Ernest Atherton Cartwright – a mystery

Reverend Ernest Atherton Cartwright – from criminal to preacher and Army officer.

On page 24 of Laurie Milner’s book ‘Leeds Pals’ there is a photo captioned ‘The Reverend E.A. Cartwright’.  He is in uniform and his ‘Pals’ cap badge shows clearly.  In the accompanying text it says:

Two unexpected recruits to the battalion were the Reverend E.A. Cartwright, former Minister at Camp Road Baptist Chapel, Leeds, who was known for his ‘sturdy, muscular Christianity’, and Mr Jogendra Sen (q.v.)

There is no further mention of Reverend Cartwright in the book and he does not appear on the list of applicants to join the Pals, or on the full roll.  The only Ernest Cartwright we have found at all amongst the Pals joined the Bantam Battalion and was killed in action in 1917.  The Bantams did not wear the Leeds Coat of Arms as a cap badge.  Assuming the photo is correctly captioned, what happened to him?

Ernest Atherton Cartwright is quite a distinctive name, and it is given in full on the 1911 Census, filled in by him.  He was living at 15 Regent Park Avenue, Leeds, with his wife Adah Etruria, and her sister Helena Wedgwood.  They married on 9th February 1899 at the Parish Church in Manchester, he a 20 year old bachelor and she a 40 year old spinster. (Marriage Register 1899).  They had one child, which sadly did not survive.  As Adah was now 51, 19 years older than her husband, it is probable that there were no further children.  Ernest’s occupation was given as Baptist Pastor, and he had been born in Salford, his birth being registered in 1879. (Birth Register March 1879).  I don’t think there can be any doubt that this is the same man. (Find My Past).  In 1881 his family were living at Buxton, Derbyshire and were listed as his father William, mother Jane and siblings Maud and Sydney. (1881 Census).  By 1891 the family had increased by a further three children, Emily, William and Elsie, and were still living in Derbyshire.  William was a Manufacturing Chemist. (1891 Census).

The mystery begins with the next census. By 1901 the family had moved to 49 Plymouth Grove in South Manchester, although Ernest was not shown.  However, an Ernest Atherton Cartwright is listed on the census as a prisoner in Cheetham Prison, Manchester.  His age was given as 23, still within the bounds of possibility, married, place of birth Salford, and occupation clerk, which could have a wide range of meanings.  According to the 1st February 1901 Leeds Mercury and many other regional newspapers he had been found guilty in Manchester that year of an assault on two women on a North-Western Railway train from London and sentenced to 7 years penal servitude.  If there was no remission he would have been released in 1907.  His wife-to-be, Adah, who was born in Manchester in 1859, and her parents, Josiah and Nancy Wedgwood, were living at 2 Bellevue Terrace, Fairfield, Derbyshire in 1891. (1891 Census).  I have not found her on the 1901 Census but she appears on the Electoral Register in 1902 and 1903, living at 12 School Lane in the Heaton Norris Ward.  It was in Heaton Norris in December 1899 that Ernest Wedgwood Cartwright was born, and christened the following month in St Thomas’s Church.  Sadly he lived for only a matter of months. (Family Search)

It seems unlikely that this Ernest was a different man, but he could have undergone conversion in prison, and started a new life as a minister on his release.

The next reference to Ernest Atherton, apart from Milner, is in 1915, when, on 11th March, he was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant in the 17th Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers (Army List 1915).  Is this the same man?  If it is, what happened to his volunteering for the Pals, what was he doing during the intervening months, and how did he, with a criminal record, obtain a commission?  The officer shortage had not become that acute that quickly.  Some time later, possibly in 1918, he was attached to the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, but when his Medal Card was prepared, around 1920, he was listed as a captain in the Lancashire Fusiliers, with his address as c/o The Government of Palestine. (Ancestry: Medal Index Card).  He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, the card also showing that his first theatre of war was Egypt, which he entered in April 1917.

Adah Etruria is also an uncommon name, but she seems to have come from an ordinary English family, her father being Josiah Wedgwood and her mother Nancy Tattersal.  Some research gives her death as 1929 in Dudley, when she would have been 71.  But there is also a record of a death in 1938 in Erongo, Namibia, making her 80.  Neither is impossible, and there is evidence of a second wife for Ernest, Jessie Cicely Phyllis Gawn, who was married in Hampstead in 1942, and who registered the probate on Ernest’s will when he died, in 1953 in Canberra, Australia. (Probate Report 1954).

In all, still a rather confusing story, some of which has been supported by some family members.  What we need now is for another member of the family to appear and say, ‘This is what actually happened.’  If you are that person, please get in touch.

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.

Jon Sen – the best educated man in the Battalion

15/795 Private Jogendra (Jon) Nath Sen, 1st (City Battalion) The Leeds Pals

The only Indian to serve in the Leeds Pals

Portrait of Jon Sen by Caroline Jaine

Jogendra (John or ‘Jon’ as he was known to his Pals) Sen was unique in many ways when he joined the Leeds Pals.  Not only was he Indian by birth and a Hindu, he was also deemed to be one of the most educated soldiers in the Battalion; he spoke some seven languages.  Born at Chandenagore in Bengal in 1887, where his widowed mother lived, he travelled to England in 1910 to do an engineering degree at Leeds University.  In 1913 he joined the Leeds Corporation Electric Lighting Station in Whitehall, initially working for the manager before being placed on the staff as an assistant engineer.  A popular and cheerful man, he had no hesitation in enlisting in the Pals in September 1914, and was one of the first to answer the call.  Jon was, at the time, living in Grosvenor Place, Blackman Lane, Leeds.

