Whilst researching his family tree, local man Wallace Hill, discovered that his grandfather Wallace Ernest Wooldridge was a pupil at Old Swinford Hospital and his death recorded on the School’s WWI Memorial Board.
Wallace Hill’s grandmother refused to talk about the death of her husband who was killed in action in France and even declined to sign for his medals and widow’s penny. To complicate matters further, his war record at the National Records Office was destroyed in a fire during WW2.
Therefore, having no family recollections or official records, Wallace Hill contacted The Archives at Dudley, who suggested he start with the website: www.rememberthefallen.co.uk. It showed that his grandfather’s name was mentioned on three local war memorials, the Civic Memorial for Lye and Wollescote, the stained glass window in the Memorial Chapel at Chris Church Lye and Old Swinford Hospital’s memorial board in the Great Hall.
Mr Hill was then able to start to piece together information on his grandfather Wallace Ernest Wooldridge, aged 27, of the Royal Field Artillery who was killed in action on 9 January 1918, having been in France for only four months. He left a widow, Mary Anne (known as Polly) and two children, one of whom was Wallace Hill’s mother Marion Gertrude (known as Marri). In a letter received by Polly, it states that her husband was killed by a piece of shell which hit him in the back.
After getting in touch with OSH, Mrs Helen Oakes, Headmaster’s PA, was able to confirm, after some investigative work, that Wallace Wooldridge had indeed been a pupil at OSH and invited Mr and Mrs Hill to view the war memorial and look around his grandfather’s school, including the History Department which has a fascinating display depicting Old Foleyans’ involvement in WWI.
Mr Hill said: “I can’t believe that nearly 100 years after the end of the war that killed my grandfather, pupils at his old school are still visiting the graves of Old Foleyans who lost their lives in the Great War.”
Head of History, Mr Jones, said “Over the years around 150 pupils have visited the First World War Battlefields of Belgium and France. Over 46 Old Foleyans died, most of whom don’t have graves, but over the years we have found and paid our respects to 14 former pupils. These trips make WW1 more personal for students of all ages as they can visualise the boys in their own school.”
Gunner 238726 Wallace Ernest Wooldridge
‘C’ Battery 83rd Brigade, Royal Artillery
Killed in Action, France & Flanders aged 27 Years
January 9th 1918
Canada Farm Cemetery, Belgium, Grave Ref: III.H.45
Wallace Ernest Wooldridge was born in Lye on February 14th 1890 and joined Old Swinford Hospital on December 18th 1900. His grandson, Wallace Hill still lives in the Stourbridge area.