Arthur Wood – just doing his job

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Arthur Edward Wood MM, Sergeant 15/1008, 1st Leeds Pals

                                     ‘AEW’ – probably Arthur Edward Wood

There is a tendency to assume that when a soldier receives a gallantry award it has been given for attacking the enemy, or beating off his attack on you (cf. Arthur Binns).  But Arthur Wood received his for just doing his job – though there was, of course, rather more to it than just that.

Arthur Edward Wood was the only child, at least up to 1911, of Arthur Wood, a plumber, and Annie Barnes, who had married in Leeds on 25th October 1893, when both were living in Herbert Terrace, Sheepscar.  He was born in April 1894, possibly in Chapeltown, and by 1901 the family was living in Bagby Terrace, Sheepscar.  Ten years later they had moved to Matlock Terrace, and Arthur was now a clerk at an engineering works.

In August 1914 war was declared, and Arthur being 20, on 4th September he volunteered for the Leeds Pals.  Ten days later he was attested and accepted.  He went with the other recruits to Colsterdale for his training, then to Ripon and finally to Fovant in Wiltshire, by which time he had been promoted to corporal.  After his training he was posted to Headquarters Company, as a signaller.

                                           ‘AEW’ and his squad in 1915

In December of 1915 the battalion sailed for Egypt, arriving on 22nd and remaining until March the following year.  Their job was to guard the Suez Canal against a possible attack by the Turks.  This fortunately never materialised, and so in March they were sent to France to prepare for the Big Push, which became the Battle of the Somme.  Arthur’s service records are missing so we cannot be certain that he took part in that battle, particularly if he was still in HQ Company, but at some point he was moved to B Company, possibly when he was promoted to sergeant, though he kept his job as a signaller.  It was in this capacity that he was mentioned in the Battalion War Diary, the first named and possibly therefore in charge, in a group of six men, four NCOs and two privates, who were awarded the Military Medal.  On 10th December 1917 this group were paraded before the Corps Commander, for the presentation of the medals, in recognition of their

devotion to duty in repairing telephone lines under most dangerous conditions, during heavy hostile bombardment and gas shelling.   

Repairing telephone lines, which were frequently broken by shelling, was normally quite a dangerous job, requiring the signaller to crawl along the wire, often above ground, until he found the break, and then repair it.  There could be more than one break, in which case he had to carry on until the line was working again.  All this suggest that this particular job was something more than just the normal mending of a break.

It may have been during this action that Arthur was wounded, though more likely it was the following March or April, when the Germans mounted their final attack of the war.  On 15th April 1918 he died of his wounds, age 24, and is buried in Mendingham Military Cemetery, Belgium.  On his gravestone his parents had inscribed

IN PROUD AND LOVING MEMORY OF OUR DEAR AND ONLY SON THEY IN PARADISE DO REST R.I.P.

In addition to his Military Medal he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Sources:

Ancestry – Census records, Medal Index Card, baptismal records, register of effects

Free BMD – Marriage records

CWGC – details of death and burial

15th Batt. War Diary – details of MM award

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.

 

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Tom Willey – son of a well-known Leeds family and a gallant officer

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Thomas Arthur Raymond Robert Ellicot Willey, 2nd Lieut. 1st Leeds Pals

Thomas Willey (known as Tom) was born in 1897, the older son of Arthur Wellesley Willey, a prominent Leeds solicitor and Leeds Alderman.  When the 1901 census was taken Tom and his sister Gwendoline (born in 1896) were staying at 4 North Hill Road, Headingley, with their grandparents.  Tom was educated at Roscoe’s College, Harrogate, but by 1911 he was listed amongst the boarders at Harrow School.  His time at Harrow was short (1910-1911) but his name does appear twice in the school magazine “The Harrovian”.  In June 1910 he won first prize in the Bouchier Reading competition ‘more through the quantity than the quality of his voice!’ and in 1911 he won a Form Prize.  After school Tom became an articled clerk in his father’s firm as did his younger brother Gerald (born 1907).

Tom enlisted in the Leeds Pals as a private in September 1914 at the age of 17, one of the many young men who enlisted under age.  His father was on the recruiting panel and played a leading part in encouraging young businessmen to enlist.  His mother, who had sung with the D’Oyly Carte Opera company, sang in one of the concerts arranged for the men whilst they were doing their initial training in Colsterdale.  Tom was quickly spotted as officer material and was commissioned in December 1914 as a Temporary 2nd Lieutenant.

