Son of Joseph and Sarah Brown of Victoria Street,
Wetherby; husband of Eliza Brown of 7, Exchange Street, Hunslet, Leeds.
Charley Brown was born at Wetherby in 1885, the son of Joseph, occupation, a Horse Breaker/Groom, and Sarah Brown.
The 1901 Census details record that at this juncture, Charley had found employment as an Errand Boy (Post), his father's
occupation now being described as that of a Domestic Groom.
Moving to the City of Leeds at some point between the years 1901-1905, Charley entered a union of marriage in the
latter year with one Florence Mary Savage, the couple eventually setting up their marital home at Number 7, Exchange Street,
off Wilson Street, Hunslet. The couple were blessed with the birth of two children, Florence in 1914, however the name and
birth year of the other child is unknown at present. (Authors note: The area of Hunslet that contained Exchange Street has
now long since vanished in the slum clearances of the City. The position of the street however now equates to an area off
Low Road and Church Street close to the modern day Penny Hill Shopping Centre).
Charley enlisted into the British Army in late August or in the early days of September 1914 at Leeds. It was estimated
that over 100 recruits per day were enlisting in Leeds as a consequence of the first proclamation of Kitchener's 'Call
to Arms,' a request for 100,000 men to join the Colours issued on the 11th August but this number was increasing rapidly.
Such was the influx of men willing to enlist, the Recruiting Depot located in Hanover Square was proving to be far from adequate
for the purpose, so to expedite the recruitment process, a 'new' Recruiting Depot was opened on the 3rd September
at the Tramway Depot located in Swinegate. Attesting for military service and after undergoing a preliminary medical examination,
Charley Brown was now deemed to have enlisted. Assigned the serial number 12765, he would ultimately be posted to the 10th
(Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment.
After a dramatic
response to the first 'Call to Arms,' a second proclamation was made on the 28th August requesting a further 100,000
men to join the Colours. Once again men flocked to their local recruitment offices across the country but amongst the patriotic
crowds of men now joining the 'New Armies,' there was an emphasis placed on the recruitment of those who had previous
military service such as non-commissioned officers and drill instructors to train these new units. This shortfall of trained
military personnel would prove to be problematic across the whole formation of the Kitchener's 'New Armies' but
still men continued to enlist.
The Leeds Mercury
reported on the 11th September that the Prime Minister, in a statement made to the House of Commons, declared that the
number of recruits enlisting into the army since war had been declared now numbered about 439,000 men, exclusive of those
in the Territorial Force. In Leeds, the number of men who passed through the Swinegate Depot the day previously now brought
the City of Leeds contribution to Lord Kitchener's 'Army' up to about 5,000 men. In addition, Leeds had also commenced
to raise its own "Pals" Battalion, the Leeds City Battalion, recruitment moving apace at both the Town Hall and
the Hanover Square Recruitment Office to find 1,200 men, this being completed and exceeded by the 8th September.
After the first 'Call to Arms,' Army Order 324 was issued on the
21st August, this authorising the creation of six new divisions comprising purely of the Kitchener's Volunteers. Designated
K1, and with each battalion designated as a 'Service' Battalion, i.e. formed for the duration of the war,
these six divisions comprised of the 9th (Scottish) Division, 10th (Irish) Division, 11th (Northern) Division, 12th (Eastern)
Division, 13th (Western) Division and the 14th (Light) Division. Similarly, the second 'Call to Arms' resulted in
the issuing of Army Order 382 on the 11th September authorising another six new divisions. Designated K2, these six
divisions comprised of the 15th (Scottish) Division, 16th (Irish) Division, 17th (Northern) Division, 18th (Eastern) Division,
19th (Western Division) and the 20th (Light) Division. In addition to K1 & K2, Army Order 388 was issued
on the 13th September authorising the formation of another six divisions. Designated K3, these divisions were not
issued titles and were more diverse in composition but it is now that we will turn our attentions to the 10th (Service) Battalion,
West Yorkshire Regiment, contained in the 17th (Northern) Division.
17th (Northern) Division
The 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment was formed at York on the 3rd September 1914 as part of K2
of the New Armies. The battalion was contained in the 50th Infantry Brigade that also consisted of the following units:-
7th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment
7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green
6th (Service) Battalion, Dorset Regiment
Recruits for the 10th West Yorkshire's were
drawn not only from Yorkshire but from the numerous counties of both England and Wales and from a variety of trades and professions.
Men such as Thomas George Burtoft, a Miner and a native of Usworth, County Durham. Robert Porter, a Rubber Worker from Aston,
Birmingham, born at Meerut, India, and Wilfred Ball, a native of Newport, Monmouthshire and an adopted child who had in fact
enlisted aged 16 years at Bath.
On the 6th September
1914, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Walker was appointed to command the fledgling battalion. A Scotsman by birth, Walker had already
witnessed a varied and illustrious military career. Serving in Afghanistan and west Africa with the 14th Foot, Second Battalion,
West Yorkshire Regiment, he retired from the service in 1899 upon attaining the rank of Major. Serving in various capacities
at home, he was then appointed to command the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment with which he served
in South Africa. Appointed Honorary Colonel of the Regiment, it was no doubt due to his experience, that he was recalled to
command a battalion of the New Army.
On the 24th
September 1914 (London Gazette dated the 22nd), Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Tom Reay C.B. was appointed the rank of Temporary
Brigadier-General and placed in command of the 50th Infantry Brigade. Commissioned into the 63rd Foot Regiment in 1875, Reay
would initially serve as a Probationer on the Indian Staff Corps and in 1882 serve as a Captain in the Manchester Regiment
in the Anglo-Egyptian War. Posted to the 1st Battalion of the Regiment as Adjutant in 1884, he would eventually rise to the
rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1899 and command the 2nd Battalion, Manchesters throughout the course of the Boer War. Upon
completion of his service, Reay would be placed on 'half pay' on the 6th October 1903 and serve on the Commands and
Staff until February 1911 whereupon he was officially placed on Retired Pay in March of the following year.
