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
- 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.