Joseph Henry Bird (Rank currently unknown)

Joseph Henry Bird was born in Pensnett, Staffordshire c.1872.  

Around 1893 he married Jane – maiden name currently unknown. During the early part of the twentieth century, the family appear to move from town to town and this was probably due to finding work.  In those days ‘No work meant no money’ so it was quite common for families to move from place to place to find employment. 

Shortly before the outbreak of World War One the Bird family appear to have settled in Lyndhurst Road, Heath Hayes.

Joseph is known to have served as a regular soldier with the Grenadier Guards and in 1916 was recorded as a Military Policeman

Although Joseph survived the conflict, his son Harold Henry Bird (who also served with the Grenadier Guards) was killed in action in 1917 – read Harold’s story on the Roll of Honour.

*While tracing their family history, relatives of the Bird family have discovered that there was another James Henry Bird who died in the conflict and who also came from the Cannock area.  

Apparently one day the wife of Joseph Henry Bird (Heath Hayes) had a knock at the door and was informed that her husband had been killed.  It turned out that it was in fact the other James Henry Bird (Cannock) who had died – this Joseph Henry Bird is recorded on the Cannock town centre War Memorial.

*Thank you to the family for supplying this additional information

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Gunner Horace Brassington

Gunner Horace Brassington was born in Heath Hayes c.1895 and was the son of Thomas and Mary Brassington. 

WW1 General Service & Victory Medals

WW1 General Service & Victory Medals

By 1915 the family had moved to Chapel Street, Heath Hayes and in November of that year Horace enlisted with the Royal Garrison Artillery.

After training Horace was sent to France and was in action for 18 months at Ypres and was later transferred to Italy. 

Horace was discharged in March 1919 and received the General Service and Victory Medals.


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The author would like to thank the following people and organisations for their help and contributions to this website:

Cannock Library                                                  Heath Hayes Library

Museum of Cannock Chase                              Cheslyn Hay & District Local History Society

Mr. A Dean                                                           Mr. M Rowley

Mr. R Fullelove – Aer Reg                                  Mrs. G. Fletcher

Miss E Woolletter                                                Mrs. A. Macadam

Mrs. S MacDougall                                              Mr. A Morris

Mr. P. Raybould                                                   Mrs J Shone

Reverend Glynne Watkin                                  Mr P Freeman

Mr. P Bradburn                                                     Mrs. R. Keill

Mr M Lysons                                                         Miss K Lysons

Mrs M Chaplain-Payne                                       Mr. P Slater

Mr R Jones                                                            Mr. S Marshall

Mr & Mrs K Moss

More to follow …


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Lance Corporal Alfred Benton (not on Heath Hayes War Memorial)

I have recently come across another Heath Hayes soldier who died fighting for his country but who does not appear on the Heath Hayes War Memorial:

poppyLance Corporal Alfred Benton was born in Cannock c.1896, the son of Arthur and Elizabeth Benton who lived in Hednesford Road, Heath Hayes.

Alfred had been in the Hednesford Territorials for several years before war broke out and also worked as a pit pony driver at the East Cannock Colliery.

He enlisted with the 1st/5th Battalion (Territorial Force) of the South Staffordshire Regiment at nearby Hednesford.  He was recorded as ‘killed in action’ on 13 October 1915.

Alfred is commemorated on the Loos Memorial in France.

*If anyone knows if this local solider is recorded on another memorial please get in touch, many thanks

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Private Joseph Frank Houlston

Hednesford Road, Heath Hayes looking towards Five Ways road junction. Taken 2012

Hednesford Road, Heath Hayes looking towards Five Ways road junction. Taken 2012

Private Joseph Frank Houlston was born in Hednesford in 1894 and was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Houlston.  

By 1911 the family were living in Hednesford Road, Heath Hayes and Joseph (known as Frank) was recorded as a coal miner.

Joseph enlisted for active service on 2nd November 1914 and after training was sent to France in May 1915. He also saw service in Malta and Bulgaria.  He was discharged in February 1919.  He received the 1914-15 Star, General Service and Victory Medals.

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Private Frank Fritz Beniston

Private Frank Beniston was born c.1898 and was the son of  Henry and Martha Beniston of Bank Street, Heath Hayes.  

Bank Street, Heath Hayes looking from the junction with Hednesford Road (2012).

Bank Street, Heath Hayes looking from the junction with Hednesford Road (2012).

In August 1916 Frank enlisted with the Royal Army Service Corps and in April 1917 was sent to France. During this time Frank worked alongside the Royal Engineers, who were engaged with transport work at various fronts including: Nieuport, Ypres, Arras and Vimy.  He was discharged in January 1919 and received the General Service and Victory Medals.

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Corporal G Noble

Corporal G Noble lived on Wimblebury Road, Heath Hayes.  He enlisted with the Cheshire Regiment in February 1915 and after training served at Arras and Ypres.

In July 1916 he was injured and was sent back to England to convalesce.  After recovering he was sent to Italy and then later France again, where he was gassed.  He was once more sent back to England to recover and was later discharged.

He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M) and the Military Medal (M.M) for his bravery during the conflict, in particular acting as a stretcher bearer.  He received his honours and a gold watch in 1918 at the Technical Institute in Hednesford.