 

He was the best boxer in the Battalion at his weight and a popular officer.  On the 1st July 1916 he was one of the officers given the honour of  leading his men in the first wave ‘over the top’.  Initially his family hoped he had survived but Private W Arthur Hollings, writing to his own father, wrote that  ‘young Willey led our Platoon….He has always shown calm, grit and courage in the firing line, and we had every confidence in him, but never had he appeared so noble and courageous as he did at 7.30 am last Saturday.  At the order every man swarmed out of the front line trench  and lay down for nine minutes.  At the end of that time young Willey jumped up and, waving his revolver, shouted “Come on, 13, give them hell”….It depended on the steadiness of this first wave how the other waves followed, but Leeds showed the way.  Well he was a Leeds lad  and we’re proud of him…. We made an attempt  to rescue what we thought was his body  in No Man’s Land, but it proved to be another.’

Tom Willey’s death  would probably have been instantaneous as Arthur Hollings also wrote that ‘Willey lost his legs when he was hit by a shell. That night a few unwounded members from No 10 platoon crawled out into no-man’s land trying to find  young Willey’s body, but to no avail.’

Tom’s body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.  In the Yorkshire Post of July 7th 1916 Major Hartley, then in temporary command of the battalion, wrote to Alderman Willey saying ‘It has been a terrible business for our poor battalion.  I have asked several men about poor Tom,  and they say he was magnificent!  He was the hero of the battalion, both with officers and men. From the bottom of my heart I grieve for you.’

In the same article the reporter writes ‘The death of Tom Willey will cause widespread regret.  Only 19 years of age, he was an undoubted favourite wherever he went.’

Tom is commemorated on the family gravestone in the church yard of the former St John’s Church in Rounday. The words inscribed on the stone would have comforted the family in their loss.  The inscription reads ‘He died the noblest death a man may die, fighting for God and right and liberty, and such a death is immortality.’  In the church itself there is also a stained glass window and brass plaque dedicated to his memory.

           

Inset from bottom right corner of window

Sadly Tom’s father only outlived him by 7 years.  He was taken ill on the anniversary of Tom’s death on July 1st 1923 and died the following morning aged 54.  On the same day a notice had been placed in the Times  “In Memorium” section. It read:

WILLEY -In proud and loving memory of SEC. LIEUT TOM WILLEY.Leeds Pals Division, killed in the Somme attack on 1st of July 1916 – MAUD AND ARTHUR WILLEY.  ‘The Grove’, Roundhay Leeds.

Sources

Find My Past: births, census , newspapers

Nigel Cave and Jack Horsfell: ”Serre: Somme” (Pen and Sword 1996)

Sharon Donaldson (www oakwoodchurch info/1914-1919)

Articles in “The Harrovian” (1910 and 1911) and school photograph from Tace Fox ( Harrow School Archivist and Records Manager )

 

Researchers Jane Luxton and Carolyn Huston

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.

Gerhard Klouman – an unexpected name

Gerhard Arnulf Klouman, Private 15/1215 1st Leeds Pals

Gerhard Arnulf Klouman is not a name you expect to find on the roll of the British Army, particularly during a war against Germany.  But Gerhard was actually Norwegian, born in Christiana in 1898, the fourth child of Fredrik and Marie Klouman.  Despite the other three children having been born in England, in Wallasey, the whole family retained their Norwegian citizenship.

The only record I have found is the 1901 Census, which records the eldest child as Helen, born 1890, followed by Herming (possibly meant to be Henning) born a year later, and Frederick two years after that.  Despite these three all being born in Wallasey there is no sign of anything in the 1891 Census.  As Gerhard was born in Norway the mother, at least, must have gone back, but then returned to England in time for 1901.  By 1911 they have disappeared again.

When war was declared in 1914 Gerhard was apparently 16, officially too young.  But his name appears on the list of applicants to join the Pals on 4th September 1914, when his address is given as 10 Robb Street, Birstall.  He appears again on the full roll, where he has been posted to B Company, 7th Platoon.  There is then no further record of him until his death.  He would have followed the usual route for the Pals, training at Colsterdale, where he actually joined them, then Ripon and Fovant, before sailing to Egypt and the Suez Canal, where he landed on 22nd December 1915.  This is shown on his Medal Index Card, as is the award of the 1914-15 Star for service overseas before the end of 1915.

