Arthur Ward – teacher, Pals’ Sergeant, East Yorks Officer

15/1031 Sergeant Arthur Bowsher Ward, 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment

Photo courtesy of East Kent Gazette

Arthur Bowsher (his mother’s maiden name) Ward, a resident of Rodmersham Green, near Sittingbourne in Kent, was the second son of Arthur Ward and Josephine Mary Bowsher. He trained at Leeds as a teacher before following his parents in to the teaching profession and was in Leeds at the start of the First World War in 1914. He was, however, born at Wigston Magna, Leicestershire on 6 December 1891 and his mother came from Kendal, Westmoreland. They had a nomadic life as teachers.

In 1901 the family were living in the village of Rodmersham Green, Kent and consisted of Arthur (father, born at Howden Yorkshire 7 January 1872), Josephine Mary Bowsher (mother, born 20 April 1873 and died 26 August 1946 at Kendal) and brother Harold Tully who was born on 29 December 1895 at Sheerness, Kent and died in London in 1939. His parents were married on 20 May 1891 at Kendal, Westmoreland and his father was listed as an Elementary Schoolmaster. By 1911 his father was now headmaster at the elementary school in the village of Rodmersham Green, Kent where his mother was an assistant teacher, as was Arthur Bowsher who was just 19, and they were still resident at Rodmersham Green. Arthur Bowsher went to Borden Grammar School on winning a Kent County scholarship and afterwards proceeded to the City of Leeds Training College, followed by an appointment to St Hilda’s School, under the Leeds Education Committee. On the outbreak of war he patriotically joined the City of Leeds Pals Battalion.

Arthur only served with the Leeds Pals for about 11 months and trained with them at Colsterdale in Yorkshire; he was described as being 5ft 8½in tall, with a fair complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes. However, he did not deploy with the Pals on operations in Egypt or to France and therefore missed the slaughter of the Leeds Pals at Serre on 1 July 1916. He was an ‘Original’ Leeds Pal having enlisted in the 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment (the 1st City Battalion) on 23 September 1914 and was given the number 15/1031. Promoted to Corporal on 27 January 1915, he was posted to the 19th Battalion (a training unit) on 23 July 1915. He gained further promoted to Lance Sergeant on 15 August 1915 and later that year to Acting Sergeant. Arthur remained with the training unit when it became the 88th Training Reserve Battalion and was given a new number of TR5/72019. On 1 December 1916 he was attached to a Cadet Battalion at Oxford before commissioning into the 3rd Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant on 27 March 1917. He moved to the 8th Battalion and entered the ‘Theatre of War’ in France on 1 May 1918.

Arthur Bowsher Ward was killed in action near Beaumont-Hamel at 5.15pm on 15 August 1918 while serving with the 1st Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, attached from the 8th Battalion. At the time he was Signalling Officer working with the battalion headquarters staff. In a letter to his parents the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel F L Du Moulin described Arthur’s last moments: ‘As we had been on the go since the midnight of the previous day everyone was pretty tired. The enemy had been shelling us furiously all the time. At 2pm we …… were resting in a shell hole after partaking of a scratch meal. Later in the afternoon, being worn out, your son ….. lay down to snatch a few minutes sleep. At 5.10pm a couple of Boche aeroplanes were circling overhead ….. when a 5.9 shell landed right in our trench, about 6ft from where your son was dozing. Poor fellow, he was killed instantly.’ He then went on to express his sympathy to the family.

Arthur was buried in a temporary grave in France close to where he died but was relocated in 1920 to the Ancre British Cemetery, Beaumont-Hamel, grave VIII C3.  His parents at the time were living at Hoveden, Stockers Hill, Rodmersham.  For his service he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal, and his family received a Bronze Memorial Plaque and scroll.  By 1939 Arthur and Josephine had retired to 4 Kentrigg, Kendall and were living with William Edgar, also a schoolmaster, and his family.

