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.
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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

Tags

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.

Norman Wilson – served as a Pal for just a few weeks

Norman Wilson, Corporal 15/1856, 1st Leeds Pals, and later TR/5/72585

Norman Wilson’s illness shortly before the decimation of the 15th Battalion on the 1st July 1916 almost certainly save him from serious injury or death.  While his unit was preparing for the attack at Serre he was being transported back to England for treatment for a medical condition.

Norman was born on 22nd August 1897 and lived with his family at 43 Banstead Terrace, Rounday Road, Leeds.  He was educated at Harehills School and North Leeds Commercial College.  His father Joseph William Wilson (1868-), a Warehouseman, and his mother Maud Wilson née Houghton (1870-1958) married on 2nd September 1895.  Both the 1901 and 1911 Census’ record the family were living at 6 Harehills Terrace, Roundhay Road, Leeds.  Norman had five siblings, Eric (1900-1982) and Gladys (1900-1962), who were twins, Stanley (1902-1962), Thomas Leslie (1907-1948) and Frank (1909-1911).  He married Beatrice Hall (1892-1965) on 4th July 1921 at the Parish Church, Wrangthorn, Yorkshire and at the time he was living at 136 Masham Avenue, Harehills, Leeds.

Shortly after enlisting in the 15th Battalion at Colsterdale on 5th July 1915, he was posted to the 19th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment and in April 1916 was promoted to Lance Corporal.  Norman was a clerk by trade and was 5’ 7 ¾” tall and weighed 118lbs.  He was posted back to the 15th Battalion on 4th June 1916 and embarked for France on 16th June, although it was barely a week before he suffered Empyema Sinuses and was moved to the base camp at Etaples and the then to the UK on HS Brighton on 18th June 1916.  On returning home he was sent to the General Hospital Nottingham where he remained until August 1916.  He was put on the posted strength of the 19th Battalion and in August 1916 the 88th Training Reserve Battalion, and was allocated a new number.  In November 1916 he was promoted to Corporal and in January 1917 was posted to the 3rd Battalion.

He returned to France on 21st March 1917 and the following day was posted to the 2nd Battalion, having reverted back to Private and his original number.  A month later he was transferred to the 12th Battalion, joining on 17th April 1917 and regained the rank of Lance Corporal.  In May 1917 he suffered tonsillitis which was followed in June by influenza.  He was again moved back to the base hospital where he remained until re-joining his Battalion on 25th July 1917.  He was wounded in action in September 1917, sustaining a gunshot wound to the knee and left hand, and returned to England where he remained in hospital until mid-November.  On 10th May 1918 he was sent to No 7 Officer Cadet Battalion and, on successfully completing the course, he was discharged to a commission in the 3rd Battalion, Special Reserve, West Yorkshire Regiment at Whitley Bay on 29th October 1918.  Although his report said he ‘should make a good officer’ it also recorded that he ‘lacked confidence’ and was ‘backward in tactics’.

Norman was demobilised on 13th January 1919 and relinquished his commission on 1st April 1920.  For his service was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.  In 1939 he was living with his wife Beatrice at 28 Easterly Crescent, Leeds, and was employed as a Wholesale Food Distributer.  He died at Leeds on 31st May 1956 at the age of 60.

Sources:

The National Archives – Service Record, Medal Index Card and Medal Roll

Findmypast – 1939 Register

Ancestry – Birth, Marriage, Death and Probate 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.

Albert Frobisher – not a survivor

 Albert Frobisher, Corporal 15/1786, 1st Leeds Pals

Albert Frobisher was born in Castleford in the first half of 1886.  He was the second child of Martin Frobisher and Mary Ann Watson, who had married in Pontefract in March 1881, but lived at various addresses in Castleford.  By 1911 they had had eleven children, but only five had survived.  Albert’s elder brother, Herbert, was four years older, and he had younger siblings Harry (died 1893), Charlie, Harry (died 1904), and Clara, plus five others.  There was also another Harry Frobisher whose death, age 0, was registered in Pontefract in June 1911, who may have been one of them.  Martin was a pork butcher from Kippax in 1891, but by 1901 had become a coal hewer.  Albert too was a coal hewer in 1911, having been a glass bottle apprentice ten years earlier.  He was also married by then, having married Ruthetta Smith in Tadcaster at the end of 1910, and they had a son of one month, Albert.  They were living with Ruthetta’s parents, John and Elizabeth Smith and son Arthur, at 41 William Street, Lock Lane, Castleford, Yorks (Allerton Bywater)