On 1st July 1916 Gerhard, now probably 18, and officially old enough to be in the Pals, if not actually over there, was one of the men who rose from their trenches to face the German machine guns, and one of the men who fell.  His body was never recovered and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.  In addition to the Star he was also awarded subsequently the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  So Gerhard was a foreigner who spent most of his short life in this country, and eventually gave his life for it.

Sources:

Ancestry – Medal Index Card, Census

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.

Wilfred German – a German on the British side

Wilfred Ernest German, Private 41396, 2nd Leeds Pals (The Bantams)

Later 1/5th Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment

Wilfred Ernest German was born on 28th August 1891, to George German, a cellarman in a public house, and Annie Eliza Walton, who had married in Holbeck in 1884.  They had three children but only two survived, Wilfred and his older brother Arthur.  George had been born in Burton-on-Trent, but what brought him to Leeds is not known.  By 1901 he had become an electric tramcar driver for Leeds City Transport.  The family lived at various addresses in the Hunslet/Holbeck area, Weldon Street in 1891, Mario Street in 1901, and Fairford Terrace in 1911, by which time Wilfred was working as a cloth cutter.

When war broke out in 1914 Wilfred was almost 23, but as his service records are missing we cannot say precisely when he joined up.  However, it was the Leeds Bantams he joined.  As his army number does not have a ‘17’ prefix it is likely that he joined between September 1916 and December 1917, at which point the Bantams were amalgamated with the 15th Battalion, The Leeds Pals, and the prefix ‘17’ was discontinued.  It is also likely that he was no more than 5ft 3ins tall.

He did not, however, remain a bantam for long, as he was transferred to 1/5th Territorial Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment, and it was here he did most of his service.  This battalion went to France in April 1915, but as Wilfred was not awarded the 1914-15 Star, for service overseas before the end of 1915, this also rules out an earlier enlistment.

The only definite records of Wilfred are his POW ones.  On 25th April 1918 he was captured at Kemmel, in Flanders.  The British used Kemmel Hill as an observation point, and in that April the Germans captured it during their Kaiserschlacht, an attempt to win the war before the Americans arrived in strength.  Wilfred was taken initially to Lager Eichstätt, and then moved, on 30th May, to Bayreuth Lager.  There was no mention of any wound at this point, but a later register, dated 28/08/18, states that he was shot in the foot.  There is also a family belief that he was gassed, which, given the extensive use of gas in this war, is quite possible, but as he lived to the age of 77, if it happened it is unlikely to have been too severe.  Wilfred spent the remainder of the war until the armistice at Bayreuth, after which he was repatriated, and was certainly back in Britain by December of 1919, when he was discharged to the Reserve Class Z.  He was subsequently awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

On 2nd August 1922 Wilfred married Alice Maud Pridmore, at Salem Congregational Church, Leeds, and in 1939 they were recorded as living at Dawlish Avenue, Leeds.  Wilfred was now working as a grocer, shopkeeper, and there are two closed records, suggesting two children.  Wilfred died in Leeds in December 1968.

Interestingly the surname ‘German’ may refer to the family originating in Germany, or an ancestor having connections with the country, perhaps through trade.

Sources:

Ancestry – Medal records, Census records, birth and marriage records.

Free BMD – Birth, marriage and death records

Grand Guerre icrc – POW records

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.

Arthur Binns – teacher, gallant soldier and POW who saw it all, and survived

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Arthur Binns MM, Private 15/1137, 1st Leeds Pals

Photo courtesy of the family

Arthur was born on 24th December 1893, an early Christmas present for his parents, Walter Atkinson Binns, a weaver, and Sarah Ann Jones, a grocer, who had been married in Keighley two years before.  He was christened on 18th March 1894.  The family were living at 8 Chapel Lane, Oakworth, Yorkshire although by 1901 they had moved to 4 Oldfield.  Walter was born in Oakworth and Sarah Ann hailed from Monmouthshire in Wales, though her birthplace was listed as Gloucestershire in the 1911 Census.  Between Arthur’s birth and the 1901 Census another three children had been born, Thomas, who also served in the war, Emmie Elizabeth and Clifford.  By 1911 the family had another addition, Lily, and Walter was now employed as a waterworks labourer with Keighley Corporation.  Arthur had reached 17 and was a student teacher, a profession he was to remain in all his working life, rising to be headmaster of his local school.  Before the war he was a teacher at Thurnscoe Council School in Barnsley, and it was the people of Thurnscoe who presented him with a pocket watch to acknowledge his bravery when he won the Military Medal.