On the 18th September (London Gazette dated 6th October 1914), Major-General
Walter Rupert Kenyon-Slaney C.B. was appointed to command the 17th (Northern) Division. Joining the 4th Battalion, Rifle Brigade
(Prince Consort's Own) in 1869 as an Ensign by purchase, Slaney was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in 1871 after conducting
service in both India and Aden. Rising to the rank of Captain and promoted to Adjutant in 1881, this appointment expired in
1886 whereupon he was seconded for service as an Adjutant of Auxiliary Forces. Attaining the rank of Major after service in
Egypt, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1897 before being placed on 'half pay' in 1901. Serving
on the Staff in South Africa as a Special Service Officer and then a Lieutenant-Colonel and Brevet Colonel (Local Brigadier-General
commanding the Middelburg District, Transvaal), it was in 1907 that Kenyon- Slaney was awarded the C.B. and promoted to the
rank of Major-General in the following year. Confirmed in the rank of a Brigade Commander in 1909, in September 1913 and after
a colourful military career spent on many continents, Slaney was then placed on retired pay.
Training: The Camp
With the respective battalions of the division concentrating at their Home Stations, it soon became apparent for
the need to find more suitable areas for the men of the New Armies to commence their training. In early September 1914 and
to this end, the units that comprised the 17th (Northern) Division had received orders to move southwards to Dorset. Arriving
at Wareham, the allocated camp being located at Worgret to the west of the town, the camp consisted of tented accommodation
but few in number for the substantial amounts of men arriving in the town. Initially men were billeted in various local establishments
such as church and chapel schools as at the camp there was very little else in the shape of beds, tables and established cooking
facilities. Luxuries afforded to the men such as tobacco and a decent cooked meal were non existent, one soldier of the 7th
(Service) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment reporting that "Last night our tea consisted of hard biscuits
and jam, and sweet tea with no milk in it." Privations even extended to the lack of blankets as well as the essential
necessities of life such as boots and clothing. Local organisations however provided many comforts for the men, the people
of Bournemouth for example collecting camp blankets, wool shirts, books and periodicals which were delivered to the camps
located at Wareham and Wool. A large tent was also established by the Y.M.C.A. by the Finchley Association under the control
of the Secretary, Mr. T.D. Johnston, the latter having previously administered the St. Albans establishment for the London
Despite woeful organisation on the
part of the military, the camp slowly began to establish itself. Discipline in the initial stages of training had proved to
be rather problematic but this was more due to the transition being made from civilian to soldier. Order had to be created
and to this end, those with previous military service came to the fore in the form of both officers and N.C.O.'s. The
7th (Service) Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, 51st Infantry Brigade of the 17th Division had one particular distinguished
veteran amongst their number, one Lance-Sergeant George Henry Wetherall. Enlisting into the Special Reserve on the 9th September
1914 aged 69 years, this veteran had originally served in the Militia and had volunteered his services as a Drill Instructor
with the 7th Battalion located at Wool. Assigned a squad and noted as "exceptionally smart," George would
be discharged after completing one years service with the Colours in February 1916, an incredible man no doubt who, like old
soldiers do, 'faded away' in 1918.
was an absence of uniformity amongst the men as uniforms were virtually non-existent. Parades were conducted with the men
dressed in a variety of clothing and as regards rifle training, a few 'Drill Purpose' rifles had been acquired but
not sufficient in number. Uniforms of a sort however did begin to arrive in October but these were an eclectic mix comprising
of old pe-war regular and militia uniforms, the men truly resembling soldiers of "Fred Karno's Army" no doubt
much to everyone's amusement. Route marches and various drills were now introduced to the training programme as their
development from civilian to soldier progressed apace. A fascinating insight into life in the camp is provided by Private
Ernest George Hopkinson, 13692, 10th West Yorkshire's and a native of Westfield Terrace, Mytholmroyd. Serving previously
with the Todmorden Volunteer Corps and completing his terms of enlistment, Ernest enlisted at Halifax on the 7th September
1914. Writing to his brother, William, who would also serve in the war with the Royal Engineers, the letter was published
in the Todmorden & District News dated the 16th October 1914, a lengthy extract of which is as follows:-
"From Monday morning to Saturday they had to turn out of bed at
5-30 in the morning, wash in cold water in buckets outside, clean out tents, shake their blankets, of which they had at least
two each, and put them out into the open air and sun until afternoon. The tents had to be swept out and all the bits of paper
picked up and burnt with the other rubbish. This has to be followed by dressing for the first parade at 7 o'clock, which
continues for an hour. The parade consists of Swedish drill, arm swinging, body bending, hopping, jumping, running, leap frog,
and other forms of exercises, which makes them have good appetites for their breakfast, which is served at eight o'clock.
The meal consists of bread and cheese, jam, marmalade, boiled ham and tea. Of course those things were not all served at one
meal, but alternated. The next parade was with the rifles and drill for army training, of which their is plenty; this occupied
from nine until 12.30. Dinner consists of stewed meat, mixed with all kinds of vegetables, boiled in egg-shaped buckets, one
being sufficient for two tents, containing 28 men. Each battalion has its own cook house and there are about 1,200 men in
a battalion. About 700 troops belonging to different regiments are in camp. The next drill extends from 2 until 5 o'clock
and is for rifle training, company and battalion drills. Tea consists of jam, cheese and bread, and once they had salmon.
The margarine is eaten to the accompaniment of all kinds of language known, but he would not say any more about the delicious
substance. After tea they were "on their own" until nine o'clock and they spent the time walking into the village
and getting a little supper, and he was sure the shopkeepers and others were making fortunes, as they had not had such a busy
time in all their lives. All lights have to be out in camp 10-15, but most of the men are in bed by nine o'clock. During
the night search-lights played all around the camp and sea, but they could not tell where the lights came from, but they are
a few miles away. It has been lovely during the moonlight nights; it was so bright that they could see to read the newspaper.
