This morning at 11am a wreath will be laid to commemorate the lives of members of Birmingham Libraries staff who died in the First World War. The outbreak of war in July 1914 had a profound effect on the library and its staff. Thirty six men from the library service signed up to fight in the Great War of whom 6 were killed in or just after the war. Their names and faces of Birmingham Libraries staff are commemorated in a photograph album which comes from the archives of the Birmingham Libraries. This photograph was taken in 1915 in Sutton Park – only three of these men survived the war.
Percy Garner and Thomas Riley were both killed on 22nd July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme at the attack on Delville Wood. They were both serving in the 14th Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1st Battalion of the Birmingham City Battalion). Garner was 24 and Riley 25.
Henry Checketts was also in the 1st Birmingham City Battalion and survived the battle in which his comrades Garner and Riley were killed. He was promoted to Corporal and then Acting Sergeant. However Checketts died on 3rd September 1916 during the attack on Falfemont Farm along with 800 other Birmingham Pals. He was 30 years old.
Frank Izard worked at the Central Library, Birchfield Library and Handsworth Library. He was also in the 1st Birmingham City Battalion and died aged 27 at the Battle of Passchendaele on October 1917.
The deaths of Henry Checketts, Percy Garner (and Frank Izard) were reported in the Library Committee minutes:
Two members of staff also died after the conflict as a result of the injuries they sustained:William Reeves and Charles Wells. They served with the Army Service Corps and the Worcester Regiment respectively. They were both in their 40’s when they died.The minutes of the Free Libraries Committee records the deaths of all of these men.
“Mr Reeves was a member of the staff for 20 years and performed his duties in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. A few days before his death, he was granted an increased pension dating back to October. As notification was received after the salary accounts had been paid, the difference between his old and new pension is due to the corporation. The sub committee recommends that no application be made for the return of this sum.”
We do not have a photograph of Charles Wells.
“They have no lot in our labour of the day-time”