Joining the British Army at that time, with the class system and prejudices of the day, would have been considered as either courageous or foolhardy.  However, he was single and in his early twenties during the three years at university so had time to adapt to Leeds and life in England.  Jon trained with the Battalion at Colsterdale, Ripon and Fovant before deploying to Egypt in December 1915, to defend the Suez Canal from the advancing Turkish Army.  In March 1916 the Battalion moved to France to take its place on the Western Front and it was not long before the men were experiencing a very different climate and enemy.  In an interview with Laurie Milner in 1988 Private Arthur Dalby remembered Jon Sen:

‘We had a Hindu in our hut, called Jon Sen. He was the best educated man in the Battalion and he spoke about seven languages but he was never allowed to be even a LCpl because, in those days, they would never let a coloured fellow be over a white man, not in England, but he was the best educated. He was at university when he joined up.’ (Arthur Dalby)

Sadly, Jon was to become one of the early casualties of the Battalion when on 22nd May 1916 a wiring party he was in was hit by enemy fire.  He is believed to be the first Bengali soldier to die while serving in the British Army in the First World War.  On 2nd June 1916 the Yorkshire Evening Post reported: 

 ‘Pte Sen killed in action. Among the casualties in the Leeds ‘Pals’ Battalion one is reported today which has a singular interest. A young Indian named J. N. Sen, a native of Chandenagore, Bengal, came to the Leeds University in October, 1910, to study and after taking an engineering course for three years, graduated as Bachelor of Science. Soon afterwards he acquired a position under the manager of the Leeds Corporation Electric Lighting station in Whitehall, ultimately was placed on the staff as an assistant engineer. While there he gave much promise of a successful career and being of a cheerful disposition, was much liked by everybody. When the ‘Pals’ Battalion was formed in September 1914, Pte Sen, who was then 27 years of age, became one of its first members. He has been killed. Several months ago when the ‘Pals’ paraded in the City, Pte Sen came in for much notice because of his evident connection with the East. He was a single man and his Mother resides in India. Prior to joining the Colours he lodged in Grosvenor Place, Blackman Lane, Leeds West Yorkshire.’ (Yorkshire Evening Post) 

Others too recorded the death of Jon Sen, including Private Harold Burniston who wrote in a letter to his father:

‘We suffered a good many casualties ourselves [wiring party 22nd May 1916] and it was soon after we got back that I heard poor Jon Sen had been brought in killed. He was hit in the leg and neck by shrapnel and died almost immediately. He was evidently hit in the leg first as when they fetched him in he had a bandage tied round it and must have been bandaging it up when he was hit again in the neck which killed him’. (Harold Burniston)

The Battalion War Diary entry for 22nd May 1916 stated:

‘10.20pm – Wiring party on our right was raided by Germans who threw bombs killing 2 N.C.Os of B Company and wounding a third (since died). 2Lt V. Oland [later awarded the MC] replied with bombs and rallying the wiring party opened rapid fire. This together with the fire from our sentries dispersed the patrol and drove a portion of them into one of our Lewis Guns. 3 Germans were brought in 1 killed and 2 wounded (since died). The leg of a fourth was also discovered.’

‘10.25pm – Heavy bombardment of Legend Trench, Flag Avenue and Delanney Avenue due no doubt to the large number of working parties in this district. Shell dropped in front of B Coy’s H.Q. dugout, breaking all telephone wires and blowing in end of dugout. Artillery retaliation was obtained by means of rockets. At the same time our wiring party in front of the Company on the left (D Coy) was heavily bombarded, resulting in heavy casualties. Great bravery was shown by many of all ranks in bringing in the wounded under the artillery fire. Lieut R.B.H. Rayner was severely wounded by shrapnel and died 24/5/16.’

‘11.00pm – Bombardment ceased. Casualties                       Killed              Wounded

                                                            A Company     0                      4

                                                            B Company     5                      3

                                                            C Company     2                      10

                                                            D Company     4                      17

                                                            Total                 11                   34

2Lieut H.K. Elphinstone – shell shock. Sgt Newborn (B Coy) (included in above total) died of wounds 23/5/16.’

Jogendra Sen’s glasses and other belongings in a museum in India

The man who brought to light the items was Dr Santanu Das, a reader in English at King’s College London, who noticed them and some of his other belongings in a museum on a visit to Sen’s home town of Chandernagore, some 22 miles north of Kolkata in West Bengal, India.  Among the items displayed at the museum is a photograph of a woman found in his personal effects, inscribed ‘Yours with love, Cis’.  The woman was found to be Mary Cicely Newton, who had links with the Mill Hill Chapel in Leeds where, it transpired, Sen sang in the choir.

Jon Sen is buried Sucrerie Cemetery, Colincamps. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the War Medal and the Victory Medal.



Arthur Dalby – Interview with Laurie Milner 1988

Yorkshire Evening Post 2nd June 1916 – Obituary

Harold Buniston – Letter to his father in May 1916 (He died at Serre on 1st July 1916)

The National Archives – 15th Bn WYR War Diary

Ancestry – Medal Index Car and Medal Rolls

CWGC – Cemetery Records

Chandernagore Museum India

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.