They had route marches varying from eight to seventeen miles a day. After the long walks they had no drill, but feet inspections
and lectures, two or three of the latter being given each week on discipline etc. The people in the district appear to be
easy going and do not appear to do much work. The chief occupation is farming, fruit and vegetable growing. Fruit was very
cheap, and blackberries most plentiful, and the people did not know what to do with them. They had lots of pets in camp, of
which the men were very fond. He wished they could see the men washing their towels, shirts, socks etc., and ends up by declaring
that they will be "full-blown washerwomen" some day.
Writing later on behalf of himself and Harold Barker (Authors note, 13693), he says the Young Men's
Christian Association is doing a very good work among the troops. They have erected a large marquee for the comfort and pleasure
of the troops in the evenings. There is singing and games, accommodation for writing, and various kinds of amusements, which
all go to make the evenings happy for those who attend. On Saturday evening they had a concert given by ladies and gentlemen
from Bournemouth, who willingly gave their services for the good of the troops. There were present the Brigadier-General,
and several other officers, and the General said he hoped to see them all march to Berlin, to which there were loud cries
of "hear, hear." The officer promised to purchase footballs in order that the company matches might take place for
a cup which he would present. Lots of generous people visit the camp and send various gifts, consisting of overcoats, socks,
shirts, towels, cigarettes and other articles. The trees and plants, said the writer, were in full bloom, but he supposed
all the leaves would have fallen at Mytholmroyd. In the early hours of the day it was very cold, and the mist from the sea
was heavy, but the men soon got warmed up with exercise. After the mist had cleared away the sun came out in all its glory
and the heat was almost unbearable; indeed, at times numbers of men had to be carried away. The letter concludes with a wish
to be remembered to all at Mytholmroyd Church Institute."
Autumn & Winter 1914: Industrial Disputes, Rain & Vaccination
Towards the end of the month of September, a suitable number of tents had
arrived to establish the camp as a more 'permanent' facility. This was all well and fine as the month had been one
of glorious weather but as autumn approached, there was a pressing need to turn the camp into one consisting of hutted accommodation.
In October, men who had been exposed to the vagaries of a wet autumn now began to fall ill and to compound matters further,
a workers dispute over the erection of huts arose. Carpenters engaged in construction and employed as 'day workers'
were alarmed at the fact that those assigned 'piece work' were able to work more hours during the day. After consultation,
delegates of those employed on a daily rate approached the contractor for an extra penny an hour, double pay also being a
requisite if required to work on a Sunday. The number of hours to be worked was also discussed with the contractor, and, if
terms were not met, it was suggested that they performed a strike action which was ultimately initiated. After prolonged discussion,
the matter was only resolved by the intervention of Lord Kitchener himself by adopting a rather 'tactical' approach.
Kitchener intimated that he fully recognised that there were others such as munitions workers who were doing their duty for
the King, this tactful statement eventually led to more productive dialogue and the dispute was settled between the strikers
and the contractors.
Discipline however was still
proving to be problematic. A soldier of the 6th Dorsets appeared before Mr Stephen White Bennett at the Police Court, Wareham,
on the 14th October charged with attempting to steal money from a till at the Lord Nelson Public House, North Bridge, Wareham.
After formal evidence was taken, on the following day the soldier was bound over. Appearing before Mr Bennett on the same
day was a Private of the 10th West Yorkshire Regiment. The charges laid before the Court were that between the 1st -
9th October, the accused was charged with "feloniously stealing certain post letters, the property of the officer
commanding the Regiment." Lieutenant and Quarter-master Green (Authors note: John James Green), gave evidence that
the prisoner was employed as a regimental postman and included in his duties was to fetch the mail from the Post Office at
Wareham and carry them back to camp. Suspected of theft, the Quarter-master ordered the Private to be searched and upon doing
so, in his pockets were found to be letters addressed to the men of the 10th West Yorkshire's. The letters had been opened
and the accused handed over to the civil authorities. It transpired that he had been witnessed opening letters in his tent,
a bundle of nine letters being found on his person. His duties involved the sorting of the letters upon which he would hand
them over to a Corporal of the various companies for distribution. The Private denied the charges and was subsequently placed
on remand for a period of three months whereupon in January 1915, the prisoner was sentenced to three months hard labour.
It was not just military personnel that transgressed the rule of law. A
young lady of just nineteen years was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment at Shepton Mallet Jail for having solicited from soldiers
in the town of Wareham. Having a previous record for similar offences, her 'activities' were witnessed by a constable
on plain clothes duty and she was subsequently arrested.
At the beginning of the month of November, the weather began to take a turn for the worse with the men still occupying
tented accommodation. The battalion had also been vacinated, possibly against T.B. by the camp Medical Officer, Lieutenant
Douglas William Hunter M.B., so as one can imagine, they possibly felt slightly unwell and in low spirits not only due to
the weather but also of the effects of the inoculation. An extract of a further letter from Private Ernest Hopkinson of Mytholmroyd
to his brother published in the Todmorden & District News dated the 13th November describes the chaos that ensued due
to the adverse weather conditions but the letter also contained a rather poignant statement as regards the character of the
men in general:-
"Writing to his brother
says they were having some awful weather. For the last ten or twelve days they had nothing but rain or fog, which came over
the hill from the channel, "and it did not half come down either." Trenches had to be dug around the tents, but
these were quickly filled up. Some of the tents had been blown down and the fellows washed out. To make things more exciting
all had been vacinated and they had to fight all those difficulties with one arm. They were like a lot of wounded soldiers.
Some of the fellows' arms were the size of two and very stiff. The war cry at present was "Mind my arm." It
was quite amusing to see them, some with their arm in a sling and others with them strung down and as stiff as a poker, while
others could not get their arms into the sleeves of their coat. They had only light duty to do. Many had lost nights of sleep,
but after all they would be "all there" if they were needed for anything more exciting than the life of training.