Arthur enlisted in the 15th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Leeds Pals) at Colsterdale, Yorkshire on 11th January 1915.  After training at Breary Banks, Masham the battalion moved to Ripon and then to Fovant on Salisbury Plain, before deploying to Egypt in December 1915. Arthur was now a signaller in B Company, No.6 Platoon.  They spent about two months there, guarding the Suez Canal against a possible Turkish attack, and then in March 1916 the Battalion transferred to France to prepare for the Battle of the Somme.

On 1st July the Leeds Pals were lead battalion in the assault on the village of Serre.  They had been told that the preliminary bombardment would wipe out the German defenders, and their job would just be a walkover.  However it was not like that at all, and they were almost wiped out, losing some 530 casualties.  Arthur appears to have survived this awful day unscathed; possibly he was one of the 10% of the battalion kept in reserve and not part of the initial assault, or perhaps he was just extremely lucky.  Certainly luck appears to have been on his side, as he also survived the next major disaster for the Pals, when they were once again almost destroyed as a battalion in the Battle of Arras in 1917.  Arthur wrote home after this battle, telling his family that he had ‘been into old Fritz’s trench once again.  It was pretty exciting at the time, but here we are still merry and bright and looking forward to the time when we can be civilised again.  Now I am sporting a little bit of ribbon above my left pocket, which signifies that I have been awarded the Military Medal.’  The reason for this award he gave rather briefly, but the full account is recorded in the Battalion War Diary:

No. 1137 PTE ARTHUR BINNS advanced with his platoon to attack the German position EAST of GAVRELLE.  He gained the first objective where he established a bombing post.  He repulsed a local counter attack, and drove the enemy down the trench with bombs.

The enemy afterwards fired a rifle grenade into the post which PTE BINNS was holding.  PTE BINNS picked it up and threw it over the parapet, where it exploded without doing any damage.  PTE BINNS undoubtedly, by his coolness and courage, saved his comrades from being killed or wounded.

This award was also listed, without details, in the London Gazette.

Arthur remained with the 15th Battalion until it merged with the 17th Battalion (The Bantams) in December 1917, and this became the 15th/17th Battalion.

But nothing lasts for ever, and in March of 1918 the Germans launched what was to be their last major offensive, their last attempt to win the war.  This attack took the British very much by surprise.  Everyone knew something was going to happen, but no-one knew when.  The Pals were involved in battalion sports on 21st March when it began, and six days later Arthur was captured near St Leger, along with a large part of the battalion, only four officers and about forty men escaping the net.  He was taken initially to Parchim POW Camp, where he was recorded on 6th August.  He had not been wounded when captured so he may have gone straight to Parchim or been taken to another camp en route.  He subsequently went to Camp No 1952 at Friedrichsfeld, Wesel.  Following the Armistice he was released and returned to France on 26th November.  He was treated as a priority having been a POW, and was repatriated to the UK in December 1918.

Two months later, on 25th February 1919, he married Alice Maud Annie Ingham in Keighley, the same day as he was posted to the Reserve Class Z.  Fortunately the armistice held, the reserves were not required, and Arthur was finally discharged from the army on 31st March 1920. In addition to his MM he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal for his wartime service.  In the next war he served as an air-raid warden and special constable.  He returned to his profession of teaching, rising to become headmaster of Keighley Junior School, now Lees Primary School, and in 1955 a Keighley Town Councillor.  He was headmaster of Eastwood Secondary School in Keighley from the beginning of January 1939 until his retirement at the end of August 1954.  After this he continued to teach adults at Keighley College, and also found time to be a Methodist lay-preacher in addition to all these other occupations.  He and Alice had three children, Joyce, Harry and Gwenda, and the family appear, with Walter, on the 1939 Register, living at Burghley House, Exley Road, Keighley.  Harry went on to serve in the RAF in the Second World War, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his operations as a Halifax bomber pilot.

Arthur in 1953, courtesy of the family

Arthur died on 22nd February 1956, age 62, at which point he was living at 40 Leach Road, Riddlesden, Keighley.  His funeral was held at Lees Methodist Chapel and was attended by the Mayor of Keighley and a large number of mourners from teaching and various local organisations.  Alice survived him by 29 years, dying on 13th May 1985 at Keighley Blind Home.