Frederick Murray Ashford – professional singer, concert party artist and impresario

Frederick Murray Ashford, 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Leeds Pals

Frederick Murray Ashford was born on September 28th 1886 in Highbury.  His father and his grandfather, also both Fredericks, had at one time been pianoforte makers so Frederick had an early musical background.  He was also an athlete.  In 1908 he was a finalist in the 880 yards in the AAA Championships, running for Finchley Harriers. (He also sang at their Bohemian concerts.)  In the same year he was a semi-finalist in the London Olympics 880 yards race but did not complete his heat.

From June 1904 he studied piano, organ and harmony at the Royal Academy of Music, and in 1905 achieved a bronze medal in organ and another in sight singing.  After leaving the Academy in 1906, having developed a fine tenor voice he began a career as a soloist.  The 1911 census lists him as professional singer, concert artist.  At the time of the census he was at 64 Ambler Road Islington together with his father, Frederick William, a fancy goods agent, mother Mary and younger sister Florence Gertrude, a shorthand clerk.  Grandfather Frederick Ashford aged 83 is also listed.

Frederick’s name as a singer first appears in 1902 when Master Frederick Murray Ashford sang “The Swallow” at a local concert.  From 1909, under the professional name Murray Ashford he began to appear frequently in concerts, mainly in the South of England, including Eastbourne, Hastings, Southampton and Bognor Regis, and  always receiving very favourable notices.  In 1915 he married the soprano Gladys Ashton, whom he met while touring and with whom he performed duets. They had 3 children, Frederick Herbert Ashton born in 1919, James 1923 and Nanine 1929.

In costume for the Owls – photo C Hollingworth

Frederick Murray Ashford is listed in the London Gazette on March 28th 1917 as a temporary 2nd Lieutenant and joined the 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment – still known as the Leeds Pals – on May 26thas quartermaster.  While with the battalion he played a major role in the Owls Concert Party, both as producer and performer, including both producing and starring in the pantomime Aladdin at Christmas 1917.  The concerts did much to keep up morale in the last stages of the war.

                Photograph from “The Owler” of the battalion concert party 1918

After the war he returned immediately to the Concert party scene as performer and manager, again mostly in the South.  The Era of August 13th 1919 says of him that he had “already found favour with Margate before he ‘donned khaki.’ ”  By now he was arranging concerts, employing artists and managing theatres.  His company performed at the London Palladium and The Alhambra.  He also appeared in pantomime, including Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in Eastbourne.

 His own Concert party “The Bouquets” performed regular seasons at many venues, including the Spa Theatre in Scarborough, from 1929 until the outbreak of the Second World War, programmes which were broadcast on the radio.  In the 1939 Register Murray Ashford,” touring theatrical artist” was in digs in Bradford where the Bouquets were performing at the Alhambra.  Gladys was in London where James was still at school.  During the war Murray entertained the troops and suffered a family tragedy when his older son, Pilot Officer Frederick Herbert Ashton Ashford, was killed in France.  He is commemorated on the Runnymede memorial.  Murray returned to Scarborough for the season in 1945 but sadly died the day before what should have seen the final concert of the season.  He was 56.  His death was received with great sadness by his many friends.  Wilby Lunn, a long- term friend and associate, wrote of him “Thanks for the memory of your unflagging zeal and energy, your invincible good temper, your ready wit, your unbounded goodness of heart and your outstanding abilities as artist and producer, but above all for your value as a friend. ”

The Leeds Pals added their own tribute in the Yorkshire Evening Post.  Writing on their behalf J H Bywater said of him “He was our Lieutenant quartermaster and when he came to the battalion he was in the Olympic class as a half mile runner….the last race he ran for the Pals was in the army cross country championship before the offensive in 1918…Besides looking after us wonderfully well as quartermaster Murray Ashford ran a concert party for us and I shall never forget his humorous sketches.  Most of the Pals can still repeat some of his patter.  He brightened our lives for us at a time when we needed it and we are grateful”

Murray Ashford’s funeral was held at Golders Green.

Murray Ashton’s wife continued to manage The Bouquets after his death.  Jim Murray Ashford, his younger son who had also served in the RAF, continued the family’s theatrical tradition, at first as a performer including, like his father, pantomime at the Devonshire Theatre in Eastbourne, then on the management of the Drury Lane Theatre.  In the 1960’s he was directing programmes on television.  His father would have been proud of him.


Find My past: marriage, 1911 census, 1939 Register, British newspapers

London Gazette

Leeds University Special Collections

Scarborough Public Library

Amy Foster Archivist Library of the Royal Academy of Music

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Researcher: 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.

Herbert Carter – briefly Pals CO

Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Francis George Carter MC

Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, Temporary CO of the 15th Battalion, Leeds Pals

You are unlikely to see the name of Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Francis George Carter on the list of Commanding Officers of the Leeds Pals. However, a letter dated 24th July 1918 sent by him to the War Office, justifying his rank of Lieutenant Colonel*, stating “I commanded 15th WY (31st Div & 93rd Bde orders) from 11th Feb till 17th Feb 1918” proves he did command the battalion for one week. It was temporary command in the absence of Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Taylor who was preparing for promotion to Brigadier General prior to taking command of the 93rd Brigade on 15th March 1918. Lieutenant Colonel Carter had assumed command of the 18th Battalion (2nd Bradford Pals) on 2nd July 1916, a post he held until their disbandment on 15th February 1918; he then took command of the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry until wounded in action at Mayenville on 27th March 1918 (five times from his shoulder to his left ankle) and evacuated home. (*In fact he remained a Substantive Captain, Brevet Major and Temporary Lieutenant Colonel).

