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.


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.

Clifford Twiss – CO of the Pals for 12 days, then a POW


Lieutenant Colonel Clifford Charles Horace Twiss DSO, East Yorkshire Regiment

Clifford Twiss was born at Beverley, East Yorkshire on 22nd January 1879 (the day of the gallant defence of Rorke’s Drift in South Africa by the 24th Foot), and was the son of Edward E Twiss and Fanny M Twiss*.  In 1891 the family, which also included siblings Edward F, Arthur M and Bertha M, was living at N. Bar Street, Beverley.  Clifford married first in 1904 at Scarborough but was a widower by 1914; he had one child, Cynthia Eve, who was born in 1907 and died in 1968.  Clifford was head boy at Shrewsbury school before moving on to study classics at Christ Church College, Oxford.  He served for two years in the Oxford University Volunteers and, on leaving university, went to India to work in the Indian education services where he remained for twelve years.  He also served for some time in the United Provinces Light Horse.  In 1900, at the age of 21, he applied for a commission in the Infantry.

*(The Peerage website states he was the son of Godfrey Twiss).

When he joined the Army in 1914 he was listed as a widower and resident at Beverley, East Yorkshire.  On 16th November 1914, he was appointed Captain in the 12th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, becoming its adjutant on 16th August 1915.  He was promoted to Major on 25th June 1917 and transferred to the 13th Battalion.  On 17th September 1917 he was promoted Temporary Lieutenant Colonel of the same battalion.  Awarded the DSO on 18th December 1917, which was gazetted on the 1st January 1918, he eventually took command of the Battalion on the 21st January 1918.

On 15th March 1918, when the Pals were stationed near to the town of Arras, their Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Campbell Taylor, took command of the 93rd Brigade and Lieutenant Colonel Twiss was given Temporary command of the 15/17th Battalion.  However, when the Battalion was attacking the German front line, near to the town of Moyenneville (the same action in which Sergeant Albert Mountain won the Victoria Cross) on 27th March 1918 Lieutenant Colonel Twiss was knocked over by a bullet, which had penetrated his helmet, and on his recovery he moved forward to find his men surrendering as they were being fired on from several directions.  Hoping to avoid detection, he hid in a shell hole although a section of German troops passing by spotted him and threw a grenade at him.  Upon being attacked by two more soldiers wielding rifles and bayonets he finally surrendered.  He spent the remainder of 1918 as a prisoner of war.  His German POW card shows he was held at Stralsund, Dänholm, an officers’ camp on the Baltic coast.  His mother was recorded as Mrs Fanny M Twiss of Beverley, East Yorkshire.

The 31st Division Narrative of Operations recorded: ‘This Battalion (The 15th West Yorks Regt) had covered a front of over 2,000 yards for 36 hours and continued to sustain the weight of the enemy’s attacks until practically the whole Battalion was overwhelmed. Only 4 Officers and 40 Other Ranks of those who were forward subsequently reached our lines, but this Battalion by its gallant action relieved the pressure on our front throughout the whole day, and gave the Division ample time to establish its position near AYETTE.’

Clifford Twiss was repatriated on Christmas Day, 25th December 1918, nine months after being taken prisoner, and was given two months leave prior to taking up a new post with  Eastern Command in England.  He retired from the Army in 1920.  After the war he was again in India State Service and in 1929 was recorded in the Passenger List on P&O ship Narkunda returning from Marseilles to London with his daughter Cynthia Eve, whose age is given as 21.  Clifford Twiss married his second wife, Winifred Mary Wellesley (née Parker), born 10th November 1883, on 24th October 1933 at Erpingham and they lived at Barn Hill, Sheringham, Norfolk.  He died on 13th February 1947 at Depwade.  For his war service he was awarded the DSO, British War Medal and Victory Medal and was Mentioned in Despatches on 18th December 1917.


Ancestry – Birth, marriage and death registers

Findmypast – 1939 Register

The Peerage

London Gazette

The National Archives – Lt Col Twiss’s Service Record, Operational Report and Prisoner of War Records

Hull Pals East Yorkshire Regiment Pen & Sword 2014 by David Bilton

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.