Sources:

Ancestry – Medal Records, Baptismal Record, Marriage Record, Census Records

Find My Past – Service Record, 1939 Register

Free BMD – Birth, Marriage and Death Records

ICRC – POW Records

Records, photos and additional information supplied by the family

Researchers: Peter Taylor, David J Owen and Owen Hammond

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.

Richard Dales – almost made it through

Richard Dales, Sergeant 15/261 1st Leeds Pals

Richard Dales was born in Louth, Lincolnshire, on 28th November 1895, the fourth child and second son of Samuel Dales and Susannah Parrish, who had married in Louth in 1888.  Richard was baptised on 6th August 1896, together with his older siblings Lillian, Maggie and Sidney.  Four more children followed, Percy, Constance, Marion and Dorothy.  There had been a ninth child, but it did not survive.  Father Samuel’s occupation in 1891 was butcher, but by 1901 he had changed professions and was a cellarman.  By 1911 he had risen to be brewer’s foreman.  Richard did not follow either of these occupations, being listed in 1911 as a dentist’s assistant.  For the whole of this period the family was living in Queen Street, Louth, and what brought Richard to Leeds we don’t know, possibly his job.

Richard’s army records are missing, and all we have are the list of applicants for the Pals made towards the end of 1914, and the Roll, made around the middle of 1915.  Richard was a very early volunteer, putting his name down on 4th September 1914 and being given the number 261.  After his training he was posted to A Company, 2nd Platoon, where he became the bugler for No. 4 Section.  He will have done his training at Colsterdale, then Ripon and Fovant, before sailing with the battalion in December 1915 for Egypt, to guard the Suez Canal.  The Pals stayed there for two months, before sailing again, this time to France, to prepare for the Big Push, as the Battle of the Somme was initially known.

Two things are known about Richard’s time in the Pals.  One is that he was good at sports.  Three prize rosettes are preserved among his effects, which he had won for running in 1918, but he is also noted in the Battalion War Diaries as having won a First Prize in 1917 at the Horse Show.  The other noted fact is that he was a good soldier, promoted to Lance Corporal by 1917, and recorded as such when admitted to No.3 Casualty Clearing Station with a gunshot wound on 9th January.  On 3rd August 1918 he was awarded a wound stripe, presumably for another wound.  He was a Corporal by this time and reached the rank of Sergeant before his death.

Having joined up right at the start of the war Richard almost made it through to the end.  In October of 1918 the Allies were advancing on all fronts, and it was only a matter of time before the war ended.  The Germans were retreating before them but still fighting hard, and men were being killed right up to the last few minutes of the fighting.  On the 3rd October Richard became one of those casualties, and was buried in Underhill Cemetery, Hainaut, Belgium.

He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  These were sent to his family, along with his Death Plaque.

Sources:

Ancestry – Medal records, birth records

Find My Past – Census records

Free BMD – Marriage records

Also information held by Leeds City Museum

Researchers: Peter Taylor and Jane Luxton

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.

 

Robert Crossland – he fell at the last

Robert Crossland, Private 15/248 1st Leeds Pals

Robert Crossland was born on 2nd May 1889, and baptised two months later in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in New Wortley.  He was the second child of James William Crossland and Elizabeth Ann Blackburn who had married in Bramley in 1884.  Robert had an older brother William Isaac, and two younger sisters, Agnes and Jennie.  There had been a fifth child who sadly had not survived.  James worked for the Great Northern Railway as a plate-layer, inspecting and maintaining the track.  He had previously been, in 1891, a stationery engine stoker.  Neither of his sons followed him into this trade, William becoming a grocer’s assistant and Robert a cloth drawer, someone who fed and minded the tentering machine in which woollen cloth or felt was stretched while wet or steamed and then dried under tension, on tenter hooks.  It appears Robert was also a keen cricketer, being a member of the Holbeck A Team, winners of the Leeds League in 1913.