Sources:

Sue Shiels and Historical Research Group of Sittingbourne – Obituary and Photograph (courtesy of East Kent Gazette)

The National Archives (TNA) – Officers Service Record

Ancestry (Online) – Army Service Record, Medal records, Effects Register, Birth and Census registers

Findmypast – 1939 Register

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) – Cemetery Registers

Researcher: David J Owen

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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Sam Coope – captured during 1918 German Offensive

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15/225 Sergeant Samuel Wainwright Coope 1st Leeds Pals

Samuel Wainwright Coope, or Sam as he was known, was born on 2nd June 1888 and baptised at the Wesleyan-Methodist Chapel, Hunslet, Leeds, the following month. His father John (1864-1948) and mother Ellen Hannah Wainwright (1861-1972) were living at 9 Rowland Road (or Terrace), Hunslet and at the time the family name was spelt Coop. Sam’s siblings were Hilda (1887-1972) and Oswald (1889-1963); all three children and their mother were born in Hunslet and their father, who was employed as a Poor Rate Collector, was born in Middleton. By 1901 the family had moved to 8 Arlington Terrace, Hunslet and had increased by five more children, Laura (1891-1976), Gladys Ethel (1893-1972), Nellie (1894-1986), Doris (1897-1945) and Annie (1900-1984), and the family name remained Coop. In 1911, with the addition of John (1902-), the family had moved to Holmleigh Cross Flatts Grove, Beeston.

Sam, whose surname was now spelt Coope, married Florence Sheard in the church at Beeston on 23rd January 1918. He was living at 270 Cross Flatts Grove and his profession was shown as Assistant Overseer, though he had previously worked as a clerk in his father’s rates office, which is strange as he remained a soldier until he transferred to the Army Reserve on 4th April 1919.

He joined the 15th Battalion in September 1914, trained with them at Colsterdale, Ripon and Fovant before deploying to Egypt in December 1915. In March 1916 he moved with the Battalion to the Western Front in France where he faced a very different enemy and weather conditions. He survived both the Battle of the Somme 1916 and Battle of Arras 1917 but was captured in the spring of 1918 while serving in the newly amalgamated Battalion, the 15/17th.  He was listed as missing from 21st to 31st March, before confirmation that he had been taken prisoner, unwounded, on 27th at Arras.  He was recorded at Parchim POW camp on 6th August, but where he had been from March till then is not known.  Parchim is in northern Germany, due north of Berlin.  His family was informed of his capture on 13th September, and it seems very likely that he remained at Parchim until the armistice.

Oswald, meanwhile, had joined the 4th Hull Battalion of the East Yorks Regiment, but in some ways had a very similar experience.  He too went to Egypt and missed Gallipoli.  He also missed the First Day of the Somme, his unit being in reserve, but fought at Arras and Passchendaele, having been commissioned into the 205th Machine Gun Corps.  He then went to Italy but was back in France for the Battle of Lys, and ended the war as a major, with the Military Cross.  After the war neither brother wanted to talk about their experiences.

Sam was transferred to the Army Reserve on 4 April 1919; for his service he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal. He died in Leeds in December 1975, and was cremated at Lawnswood Cemetery, when three Pals attended, Clifford Hollingsworth, Arthur Dalby and one other.  They scoured the local papers every day for death announcements so they could attend as many services as possible in honour of their now deceased comrades.

 

Sources:

Ancestry – Birth, Marriage, Death and Census records

The National Archives – Medal Roll and Medal Index Card

POW Records: ICRC

Researchers:  David J Owen and Peter Taylor, with further information from Alison Skinner, Sam’s great niece.

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.

 

Charles Abdy – the first of the many

Charles William Abdy, Lance Corporal 15/1, 1st Leeds Pals

Charles William Abdy is not remembered for being an outstanding soldier, though he was clearly a very good, reliable and efficient one, being promoted to Lance Corporal.  He is notable, however, for being the first man to be enlisted in the Pals, and being given the number ‘1’.

Recruiting for the Pals was begun on 3rd September 1914, at 9.00, when the Victoria Hall in the Town Hall was opened for volunteers.  Hundreds of young men, and probably some older ones, were waiting, some 200 men had already sent their names in, and by 9.00 that evening over 500 men had signed up. (Milner)  They were to be listed, and allocated Service Numbers, in alphabetical order.  Charles Abdy came first on that list.  He was later displaced by other surnames, but no-one could take away his number.

Charles was born in Featherstone on 28th April 1889, the only child of William Abdy and Emma Heath.  In 1891 William was working as a butler, but by 1901 he was caretaker and messenger at the London City & Midland Bank in Boar Lane.  By 1911 he was a widower, Emma having died, probably in 1907, though there is some doubt here, in that her age as given does not match with that of the censuses.  Charles, meanwhile, was listed in 1911 as a shipping clerk, and he worked for Messrs TF Braime & Co. (Ltd), engineers of Hunslet.  Three years later he had volunteered for the Pals. (Find My Past & Milner)

After passing the medical, which was on 10th September, Charles was posted to A Company, No.2 Platoon, 4th squad.  His record gives him as 25 years and 5 months old, 5ft 9ins tall, with blue eyes and fair hair, later described as ‘sandy’. (Find My Past)  Along with the rest of the battalion he began his training at Colsterdale, followed by Ripon and Fovant in Wiltshire, before setting sail, on 6th December 1915, for Egypt.  He was by then acting Lance Corporal, having been given the (unpaid) rank at the end of October, and the pay to go with it three days before he sailed.  The task in Egypt was to guard the Suez Canal against possible attack by the Turks, which never really materialised, and consequently on 8th March 1916 the Pals sailed again, this time for France.  They were to take part in the Big Push, which later became known as the Battle of the Somme.