There were men from all stations of life, but they were all on a level when in the ranks, and he was sure that after what
they had heard of the cruelty of the enemy every man of them would sacrifice his little bit in order to adjust matters."
There was a transition during the month at
last to hutted accommodation for some, various Mess Halls for both officers and men now being established on a more permanent
basis at the camp but there was however a question of the water supply. A special meeting of Wareham Town Council in Committee,
was held on the 14th November in response to a letter being received from the War Office to address the situation. The exact
details of the request by the military powers is unknown, possibly a matter of water extraction, but a resolution was arrived
and as a consequence duly agreed and carried. This was indeed timely as on the day previously, a detachment of the Army Service
Corps numbering about 350 men under the command of Captain William M.C. de Quesne Caillard had arrived at the camp, this detachment
forming the nucleus of the 17th Divisional Train, A.S.C.
A Musical Interlude: The "Blue Knuts."
On Tuesday the 1st December, a concert was held in order to assist the work of Dr. Banardo's Homes. The Western
Gazette published on the following Friday recorded the event held at Wareham:-
"On Tuesday evening the Oddfellows' Hall was crowded at a concert given by officers of the West Yorkshire
and Dorset Regiments now in camp. The hall is in use every night as a club for non-commissioned officers who gave it up that
evening to the "Blue Knuts," in order to assist the work of Dr. Barnardo's Homes. When the curtain drew up the
four "Knuts," clad in blue pyjamas, were seen comfortably seated in armchairs, from which they lazily emerged, advanced
to the footlights, and began to sing to the accompaniment of a piano played by another of the company. The officers thus disguised
were Capain Gartside, and Messrs. Stammers, Cutler, Aspinwall and Dutson (sic), assisted behind the scenes by Mr.
Burgess. The songs and dialogues showed much talent, both in music and acting, Captain Gartside especially proving himself
to be an actor of versatile gifts. The programme included the grave and gay judiciously mingled. Amogst many good pieces the
old man's song, "Memory, oh! memory" was the best. At the request of Mrs. Courtenay, president of the Wareham
Habitation of the Young Helpers' Leaugue of Dr. Barnardo's Homes, Canon Blackett, in the interval, made a brief and
earnest appeal for support to the Homes, which have already supplied 400 old "Barnardo boys" to the Canadian contingent
for the war, besides recruits and buglers to Kitchener's Army, and more than 200 trained boys to the Navy. Some of these
last have already been engaged in active service, and several have given up their lives for the defence of our shores. The
concert resulted in a sum of £8 being added to the income of the Homes."
(Authors Note: The Cast of this evening of fund raising and jovial entertainment consisted of Captain (Temporary)
Lionel Gartside and Temporary Second-Lieutenants Seymour Bernard Egerton Cutler, Guy Aspinwall and Sidney Robert Stammers,
all 10th West Yorkshire Regiment, and Temporary Second-Lieutenant Courtenay Duttson, 6th Dorsets).
The month of December witnessed the delivery and distribution of a large quantity of Old Pattern Lee-Enfield Rifles.
With a substantial supply of ammunition available a programme of musketry was initiated under the command of Major Sir Charles
Roderick Hunter, Bart., Musketry Staff Officer, 17th Division. A rifle range had been constructed on Hyde Heath near Bovington
but as Christmas approached, the men's thoughts turned to home and the possibility of some leave. The prolific letter
writing Ernest Hopkinson writing home to his parents stated that he believed that they would be at home either at Christmas
or in the New Year. An extract of two letters published in the Todmorden & District News dated the 4th of December recorded:-
"It would feel a treat to be in the old
village again. They were having some frosty weather and it felt nice to wash in ice-cold water first thing in the morning.
They were still under canvas, but as he had nine blankets and a warm overcoat to wrap himself at nights he did not feel much
of the cold. He had been transferred to the military police force for the camp. His duty was to keep all suspicious people
out of the camp and prevent their own fellows from leaving camp before five o'clock. They had to see that all lights were
out at 10-15 and take the fellows who made any bother prisoners. One man had been confined to camp for six weeks for striking
a sergeant, and had to report himself every half-hour. He was in the pink of health and getting fat, especially with being
a "bobby." In another letter he tenders his greatest thanks to all who contributed to the excellent parcel of comforts.
He had a few pairs of socks on hand, so he passed them on to those who were less fortunate than himself."
For one soldier of the 7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, there
was to be no festive celebrations but unfortunately an untimely death. Private James Palmer, 11240, had enlisted at Middlesbrough
in late August 1914. A married man of South Bank and employed at a Steel Works, the outbreak of the war empowered James to
escape the vagaries of his work and join Kitchener's Army. James would die of causes not known at present on the 22nd
of December 1915 and was subsequently laid to rest in Wareham Cemetery on the 29th of the month, the Reverend Thomas George
Brierley Kay officiating, Chaplain to the Forces. (Authors note: Believed to be James Oscar Palmer, husband of Ethel Palmer.
Ethel would remarry in June 1918 to one John Henry McSorley).
Information as to how the 10th West Yorkshire's spent their Christmas at Wareham is scarce, but for some, the
lucky few, there was no doubt leave granted to return home to their loved ones. The Leeds press records that various 'comfort
funds' were sending out numerous parcels to the battalions of the Regiment both at home and abroad however the History
of the Green Howards In The Great War by H.C. Wylly records that the men of the 7th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment,
had to partake of their Christmas repast, "with the floor for a table and a folded blanket for a tablecloth."