Robert and Clarice

So when the war began Robert was 25, and he wasted no time in volunteering.  He went first to Colsterdale, where the Pals did their initial training, but on Boxing Day 1914 he was home in Holbeck, for he married Clarice Amelia Swales in the Wesleyan Chapel there.  He gave his occupation as Cloth Drawer and Private in the Leeds Pals, and his place of residence as Colsterdale.  Clarice was a tailoress machinist.  Following his initial training he was put into D Company, No.16 Platoon, and he is listed on the Roll as servant, to one of the company officers, but with no indication as to which one.  His service records are missing but we can assume that he went next to Ripon, then to Fovant, and certainly sailed, with the rest of the battalion, to Egypt, there to guard the Suez Canal, from where he sent a postcard to William.  Two months later they were on their way again, this time to France, to take part in the Big Push, the Battle of the Somme.

The Suez Canal, a postcard sent by Robert

Whether Robert was directly involved is not known, but if he was he clearly survived, unlike so many of his comrades.  He also survived 1917 when the Pals once more came close to extinction at the Battle of Arras.  He may, however, have been wounded at some stage.  In March 1918 he was taken prisoner, and those records have survived.  One of them mentioned a gunshot wound, to his shoulder and face, but as the initial report on his capture says he was not wounded that suggests an earlier encounter.

On 21st March 1918 the Germans launched the Kaiserschlacht, their final attempt to win the war before the Americans arrived in force.  At the time the Pals were involved in battalion sports, and doing well as usual.  But everything came to an abrupt end and they were hurried into the line, in time to be overrun on 27th March.  Finally only four officers and about forty men escaped, Sergeant Mountain winning the Victoria Cross in the process, but Robert was not so lucky.  He was captured at Ervillers, where the Pals had made their stand.  What happened to him initially is not clear, but by the beginning of August he had arrived at Parchim POW Camp.  At the end of August he was moved to Meschede Camp.  He may also have gone to Friedrichsfeld Camp, but the dates are not clear.  Certainly he was in the hospital at Meschede on 18th November 1918, because that was when he died, of pneumonia, just one week after the armistice.  He may have been one of the victims of the Spanish Flu epidemic that was sweeping the world, and which eventually claimed more victims than the war itself.  He was buried in the Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, which had been established by the Germans for POWs who died while in captivity.

Robert was subsequently awarded the 1914-15 Star, for his service in Egypt, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, but these would have been sent to his widow, who would also have received his death plaque, the ‘Dead Man’s Penny’.  It is possible that his brother William also joined up, not in the Pals, but I have so far found no confirmation of this.

Sources:

Ancestry – Medal Records

Find My Past – Census Records

Free BMD – birth, marriage and death records

ICRC – POW Records

CWGC – details of death

Researcher: Peter Taylor, with additional information and photos from the family.

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.

 

Harry Zalk, or Solk – a little known Pal

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H Zalk, L/Corporal 267224, 15/17 Bn. West Yorkshire Regiment

In the British Jewry Book of Honour is an entry for H Zalk, Lance Corporal 267224, 15/17th Battalion, WYR.  There is also an entry for Harry Solk, Corporal 5080, 2/7th Battalion WYR.  The Medal Roll shows him as Harry Solk, but also shows that he was first in the Pals, and later in the Leeds Rifles.  Solk is by far the more common spelling, but whether it is correct is another matter.  As Zalk he is the only entry for ‘Z’ on our list.  Harry would appear to be short for Harris, but mainly it is as Harry that he appears.

Harry was born on 22nd May 1895, but where and to whom I have not discovered.  I have not found him on any of the censuses, so it is possible that he was a recent arrival in this country.  He appears on the Absent Voters’ List as living at 6 Friendly Terrace, and later at 29 Grafton Street, always alone, until 1929, when he is joined by Sarah Solk, but with no indication as to who she is.  In 1930 a marriage was recorded between a Harry Solk and a Lily Gill, but whether our Harry we don’t know.  On the 1939 Register he is listed as a tailor’s machiner living at 9 Beamsley Terrace, together with Gladys George, later to be Gladys Solk after a marriage in 1941, and Annie E Brook, an old lady of 71.  Harry definitely survived the war, and was posted to the Reserve on 18th March 1919.  He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Such is our knowledge of Harry Solk, or Zalk.  If you can add to it, please let us know.

Sources:

Ancestry – Medal Records

Find My Past – 1939 Register, Electoral Registers, Absent Voters’ List

Free BMD – Marriage Records

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.

John Yeadon – the Pal who became a medic

John Yeadon, Private 15/1024, 1st Leeds Pals

Later Corporal 140171 RAMC

John Yeadon was born about 1890 and probably volunteered around the end of 1914.  He was not only the first of the ‘Y’s, but also the last of the names to be entered on the list in strict alphabetical order.  After him came Private Eddison.