The Battle of the Somme began for the Pals on 1st July 1916, and by 4th July Charles was on his way back to England, having been quite severely wounded.  It was a gunshot wound in his thigh.  Initial medical reports said ‘right thigh’, but subsequently it was recorded as ‘left thigh’.  He was operated on to remove the bullet, and the wound healed well, but he was left with muscle weakness.  The bullet had also damaged his knee, and some cartilage had to be removed, leaving his knee with a tendency to suddenly give way.  In consequence of all this, and after a medical which assessed him as being 80% disabled, on 3rd November 1917 he was discharged, as being no longer fit for service, and awarded the Silver War Badge.  On his return to England he had been transferred to 3rd Battalion, and it was from there, at Whitley Bay, that he was discharged. (Find My Past)

His leg improved slowly, but by 12th February 1919 he was considered fit for employment, and he returned to his job as a shipping clerk, presumably with Braime’s.  Before this, however, he had been struck down with influenza, in the epidemic that swept the world as the war ended, and actually killed more people world-wide than the war had.  So Charles was one of the lucky ones.

Towards the end of 1919 he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. (Ancestry)  In June 1926 he married Beatrice, but there seems to be some doubt as to whether she was Beatrice M Carr or M Holmes.  Both names are given on the record.  In 1939 they were living at 34 Tempest Road, Leeds, and Charles was still listed as an order and despatch clerk, pressed steel engineer. (Find My Past)  He probably died in Leeds in 1967, aged 78. (Free BMD)

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.

William Wharram – Bradford Pals soldier, Leeds Pals officer

William Stephenson Wharram, MC DCM, 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Leeds Pals

William Stephenson Wharram

Picture from Susan Wharram (granddaughter)

William Stephenson Wharram, whose second name was sometimes given as Stephen, has little of his military history available, apart from his medal records and RAF service record. His Army service record has not yet been released by the Ministry of Defence as he again served in the Army during the Second World War.

He was born in Burgh le Marsh, Lincolnshire, on 15th February 1896, the son of Mathias Wharram and Mary Wharram née Tomlinson.  On the 1901 Census she was listed as a widow as his father had died on 6th September 1896. By 1911 William was living with his uncle and aunt, William and Ellen Brown, so perhaps his mother had also died. In that same year William became an agricultural student and attended a two year course at the Agriculture College at Royston.

William Wharram at Howden Hall

                                               William Wharram – the Riding Master

Picture from Susan Wharram (granddaughter)

In 1914 William volunteered for the West Yorkshire Regiment.  Initially he seems to have been in the 12th Battalion, a service battalion formed in York in September 1914, but before long he was posted to the 16th Battalion, the 1st Bradford Pals.  He was with the Bradford Pals when they went to Egypt in December 1915, along with the Leeds Pals, and remained with them before transferring to the 11th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. He was commissioned on 24th April 1917 as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 15th Battalion (1st Leeds Pals) West Yorkshire Regiment, just prior to the Arras offensive of May 1917. In December 1917 the 15th Battalion merged with the 17th Battalion to form the 15/17th and this unit also absorbed men from the Bradford Pals prior to the disbanding of its two battalions in February 1918.

William first made his name towards the end of 1916, when, while still a private, he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM), second only to the Victoria Cross (VC), for conspicuous gallantry in action.  In the company of one officer he bombed down an enemy trench and assisted in the capture of over 100 prisoners.

As an officer he continued to distinguish himself, notably during the last German attack of the war, the Kaiserschlacht which began in March 1918.  By the end of March the Leeds Pals were withdrawing as fast as they could, but still in danger of being cut off.  Only four officers and about forty men finally escaped, and that they did was due largely to Sergeant Albert Mountain, who with ten men and a Lewis gun drove the Germans back, winning a VC in the process, and William Wharram, who led a flanking attack on the Germans Mountain had driven off.  The London Gazette reported:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. After our front line had retired he took out his platoon and enfiladed the advance of the enemy, directing a very effective fire against them. When the enemy took up fresh positions he again enfiladed them, enabling a frontal attack to be made which led to the capture of thirty-five prisoners. For this action he was awarded the Military Cross (MC).