The New Year
Training continued as per programme but it was in January 1915 that there
was to be a change in command of the 17th (Northern) Division, Major-General Thomas David Pilcher C.B. now assuming command
due to resignation of Colonel Kenyon-Slaney. Pilcher had also experienced a colourful military career. Educated at Harrow,
Pilcher received a commission as a Second-Lieutenant into the Dublin City Militia Artillery in August 1878 (Authors note:
London Gazette dated 27th September 1878, Hart's Army List of 1896 however states June 1879). Transferring to the 22nd
Regiment of Foot in July 1879, shortly after his appointment Pilcher transferred once again to the 5th Regiment of Foot, later
designated the 5th (Northumberland Fusiliers) in 1881. Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in that year, in February 1886 the
rank of Captain was attained whereupon in November 1895 he was granted the rank of Deputy-Assistant Adjutant-General, Dublin,
(Army List 1896). Granted the rank of Major in November 1897, Pilcher was then promoted to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel
and placed in the command of the recently formed 1st Battalion, West African Frontier Force serving on the Niger between 1897
-1898. Promoted to the rank of Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in July 1899 and assuming a position as Second-in-Command of the
2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment in that year, the full rank of Colonel was granted in October 1900 after the termination
of the services of Lieutenant-Colonel Wentworth Odiarne Cavenagh. Employed on 'Special Service' and serving in the
South African War in command of the 3rd Mounted Infantry Regiment, Pilcher would witness numerous important engagements including
the Relief of Kimberley in February 1900. In April of the following year he was made an Aides-de-Camp (Extra) to the King
with the Brevet rank of Colonel and awarded the C.B. (Authors note: Awarded for services in South Africa up to the 29th November
1900). Upon his return to England, Pilcher assumed command of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division, 1st Army Corps at Aldershot
and was promoted to the rank of Temporary Brigadier-General in April 1904. Promoted to the rank of Major-General
in 1907, his tenure of this appointment ceased in this year that is until he was appointed a Brigade Commander in India in
December of that year. Finally, Pilcher was appointed to command the Burma Division in 1913 and made Colonel of the Bedfordshire
Regiment in April 1914. A published author, his private life was somewhat turbulent leading to two marriages however his pre-war
military concepts advocated the use of the machine-gun in heavier numbers, much against military doctrines of the time.
January had also witnessed the formation of a Divisional Pioneer Battalion, the 7th (Service) Battalion, York &
Lancaster Regiment being selected for this purpose, Officer Commanding, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Nicholl Byass. As
the war had progressed, it was soon recognised that there was a specific need for an organised labour force contained within
a division to carry out field engineering tasks such as the construction of trenches etc. and to assist in the duties performed
by the Field Companies of the Royal Engineers attached to the division. Before the formation of the Pioneers, it was often
the case that infantry at 'rest' were seconded to perform these duties, a far from ideal scenario. The 7th Yorks &
Lancs were a suitable choice for conversion to this role, the men of the battalion comprising of a vast majority of miners
from South Yorkshire, men such as Private Aaron Priest, a native of Wombwell, enlisted in August 1914 aged 21 years, Private
Thomas Froggatt of Rawmarsh, also enlisted in August 1914 aged 22, and Private Herbert Blower of Grimethorpe, Barnsley, who
had enlisted in September 1914 aged 29 years. Froggatt would succumb to wounds received during the closing stages of the Somme
offensive in 1916, Priest would be killed in action at Arras in April 1917 whilst Blower would die of the effects of gas poisoning
at a Casualty Clearing Station near Arras in the same month.
On the 12th of January, Second-Lieutenant Arthur Douglas Richardson of Kirklevington Grange, Kirklevington, Yorkshire,
died aged 28 years. A Sergeant in the Officer Training Corps at Rossall School, Fleetwood, Lancashire, Arthur originally enlisted
into the ranks of the Royal Fusiliers (Public Schools) Battalion on the outbreak of the war. Commissioned as a Second-Lieutenant
on the 2nd November 1914 and posted to the West Yorkshire Regiment, Arthur contracted enteric fever (typhoid) and died at
home at Kirklevington Grange. One of five sons who served their country before and during the war, one would be killed in
action, another in a submarine accident in 1912, of the remaining two brothers, they would both die as a direct result of
war service. (Yorkshire Evening Post dated 11th April, 1919).
still continued with drill, route marches and tactical schemes being initiated, a limited number of service rifles was issued
in addition to the new 1914 leather type infantry equipment. Command of the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
had also now changed, Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Kirwan Umfreville D.S.O. now assuming command (London Gazette appointment
30th March) vice Colonel Henry Walker who was placed on the Reserve of Officers.
Umfreville, a native of Kent, had already had a distinguished military career. Educated at Brighton College, he was
commissioned into the 3rd Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) on the 9th of April 1892 as a Second-Lieutenant.
Promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on the 5th of December 1894, he was subsequently posted to the 1st Battalion, Duke of Wellington's
(West Riding Regiment) on the 7th of December 1895 and the rank of Second-Lieutenant on augmentation. Posted overseas to Malta
in 1896, Harry acquired the rank of Lieutenant in February 1897 and returned to the United Kingdom in the following year.
Serving in the South African War with and witnessing numerous engagements including service with Hunter's Mounted Troops,
Lieutenant Umfreville was mentioned in Despatches twice and received the Queen's South African Medal (Four Clasps). Promoted
to the rank of Captain on the 1st of February 1902 and transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment, he was subsequently
seconded for service on the Staff (India) on the 15th of April 1904 and became a Superintendent of Gymnasia at Poona. Remaining
in this capacity until 1908, Supernumerary Captain Umfreville was eventually placed on the Reserve of Officers in 1911. Rejoining
the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment) upon the outbreak of the war, he joined the battalion in
the field at Missy-sur-Aisne on the 16th September 1914 whilst they were engaged in the Battle of the Aisne. (Authors note:
Embarked however on the 8th of September 1914). Wounded on the 11th November 1914 near the Ypres-Menin Road and evacuated
to England, Captain Umfreville was awarded the D.S.O., London Gazette dated the 18th of February 1915.