Albert’s service record has not survived, but his army number suggests that he enlisted some time in May or June of 1915.  He probably did not go with the battalion to Egypt, as it is not mentioned on his Medal Card, nor was he awarded the 1915 Star, but he would have gone to France, as it was there that he was badly wounded, at some point in the early stages of the Battle of the Somme.  He was treated in No.33 Casualty Clearing Station, France, but on 22nd August 1916 he died of his wounds, age 30.  He is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery, Pas de Calais, and he was subsequently awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

In 1939, when the Register was compiled for the next war, Ruthetta was listed as Ruth Frobisher, a widow, at 42 Pinfold Lane, Hemsworth, living with Edna Frobisher, a tailoress, born 17th June 1914, presumably her daughter, and Albert Frobisher, a bookstall manager, born 6th March 1911, along with his wife Lily, née Milner, who he had married in Pontefract in December 1936.

Sources:

Find My Past: Census details

Ancestry:        Medal Index Card

CWGC:           Details of death and burial

Free BMD:      Birth, marriage and death records

Researcher: Peter Taylor

Please Note:

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

John William Taylor – a lucky diary

John William Taylor, Private 15/1206, 1st Leeds Pals

Later 78016 89th Training Reserve Battalion

John William Taylor, known as Jack, was probably born in December 1890, in Bridlington, the son of William and Ada, or Adela, Taylor, who had married in Leeds ten years before.

He had four older siblings, Kate, Albert, Amy and Lily, and the family lived in Bridlington certainly into the war years, though for whatever reason John was not at home for the 1911 Census, and I’ve not so far located him anywhere else.

The family address in 1891 was Dykes House, by 1901 they had moved to 17 Quay Road, and by 1911 to 21 Havelock Crescent, not far from 42 Havelock Crescent, the address given for his father as next of kin on John’s enlistment.

When John left school he became a grocer’s assistant, and possibly worked in Bradford, as that is where, according to one source, he enlisted.  He also had a diary (see later) supplied by George Jessop and Son Ltd, clothing manufacturers of Batley, but as this was complimentary it may not mean that he worked for them.  His attestation papers were completed at Colsterdale, on 27th January 1915, and beside the occupation and next of kin details, also included his height at 5’ 6” and the fact that he was single.  Six months later, however, on 6th July, he married Lily Cooper at Drypool Parish Church in Hull, and their son Frank was born on 2nd September.  According to the family story John was given leave for the birth, but it proved not long enough.  Once John had joined up Lily and Frank went to live with the family in Bridlington.

John joined the Leeds Pals at Colsterdale, where he did his basic training, and sailed with the battalion for Egypt, where they landed on 22nd December 1915.  After duty there they were posted to France, arriving in March 1916, to prepare for the Big Push.

The Battle of the Somme commenced on 1st July 1916, and John was one of the lucky ones in that he was wounded on the first day, at Colincamps.  He was hit by a bullet in his right arm, badly damaging his elbow.  His medical records suggest that he was also hit in the back by shrapnel, and another family story recounts him describing how his diary, and/or a metal case, stopped a piece which would otherwise have done some serious injury.  His gunshot wound was serious enough to put him in hospital for 2 months, spend a further 3 months convalescing, and ultimately to return him to England.  He was finally discharged on 24th November and given 10 days’ leave, after which he reported to 89th Training Reserve Battalion at Cambois.

Photo courtesy of the family

A medical board examined him and concluded that he was no longer fit for active service, and that his capacity for earning a full livelihood had been reduced by a quarter.  They recommended that he be transferred to Class P, which was effectively a discharge.  This happened on 8th August 1917, and he was awarded a pension of 8/3 a week, to be re-assessed after a year.  At this point his address was given as 4 Wansford Drive, Driffield.

