Sapper Sidney Harold Willner: grave located

The final resting place of Sapper Sydney Willner, as photographed by Graeme Clarke.

Last weekend, I ran an enquiry as to the state of a particular grave in St James Churchyard, Brownhills, sent in by war historian Andrew Thornton, who’s been working so hard to record the history of so many servicemen, local and not so local.

In this instance, Andrew was looking into the history of Sapper Sydney Willner, and was hoping one of you readers might be able to find his grave; thanks to those who helped – old friends of the blog Graeme Clarke and Linda Higgs both went well out of the way to send in excellent photos and added history.

Thanks to both Graeme and Linda, it’s selfless actions like yours that remind me that community is still strong. I am indebted to you both. This is collaborative local history in action.

Graeme supplied the picture of Sydney’s Headstone above, and said:

Morning Bob,

I see on your blog that Andrew Thornton is seeking a photo of the headstone of Sapper Willner.

I have attached a picture of his headstone and also add this to Andrew’s research: Priscilla passed away at Cannock during 1890 and Sidney was then raised by his grandmother, Harriett Willner, who was the licensee of ‘The Royal Oak’ public house, Norton Road, Pelsall.

Graeme Clarke

Whilst Linda, posting on Facebook shared this lovely collection of photos and did something rather beautiful, too:

Images kindly supplied by Linda Higgs

Results of the search for the grave of Sapper Sydney Willner, in St. James Churchyard, Brownhills. We found his final resting place, did a bit of pulling up of grass and weeds. Then picked some bluebells, and placed them in his honour. Feeling accomplished, emotional experience.

Again, thanks to you both from myself, Andrew and all the readers, you really are what this blog is about.

If anyone has any further contribution to make, please feel free: either comment here or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Thanks.

I include Andrew Thornton’s original request and article below for completeness.

1284/488180 Sapper Sidney Harold Willner
466th (1/2nd North Midland) Field Company, Royal Engineers (Territorial Force)

Born at Pelsall on 19 June 1886, Sidney was the son of Frederick Robert and Pricilla Constantina Willner. He was baptised on 25 July 1886.

On 11 August 1902, aged 16, Sidney obtained employment with the London and North Western Railway at Hednesford Station as a junior porter, but was dismissed on 7 May 1903 for tampering with the luggage of passengers.

He married Eleanor Jeanette Morris in 1910 and they lived at The Hollies on Butts Lane in Norton Canes. Sidney was working at the Conduit Colliery as a hewer when he attested for 2nd North Midland Field Company at Norton Hall in 1911.

Embodied on the outbreak of the war, Sapper Willner volunteered to serve overseas in September 1914 and landed in France with 1/2nd North Midland Field Company on 1 March 1915.

Willner was disembodied on 14 December 1918, on being demobilised, and returned to work at the Conduit Colliery. He died on 29 March 1919 and is buried in St James Churchyard Extension at Brownhills, Grave Reference: 2nd Half. 4. 63.

As his grave is a private family plot, it is not marked with a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone and is noted as being ‘neglected.’ Sidney Willner is also commemorated on the war memorial at St James’ Church at Brownhills and his name is recorded on the brass plaque inside Brownhills Memorial Hall.

Image: Courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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