In the camp, there was however unfortunately still instances of theft, one
man from the 6th Dorsets who could not be identified, selling provisions destined for the Officers Mess to a Potato Merchant
from Wareham, this 'peculation' it soon became apparent, being prevalent in all of the camps. The month of March would
also witness yet another unfortunate death of a man belonging to the Division, one Provost Sergeant Charles Ernest Stevens,
3/9231, of the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, who died on the 7th of the month. Originally a resident
of Leeds, the Leeds Mercury dated Friday, 12th March 1915, recorded the following:-
"The funeral took place at Wareham Parish Church, Dorset, with full military honours, on Wednesday, of the
late Sergt. C.E. Stevens, of the 10th (Service) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. The scene was a very impressive one. The
drums and fifes of the battalion and the regimental band of the 6th Battalion Dorsets played en route to the church. The deceased
sergeant was an old pensioner having served twenty-one years with the Oxfordshires, now the Oxford and Bucks. Light Infantry.
Before the war broke out he was employed as a postman at Wakefield, having been transferred from Leeds to Morley and from
there to Wakefield. The late sergeant's parents live in St. Jame's-square (sic) and a married sister in the Stoney
Rock district. Up to the time of his death, which took place on Sunday, he was Provost Sergeant of the battalion."
At Number 18, Saint James Square and at Stoney Rock in Burmantofts, news
of the death of a son and brother was received with a heavy heart. After 18 years service with the Colours with both the 1st
and 2nd Battalions of the Oxford and Bucks in far flung continents of the world, Charles had died aged just 44 years.
There was still instances of ill discipline amongst the ranks. One soldier it was reported in the Lichfield Mercury
had deserted the 10th West Yorkshire's at Wareham in March but had been apprehended. It was no wonder however that discipline
was hard to maintain as the soldiers in training at Wareham were still very much reliant on the generosity of various public
bodies. One request to the Voluntary Aid Detachment Headquarters located at Hull from the 7th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire
Regiment at Wareham stated that they required "1000 pairs of socks, 200 shirts, 200 pants and 50 Cardigan jackets."
There is no doubt that this 'reliance' on the generosity of the public must have had a certain effect on morale. In
some circles this may have been viewed by the men as a rather 'unmindful' attitude adopted by the War Office to attend
to the men's needs. Suffice to say, the needs of those fighting at the front were of paramount importance but this indifferent
approach to the men who had volunteered for the New Armies, specifically the 10th West Yorkshire's, must have been a bitter
pill for those who had enlisted at Leeds. News in the form of letters and the local press must have reached Wareham that on
the 28th April, the Leeds "Pals" were to march to Ripon from their camp at Colsterdale and receive a civic 'welcome'
complete with bunting, the Leeds Mercury reporting "that they had had a rough time during the winter."
Had not the men of the 17th (Northern) Division? A 'poem' of sorts appeared in the Harrogate Herald dated the 16th
June 1915 and summed up the mood of those men who had volunteered to join the 50th Infantry Brigade. Entitled "THE
FORGOTTEN BRIGADE" (A Tragedy), the 'poem' is lengthy but the Author will include some verses that are particularly
relevant to these men of Kitchener's Army:-
hist'ry of war is full of brave acts, Of men who have shone in retreats and attacks, We all know the story, that never
can fade, Of the gallant charge of the "Light Brigade." And with pride we remember the glorious day, When we held
fifty thousand Germans at bay, But the grandest stand a brigade ever made, Was the long weary stand of the "Forgotten
This famous Brigade was
composed of the best, "The Dorsets," "Yorks-Lancs.," the Yorks. East and West." If the Huns only
saw them - my word; it would scare 'em; But alas! this Brigade was forgotten, at Wareham. They joined in their youth and
trained night and day, But now some are dead, and some old and grey, Some are still training and some in graves laid, Out
of Wareham "None" came of the "Forgotten Brigade."
May: The Arrival Of A New Commander Of The 50th Infantry Brigade
The month of May would commence with a change in command of the 50th Infantry
Brigade when Temporary Brigadier-General Frederick Lionel Banon took command vice Colonel Charles Tom Reay C.B. who was placed
on Retired Pay. Born at York in 1862, Banon was the son of Richard George Davys Banon, a Staff Surgeon Major in the Army,
formerly of the 87th Foot. Commissioned on the 9th September 1882 from the Royal Military College and granted the rank of
Lieutenant, Banon would be posted to the 2nd Battalion, King's (Shropshire Light Infantry) on augmentation. Transferred
to the 1st Battalion of the Regiment on the 24th October 1883, Banon would witness service with the battalion in the Expedition
to the Soudan (Sudan) in 1885 and was awarded the Egypt Medal and Clasp in addition to the Khedive's Star.
Upon his return to the United Kingdom, Banon was seconded for service with
the Army Service Corps on the 2nd of July 1889 and took up a posting at Dublin. Promoted to the rank of Captain on the 1st
of January 1890, Supernumerary, Shropshire Light Infantry, Banon subsequently entered the Staff College, Sandhurst in 1897,
passing in December 1898. Promoted to the rank of Major, K.S.L.I. on the 11th of August 1900, he was posted as an Assistant
to the Military Governor of Johannesburg (Colonel Colin John Mackenzie) and graded as a Deputy-Assistant Adjutant-General
(London Gazette appointment dated the 6th of June 1900). Serving in the South African War from November 1899, in addition
to his duties as Assistant to the Military Governor, he temporarily commanded Columns and was also in command of the 17th
Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry. Witnessing various actions between 1900-1902, he was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded The
Queen's South Africa Medal (Four Clasps) and the King's South Africa Medal (Two Clasps) respectively.