Later he was attached to the 3rd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment and then to the RAF.  His RAF Service Record records that he attended an Aviation course on 28th September 1918 and on 7th November 1918 was serving in 1 S of A unit. William was promoted Lieutenant on 26th October 1918 although the London Gazette entry mistakenly listed his decorations as DCM MM. He appears to have been discharged on 5th February 1919 and his permanent residence was given as 10 Victoria Park, Shipley, Yorkshire.

After the war ended William was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  However, on 28th June 1940 he commissioned back in to the West Yorkshire Regiment as 139234 Lt William Stephenson Wharram MC, DCM, (MM?). He may therefore have been awarded additional medals for the Second World War, although he probably remained on ‘Home Service’. His son recalled William saying that he either guarded, or was an interrogator to, Rudolph Hess after his surrender.  Another interesting story to be told.

In 1922 he married Dorothy Constance Banks at Whitby, Yorkshire and they had two children, Matthias Stephen (known as Stephen) born 23rd January 1923 and Olive June born 2nd March 1925.  The Banks family owned Howden Hall and William ran the farm, including a riding stable, and organised hunts for the aristocracy. Matthias married Dorothy Varley Starbec on 9th November 1949 before moving to Canada, where both he and his wife eventually died.  The 1939 Register lists William S Wharram, a retired Riding School Proprietor living in Barrow-on-Soar, Lincolnshire, along with a Margaret N Wharram, and Dorothy his wife is listed separately as ‘Unpaid Domestic Duties’ living at 13 Chudleigh Road, Harrogate. They had separated before the Second World War although Dorothy would not grant him a divorce.

Mom & Dad Medals

                     Matthias (William’s son) and Dorothy wearing their war medals

Picture from Susan Wharram (granddaughter)

William died on 11th April 1964 at Belvedere Nursing Home, Scarborough.  His home was The Hollies, Wold Newton, Driffield, Yorkshire. Probate of £7,304 was granted to Margaret Newall Wharram, a spinster.  His wife Dorothy died on 11th November 1966 at Chester.

Sources:

Ancestry & Findmypast – Birth, marriage, death, census, probate and 1939 registers.

The National Archives – RAF Service Record and Medal Rolls

London Gazette – Citations and promotions

Susan Wharram (granddaughter) – Family details and pictures

Researchers: Peter Taylor and David J Owen

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.

Albert Newby Braithwaite – an original Pal, with American connections

Major Sir Albert Newby Braithwaite DSO MC MP, son of a Leeds Lord Mayor and later a knighted MP.

                                Picture Courtesy of Illustrated London News

Albert Newby Braithwaite came from a privileged background.  His father, Alderman Albert Braithwaite, was a prominent businessman who was Lord Mayor of Leeds in 1920-21; he was born at Horsforth in 1868, died at his home Green Acres in Ilkley on 4th February 1946 aged 77 and is buried at St John the Evangelist Churchyard, Roundhay.  Albert Newby was educated at Woodhouse Grove School, Leeds Grammar School and the University of Leeds.  He enlisted in the 15th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment in 1914 as a soldier and was later commissioned in to the 17th Battalion; he was awarded the DSO (1/1/1918), MC (1/1/1917) and Mentioned in Despatches. The 17th Battalion, while based at Campagne, recorded in its War Diary on 8th February 1916 that 2/Lieut Braithwaite ordered to proceed to St Venant tomorrow to attend mortar school’. He was later placed on the General and Special List, promoted to Major and served in close alliance with the US Army in France prior to being appointed a member of the British Military Mission to the United States. His MC was awarded for bravery while attached to the Light Trench Mortar Battery.  Appointed Lieutenant in 1921 in the Yorkshire Hussars he was listed as being a Major in the Hussars during the Second World War, and was at some stage a Temporary Lieutenant Colonel.  Little more is known of his Army service as he continued to serve after 1920 and his military records remain with the Ministry of Defence.

Albert N was born in Wharfedale, Yorkshire on 2nd September 1893.  His father Albert and mother Martha Elizabeth Braithwaite née Newby (died 14th September 1954) had three children, Albert Newby, Robin Bruce and Madge Newby.  In 1901 Albert Newby, aged 7, was staying with his grandparents Timothy and Martha Newby at Clair House, Scotland Lane, Horsforth.  In 1911 Albert N was living with his parents and sister at Rossett Drive, Harrogate.