Herbert Carter came from a military family, his father was General Francis Charles Carter. He was born on 2nd August 1885 at Dalhousie in the East Indies (India) where his father was serving as a Lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers. Herbert had strong links with West Yorkshire through his mother, a Thornhill of Fixby Hall, Huddersfield. The Thornhills were Yorkshire gentry back to the middle ages. Their wealth grew in the industrial revolution when coal was found on their land. He also joined another well-to-do family when he married Hermione Grace Guinness, born on 25th May 1898, daughter of Gerald Seymour Guinness and Eleanor Grace de Capell Brooke, on 26th June 1918. Her family lived at Dauntsey Park, Chippenham in Wiltshire. Herbert was therefore well connected and was sufficiently well known to the royal family for a member of the King’s staff to write enquiring after his health when he was taken seriously ill in Russia in 1919.

Lieutenant Colonel Herbert Carter was educated a Wellington, entered Sandhurst in 1903 and was commissioned into his local Regiment the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) in 1904 at the age of eighteen. He was an intelligent and capable young officer who achieved rapid promotion to Lieutenant and was made Assistant Adjutant of the 2nd KOYLI shortly after his twentieth birthday. He spent some time in Crete which gave him a taste for foreign travel and he left the Battalion to complete language courses, after which he served in the British Embassies as a Military Attaché in Russia and Japan as he was one of the Army’s few first class interpreters in Russian and Japanese. When war came in 1914 Captain Carter returned to join the 2nd Battalion KOYLI in Belgium, arriving at the front on 25th October 1914. He took part in the desperate defence of the Messines Ridge where casualties were heavy and within six days he was the only surviving officer in his battalion. He was wounded at Hooge 17th November 1914 and became the first KOYLI officer to be awarded the Military Cross, for gallantry on the Ypres Messines Road on the 31st October 1914.

After recovering from his wounds Herbert Carter spent time in Gallipoli as ADC to General Sir Aylmer Gould Hunter-Weston with the 29th Division but returned to England when General Hunter-Weston was evacuated out of Cape Helles with sunstroke and exhaustion in July 1915. He joined the newly formed 31st Division at Ripon as a staff officer under the new command of General Robert Wanless-O’Gowan who had been his Brigadier in Flanders. Herbert was serving as a Staff Officer at GHQ on the 1st July 1916 and following the disastrous attack on the Somme (one of the casualties being the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Maurice Kennard) was given command of the 18th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment on 2nd July. Following the recovery of survivors of the failed attack the Battalion could only muster 60 men. He commanded the Bradford Pals 2nd Battalion until its disbandment in February 1918. He will, however, be remembered for a decision he made in September 1916 when two men under his command, Privates H Crimmins and A Wild, deserted. After these men were arrested they were tried by Court Marshal and sentenced to death. Lieutenant Colonel Carter signed their death warrant and the men were ‘shot at dawn’ on the 5th September 1916 and are buried at Vielle-Chapelle New Military Cemetery in France. Some questioned his decision to sanction the death penalty.

During his time as a Military Attaché he undoubtedly had connections with the Intelligence Services and was a fluent Russian speaker. This resulted in a posting to the British Military Mission, Vladivostok in 1919 where, as Senior British Training Officer, he helped to train the White Russian forces. This posting was short-lived as Herbert Carter died of double pneumonia following influenza on 28th February 1919, in the American Red Cross Hospital, Russian Island, Vladivostok, Siberia in Russia. He is buried in the Naval Cemetery in Vladivostok. Interestingly, the War Office notified Lady Neville Chamberlain of the death of Herbert Carter, stating that it was Colonel Carter’s wish that ‘his wife should not be informed till after her confinement expected in six weeks’. Buckingham Palace also wrote to the War Office on 6th March 1919 requesting that the death should not be published in the press as the family ‘was anxious to keep the news of his death from his wife’. However, Grace was eventually told of his death by her mother and gave birth to a baby daughter. She re-married in May 1923 to Air Marshal John Cotesworth Slessor, one of the architects if British air strategy during and after the Second World War. She died on 14th September 1970 age 72.

For his service Herbert was awarded the Military Cross, 1914 Star with clasp, British War Medal and Victory Medal with MID (he was Mentioned in Despatches five times 17th February 1915, 28th January 1916, 25th January 1917, 22nd May 1915 and 21st December 1917. His widow also received a bronze Memorial Plaque and a Scroll which were given to all bereaved families. The announcement of the Military Cross was published in the London Gazette on 18th February 1915 although there was no citation.


The National Archive – Service Record and Graduation Lists

Ancestry – Censuses

India Records – Birth Records

Commonwealth War Graves Commission – Cemetery Records

Infantry Battalion Commanding Officers of the British Armies in the First World War

Bradford Pals, 2005, Pen & Sword Military, David Raw

Various Peerage websites

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.

Wilfred Boyce – survived the war but never recovered from it

Wilfred Boyce, Private 41428, 15/17th WYR, The Leeds Pals

Photo by permission of the family

We recently received a photo and some information concerning Wilfred Boyce, a Leeds Pal, from his son Keith, now living in Australia.  To have such a direct connection to a Pal is very unusual.  The photo shows Wilfred front row left, with a centre parting.  The others are probably also Pals, but only two have cap badges visible.  It appears to be quite an early photo as Wilfred is not yet showing the strains of war.  It was probably taken at one of the training camps.