Fred Rawling – came through the war unscathed!

Fred Metcalf Rawling, Private 15/1352, 1st Leeds Pals

Photo by permission of Jonathan Chappell

Fred Rawling was one of the few original Leeds Pals who appears to have come through the war without serious injury, which is extraordinary as he remained on active service with both the 15th Battalion and 15/17th Battalion for more than 3 years throughout hostilities.

Enlisting at Colsterdale on 7th June 1915 he was described as being 24 years old, 5’ 6½” tall with fair physical development. His occupation at the time was Warehouseman. Following training there and at Ripon and Fovant he deployed with the Battalion to Egypt in December 1915 to defend the Suez Canal from the Turks. In March 1916 the unit moved to the Western Front in France to prepare for the Battle of the Somme. He was initially employed as Officers’ Mess waiter and was in 12 Section, 7 Platoon, B Company. If he remained in the role it may have been a contributing factor towards his survival. His records confirm he had home leave in July 1918 and leave in Paris in November that year. (Service Record & 1915 Leeds Pals Nominal Roll).

In 1881 Fred’s father Metcalf, a Railway Engine Cleaner, was living at 2 Gladstone Street, Hunslet, Leeds with his father James Dobson Rawling, mother Selina and siblings Edith and Fred. (1881 Census). Metcalf married Hannah Mary Rawling nèe Blackburn at Holbeck in 1887 and their son Fred (named after his uncle) was born in Leeds on 5th January 1890. In 1891 Fred was living with his parents and sister Gladys at 69 Quadrant Street, Leeds. His father Metcalf, who was born on 15th November 1863, was a grocer / shopkeeper; his mother was born in 1859, both in Leeds. (1891 Census). The family were still living at 69 Quadrant Street in 1901, and Metcalf was still a grocer. (1901 Census). By 1911 the family had moved to 4 Barton Terrace, Malvern Road, Beeston Hill, Leeds and Fred, now 21, was employed as a Draper, while Metcalf was now working as a Registered Money-lender. (1911 Census).

After surviving all the Pals major battles (the Somme 1916, Arras 1917, the German offensive in the Spring of 1918 and the final push in the Autumn later that year) Fred transferred to the Reserve on 9th April 1919 and was finally discharged on 31st March 1920. On the Absent Voters Register his address was given as 3 Barton View, Leeds, together with his parents, although by 1939 Fred was living with his father Metcalf at 4 Barton Terrace. He was a 49 year old Traveller and was single. Metcalf was living at 41 Harrowby Road, Far Headingly when he died on 10th March 1949, leaving Fred and others some £17,000, a considerable amount at the time.

Fred died in 1974 and his funeral at Lawnswood was attended by several Pals, most in their 80s. They had travelled there by bus and the family were so grateful they gave them enough money to have a drink and get a taxi home. (Jonathan Chappell). For his war service he received the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal which remain with his family.

Fred’s medals – Jonathan Chappell

The National Archives – Service Record, Medal Index Card and Medal Roll
Ancestry – Birth, Marriage, Death and Census Registers
Findmypast – 1939 Register
Leeds Library – 1915 Leeds Pals Nominal Roll and Absent Voters Register

Researchers:  David J Owen and Peter Taylor, with information supplied by Jonathan Chappell

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 Bass – an ‘Old Contemptible’ who lived life to the full

William John Bass, Private 9195, 15/17th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment

Later Private 4523734

William John Bass was a pre-war regular soldier who had served in India and Malta and therefore was more experienced as a soldier compared to those who joined from 1914.  He was born at Matching Green, Harlow, Essex in 1888, employed as a Farm Labourer and enlisted in the King’s Royal Rifles Special Reserve, before joining the West Yorkshire Regiment at Woolwich on 11th June 1909.  He joined the 2nd Battalion, as 9195 Private Bass, at Aldershot the following day as a Signaller and remained there before moving with the Battalion to Colchester in 1910 and to Rawal Pindi in the East Indies (India) in 1911.  He returned to Litchfield later in 1911 then proceeded to Malta for a year in 1913-14 before the Battalion was recalled home in September 1914.  While in Malta he passed his 3rd Class Certificate of Education.