After the war Albert entered politics and in a 1926 by-election he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of Buckrose in East Yorkshire, a seat he held until the 1945 general election. For his services to politics he was knighted.  Sir Albert returned to the House of Commons in a by-election in 1951, as MP for Harrow West.  On 10th August 1935 he was involved in a fatal traffic accident with a motorcycle combination on the Great North Road at Southoe, Huntingdonshire. At the inquest held at Huntingdon General Hospital a few days later he explained that he had not seen the motorcycle due to dense smoke from a hedge fire being blown over the road.  Sir Albert said that the motorcycle overturned and he had dragged the trapped rider away from the fire but that he died later in hospital. This statement was supported by his son Alan Anderson Braithwaite. The verdict was accidental death.

He married Anne Anderson, an American from South Carolina, USA.  She was born 10th June 1894 in America, died 12th March 1950 in London and is commemorated in the Bridlington Priory Church. The inscription records: Anne wife of Sir Albert Newby Braithwaite D.S.O., M.C. Born 10th June 1894 in Greenville, South Carolina, United States of America. Died 12th March 1950 in London.’ Their youngest son Robin Bruce Braithwaite, who had recently been released from National Service with the Army, also married an American, Susannah Wilcox, who came from Augusta, Georgia.  Their wedding took place on 8th October 1949 at St Margaret’s Westminster and was a quiet affair due to the prolonged illness of his mother Lady Braithwaite. She had taken her children to America at the outbreak of war where they were brought up by their grandmother and it was at school in the USA that Robin met his future wife.  His best man was his brother Alan Braithwaite.

Sir Albert married his second wife, Lady Joan, shortly after his first wife’s death in 1950 and she remained with him until his untimely death on 20th October 1959.  He was still a sitting MP for Harrow West when, aged 66, he died of barbituric poisoning, which was self-administered.  The Coroner at the Westminster inquest said the drug was taken while Sir Albert was suffering from a very serious kidney infection which must have had a very serious effect on the state of his emotions.  He also said that a note left by him when he died at his London home, 145 Marsham Court, London SW1 clearly showed his intention of ending his own life.  The pathologist said he was surprised that a man with a chronic kidney disease could lead such an active life.  He would have expected him to be an invalid spending most of his time in bed.  The family’s country home was Fyning Hill, Rogate, Sussex.

Sir Albert had been out for lunch with friends that day and he had gone home when they returned to the House of Commons.  Lady Braithwaite said that she had arrived home at 5.30pm to find her husband lying on the bed with her medication and a note in his handwriting by his side.  She told the Coroner that he had had very bad health for many years and the infected kidneys were poisoning the whole of his system.  An announcement of his death was made in the House of Commons on 27th October 1959.  It was a sad ending for a gallant and successful man, who had fought in the Great War.  He also achieved a great deal as a businessman and had been a committed and active MP from 1926 to 1945 and 1951 to 1959.

Sources:

The National Archives – Medal Roll, Medal Index Card and Army Lists

London Gazette

Ancestry & Findmypast – Birth, census, marriage, and death registers and passenger lists

West Yorkshire Regiment War Diaries

House of Commons – Biographies and Hansard

British Newspaper Library – Reports on accident and death

Researcher: David J Owen

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 Edward Joyce – from Bradford to Leeds

28312 Private John Edward Joyce, 15/17th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment

One of the 90 soldiers who moved from the 18th Battalion (2nd Bradford Pals) to the 15/17th Battalion in December 1917

     Photo by courtesy of Rosena Hynes née Joyce 

John Edward Joyce was born in Bradford on 13th July 1892 and was the son of Joseph Joyce and Hannah Joyce, née Lloyd.  His mother was born at Barningham, Suffolk in 1861 and died in Bradford in 1898, when John was six.  His father, a plumber’s labourer, was born at Conington, Cambridgeshire in about 1861; he remarried, to Martha Moon, in late 1906.  John had four siblings, Albert, Alfred, who emigrated to Australia, Laura, who died in a school accident aged 11, and Lily.  There was also Emma who was adopted when her mother died and she later emigrated to the USA.  In 1891 and 1901 the family were living at 94 Chassum Street, Bradford.  By 1911 Joseph and Martha Joyce had moved to 65 Bridgwater Road, Bradford and later lived at 102 Salt Street, Bradford.  John was a Seal Finisher in a silk factory although he later became an Insurance Agent for Prudential and had been progressing well in his new career when war broke out.  In 1915 John married Gertrude (Gertie) Alice Riley of 125 Silk Street, Manningham, Bradford. Gertie is listed on the 1939 Register as being born on 20th January 1889 and living at 37 Thornton Road, Bradford.  Also listed at the address was Enid Bower (born 24th November 1926) who Gertie fostered when Enid’s mother died, and she remained with Gertie until her death in 1970.

