ONE of the most desperate episodes in the history of the Worcestershire Regiment took place 108 years ago this month, when it shot five of its own.

As dawn broke on the morning of July 26, 1915, the soldiers, who had been found guilty of desertion on the ramparts of Ypres, faced a firing squad made up of their regimental comrades. It was the largest single execution by the British Army during the First World War.

The first volley of rifle fire rang out at 4am to be followed in succession by four more. The men who died were Corporal Ives, aged 30, and privates Fellows (29), Robinson (31), Thompson (25) and Hartells (32).

In 2006, with circumstances and attitudes very different, Parliament passed legislation that granted a posthumous pardon for all 306 soldiers of WW1 shot at dawn for desertion.

The grim story features in the July section of Worcester’s History and Heritage Calendar. But fortunately there have been brighter moments in July over the centuries.

July 1, 1964: If you were a motorist back then you might remember this day, because it was when traffic wardens began patrolling Worcester’s streets. At the time Worcester City still had its own police force – West Mercia didn’t exist until 1967 – and the wardens were based at the force HQ in Deansway from where they set out to help enforce some sort of order on the streets. A bit like Wyatt Earp, but substituting a biro for his Buntline Special.

July 2, 2000: Jeremy Richardson, Peter Crozier, Chris Chilton and Chris Farr made history for Worcester Rowing Club by winning the prestigious Wyfold Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta against Queen’s Tower RC by one and three quarters length. This trophy for men’s coxless fours is rowed over 2112 metres and has been competed for since 1855. It is one of the UK’s top rowing prizes Worcester was suitably proud of its winning crew and coach Peter Richardson.

July 4, 1925: Fred Root, one of Worcestershire CCC’s greatest players, took his 100th wicket of the season on his way to finish with 207. Pace bowler Root remains the only Worcestershire cricketer to take more than 200 wickets in a summer, which he achieved at the remarkable average of 17.52. His best ever bowling figures were 9-23 against Lancashire in 1931. To commemorate the 1925 season his wife commissioned a piece of Royal Worcester Porcelain painted by the legendary Harry Davis, which is on display in the WCCC Hick Pavilion.

July 6 1974: Lesley Charles, the most talented tennis player Worcester has so far produced, and her partner Mark Farrell reached the 1974 Wimbledon mixed doubles final. They faced the legendary Billie Jean King and her partner Owen Davidson. Charles and Farrell lost the first set 3-6, but battled back in the second, eventually losing 7-9. Lesley learnt her tennis from her parents, who coached at Northwick Park Tennis Club . Aged 22 in 1974, Lesley won 15 Ladies doubles titles that year with Sue Mappin and was a member of the winning Wightman Cup Team.

July 17,1797: Crime in the cathedral at Worcester when King John’s tomb was opened and his thumb stolen. Apparently one or more of the workmen who were helping an expert studying the royal remains helped themselves to relics from the tomb. These included the royal thumb bone, the tip of one shoe and fragment of clothing. The legend is that guilt (or maybe a word in his ear from the Almighty) so overcame the thief of the thumb he returned it secretly. The bone is now kept safely in the Cathedral Library where presumably someone has their foot on it.

29 July 1949 Lester Piggott rides his first winner at Worcester aged 13 according to author Chris Pitt writing in his book Pitchcroft 300 Years of Racing in Worcester. Piggott was “ aboard Star of Clubs for Ken Cundell.” The legendary jockey who died in May 2022 began racing horses from his father’s stables when he was ten and won his first race in 1948 aged 12 on a horse called The Chase at Haydock Park.