Beryl James Pretious, born on 15th June 1886, was admitted to King Edward’s School in January 1900. The records reveal that he left School within the year, perhaps due to the death of his father shortly after he started at KES. Details of Beryl’s early life are curious. The 1891 Census indicates that he was living in a Somerset boarding house, without his family, aged just 4. The King Edward’s School records reveal that in January 1900, Beryl was living with his mother at 123 Whitehall Road, Handsworth. By 1901, he was living on board the Warspite, a Marine Society training ship anchored off Woolwich. The ship, along with ten other vessels, provided boys with accommodation and training for a career in the Royal Navy. These ships catered for boys from a wide range of backgrounds, including pauper boys, who had to sign indentures for two years from the date of admission. No records survive to tell us what happened to him after his training, but later passenger lists show that in 1906 he travelled to Mozambique and had become a jeweller.
In December 1915, Beryl enlisted as Private soldier with the Australian Expeditionary Force and was deployed to France the following summer. The Australian Red Cross papers record that “[Beryl] was on the Lewis Gun at Pozieres on the 27th August 1916…when he was wounded by a bullet through the head. A passing stretcher bearer thought he was too far gone to place him on a stretcher, as there were others waiting. About 10 minutes after the stretcher bearer left, a shell came which buried him.”
Beryl’s body was never recovered but he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. He left his estate of £94 to his brother, Cuthbert William Pretious, of Nbabane, Swaziland. The Australian War Memorial records that Beryl’s mother, Susannah, was living in Cape Town at the time of her son’s death.