Percy Joseph Graham, CQMS, 15/389 West Yorkshire Regiment, Prince of Wales Own. 15th Battalion, Leeds Pals.
Robert Graham, Private 15/390, Leeds Pals and later 114095 RFC
Percy and Robert were brothers, and both volunteered for the Pals. In fact Percy, the younger brother, actually put his name down two days before Robert. He may have been the more adventurous of the two. Robert was born in 1892, in Scunthorpe, and Percy two years later, the oldest children of Joseph Wilson, a mechanical engineer, and Charlotte Annie Graham. They had two younger siblings, Phyllis and Edward, Edward being the only one of the four born in Leeds. There was a fifth child who did not survive. Joseph and Charlotte Annie Swaby were married in Lincolnshire in December 1891 but must have moved to Leeds sometime between 1895 and 1900. By 1901, when Edward was born, they were living in Hunslet, and in 1911 in Cross Flatts Grove, Beeston. By this time Robert and Percy were both following in their father’s footsteps, career-wise, though both were apprentices. (Find My Past & Free BMD)
In 1914, when the war started, Robert was 22 and Percy 20. Their names appear on the list of applicants consecutively, though Percy applied on 4th September and Robert on 6th. They both had medicals on 11th and were accepted as Pals. Their army records are mostly missing, but they would have followed the established course for the Pals – training at Colsterdale, then Ripon, and finally Fovant. There Robert proved to be an exceptional athlete. The battalion entered, and won, the Southern Counties Cross-Country Championship on 1st November 1915, with Robert coming third and being awarded a medal. He had previously won another for coming second in the North-Eastern Counties Cross-Country at Gosforth Park in May of that year.
At this time Robert was a bugler in C Company while Percy was in D Company with no specific role, though he did go on to gain promotion, becoming a colour sergeant and being appointed CQMS. At the beginning of December the Pals sailed for Egypt to guard the Suez Canal, arriving on 15th. They didn’t stay long, leaving again on 1st March 1916, this time sailing to France, to get ready for the Big Push. It’s not known whether they both took part in the Battle of the Somme, but if so they both survived. Certainly Robert suffered shell shock as a result of being buried a few days after the battle began, and was hospitalised. Percy probably also took part in the battle of Arras, but Robert transferred to the RFC in November 1917 and so probably missed it. Shortly after the transfer he was promoted from General Fitter to Aircraft Mechanic 3, and he remained in the RFC, soon to become the RAF, until 11th March 1919, when he was transferred to the Reserve and deemed to have been discharged.
When the war ended in 1918 both brothers had survived, and both were awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. (Ancestry) They both then went on to get married, Percy again, it seems, first. He married Clarice Brook in Hunslet in 1919, but unfortunately appears to have died in 1930. On the 1939 Register Clarice is living with Betty M Sharp, née Graham, born in 1921 and presumably their daughter, and Amy M Brook, Clarice’s older sister, who was their housekeeper. Robert, meanwhile, had married Nellie, either Nellie Harison or Nellie Bentley, and the two were in 1939 still living in Cross Flatts. (Find My Past)
Researcher: Peter Taylor
- All opinions and inferences are the researcher’s own.
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