One for the researchers here – Jeffrey Roberts. Can you help?

Sorry folks, bit of a reduced service this weekend. I’m a cyclist. The weather’s decent. It’s in my genes… normal service resumed soon!


Larkhill is a notable institution. Image from Aspire Defence.

Here’s an intriguing and somewhat sensitive thing from reader and local military historian Graeme Clarke, who readers may recall turned up the fascinating tale of ‘Walt’ Ruth Bagley, apparently from Walsall Wood. Graeme also contributed to other articles, including our hunt for the Freemasons Arms in Walsall.

Graeme is currently interested in finding the whereabouts of the grave, or any further information regarding Brownhills serviceman Jeffrey Roberts, who tragically died in service in this country, in somewhat unusual circumstances.

He writes:

Hi Bob

Ive been researching Brownhills men who have been killed in service for a number of years now and wondered if you could help trace where a serviceman, killed in 1955, is buried, or even a photograph of him.

I’m hoping not to upset any family so I will leave it to your discretion whether you use it or not, but it was 60 years ago.

many thanks,


PS I have tried to expand on that story of Ruth Bagley but have drawn a complete blank.

I include Graeme’s research below. Perhaps someone with access to relevant material can help – I know you lot love a challenge for a bank holiday weekend.

Comments, clarifications? Comment on this post or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

Please be aware that this is fairly recent history and will still be sensitive.

Jeffrey Roberts

Gunner 22971361

18th Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery

Died in England on Wednesday 9 March 1955

Jeffrey was the son of John and Beatrice (nee Taylor) Roberts of 18, School Avenue, Brownhills but had immediately prior to his death been residing with his aunt, Mrs. Sarah Hill, in Great Charles Street, Brownhills. Only three days before his death he had attended the wedding of his brother.

Based at Larkhill, Wiltshire, Jeffrey was killed during an anti-tank shoot at Blackbull ranges, Larkhill, Salisbury Plain when there was an explosion in the breech of a 25 pounder gun. Gunner E. Bostock, two naval officers and a Royal Marine officer were also injured.

An inquest into his death was held at Larkhill on Saturday 12 March 1955, the Wiltshire Coroner, Mr. Harold Dale, presiding.

Sergeant Edward Morrison gave evidence that he was the Number 1 in a crew of six, the shoot being watched by naval officers on a course at the School of Artillery, Larkhill. Jeffrey was his Number 6 whose duty was to traverse the gun on to moving targets. For this purpose he was standing directly behind the gun.

Twenty rounds had been fired and there had been two misfires when the gun was cocked again and fired.

Sergeant Morrison stated that he was observing where the shot went and therefore did not see what happened but on hearing an explosion, looked round and saw Jeffrey lying dead on the ground.

Two naval officers who had been injured in the explosion gave further evidence.

Lieutenant David Erskine Charles Barrett stated that when a second attempt was made to fire the round an explosion took place and the breech ‘blew’. Jeffrey was thrown completely off the ground.

Lieutenant Ian Alexander McGregor stated that when the explosion took place the blast burnt his coat and something hit him in the arm.

Major Herbert Evans informed the Coroner that when he examined the gun after the explosion a portion of the breech ring was missing, the breech block being recovered some distance behind the gun. He added that a misfire was not a rare occurrence.

Captain William Griffiths, Royal Army Medical Corps, stated that cause of death was blast injury to the chest.

 A verdict of ‘death by misadventure’ was recorded.

Jeffrey is recorded as being buried in Brownhills. He was 19 years of age and is commemorated on the Armed Forces Memorial, Alrewas.

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7 Responses to One for the researchers here – Jeffrey Roberts. Can you help?

  1. Ivor2302 says:

    I was the telegram boy in Brownhills at this time and I remember delivering the telegram informing the family. I am not sure whether this was the first an only information that families had in those days.

  2. Pedro says:

    As it happens the Licfield Mercury 1955 exists on the Archives, but there is no mention. This seems strange as he was a local lad. Also nowt on any other newspaper.

    No information, as far as I can see, seems to be found on a Google Search.

    regards Pedro

  3. Clive says:

    Hello, had a look round the two cemetery in Brownhills today, could`nt find Jeffrey Roberts. although there are othier Military graves there.
    also had a look at the memorial outside st James Church, nothing there.
    There is a Jeffrey Roberts listed in Birth Marriages and Deaths, same age and the right year, you may want to apply for a certificate.
    Best wishes Clive

  4. Clive says:

    Sorry i forgot to say, in the BMD the place of death is listed as Salsbury.

  5. Clive says:

    My spelling; That should be Salisbury.

  6. Pedro says:

    An incident like the one described above should warrant a good deal of interest locally, if not nationwide. Why such lack of information?

    For the record the regiment names changed around this period…

    England: Newcombe Lines, Larkhill (Support Regiment) 
    18, 52 and 249 Btys
    Equipped by the School of Artillery
    Aug 1951: Renamed 18th Depot Regiment Royal Artillery (School of Artillery)
    Oct 55: Retitled 18th Medium Regiment Royal Artillery 
    1 Oct 55: 249 Bty into Suspended Animation to resuscitate 80 Bty (late of 31st Training Regt RA) which joined the Regiment.
    18, 52 and 80 Med Btys
    1 Jun 59:  Retitled 18th Field Regiment RA
    1 Dec 59: 80 Bty into Suspended Animation to resuscitate 40 Bty (late of 17th Field Regt RA) which joined the Regiment.
    18, 40 and 52 Fd Btys

  7. Clive says:

    I have had a look at the Walsall Obsever (on micro film at Walsall Local History Centre) dated March 1955, the death of Jeffrey Roberts is on the front page, then a week later the corners report is listed. but from that date and two month later no mention of a funeral.. Makes me wonder if he as been laid to rest some where else!

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