Upon returning home, Banon relinquished command of the 17th Battalion, Imperial
Yeomanry however on the 29th of August 1902, he was appointed the Deputy-Assistant Quartermaster-General, Dublin District,
on the 11th of November. On the 11th of November 1903, Major Banon retained his rank but was posted to the 3rd Army Corps,
vacating this position on the 4th of December 1905 (London Gazette dated the 5th of January 1906). Taking up a position as
a Deputy Assistant Adjutant General at the Staff College, Sandhurst, General Staff Officer, 2nd Grade and also and promoted
to the rank of Brevet Colonel on the 23rd of December 1905, Banon acquired 1st Grade status on the 1st of January 1909 (London
Gazette dated the 5th of January 1909). Promoted to the rank of Colonel on the 9th of November 1909 and placed on the Half-pay
List in December 1909, Banon was appointed Assistant Adjutant-General at the War Office on the 14th of July 1910 (London Gazette
dated the 22nd of July).
After completion of his
period of service on the Staff, Banon was once again placed on the Half-pay List on the 7th of March 1915 but was promoted
to the rank of Temporary Brigadier-General vice Colonel Reay C.B. on the 6th May 1915 as previously stated. There is no doubting
the experience that Banon possessed both in organisational skills and courage on the field of battle. These attributes would
stand him and the men of the 50th Infantry Brigade in good stead in the trying months to follow.
During the last quarter, orders were issued to strike camp at a moments notice.
On the 27th and after feverish activity to assemble equipment stores etc., the division was ordered to proceed by route of
march to various camps and billets located in the area of Winchester. The History Of The 17th (Northern) Division by A.
Hilliard Atteridge records that the columns of infantry set forth on the afternoon of the 27th before bivouacking on
the first leg of their journey at Cranford Park near Wimbourne. On the second day of their route march, Somerley Park on the
borders of Hampshire and Dorset was reached and on the third day, the men marched through the New Forest to Lyndhurst whereupon
on Tuesday, 1st June (Atteridge states Sunday), the division were distributed in camps and billets to the south and west of
The infantry now resumed their training,
the latter now including visits to Fovant Camp on Salisbury Plain where musketry courses were conducted on the ranges. The
infantry of the division was also to be joined in the early days of the month of June by their respective Divisional Artillery,
the 78th, 79th and 80th Brigades, R.F.A., in addition to the 81st Brigade (Howitzers), their commanders being Lieutenant-Colonels
Edward Henry Willis, Harrison, George Ambrose Cardew and Reginald Stanley Hardman.
It was in June however that General Pilcher received the news that the 17th (Northern) Division were to be earmarked
for home defence duties along with one other division of K2 establishment. It must have proved to be a bitter blow
but with the threat of enemy invasion likely, it was no doubt deemed a necessary course of action. No sooner had the division
concentrated however and were preparing to move to a designated defence centre in either the Midlands or one of the eastern
counties of England, the War Office rescinded the order on the 5th July with immediate effect. The 17th (Northern) Division
were now with immediate effect, ordered to proceed on overseas service and as a consequence of these orders, all mounted units
with transport and horses of dismounted units, were to proceed from Winchester to Southampton and embark for Le Havre between
the 12th July - 15th July. In addition to these units, a party of 3 officers and 108 Other Ranks drawn from each infantry
battalion were also to embark, the respective infantry battalions of each brigade however were to be transported by train
to Folkestone whereupon they would embark for Boulogne. (Source: Atteridge. Authors note: Transport will have consisted of
Machine Gun Section, Regimental Transport etc.).
Embarkation For The Western Front
Embarkation details for the 10th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment unfortunately do not exist or have
not survived however we can glean some information as to the rather complex programme of embarkation from the other constituent
units of the 50th Infantry Brigade and the division as a whole. For example on the 12th of July, the advance party of the
6th (Service) Battalion, Dorsetshire Regiment numbering 3 officers and 96 Rank and File and all their transport, embarked
at Southampton for Le Havre on the S.S. City of Dunkirk, commandeered as a troop ship from the Ellerman City Line.
On the following day, the infantry embarked at Folkestone on the S.S. Saint Cecilia bound for Boulogne. Also on the
13th July, the 7th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, embarked at Folkestone on the T.S.S. Queen, formerly
owned by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway however there is no mention of any advance party being formed in the pages
of the War Diary.
As regards Charley Brown's
date of landing at Boulogne, an examination of his Medal Index Card (M.I.C.) indicates his entry into the theatre of operations
as the 13th July 1915. There is however, a variation in disembarkation dates; George Falls, 12762, 12th July, Frederick Fletcher,
12768, 13th July but the dates of disembarkation becomes more apparent in the officers of the battalion. Second-in-Command
Temporary Major Joseph Ernest Crabtree (12th July), Captain Lionel Gartside (11th July), Captain/Adjutant, John Humphrey Berkley
(13th July) and Quartermaster John James Green (13th July). It is difficult to exactly determine which officers comprised
the advanced party, and this in itself, warrants further research.
Western Front: The March To The Front
The 50th Infantry Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division, now began to assemble and concentrate at Boulogne. It is of
interest to note that the respective War Diaries of the 7th Yorkshire's, 7th East Yorkshire's and the 6th Dorset's
record that at first they moved into billets located at Ostrohove Camp on high ground to the east of the town, the War Diary
of the 10th West Yorkshire's however does not record their intial place of encampment. At 3.30 p.m. on the afternoon of
the 14th, the West Yorkshire's entrained at Pont-de-Briques to the south-east of Boulogne and proceeding by rail, the
battalion arrived at Lumbres, south-west of Saint Omer, at 10 p.m. Upon detrainment, the battalion then proceeded by route
of march southwards towards the hamlet of Ouve-Wirquin which was reached at 4 a.m. on the morning of the 15th. The 50th Infantry
Brigade now remained in billets both in Lumbres and hamlets to the south of the latter for a period of two days. Even though
the brigade had only just detrained in France, there even at this early stage been lessons to be learned as regards the formation
of advance parties to organise suitable accommodation prior to the arrival of their respective battalions. Upon marching to
Remilly-Wirquin, the 7th Yorkshire's found much to their dismay that billets had not been allocated to Signallers, Transport,
the Machine Gun Section and other Headquarters details but at least it was dry and fine and the men were not exposed to the
vagaries of inclement summer weather.
