15/721 Sergeant, 15th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, The Leeds Pals

Herbert Gladstone Pickles was born in Leeds in 1886, the second child but first son of Charles Henry Pickles, a wholesale stationer and newspaper distributor, and Annie Clayton, whom he had married four years earlier. (Free BMD website)

Charles was a strong supporter of Herbert Gladstone, youngest son of WE Gladstone and an MP for one of the Leeds constituencies.

Herbert had an older sister, Lillian Beatrice, born two years before, a younger sister, Gertrude Emily, born in 1889, and two younger brothers, Frederick Clayton, born 1890, and Arthur George, born 1901. (Census Records)

On the 1891 Census the family was living at 13 Victoria Terrace, Kirkstall, and were still there in 1901. By 1911 they had moved to 14 Springfield Mount, just round the back of the University. Sadly by this time the two girls had both died, Lillian in 1905 and Gertrude in 1909. Herbert and Frederick were now working for their father in the family firm, Chas Pickles & Co. Herbert was also a keen sportsman, and played for the Headingley Rugby Union Football Club.

In 1914, when war was declared, Herbert was 28, and volunteered for the Pals straight away. His army number shows he had joined before the end of September. Unfortunately his service record is missing, so we only have the basic facts.

In September 1915 Herbert married Elsie Whitham.

On 22nd December 1915 the battalion arrived in Egypt, ready to guard the Suez Canal. But the threat from the Turks never really materialised, and early in 1916 that duty was taken over by troops from the Indian Army, and the Pals sailed for France, arriving at Marseilles in March. From there they went by train to Northern France, to prepare for the next big battle, the Somme.

Herbert was lucky, for although he took part he survived when the battalion was almost wiped out. But the next time that happened he was not so lucky.

At Gavrelle, during the Arras offensive of May 1917, when the Pals were almost wiped out again, Herbert was posted missing, and on 5th May he was officially ‘presumed dead’. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial and also that in Lawnswood Cemetery. (Hetherington p.21)  He is listed as son of the late Charles Pickles, of Oxford House, Horsforth, who had died in September 1919, and husband of Elsie Drury, who had remarried, to Ernest Drury, in September 1921 and was living in London. (CWGC website)

He was subsequently awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. (Medal Card)

Researcher: Peter Taylor

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