King Edward’s School and the Great War

Memorial Roll of Honour 1914 - 1918


Wansbrough, William Evelyn

Captain ▪ 3rd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment

William Evelyn Wansbrough, born on 11th November 1893 and known as ‘Evelyn’, was admitted to King Edward’s School in January 1907 as a Foundation Scholar. He was the eldest son, living with his father, William, an engineer, and his mother, Margaret, and his younger brother, Robert Cecil. His family moved to Birmingham in 1907 when his father established his engineering consultancy firm, Wansbrough & Skelsey, in the city. Upon Evelyn’s entry to the school, the family was living at 11, Edgbaston Road, Balsall Heath; they moved four times and finally settled at 49, Blenheim Road, Moseley. Evelyn’s brother, Robert, also an Old Edwardian, served with the 14th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, where he was promoted to Captain before transferring to the Royal Flying Corps.

As a pupil of the Modern School, Evelyn studied a primarily scientific, rather than classical, curriculum. Although his performance lapsed in his penultimate year, he finished his School academic career high in the Modern Second Class, winning the Laboratory Work Prize in his final year. He was also a Corporal in the School Officer Training Corps. After leaving School in May 1912, Evelyn enlisted in the 3rd Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, as a ‘yeomanry’ or part-time officer. Professionally, he followed the family interest in engineering and enrolled as an apprentice in the General Electric Company at their innovative Witton works, established in 1903.

On the outbreak of war in August 1914, Evelyn’s battalion left for France almost immediately. He was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant, taking part in the retreat from Mons at the end of August. He was wounded at the Battle of the Aisne on 11th October and returned to England. There, on 31st December 1914, he married Gladys at St Agnes’ Church in Moseley.

Evelyn returned to France, and his battalion eventually moved to the Somme Front entering Delville Wood on 27th July 1916. During their two days on the line, the Battalion lost nearly all their young officers, including Evelyn (by then a Captain), who was killed by a shell on 28th July, aged twenty-two. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. He is also commemorated on the war memorials inside St Mary’s Parish Church and St Agnes’ Church in Moseley. Evelyn’s wife, Gladys, was in the last months of pregnancy when her husband’s death was reported, and their son, also named William Evelyn, known as ‘Billy’, was born in Moseley on 11th October 1916.