August 2015: Who do you think they were?

Thursday, 1st October 2015

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Last month the B13 Research Platoon made its debut with a display at the St Mary’s Heritage Project Launch. We are a small group marking the centenary of the Great War by researching the 106 names commemorated on the Roll of Honour in the church. It seems appropriate to delve into the hidden history of two fallen heroes associated with St Mary’s.

James Leith Cappell was the Assistant Curate from 1912 to 1915. A Scotsman born to a large family in Crief, Perthshire in 1877, the son of a Sergeant Instructor, Thomas Cappell.  Thomas later became a School Board Officer and sent James off to school before he was 3; James was later rewarded with an M.A. from Glasgow University in 1898 and then studied theology at Edinburgh University.

The 1901 census shows James lodging in Edinburgh and serving as curate at St Pauls Episcopalian Church until 1903 before moving to Berkswick, Staffs in 1904. By 1911 he was in Blackburn as a clergyman of the established church.   It was in Blackburn that he met a Canon’s daughter called Alice Eleanor Pickop.

James arrived at St Mary’s as Assistant Curate in 1912.  In April 1914 he married Alice and brought her to Moseley.  They were probably living at 40 Forest Rd when war broke out and when their son Alastair James was born in January 1915.    James joined the Royal Army Chaplains Department in 1915. Chaplains were addressed as Rev but James as a 4th class Chaplain was equivalent to a Captain.

James Cappell was attached to 1st/9th Battalion Royal Scots Regiment (Lothian Division) serving in France.  We know nothing more until his death from illness, probably pneumonia on 23 Jan 1918 age 41. Sadly he did not live to see his daughter Honor born later that year.  He is buried at Ste Marie Cemetery, Le Havre and commemorated in Moseley, Berkswick and Lancashire.

Edwin G. Newman’s name is missing from the Roll of Honour because he died from his wounds after the end of the war on 1st October 1920 when both the Roll of Honour and the Calvary Memorial had been completed. He was just 24.

Edwin was born in January 1896. His grandparents and parents, Edwin and Ellen Newman were all from Birmingham.  They married in 1876 when Edwin Senior was a 21 yr old clerk and Ellen was a minor. In the 1881 census they lived in Edgbaston with 2 children. By 1891 they have moved to 61 Church Road, Moseley with 4 children and the father is now a brass founder and employer. Edwin’s sister Violet was born here in 1893 and Edwin might well have been born here too but the next record is the 1901 census when they have moved to Clarence Rd, Sparkhill.  Edwin senior is now working as a commission agent and 5 yr old Edwin junior is registered as Gordon with 8 brothers and sisters.  The last census of 1911 finds the family in Oxford Rd, Acocks Green. 15 year old Edwin junior is a turner with a motor manufacturer.

Information about Edwin’s is scant but we know that No. 12463 Private E.G. Newman was in the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry.  The WW1 Service Medals and Award Roll confirm that he was in the 2nd Battalion which saw action on the Western Front. We assume that he was wounded or ill. We do know that he was on the Absentee Voters List in 1918 and 1919 at his parents latest address, 115 Medlicott Rd, Sparkhill in the Moseley constituency and by 1920 is back living with them. He died on 1st October.

Most military cemeteries are overseas in distant lands and beautifully maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Unusually Edwin Newman has a personal CWGC memorial in the N.E. of St Mary’s Churchyard installed about 1928.

If you would like to help us de-mystify these men of Moseley we’re still recruiting and there are still 50 or so names to go before we bequeath all our findings to the Moseley Society Local History Group in 2018.

With special thanks to Rob Brown and Gillian Cattell.