Private 38868 Henri Labais

Labais Henri 96 366x600

Killed in Action on Tuesday, 11th June 1918, age unknown.
Commemorated on the Soissons Memorial, Aisne, France.

4th Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 7th Brigade of 25th Division.

Husband of Mrs Minnie Labais, 8 Tinsley Street, Great Bridge, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Russia, Enlisted: Lichfield, Resident: Great Bridge.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Commemorated on the Salem Chapel, and St. Peter's, Greets Green memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1758981/

Genealogical Data

Census Information.
Indrik (Henri) Labais does not appear on any census return as he was not living in England in 1911.

Marriage of Indrik Labais and Minnie G. Grainger registered December qtr 1916 in West Bromwich.
Birth of Florence M. Labais registered March quarter 1918 in West Bromwich, mother's maiden name Grainger.
Marriage of Minnie G. Labais (Indrik's widow) and Arthur E. Loftus registered June quarter 1924 in West Bromwich.
Marriage of Florence M. Labais (Indrik's daughter) and Leonard J. Loftus registered September quarter 1941 in West Bromwich.

Personal Data

Henri (Idrik) Labais was a Russian citizen, it is likely he came to Great Bridge to instal Russian-made match making machinery at the Midlands Match Works, Great Bridge. He stayed in Great Bridge and in late 1916 married a local girl, Minnie Grainger. In May 1917 Henri volunteered for the South Staffs, even though as a foreign-national he was not obliged to enlist and would not have been conscipted.

A story in the 'Black Country Bugle' in March 2007 said that in 1917, during the Russian Revolution, a Russian in Great Bridge was suspected of being a fifth-columnist. His house was subject to attack by local people and the windows were broken. This could have been Henri Labais, and maybe he then enlisted to prove that he was not a communist 'fifth-columnist'.

Henri was killed in action on 11th June 1918, just a few months after the birth of his daughter Florence. Henri has no known grave and is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial.

The West Bromwich Remembrance Book lists him as Henry Laban.

After Henri's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £9/11/10d (9 pounds, 11 shillings and 10 pence); this was paid to his widow, Minnie, in 3 parts in October 1918 and March and April 1918. His War Gratuity was £4/0/0d (4 pounds exactly), this was also paid to Minnie in December 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Henri had enlisted in May 1917.

Action resulting in his death

Henri joined the 4th Battalion, South Staffs which as part of 25th Division had significant and costly involvement in the bloody defensive actions following the German attacks on 21st March 1918.

By May 1918, the 4th South Staffs were in Champagne country between Soissons and Reims supposedly to recuperate in a quiet area. At the end of May they were engulfed in the Battle of the Aisne where German bombardment and attack saw further heavy losses over many days. Those still capable fought a withdrawal as the Germans continuously advanced beyond the River Marne. Casualties between 26 May and 14 June were 4338 officers and men, of whom 2511 were missing.

One of the missing was Henri Labais who was reported killed in action on Tuesday, 11th June 1918. Henri has no known grave and is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald July 27th 1918
Great Bridge soldier killed in action.
Private H. Labais, 38868, of the South Staffordshire Regiment, fell in action on June 11th. He enlisted on May 6th 1917 being a Russian subject who volunteered to fight for England. He leaves a widow and child, who reside at 98 Tinsley Street, Great Bridge, Tipton. Before he enlisted he was employed at S&B Percy, Midlands Match Works, Great Bridge.
Mrs Labais has received a letter from a comrade of deceased in which he says that Private Labais was liked by all the men in the company and is missed by all his chums. He had as good a funeral as they could give him on the battlefield.

Black Country Bugle March 15th 2007
"Moreland's match factory - was there a Russian link with Great Bridge?"
Moreland's match factory was relocated from Gloucester to Gt. Bridge in 1912. Horace Garner recalled that when the factory was taken over by Shenton's foundry that some of the machinery removed was Russian. David Humphries believed there to have been a Russian connection as his father had told him that the owner was Russian, and during the time of the Russian revoloution during World War 1 (1917) the man was suspected of being a fifth-columnist. His house was subject to attack by local people and the windows were broken.
Editor: The owner was most unlikely to have been Russian, possibly Henri Labais who just came to install the machinery.