Photo by courtesy of Rosena Hynes née Joyce

John enlisted in the 18th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (2nd Bradford Pals) on 7th April 1916.  The Battalion was formed in Bradford on 22nd January 1915 by the Lord Mayor and City and in June 1915 became part of the 93rd Brigade, 31st Division based at Ripon, Yorkshire.  In December 1915 the Division deployed to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal from the advancing Turks and in March 1916 it transferred to France to prepare for the Battle of the Somme.  John joined too late to experience the desert soldiering.

Little is known of John’s personal Army details as his service record has not survived although, through other Army documents such as war diaries, medal rolls and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission registers, a general outline of his service can be made.  Unusually the date of entry into a Theatre of War, normally recorded on the Medal Index Card (MIC), is not shown so it is conjecture whether he arrived in France in time for the start of the Somme Battle on 1st July 1916.  He may therefore have been a battle casualty replacement after the catastrophic losses suffered by the 18th Battalion on the first day.

The Battalions of 93rd Brigade failed to get beyond their own front line as the assembly trenches were subject to continuous artillery bombardment and heavy machine-gun fire to the front and from the Quadrilateral Redoubt on the flank of their trenches.  On that day, the Brigade suffered more than 1,800 casualties spread evenly among its four battalions.  The 18th Battalions’ casualties of more than 400 officers and men represented some seventy per cent of the Battalion’s men who took part in the assault. Another incident at this time that deeply upset the soldiers was when two of their comrades were controversially ‘Shot at Dawn’ for desertion – they were absent and had missed the major attack on 1st July.

It is assumed that John served with the 18th Battalion from mid-1916 and therefore would have been present during the later actions in 1916 including St Vaast near Neuve Chapelle, Festubert Sector and Givenchy (July-September), that included a significant German raid on the night of 28th/29th July; Hebuterne Sector near Serre (October-December), which involved a fighting patrol on the night 24th/25th October.  On 13th January 1917 John was awarded the Military Medal (MM) although no citation was published.  However, it was undoubtedly awarded for an act of bravery during the second half of 1916 and could have been at one of the places listed above.  He was almost certainly with the 18th Battalion during the major action at Arras in May 1917 and remained with them until the end of 1917 when 90 soldiers were transferred to the amalgamated Battalion of the Leeds Pals which became the 15/17th Battalion.  This was done as part of a reorganisation of the Army which involved the disbandment of the 18th Battalion in February 1918.

John was killed in action on 27th March 1918 age 26.  An extract from the Battalion War Diary 20th to 27th March 1918 recorded: During this tour of duty in the Reserve Line the Battalion suffered several casualties by Shell Fire, 4 Other Ranks killed, 14 Other Ranks wounded and 2 Other Ranks died of wounds. His body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. Interestingly, an entry on his MIC shows he was ‘Discharged, [King’s Regulations] 392(XVI), 8/10/17’ which indicates he was ‘no longer physically fit or having suffered an impairment’.  This was either a mistake or he recovered sufficiently enough to ‘soldier on’. For his service during the war he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal and his family would also have received a bronze Memorial Plaque and Scroll. John is also commemorated in the Bradford Roll of Honour and on the Prudential War Memorial in High Holborn, London.

Sources:

West Yorkshire Regiment War Diaries

Ancestry – Medal Index Card, MM Card, Medal Roll and BM&D Registers

Findmypast – 1939 Register

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Cemetery Register

Bradford Roll of Honour

Prudential Roll of Honour

Researchers: Peter Taylor and David J Owen

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.

Edwin Fillingham – casualty of the Somme

Arthur Edwin Fillingham, Private 15/327, 1st Leeds Pals

Arthur Edwin Fillingham was born in Hunslet in 1896, and was baptised on the 7th April 1897.  He was probably the second child of Arthur Herbert Fillingham, a teacher of music, book-keeper and later county court clerk, and his wife Kate, née Ramsden, (1867-1935), who he had married at St Peter’s Church, Hunslet, on 9th May 1893.  Arthur was born in Hunslet on 6th December 1863, and died on 12th December 1939 age 76.  They lived at 13 Lindon Grove.  On the 1911 Census it states that there had been eight children, six of whom were still living, and they are named as Arthur E, John H, Grace, Herbert R, Bertha and William.  On the 1901 Census an older child, Kate E, was given, but she presumably was one of the two that did not survive childhood.  Also on this census Arthur E is listed as Edwin, the name by which he seems to have been known in the family, possibly to distinguish him from his father.  At this point the family was living at 61 Tempest Road, Hunslet, but by 1911 they had moved to 3 The Crescent, Roundhay, where they lived for the duration of the war.