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Corporal James Slater:

Corporal James Slater was born in c.1896, the son of William and Mary Slater of Stafford Street, Heath Hayes.  Before the war James worked as pit pony driver and miner at a local colliery.

He went on the enlist with the Royal Engineers and at the end of the conflict he was awarded the M.M [Military Medal] – the  Cannock Advertiser reported on his prestigious award:

Corporal James Slater, Field Co. of the R.E., son of Mr and Mrs W. Slater, Stafford Street, Heath Hayes, has been awarded the Military Medal.

Corpl. Slater went to France with the North Midland Field Co. of the R.E. in 1915. The honour mentioned has been conferred upon him for deeds set out in the official records as follows:

For conspicuous courage and devotion to duty on two separate occasions. For the excellent work in re-building Gorre Bridge on 9th July 1918, under heavy shell fire, setting a magnificent example to all ranks. On the same night, this N.C.O., under shell fire, stopped a runaway artillery team, which was making straight for the broken bridge. By this action, he undoubtedly saved the lives of the drivers and horses as the risk of his own. On Aug. 5th 1918, when erecting the new barrel pier bridge in lieu of Midland Bridge at Gorre, the enemy shelled the bridge and dispersed the working party. This N.C.O. attended a wounded man, who was left behind, under heavy shelling, and carried him to a place of safety. Then reorganising the party, finished the work on the bridge.”"

Corporal Slater was presented with a gold watch in 1918 by the Cannock and District War Distinctions Fund at a ceremony in his home village of Heath Hayes’.

*Many thanks to Mr P Slater for sharing this article



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A Heath Hayes soldier who captured 12 Germans:

In 1918 a local newspaper reported that: ‘Corporal (Acting Sergeant) S. Robinson from Heath Hayes, had single handedly captured a ‘pill box’ of 12 Germans, who had been overlooked by the front line troops’.  He was later awarded the D.C.M [Distinguished Conduct Medal].


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Memories of Heath Hayes during the 1914-18 war by Gwen Stanfield, formerly Foster:

IMG_0032 (Small)

Gwen Stanfield, formerly Foster c.1912

Gwendoline Foster was born in 1906 and was the youngest daughter of Albert and Maud Foster, who ran a successful shop and bakery on Hednesford Road, Heath Hayes.

In later life Gwen recalled her memories of growing up in Heath Hayes during World War One:

‘The consequences of war soon started to affect us and the first one I remember is when one our bakers Dave Chadburn was called up.  He was already in the Territorials and wore his red uniform for special occasions.  I liked him very much – he always sang to me … ‘sweet Gwendoline, sweet Gwendoline’.

At home changes were taking place and people began to adapt. As there were no tanks until 1916, the soldiers trained for trench warfare and faced appalling conditions. Horses were being commandeered and some of ours were taken, including Dolly, the bad tempered one!

Hopes soon fled of a speedy end to the dreadful war, so our lives had changed and the carefree days were no longer taken for granted.

When we received the newspaper in January 1915, a strange event was reported.  On Christmas Eve the hostilities from the trenches on both sides had ceased.  During which time the British and Germans met on No-Man’s Land.  They shook hands, and talked to each other. They even exchanged souvenirs and peacefully brought out each others dead for burial.  They sang ‘Heilige Nacht’ (Holy Night) and called ‘Happy Christmas’ to each other. Sadly the truce only lasted 24 hours.

Back at school, we were all rapidly adjusting to war conditions.  Miss Markham [Headmistress of Heath Hayes Girls School] decided that we should knit socks for our soldiers in France.  She obtained a large amount of khaki wool and had about 8-10 of the best knitters in the cookery room each morning making socks.

The dreaded telegraph boy was often seen on his bicycle, as local parents were informed of their sons deaths.

The beautiful area known as Cannock Chase became the site for new temporary camps for soldiers. From Brocton to Penkridge Bank, miles and miles of army huts were erected with roads, a bank, a bookshop, a theatre and even a church.  The nearest towns to these camps were Cannock, Hednesford and Rugeley.  In the evenings they were crowded with soldiers who were off duty.

Meanwhile girls went into factories to make munitions as soon as they were old enough.  This work was very well paid and consequently the girls liked this job much better than that of domestic work.

At home, Jack Daft who had worked for us for many years, left to go into the Navy. and my sister Olive drove the Ford delivery van in his place.  

In the autumn of 1916, many activities were arranged to raise money so that parcels could be sent to our soldiers in time for Christmas. Patriotic plays were produced and khaki wool purchased with the proceeds.  Socks and gloves were knitted to be included in the Christmas parcels, which also contained non-perishable food and letters with photographs were also sent.

In 1917 one of the Boys School Teachers, Edwin Gwyther, was killed.  I remember my mom taking me to dances at St. Johns Institute before the war – Edwin Gwyther always did the Veleta with me and he would pick me up in his arms when it came to the waltzing part.

Although the war was still the cause of great anxiety, it seemed to be gradually turning to the advantage of our soldiers and finally an Armistice was signed on 11th November 1918.

Although the war had finished the effects were very long standing.  For many it was a time of great sadness, when their loved ones didn’t return or were buried in a far off land.

For others their brave sons, husbands and fiancées came back needing hospital treatment, many with loss of limbs or long standing illnesses due to the deprivation they had suffered’.


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