Wilfred Boyce was the eldest surviving child of Henry Robert Boyce of Suffolk, who had married Lydia Ann Cook in Hull in 1895.  According to the 1911 Census they had had five children but only two were still living, Wilfred, born 18th January 1898, and his younger brother Stanley Thomas, born 8th March 1906.  Henry was a coach trimmer by trade, and later a motor trimmer, a trade which Wilfred followed in due course.  In 1901, when Wilfred was three, the family was living at 16 Jameson Street, Leeds, with a new baby, Edwin, who sadly did not survive.  By 1911 they had moved to 14 Raby Mount, Buslingthorpe, Leeds, this time with Stanley, and Henry and Lydia were still there in 1918, but without Stanley, or Wilfred, who was listed as an absent voter. (Find My Past & Leeds City Library)

On 20th October 1915, according to his son, Wilfred enlisted in the West Yorkshire Regiment.  His army records have not survived, but at that point in the war he would have joined the 19th Battalion for training.  It is possible he may have joined later, as he was given a five digit army number, and these were not issued until September 1916.  He was clearly not a big man, and was actually posted to 17th Battalion, The Leeds Bantams.  In December 1917 they were amalgamated with 15th Battalion, the 1st Leeds Pals, but before this Wilfred had been moved to 21st Battalion and attached to 185 Company, The Labour Corps.  It seems likely that he had been wounded – ‘blown up’ according to what he told his son later, and also gassed.  Certainly in October of that year he was on the sick list and admitted to hospital in Boulogne, but unfortunately just listed as ‘sick’. (Find My Past) He was discharged and returned to the newly amalgamated 15/17th Battalion.  He also told his son that, as a trained motor coach upholsterer he had been loaned to an Australian unit who had lost their saddler.  In later life he emigrated to Australia, had a slight limp, walked with a stick, and had respiratory problems, but as his records were destroyed during World War Two we cannot know for sure what happened to him, and he never succeeded in getting a pension.  He was discharged on 17th March 1919, and awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. (Ancestry)

He did survive the war, but at some cost.  Had it been a later war he would probably have been diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, but as it was he just had to struggle on.  In 1920 he married Lily Baines, and they had three children, Kenneth Stanley Boyce, born 1923, Shirley Ann Boyce, born 1932 but who died eight years later, and Keith Wyndham Boyce, born in Sherburn in Elmet in 1935.  As a family ‘they moved around a lot’, according to Keith, possibly following the work, but on the 1939 Register Wilfred was listed as ‘upholsterer (incapacitated)’, living at 7 Lyndhurst Avenue, Bredbury, Cheshire.  They ended up at 30 Cross Green Lane, Halton.  Finally, on 22nd April 1948 they left England on the Queen Elizabeth, bound for New York, from there flew to San Francisco, and then on to Aukland, NZ, where they stayed for a year.  Exactly one year later they sailed for Australia, where they settled in Adelaide, and it was here, in 1955, that Wilfred ended his life.  Like many others he had not been able to get over his wartime experiences and ‘was not a happy person’.

Wilfred, Lily and Kenneth all died in Adelaide, but Keith still lives with his wife Shirley in Morgan, a small settlement 100 miles NE of Adelaide.  They have a successful family of two children and four grandchildren.  Keith’s middle name is Wyndham, and his mother Lily told him he was named after one of his father’s mates, but so far we have not been able to identify him.  So if anyone can help here please get in touch.

Researchers: Peter Taylor and David J Owen, with information supplied by Keith W Boyce

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.

Raymond Hepper – diary writer and chartered surveyor

Captain Edward Raymond Hepper 2nd Leeds Pals (The Bantams)

E Raymond Hepper, as he preferred to be named, came from a well to do family in Headingley, Leeds where he was born on 19th July 1892.  His father Edward Henry Hepper, who was born in 1867 and died in 1931, ran the family firm Hepper and Sons, Chartered Surveyors, Auctioneer and Estate Agents from their office at Hepper House, East Parade, Leeds.  His mother was Gertrude Emily Hepper, née Bedford (1869-1954), and his siblings were Marjorie (1898-1988) and Alan Bedford (1902-1995); another child had died at a young age.  The family home was at Woodcote, Wood Lane, Headingley.

Fortunately Raymond kept a diary during the war, a copy of which is held by the Imperial War Museum (IWM) Archives, which was transcribed by his second son, Nigel, in 2011 and this, with his Service Record, provides a detailed account of him and his war service.  He enlisted in the 17th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (the Bantams), on its formation in December 1914, after a period of service in the Leeds University Officer Training Corps (OTC).  Training then took place at Ilkley in Yorkshire, Rougely in Staffordshire and Perham Down in Hampshire before the Battalion deployed to France on 31st January 1916.  They sailed from Southampton on the Duchess of Argyll landing at Havre the following day.  The Bantams were soon in the front line and Raymond remained with them until they amalgamated with their sister Pals Battalion, the 15th (City) Battalion in December 1917, apart from a short spell on the staff of the Brigade Headquarters.

Raymond had many skills and interests which he used to good effect during the war.  As a qualified Chartered Surveyor (although his Service Record lists his trade as ‘Auctioneer and Valuer’) he was able to draw maps from the aerial photographs taken by the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), which is probably why he was chosen for intelligence training in 1918.  However, among his many interests, that included antiquities, stamps, fine arts and history, his greatest passion seemed to be natural history and wherever he travelled on the battlefront he would record the birds, plants and trees he had seen.  He was also known to have had a keen sense of humour and would perform sketches and was seen to ride a pony to the frontline trenches.  His humour undoubtedly improved moral in the Battalion during those difficult years at war.

