Fred Bates – little known POW


Fred Bates, Private 38211, 1st Leeds Pals

Photo courtesy of York Army Museum


Fred Bates was the first son and third child to be born to William Bates, an oat cake baker who had married Alice Ann Greaves in Leeds in 1871. (Free BMD).  Fred was born on 12th August 1878, after two girls, Frances and Annie, and before another boy, Roden, also spelt Rhoden, and a third girl, Nellie.  Roden is possibly the same person who spelt his name Rawden on the 1911 Census, when he was living in Liversedge. (Find My Past). Certainly a Rhoden Bates married Louisa Weldrake in November 1901, which fits with the 1911 Census record, and one of the witnesses was Rawden Weldrake, perhaps her brother, as her father, like Rhoden’s, was dead. (Find My Past).

Fred was born in Hightown, Halifax, and three years later the census had the family address as Harts Moor Road, Clifton, Halifax.  On the 1891 Census the address is given as Hartshead Moor, Clifton.  Alice was by now a widow, and it is possible that William died in 1883, in which case he was only 32.

On the 1901 Census Alice had remarried, and become Mrs James Lawford, and they were living at Hare Park, Liversedge.  Fred is given as a leather currier, but by 1911 he is a drapery dealer.  The Lawfords were still there in 1911, but Fred had moved out, probably because in March 1906, in Dewsbury, he had married Ann Frances E Naylor, and they were living at Clough Lane Top, Liversedge.  In May of that same year they had a daughter, Marion, and another daughter, Millicent, was born in 1910.  Fred, Ann and Marion were still living together in 1939, at 500 Halifax Road, Spenborough.  Millicent, presumably, had got married. (Find My Past).

Fred’s service record has not survived apart from his medal card, so we don’t know when he enlisted, but his number suggests that he joined after September 1916, unless he was transferred in from another regiment. (Ancestry).  As an older man, married with children, he would have been called up later anyway.

What have survived are his POW records, which show him as a member of C Company.  He was captured, unwounded, at Oppy on 3rd May 1917, during the Third Battle of Arras. (Prisoners of the First World War).  This was quite a lengthy battle and included a number of different actions, the most notable of which was probably the capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadians.  That part was over when the Pals joined in on 3rd May, the first day of the Third Battle of the Scarpe.  No significant advances were made, but Bert was captured, and for the second time the battalion suffered very heavy casualties.  Estimates vary but the Pals were probably reduced to about a third of their number.

On 23rd June Bert was at Dülmen Camp, on 28th July at Limburg, and on 23rd January 1918 at Güstrow, where he presumably stayed for the rest of his captivity.  The Germans were keen to photograph their prisoners, to show that they were being well-treated, and Bert was one such.  Ten months later the war ended and Bert was repatriated.

Bert was discharged from the army on 29th March 1919.  He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  He did not get the 1915 Star, which supports the idea of a later enlistment.  As already mentioned he and Ann, with Marion, were living in Spenborough in 1939.  It is possible that he died in 1959, in which case he would have been 80.

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.

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