His address at the time was 57 Lawrence Road, Edmunton, Essex.  William was 5’ 3” tall, weighed 115 lbs and had a 35” chest.  His complexion was fresh and he had black hair and blue eyes.  He had some scars on his forehead and leg, numerous tattoos (one expressing his love for his mother) and, although only 19 years of age, he had a bald patch on top of his head.

His military character was described as ‘Indifferent’ which is evident from his lengthy conduct records, and although declared ‘fit’ seemed to suffer numerous medical and social ailments.  His troubles began in early 1910 at Colchester when he ‘quit barracks as a defaulter’ and during 1910 he was absent, and drunk on several occasions.  In 1912 and 1913 at Litchfield he was tried by District Court Martial for absence, for which he served 6 days detention, and he committed a number of other offences involving absence, drunkenness, abusive language and causing a disturbance.  Then followed 14 days Field Punishment for drunkenness in December 1914; three days Field Punishment in January 1916 for absence, and later that month he forfeited one day’s pay, again for absence.  Despite all this he was promoted Lance Corporal on 11th July 1916, Corporal on 25th October 1916 and on 20th July 1917 was elevated to Acting Sergeant.  However on 11th October 1917 he was reduced to the ranks by the Corps Commander of 8th Corps under Section 183(2) of the Army Act (Inefficiency).  After a short time with the 3rd Battalion, during which time he was tried by District Court Martial for desertion, which was later changed to absence, he served 84 days in detention.  He committed a number of other offences before being posted to the 15/17th Battalion on 16th April 1918.  However, he had to return to the UK in August 1918, due to illness, although he again went absent, for which he forfeited 18 days’ pay.  Again promoted Lance Corporal in November 1918 he lost his stripes in January 1919 when he refused to obey an order and for resisting arrest.  He finally transferred to the Army Reserve on 7th February 1919.  In spite of all this he must, with his wide experience of soldiering, have been a very useful resource for newly enlisted men.

Like most men William suffered badly on the frontline; in February 1915 he was admitted to 26th Field Ambulance and 6th General Hospital with a sprained ankle, which was to become a reoccurring injury throughout his war service; he remained at the Convalescent and Base Depots from March to May 1915.  On 5th March 1917 he was wounded in action, on 20th March 1917 he received a gunshot wound in the buttock and on 16th August 1917 he received a shrapnel wound in the left arm which was treated at the 34th General Hospital.  In addition, he suffered shell shock, when a shell landed next to the duckboard he was walking on in the trenches.  He also suffered several illnesses, including carbolic acid infection in 1910, gonorrhoea (several times from 1910), hysteria in 1914 while in Malta, neurasthenia on 12th December 1917 and had appendicitis on 10th August 1918.  He returned to England for this and spent some time in the 1st East General Hospital Cambridge.  He also suffered liver trouble in November 1920, which was believed to be caused by drinking bad water while on active service.

His father was William Bass, mother Elizabeth and his sisters were Alice and Emily.  The family lived at Coopersale Street, Epping.  William married Charlotte Clarke, a widow, at the Parish Church, Harlow on 18th December 1915.  His address when he retired was 22 Market Street, Harlow, Essex.  He is believed to have died in Brentwood, Essex in late 1964 age 76.

For his 9½ years’ service in the Army he was awarded the 1914 Star and Clasp, British War Medal and Victory Medal.  He applied to the Ministry of Pensions London for a disability pension in 1920, which was supported by the Military War Pensions Edmonton Committee, although it is not clear whether he received one.


The National Archives – Service Record, Medal Rolls, Medal Index Card and Pension Record

Ancestry – Birth and Marriage 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.

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.

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 Martial 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.