He was among a number of officers of the 17th Battalion who chose not to join the newly formed 15/17th Battalion as they felt their particular skills could be utilised better elsewhere.  After an attachment to the 16th Battalion he was posted for a short time to the 12th Battalion before returning to England to attend a course in Intelligence Training.  This lasted from January to October 1918 and saved him from the great German offensive of the spring of 1918 and the final advance of the Allies later in the year, both of which were bloody affairs.

When the long course finished he was posted to the 15th (Service) Battalion, Essex Regiment, promoted to Acting Captain and given a Company of more than 1,000 men to command.  However, when he arrived in France on 16th October 1918 he was moved to the 8th Battalion (Leeds Rifles) and remained with them for the final month of the war and the advance into Germany as part of the Army of Occupation.  He returned to England in January 1919 where he went through the demobilisation process at Prees Camp and was released on 27th January 1919.

After the 1914-18 war Raymond returned to the family business and married, first, Ada Cecilia Heasman in 1924; she was born on 16th February 1900 and died in 1963.  He and Ada had two sons, John Rylstone, who was born on 27th February 1925 and died in 1991, and Frank Nigel Hepper who was born on 13th March 1929 and died on 16th May 2013.  During the Second World War the Hepper family evacuated to a cottage in the Lake District and formed a market garden with livestock to aid the war effort.  However, it seems as though Raymond Hepper served before and during the war in the Police Special Constabulary as he was later awarded a Long Service Medal.  After the 1939-45 war Nigel, as he liked to be known, became a botanist and specialist in the African flora and was principal scientific officer and assistant keeper of the herbarium at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.  He began work at Kew in 1950 and continued there until his retirement in 1990, a period interrupted only by two years of national service with the RAF (1950-52).  He undoubtedly inherited his father’s interest in nature and during his life he wrote a number of books on the subject.  Raymond’s second wife was Flora Muriel Steel Lacy.

Edward Raymond Hepper died on 15th April 1970.  For his service during the First and Second World Wars, and his time in the Special Constabulary, he was awarded the War Medal, Victory Medal, Somme Medal, Defence Medal 1939-45, Coronation Medal 1937 and Coronation Medal 1953.


The National Archives – Service Record.

Imperial War Museum – Hepper’s War Diary transcribed by his son and published in 2011.

Ancestry / Findmypast – Births, Marriages, Deaths and Census records.

Frank Nigel Hepper’s – Obituary.

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.

Thomas Connors – retired soldier who still wanted to serve his country

Thomas Connors, Warrant Officer Class 1, (RSM)

Photo by permission of the family

Thomas Connors was a man who had completed his military service and probably did not need to re-enlist in 1914.  He had joined the King’s Royal Rifle Corps at a very young age before formally attesting in the Royal Munster Fusiliers on 15th November 1888 and completing 21 years of service (2½ before the age of 18) prior to retiring in 1909.  He served in Malta for 8 months and Gibraltar for 1 year and 1 month, and finally at the Royal Munster Fusiliers Depot.  He was 5’ 10” tall with brown hair, grey eyes and a fresh complexion and his character was described as good.  He was awarded an NCO Good Conduct Badge.  Thomas retired to a pension as a Sergeant on 14th November 1909 at Cork, Ireland age 36 years.  His trade was shown as ‘musician’ and his residence on retirement was given as c/o Mr J Hogan, 2 Victoria Terrace, Wexanden? Road, Cork.

An Irishman by birth, Thomas was born on 30th June 1872 at Mallow, Cork.  His father was John Connors and mother possibly Catherine Coglan.  It is thought Thomas married Mary Connors, née Kelly, in Limerick in 1889.  She was born at Mallow in 1871 and died at Leeds on 4th August 1949.  They had seven children but sadly four died at an early age.  By 1911 Thomas and his family were living at 20 Portland Street, Leeds.  He was 39 years of age and employed as timekeeper in a wholesale warehouse.

The surviving children were Melita (the name for Malta in Roman times) Dorothea, born at Malta on 24th April 1901 and died 21st October 1971; she married George Christopher Norton who was born on 17th September 1900 at Blackburn and died on 18th February 1976, and Ada Anne Connors, who was born on 13th June 1903 at Limerick and died on 16th May 1986 at Wakefield; she married twice, first in 1936 and then in 1956.  Their brother Thomas John was born at Tralee Barracks, Limerick, Ireland on 19th July 1904 and he died on 3rd October 1977 at Leeds; he married Nellie Maw in 1928, she was born on 6th October 1903 and died in 1992.

In 1912 Thomas joined the Leeds Corps of Commissionaires although he left in 1914 to become a Leeds Pals, one of the first to join.  However, he remained at Colsterdale Camp as he was deemed unfit for overseas service.  After the war he returned to the Corps of Commissionaires before working for the Electricity Department of the Leeds Corporation.  The 1918 Absent Voters List shows that Thomas and Mary were living at 28 Tonbridge Street, Leeds, where he died on 24th April 1929 age 55.  He is buried in Killingbeck Cemetery, Leeds. The probate report records that his estate, valued at £215 9s 7d, was left to Ellen Carroll, wife of Patrick Carroll.

Although Thomas did not qualify for First World War medals he had already been awarded the Mediterranean Medal 1901 for his service in Malta and Gibraltar.

The photo shows Thomas with cap badge of Leeds Pals and RSM sleeve badge.