Edwin had a good voice, and as a boy held a choral scholarship at Lincoln Cathedral, but as with all boys his voice broke, and at the age of fifteen he moved to Leeds Boys’ Modern School, where he proved to be a keen sportsman, and played for the school cricket team.  After leaving school he worked for the Legal and General Assurance Company in Leeds city centre.

When war was declared Edwin was 18, and wasted no time in volunteering for the Pals, enlisting in August at the Town Hall, as is shown by his low service number.  He was posted to D Company, where he joined 12 Platoon and ultimately became platoon bomber.  But first he had to follow the training pattern of the battalion, going initially to Colsterdale, then Ripon and finally Fovant in Wiltshire.  In December of 1915 he sailed, with the battalion, to Egypt, where they would guard the Suez Canal, against possible attack by the Turks.  But on 1st March 1916 he sailed again, this time for France, to prepare for the Big Push, the Battle of the Somme.

On 1st July 1916, at 7.30 in the morning, the Leeds Pals, together with the Bradford Pals and the DLI, climbed out of their trenches to attack the village of Serre.  But most of them got no further than No-Man’s Land.  The German defences had not been obliterated after all.  Over two hundred Pals were killed, or died later from wounds received.  One of them was Edwin Fillingham.  He was 20.  His body was never found, and he is listed among the missing on the Thiepval Memorial.  He is also named on the memorial in St Edmund’s Church, Roundhay, and on the Leeds Boys’ Modern School memorial.  He was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, and his family would also have received a bronze Memorial Plaque and certificate.

Sources:

Ancestry: Medal records, Register of Effects, birth, marriage, death and census records

Find my Past: Census records, Marriage details, Schools, Polling, Probate and 1939 registers

CWGC: Details of death and memorial

Researchers: Peter Taylor and David J Owen

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.

Albert Smart – unknown soldier

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Albert Smart, Private 17/784, 2nd Leeds Pals

Almost nothing is known about Albert Smart, since his army records have not survived, apart from the Medal Index and one piece of his medical record.

Albert enlisted in the Leeds Pals Bantams, which means he was less than 5ft 3ins tall.  His number, 784, indicates that he was a fairly early volunteer, and he was discharged to the Reserve Class Z on 8th March 1919.  He spent time in No.18 General Hospital, Camiers, at some point between February and August 1916, but whether because he had been wounded or was sick is not recorded in the hospital register.  After the war ended he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

If anyone can add to this very short account please get in touch.

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.

James Webster – another underage soldier

James William Webster, Private 15/1645, 1st Leeds Pals

James William Webster was born in Leeds on 7th July 1898, possibly the only son of James William Webster, who had married Esther Knowles in Leeds in 1892.  He had several sisters, Emily, Elsie, Hilda, who died, and Esther, plus another sibling who also died, and James was third in the family.  James senior was a brewer’s labourer, while Esther had worked in the tailoring trade.  On both the 1901 and 1911 Censuses they are shown as living at 13 Beaumont Street, Green Road, Leeds, which was in Meanwood.  James does not have an occupation on either census, but presumably in 1911 he was at school.

In 1914, when the war started, James had just turned 16, but that did not stop him from volunteering for the Pals.  On 15th June the following year, a few weeks short of his 17th birthday, he was attested, giving his age as 19.  A week later, at Colsterdale, he was officially enlisted, this time giving his age as 18 years 11 months, a discrepancy apparently not picked up at the time, or just ignored.  By this stage of the war recruitment was slowing, and the battalion was keen to get recruits.  James was 5 foot 5 inches, quite tall for his age.  He gave his occupation as ‘tailor’, a trade from his mother’s side of the family, and his address as 35 Nippet Place, Burn Street, Leeds, in Burmantofts.

After initial training with the 19th Battalion, a reserve unit, James was posted to the 15th Battalion, and in June of 1916 he joined them in France, just in time for the Battle of the Somme, though whether he actually took part in the first day is not known.  But on 26th September he was in a front-line trench in the Givinchy Sector when a shell exploded close by, causing a number of casualties.  James was not physically injured, but suffered from shell-shock and the mental effects of what he had witnessed.