John was subsequently awarded the King’s Discharge certificate, the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

Sources:

Find My Past: Censuses, Service records

Ancestry: Medal cards

Researcher: Peter Taylor, with additional information provided by the family

Please Note:

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

William Taylor – another survivor

William Taylor, Sergeant 15/880, 1st Leeds Pals

William Taylor was born in the parish of St George in the East, Wapping, London, probably on 9th August 1881.  His mother was Louisa Taylor, a name which occurs throughout his life, but I have not so far found his father.  He had two brothers, Thomas and Robert, and a sister Louisa, all named on his first attestation form.  Robert and Louisa were apparently twins, and the family lived at 5 Rygate Street, Wapping.  No father was mentioned, so presumably he was dead, or had left them.

On 9th December 1896 William signed on, for twelve years, at Aldershot, and joined the Border Regiment, with the number 5250.  His height was given as 4ft 8½ ins, his weight as 6st 3lbs, he had blue eyes, fair hair and a fresh complexion.  Robert was already a member of the regiment, suggesting that William, at 15 years and 4 months, was the youngest of the family.  Being that young he joined as a boy soldier, and was made a bandsman.  Thereafter he gave his army trade as ‘musician’, instrument not specified.  On 9th August 1899 he reached the age of 18 and became a fully fledged soldier, and clearly an efficient one.  In September 1905 he was promoted to Lance Corporal, and two and a half years later to full Corporal.  Nine months after that, in December 1908, he reached the end of his twelve years and was discharged.  During his period of service he had served in the East Indies and South Africa.

On leaving the army William came to Leeds.  What prompted him, a Londoner and quite possibly a cockney, to move to Yorkshire is not known, but the 1911 Census shows him as having a job as a tramway conductor for the city council, and living as a boarder with a young widow, Louisa Watson from Bristol, and her son Reginald Arthur, at 36 Tilbury Mount, Holbeck.  Louisa was 27 so could not have been a widow for long.  She may have married to Arthur Watson, in Pontefract in 1904, and he may have died just four years later, the year Reginald was born, but we cannot be certain.  What is certain is that in September of 1911 Louisa married William, thus becoming the third Louisa Taylor in his life.  Taking Reginald with them, they went to live at 62 Spencer Place.

In 1914 when war broke out William was virtually 33, but he clearly knew where his duty lay and didn’t hesitate.  On 15th September he volunteered for the Leeds Pals, the magistrate signing his attestation paper being Edward Brotherton, at that time also the Lord Mayor of Leeds, and main financial support of the battalion.  As a trained soldier William had a lot to offer the new battalion, almost entirely composed of enthusiastic civilians.  He was now 5ft 4ins, 8ins taller than when he first signed on. He once again gave his occupation as musician, despite his previous job, and what he subsequently became.  He was immediately promoted to sergeant, and then made Sergeant Shoemaker, posted to Headquarters Company.  It has been suggested that this title refers to making shoes for horses and mules, but I think it more likely that it was what it seems, responsibility for repairing and possibly making the boots, without which the men could do little else.  Given the problems the army had with the newly provided footwear, much of which was so substandard that it fell apart on the first route march, this would have been quite a critical job.  A member of the Pals, Arthur Pearson, wrote the following:

Our first issue of service boots turned out to be very poor stuff.  They could not stand up to ordinary wear and tear let alone the rough country we worked over.  The boots were not made by a Leeds firm or the heels would have stayed on once they were put on instead of falling off as happened scores of times.  Many a chap has lost his heel miles away from camp and had to make his own way back… 

William underwent training at Colsterdale, Ripon and Fovant, before sailing with the battalion to Egypt to guard the Suez Canal.  He then sailed to France, where he spent the rest of the war.  Whether being in the HQ company helped him to survive the various major battles the Pals went through is not known, but he must have done his bit in the final German Kaiserschlacht of Spring 1918, when the situation got so desperate that every man who could hold a rifle was pressed into service.  Finally the war ended, but William was home on leave, from 1st to 15th November, when the armistice came.  He was transferred to the reserve, Class Z, on 17th March 1919, and finally discharged on 31st March 1920.  He could go home to his wife and stepson at their new address of 44 Gledhow Wood Avenue.  He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

William may have died in 1931.  Certainly when the register was compiled in 1939 prior to the next war Louisa was once again a widow, living with her son Reginald, now managing a butcher’s shop, and his wife Lillian Violet, at 20 Queensway, Leeds.

Sources:

Find My Past – service records, censuses

Ancestry – Medal Index Card

Leeds Pals (Milner p.49) – quote from Arthur Pearson

Free BDM – births and deaths

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.