period of rest, the brigade now marched to Arques, the 10th West Yorkshire's departing Ouve-Wirquin at 7.30 a.m on the
morning of the 18th and arriving at the town at noon whereupon they proceeded to billet. For the Dorset's, the route to
Arques had proved to be problematic from the outset, other troops frequently crossing the route of march with no apparent
regulation in the flow of traffic. On the following day, the West Yorkshire's resumed their march at 8.45 a.m., the ultimate
destination of the battalion in brigade being Steenvoorde located to the south-west of Poperinghe (Poperinge). Although there
are no details of the route of march recorded in the War Diary, the latter of the East Yorkshire's records that this battalion
proceeded via Fort Rouge (east of Arques and west of Renescure) and in a north-westerly direction to Oxelaere just to the
south of Cassel. At Oxelaere there was a halt in the timetable for the duration of half an hour but this was extended by a
further thirty minutes in order to pick up all stragglers of all regiments of the brigade. This was due, the diary of the
East Yorkshire's noted, "reason assumed to be the unnecessary amount of water consumed." The march
was trying indeed and due to the cobbled roads and also the topography of the route of march, the latter being directed to
avoid the higher ground around the Cassel area and in particular the Mont Cassel on which the town was situated. Despite this,
it was an uphill march in hot and sultry conditions, the 6th Dorset's recording that five men were ambulance cases and
that seventeen rank and file fell out of the line. Steenvoorde was reached by the West Yorkshire's at 3.30 p.m. on the
afternoon of the 19th whereupon the men proceeded to billet, however, the latter were found to be scattered and poor.
With artillery fire being heard intermittently in the distance, on the following
morning the 50th Infantry Brigade were inspected by General Sir Herbert Plumer K.C.B., G.O.C., Second Army. No doubt pleased
as he often was to have Yorkshire battalion's under his command, the men set about drill and various inspections, the
War Diary of the 7th Yorkshire Regiment also recording that there were experiments conducted with gas and smoke helmets, vital
protection against the enemy's use of chemical agents. Orders were now issued for the brigade to move by road to La Clytte
(Klijte), south-west of Ypres and into the area of operations of Fifth Corps, Second Army, the corps being under the command
of Temporary Lieutenant-General Sir Edmund Allenby K.C.B. Once again, the War Diary of the 10th West Yorkshire's furnishes
no details as regards the route of march but that of the 7th East Yorkshire's records that the brigade marched through
the night in driving rain and once again under trying conditions. The brigade proceeded westwards via the impressive Mont
des Cats and Mont Noir onwards through Westoutre (Westouter) before La Clytte was reached by the 10th West Yorkshire's
at 3 a.m. on the morning of the 23rd. The diary of the 6th Dorset's records that during the march, the men's waterproof
groundsheets were utilised as capes, this proving to be an effective method of at least keeping the men dry to a certain extent.
Upon arrival at La Clytte, the camp consisted of hutted accommodation that was woefully inadequate. To emphasise
the dangers presented by the Ypres Salient, during the morning two German aircraft, Taube monoplanes, flew low over
the camp but fortunately there was no incident. At 8 a.m. on the morning of the 24th and following procedures of the other
units of the brigade, some who had moved into trenches in the Kemmel Sector, "A" Company and two machine guns of
the 10th West Yorkshire's left La Clytte for a period of trench familiarisation with the 1/6th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters
(Notts. & Derby) Regiment, 139th Infantry Brigade, 46th (North Midland) Division in the trenches at Sanctuary Wood. Following
this detachment, at 8 p.m. two platoons of "B" Company also entered the line referred to as the "J"
Trenches in respect of the designated map square. Familiarisation duties continued on the following day when at 8 p.m.
the two remaining platoons of "B" also entered the line, the two platoons of the latter that had gone in the day
before returning at 11 p.m. On the 26th, 9 and 10 platoons moved into the "J" Trenches (no company designation)
at 8 p.m. whilst platoons 5 and 6 returned at 11 p.m., presumably the two platoons of "B" Company that had entered
the line the day previously. Number 5 Platoon however had suffered one casualty one Private Hall, 18027, being severely wounded
and subsequently evacuated. At 11 p.m. on the night of the 27th, numbers 9 and 10 platoons returned followed by "A"
Company and the two attached machine guns at 2 a.m. on the morning of the 28th, later that evening at 8 p.m., 11 and 12 platoons
also moved forward to the "J" Trenches (no company designation). Although evacuated, Private Arthur William
Hall, a married man with a large family of Girlington, Bradford, succumbed to his wounds at the 85th (3rd London) Field Ambulance
of the 28th Division aged 33 years, the first man of the battalion to fall in action.
|Part Of Sheet 28, Hooge, Second Edition, Sheet 5, Trenches Corrected To 23/12/15
There were many complaints made about the leather equipment issued
but as regards operational needs, working parties were furnished under rather poor guidance of the Royal Engineers. It was
found that these working parties consisted of more men than was actually required and were ill informed, the latter specifically
regarding rear or front areas of the sector that were deemed to be particularly dangerous. The death of one man on the 30th
of July, Private Forester Bennett, 15121, a native of Derbyshire, was directly attributed to this lack of intelligence sharing.
Upon the battalion being 'bloodied,' the latter in brigade moved
back to La Clytte whereupon a programme of training was initiated in the use of bombs, signalling and stretcher bearer duties,
utilising the skills of other battalions in the sector who were at 'rest.'
Orders were now issued for the 17th (Northern) Division to take over the St. Eloi Sector
however the 6th Dorsets, orders cancelled, were to proceed on attachment to the 7th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Division to commence
a relief of the 2nd Rifle Brigade at La Brique.