Private Yeadon went with the battalion to Colsterdale to do his initial training, followed by Ripon, then Fovant, and finally they all sailed for Egypt in December 1915, there to guard the Suez Canal.  John was in B Company, No.7 Platoon, where he was platoon bomber.  Egypt was largely uneventful, and after two months they sailed again, this time for France.  They were to train for the Big Push, but John didn’t quite make that.  By early June he was in the 2nd General Hospital at Le Havre with an infection of the middle ear.  That does not sound overly serious, but in his case it was.

After five days John was moved to Cinder City, a camp at Le Havre, so called because it was built on what had been marshland, but had been reclaimed by covering it with cinders, or embers, from other camp fires.  It was a convalescent camp, for men who had done their bit but were not considered fit enough to return to their units.  It was not unusual for men to go from here to other units, and it may have been at this time that John was transferred to the RAMC.

As a private in the RAMC he was given a new number, 140171, and ultimately a promotion, to corporal.  Where he served in this capacity is not known, but by the end of March 1918 he was back in hospital as a patient, this time in the No.4 Stationary Hospital at Arques, a victim of the influenza epidemic sweeping the world, which ultimately claimed more victims than the war itself.  Fortunately John survived, to be discharged and posted to the Reserve on 26th March 1919.  He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

And that is the sum total of our knowledge of John Yeadon.  If anyone can add to it I should very much like to hear from them.

Sources:

Ancestry – Medal Records, Medical Records

Find My Past – Medical Records

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
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Harold Walch – the Pal sent back to work

Harold Walch, Private 15/925, 1st Leeds Pals

Harold Walch, the first of the ‘W’s, was born in Bramley on 12th April 1889, one of the six children born to John Staniforth Walch and Sarah Jane Farne, who had married in Middlesbrough in June 1880.  Harold had three older sisters, Eliza, Clara and  Helena, and a younger brother Ernest.  Another child had died, and Clara was also to die in 1900.  Harold in fact outlived all his siblings apart from Helena, and also his wife, but that comes later.

When Harold left school he went to work at a tar distillery, probably the one at which his father was manager, and by 1911 he was a foreman.  When he enlisted he gave his occupation as ‘engineer’, but elsewhere as ‘chemist’.  Given what happened later it is possible that he worked for the firm of Messrs. Tunstall & Co., Newlay Chemical Works, but I have found no definite evidence of this.

In 1914 when war broke out Harold was 25 years old, 5ft 11ins tall, with light brown hair and green eyes.  He put in his application on 4th September, and nine days later formally joined the Pals, signing up at the Town Hall, after a satisfactory medical.  Like the rest of the battalion he went off to Colsterdale to begin his training, where he seems to have done well enough to earn a first stripe and become an, unpaid, lance corporal.  Unfortunately he blotted his copybook soon after, by ‘creating a disturbance in his hut after tattoo’, and lost it again.  Thereafter he appears to have remained a private, but as we shall see, he had little further opportunity for promotion.  He was put into the Transport Section as a driver, driving water-cart No.2.

In late December the Pals sailed for Egypt, to guard the Suez Canal, staying there for two months.  Then they sailed for France to prepare for the Big Push, but this time Harold did not go with them.  On 7th February 1916 he sailed for England, on a temporary release to do munitions work at the above mentioned Tunstall’s, and stayed there for the rest of the war.  During this period, on 28th June 1916, at St Peter’s, Bramley, he married Beatrice Annie Jones.  Whether he had worked at Tunstall’s before, whether they requested him, is not clear, but he was certainly lucky.  Had he stayed with the battalion he could easily have been killed or at least seriously wounded, on the Somme in 1916, at Arras in 1917, or in the Kaiserschlacht in 1918.  As it was he survived and was able to return to his wife permanently after being discharged from the army on 10th January 1919.  He was subsequently awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. 

He appears with Beatrice on the 1939 Register, as a sheet metal worker, living at 199 Belle Vue Road, Woodhouse.  He died and was buried in Shipley on 5th November 1962.

Sources:

Ancestry – Medal Records

Find My Past – Census Records, Service Records

Free BMD – birth, marriage and death records

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
  • Please refer to our Glossary of Terms for further information on the terms and phrases used in this post.