Privates 325258 & 40088 The Leeds Pals

1888: William Slater married Elizabeth Bell in Bedale, where both of them had been born, and they had six children, all boys. The first two were Herbert and Arthur and the last two Harold and Harry. There seems to have been a fashion at the time for having a Harold and a Harry together. The third, born in 1893, was named Frederick, while the next, born a year later, was called Ernest. They were all born in Bedale, and there they lived.
William was a plumber and tinsmith, and Fred followed in his father’s footsteps, while Ernest, at least in 1911, was an errand boy for a stationer. (Find My Past, 2015)

1911: Ernest married Lily Snow in Pateley Bridge. He was still only 16, and Lily may have been 25. His age is confirmed by both censuses, and his POW record shows his wife as Lily Slater. (ICRC Historical Archives, 2015)

1915: On 11th December Fred enlisted in the 4th Reserve Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, and was given the number 204106. There is no record of Ernest’s enlisting, nor of the battalion he was posted to, but it is possible that they joined up together. They don’t appear from their numbers to have been particularly early volunteers.

1917: On 26th July Fred landed in France, at Boulogne. The following month he was transferred to the 7th Battalion, with a new number, and then in December to the 15th, the Pals. Ernest’s movements are unknown, but he too ended up with the Pals.

1918: In March the Germans launched their last attack of the war, the Kaiserschlacht, and for the third time the Pals were decimated. The Brigade was retreating and the Pals found themselves isolated at Ayette. There they were surrounded by the Germans, only 4 officers and around forty men managing to escape. But this time fewer were killed and many more were captured. It was during this action that Sergeant Albert Mountain won the VC (Milner p.202). On 27th March Fred was posted missing, and subsequently reported as a POW, at Parchim Camp. Two days later Ernest was also captured at Bullecourt, and sent to the prison camp at Cottbus.

Fred was repatriated in November, and on arrival in Dover went before a medical board. He had lost 32lbs as a result of being imprisoned for eight months, and was noted as being very thin and breathless, with strained nerves. He was discharged as being unfit for further service, and was sent home with a disability pension. (Find My Past, 2015)

Ernest may have had a similar experience, but there is no record. Certainly he, too, arrived home. Both brothers were awarded the War and Victory Medals, and must have counted themselves lucky to have come through the war relatively unscathed.

Researcher: Peter Taylor

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  • All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
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