His father was now starting to worry about him, and on 5th November 1916 he wrote to the War Office pointing out that his son was in fact under-age, and asking for him to be sent back to England and kept there until he was 19, the official minimum age for being sent overseas.  The result of this was that on 17th November James was on a train for England, with a travel warrant directing him to York.  At York Station, however, he felt so unwell that he reported to a military policeman, who sent him to Fulford Military Hospital.  From there he was sent to the Abram Peel Military Hospital in Bradford, which specialised in treating nervous conditions, and he was diagnosed as having Neurasthenia, or shell-shock.

After almost a year of treatment he was discharged from the army as being ‘no longer physically fit for war service’, and awarded a pension.  He received the King’s Certificate, the Silver War Badge, ‘for services rendered’, and subsequently the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  It is difficult to know to what extent, if at all, he recovered from his traumatic experiences.  He married Gladys Emma Popham in 1920, but by 1939 was divorced, and living and working in Bradford as a woolcomber.  He may have died in Bradford in 1965.

Sources:

Ancestry: Army Service Records, Medal Index Card

Find My Past: Census details

Free BMD: Birth, marriage and death details

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.

Lt.Col. Andrew A Watson – Medical Officer to the Bantams

Lieutenant Colonel A A Watson CMG DSO VD RAMC

Andrew Alexander Watson had had many years’ experience as a medical officer prior to joining the Bantams in mid-1916.  He had joined the Army in 1885 and served in South Africa during the Boer War 1899-1902.

Andrew was born at Ladhope, Roxburgh in Scotland on 6th February 1856, the son of Andrew Watson and Isabella Watson née Smail.  He married Janet (Jessie) Mathew (1860-1947) in Scotland on 24th October 1882 and they had two children, Jessie Evelyn Watson (1888-1973) and Stuart Watson (1891-1914*).  In 1891 the family lived at Burnley, Lancashire and in the 1911 Census he was listed as Medical Superintendent at Stretton House, an Asylum, at 87 High Street, Church Stretton, Salop.

* KIA 1st November 1914.  Stuart Watson was Assistant Paymaster on HMS Good Hope which was a Drake-class armoured cruiser built around 1900.  At the beginning of the war in 1914, HMS Good Hope was sent to South America in search of German naval ships.  The Good Hope then moved further south to the Strait of Magellan to stop the Germans entering the South Atlantic.  On 1st November, off the coast of Chile, the British met a German squadron which was more powerful and outnumbered them and HMS Good Hope was sunk with the loss of all hands during the Battle of Coronel.  Stuart is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.

Andrew was educated at Galashiels Academy, the Institution School Edinburgh and the University and Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh.  He commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Army Medical Services in 1885 and was promoted to Captain in 1888, Major in 1900, Lieutenant Colonel in 1905 and Temporary Colonel in 1918.  He was Surgeon Major to the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment during the South Africa War, during which he was Mentioned in Dispatches.  He had been with the Battalion since 1889 and in 1908 was a Lieutenant Colonel Surgeon as a Reserve Medical Officer with the Lancashire Volunteer Rifles based in Burnley.

In May 1914 he was serving with No 18 Field Ambulance RAMC in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (Honorary Major in the Army).  He is recorded as being the 17th Battalion’s Medical Officer in the War Diaries in which he regularly reported on the medical state of the troops and conditions they lived and fought in.  His final report in October 1916 read “Sanitary police had a good deal of work repairing latrines damaged by Trench Mortars.  Many of the men who reported sick had severe colds.”  A.A. Watson M.O. i/c 17th W. Yorks.

Andrew reverted to Lieutenant Colonel on 9th May 1919 when ceasing to be employed as Army Director of Medical Services (ADMS) of a Division.  He retired from the Army in 1922, although there was some confusion over his age as there was a ten-year variation in his Army records.  On retirement he lived at Stretton House, Church Stretton, Salop.  For his long and distinguished service he was awarded the CMG 1919, DSO 1917, VD, MID (three times 1915,16 & 17), Queen’s South Africa Medal with 2 Clasps, King’s South Africa Medal with 2 Clasps, 1914 Star with Clasp, British War Medal and Victory Medal.  He was later Surgeon and then Honorary Consultant Surgeon to the Victoria Hospital at Burnley.  Andrew died at the Salop Nursing Institution Shrewsbury, Shropshire on 28th August 1931, at the age of 75.

Sources:

The National Archives – Service Record, Army Lists, Medal Rolls and Medal Index Card

British Medical Association (BMA) – Obituary 1931

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Memorial Register, Stuart Watson

Ancestry – Birth, Marriage and Death Registers

War Diary – 17th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment

London Gazette – Promotions and awards

Researcher: David J Owen

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.