The National Archives – Service Pension Record and Medal Roll

Findmypast – 1939 Register, Birth, Marriage and Death Registers

Ancestry – Census, Birth, Marriage and Death Registers

Yorkshire Post – Obituary

Researchers: David J Owen and 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.

Henry Preston – RSM and career soldier who died with his men

Henry Preston, 15/1071 WO1, 1st Leeds Pals

Henry Preston did not need to re-join the Army in 1914 as he had already done his bit for King and Country.  He was 44 years old and had enlisted as 2579 Private Preston in the 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment on 21st November 1889 at Scarborough, for 7 years in the Colours and 5 years on the Reserve.  He was born at Scarborough, was a labourer by trade and had already served in the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.  A slight man, he was 5’ 4” tall, had a dark complexion, with grey eyes and brown hair.  He weighed 130 lbs and had a 34” chest. His character was described as exemplary and he led ‘a thoroughly steady and sober life throughout his military career’ and ‘he was in every way trustworthy’.  His mother Sarah Hinchbold came from Scarborough and his stepfather John Hinchbold from Leeds.

After a year based in England, during which he was posted to the 2nd Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, he moved overseas first to the East Indies (India) in 1891, then Gibraltar and West Africa in 1895, serving in the Ashanti Campaign, before returning to England in 1896.  However, Henry’s overseas tours had not finished and he re-engaged in 1898 and deployed to South Africa in 1900, at the height of the Boer War, where he remained until 1904.  Henry was promoted to Lance Corporal in 1892, Corporal in 1894 and Lance Sergeant in 1896, the year he transferred to the Army Reserve.  He re-joined the Army in 1898 as a Corporal and was promoted Lance Sergeant in 1899 and Sergeant in 1900.  Further promotion followed, first to Colour Sergeant in 1903, the year after he had committed himself to 21 years in the Colours, and then Warrant Officer Class 1 in 1910.  Henry attended a Musketry course at Hythe in Kent in 1905 and served in Belfast in 1906 before being posted to the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment in 1907 on the Permanent Staff.  He transferred to the 7th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment at Carlton Barracks, Leeds, as a Colour Sergeant in 1908 and was appointed Regimental Sergeant Major of the Battalion in 1910.  He remained on ‘Home Service’ from 1904 until his retirement to pension in 1912, having served 23 years.  Henry’s intended place of residence on discharge was 13 Gledhow Terrace, Roseville Road, Leeds although records show he and his family settled in 5 Churchill Gardens, Blackman Lane, Leeds.

However, he was a soldier through and through and re-enlisted, as a Private, in the 1st Leeds Pals on 7th December 1914 and on the same day was promoted Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant, and back to Warrant Officer Class 1 and appointed Regimental Sergeant Major of the 15th Battalion in January 1915.  He served with the Leeds Pals at Colsterdale, Ripon, Fovant and in Egypt before arriving on the Western Front in France in March 1916.  Sadly he was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when the 1st Leeds Pals were decimated on 1st July 1916.  All 24 officers who went into action that day were either killed or injured and more than 500 soldiers were killed, wounded or missing.  His body was recovered and is buried at Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps, a short distance from the frontline trenches at Serre.

He married Annie Jefferson Preston née Horsley, born at Cloughton, Yorkshire on 30th October 1869, at All Saints Church Scarborough on 15th May 1897.  They had six children, Harry Horsley Percy born at Scarborough 23rd May 1898, Edith Annie at York 26th November 1899, Herbert Wilfred 21st February 1904 at Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, Frederick William born at Hollywood, Castlereagh, Ireland (now Northern Ireland) 17th June 1906, Walter Edward at Leeds 24th March 1908 and Marguerite 10th July 1910 at Leeds.  Frederick and William attended Blenheim School and the family eventually settled at 5 Churchill Gardens, Blackman Lane, Leeds.  In 1930 Frederick William, now a metal polisher, married Florence Pratt, a tailoress, at the Parish Church of All Saints, Leeds.

A request for financial support for the family was made to the Ministry of Pensions, London by the Leeds Local Committee of the War Pensions Office, 2 Park Lane, Leeds and his widow Annie was subsequently awarded in 1917 a pension of £48 a year for herself and £22 compassionate allowance for two of her children (although six children are listed in the 1911 census, only two were granted the allowance.  The others were older than 14, had left school and were deemed to be non-dependant).  Her pension was increased to £104 in 1920, again when the Ministry of Pensions was prompted by the Leeds Local Committee of the War Pensions Office.  In 1939 Annie was living with Harry Horsley Preston and his wife Victoria at 4 Wepener Place, Leeds.  She died on 28th May 1964.

For his long and distinguished service Henry Preston was awarded the Ashanti Star, Queens South Africa Medal with clasps Transvaal and South Africa 1901-02, 1914-15 Star, War Medal, Victory Medal and Long Service and Good Conduct Medal with gratuity (1909).


