of them were brothers.
After delving deeper into their lives, I have been able to create a small pen picture of them and who they were. Who knows? They may still have relatives located nearby. The first soldier to be killed was Charles FENN, born in Chase Terrace in June 1878, but on his attestation papers he recorded it as 3rd Feb. 1879. The eldest son of Enos and Mary, he followed his father into the mines while the family lived at Eastgate Street, before moving to Lichfield Road a decade later and still mining. Charles must have left England to find work in Canada before the last available census, as I have been unable to find him. For the next 15 years he remained working as a miner, still unmarried, before he enlisted on August 20th 1915 in Vernon, British Columbia as part of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force.
He returned to his homeland fighting and lost his life just over two years later on October 30th 1917. Charles’s youngest brother Thomas had been born in Chase Terrace in 1899. His parents became the publicans of the Holly Bush in Tamworth Street in 1902 and remained there until 1925. It seems Thomas was quite athletic and sporty, a member of the Lichfield Boys’ Football Club before finding employment at the bottling factory at the top of Greenhill. This could not have been for very long, as he was a young lance-corporal in the Essex Regiment when killed in action on August 8th, 1918. Charles H FENN names is recorded on the Chase Terrace War Memorial and both Charles H and Thomas P FENN names are recorded on the Lichfield Remembrance Garden War Memorial
The other brothers were George and John POWELL of 85 Beacon Street. Born in Burntwood in June 1886 to Thomas and Amy from Edial, George, like his father, was a farm worker. By the time he was killed in Mesopotamia on 25th January 1917, he had risen to the rank of Sergeant in the North Staffordshire Regiment. He left a wife, Mary, at 5 Holmes Terrace, Lichfield His younger brother John had been born in Burntwood in June / July 1888 and also achieved the rank of sergeant. He had been a regular soldier since 1907 after he had worked on the railways for the L&NWR. With the North Stafford’s, he had spent the greater part of his service in India before dying of heat exhaustion in the heart of Chkadara on July 8th 1916.
These four men have become part of the city’s memorial and now, as we have reached the 90th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities, even if this tribute remains within the knowledge of a few, it is appropriate that their home town’s local history society also know. The final Chase lad was George Harold SLOMAN, a Sapper of the Royal Engineers. Only 20, he was recorded killed on September 26th 1915. He was last seen entering a German trench by mistake, the enemy entering the same trench shortly afterwards. He was born in Chasetown in December 1895 and was living in Union Street on the 1901 census with his stepfather and his mother, who had remarried to Jonas WOOLRIDGE after George’s father Herbert had died in September 1896. An ex-St Michael’s School pupil, George was an employee of Dawes Brewery in Sandford Street when he enlisted in Wolverhampton, and was living at 80 Stowe Street in Lichfield. George T and John W POWELL names are recorded on the Lichfield Remembrance Garden War Memorial
Burntwood Family History Group