The National Archives – Service and Pension Records

Commonwealth Wat Graves Commission – Cemetery Register

Ancestry – Medal Index Card, Medal Rolls

Findmypast – Census, birth, marriage and death records

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, Arthur and William – a family at war

John Edwin Scott, L/Corporal 15/1070, 1st Leeds Pals

Arthur Scott, Corporal 15/791, 1st Leeds Pals

William Scott, Drummer 42782, Scottish Rifles

John Edwin Scott was born in Leeds at the end of 1891.  He was the second of seven children born to John Barnard Scott and Frances Ann Thackray, who had married in Leeds three year earlier.  His brother Arthur was born two years later, and William four years after that.  Between those two was a sister, Edith Sarah, and they were followed by Lilian Frances and Selwyn.  The first born was the eldest brother, Harry Barnard.  All seven had been born in Leeds, as was their mother.  John the father, however, had been born in Eastney, Hampshire, and began work as a fishmonger’s clerk.  By the 1911 Census he had become a branch manager to a fish, game and poultry dealer.  He lived initially in Sheepscar, first in Renfield Terrace, then Evelyn Street, but ended, at the time of John Edwin’s death, in Elford Grove, Harehills.  They were still in Harehills in 1939, in Arlington Road, though John was now a widower, having retired as a cashier in the fish trade.  He was living with Lilian, still single, and Edith, who had married Harold Broughton. (Find my Past)

On the 1911 census John Edwin is given as a school stationer’s assistant.  Arthur is a boot-dealer’s assistant, and William is still at school.  Three years later, when war broke out, John was 22, Arthur 20, and William just 16.  But it was Arthur who was the first to volunteer.  He signed up for the Leeds Pals on 4th September 1914, exactly one month after the declaration, and had his medical ten days later.  He was 5ft 6ins tall and weighed 10st.  Six months after that he was a lance-corporal, and by the end of 1915 a full corporal.  He was posted to D Company, and earned a very good reputation as an intelligent, smart and willing soldier, who served at the front with satisfaction.  Sadly it was there that he was wounded, in the left shoulder and arm, in May 1916.  Most of the records say gun-shot wound, but one mentions a shell, and he was operated on twice to remove shrapnel, and subsequently an amount of bone, which left him with restricted movement in his arm.  It was then discovered that he had ‘a patch of consolidation on his right lung’, which ultimately led to a diagnosis of Phthisis in both lungs.  He was sent back to Britain for more treatment, but it was finally decided that he was now physically unfit for further service, and in July of 1917 he was given a medical discharge.  He was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal, and a pension. In 1919 he was placed on the Reserve List, but it seems unlikely that he could have been recalled to duty.  What happened after that is unclear, but there is a record of an Arthur Scott dying in Leeds in 1919, age 25. (Ancestry & Find my Past)

John was the next to volunteer, at Colsterdale in early 1915.  Most of his records are missing apart from his medal card, but he went with Arthur and the rest of the Pals to Egypt in December 1915, then back to France at the beginning of March 1916 to prepare for the Big Push.  John was now a Lance-Corporal in D Company.  On 1st July he went over the top with the battalion, and didn’t come back.  He was listed as Killed in Action and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. (CWGC)  He was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. (Ancestry)

William joined up at the end of November 1915, when he was just 17, though he gave his age as 18yrs 8mths.  He was posted to the Reserve, 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment and from there he went to the Scottish Rifles.  By the end of 1917 he was in the Royal Scots.  He spent the war on field service at home, and his trade was given as ‘big drummer’.  Unlike his older brother he seems to have got into a certain amount of trouble, being punished for burning his uniform in September 1918 and having to pay for the damage.  He was still listed as Scottish Rifles on his medal card, and was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, implying that he must at some point have gone overseas. (Find My Past)

I have found no service record for Harry, though he may have served too.  On the 1911 Census Edith is given as a machine hand, and in 1939 Lilian was also in the garment trade, so it is possible both were involved in war work.  I have found no record for Selwyn either, and perhaps he was just too young.

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.

George Henry Hitchen – missing, presumed dead

George Henry Hitchen, Private 15/1772, WYR, 1st Leeds Pals

George was born in Leeds in 1893, the third child of George Henry Hitchen and Mary Ann Sheard, who had married in Hunslet in 1887.  He had two older sisters, Sarah and Hannah, and six younger siblings, William, Harold, Mary Annie, Beatrice, Edgar and Eva.  The 1891 Census shows them living at 9 Ford Street, Hunslet, and presumably they were still there two years later.

In 1910 the family was living at 1 Dalton Street, Hunslet, but by 1911 they had moved to 16 Bridgewater Terrace, Cross Green, and both George Henrys are listed as steam hammer drivers in the iron and steel trade.  Later the family appear to have moved to No.21. (Find My Past)

When the war started George junior was 21, but he didn’t volunteer until the following year, and there is no indication that he went with the battalion to Egypt.  He would, however, have joined them in March 1916 when they went to France ready for the Big Push.  At 07:30 on 1st July George went over the top and didn’t come back.  Initially he was posted as ‘missing, presumed dead’.  His widow Alice put an appeal in the Yorkshire Post on 7th August 1916:

Mrs A Hitchen, of 12 Chambers Street, Accommodation Road, Hunslet, asks for further information of her husband, Pte GH Hitchen, C Company, Leeds Pals, who is reported missing since July 1st.

She may well have been Alice Robson, as there is a marriage listed between her and George Henry Hitchen in December 1915, probably at St Jude’s Church, Hunslet.  It is thought that there was a memorial tablet, including George’s name, at that church, but the building has unfortunately been demolished and no record has yet been found. (Free BMD)

Sadly her appeal produced no information, and George was eventually confirmed as killed in action.  His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.  He was awarded the Victory Medal and British War Medal. (Ancestry)

Two of George’s brothers, William and Harold, also joined up, and both survived.  William may have been discharged from the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment due to a weak heart, but Harold served in 3rd Yorks & Lancs until 1919, when he was discharged to Class Z.  Edgar, of course, was too young. (Find My Past)

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.