Son of Alfred and Fanny Adkin of Wentworth Terrace, Westgate, Wetherby.
Jessie was born at Wetherby in 1896 to parents Alfred, occupation, a Plumber in the employ
of James Hodgson, Plumbers of Wetherby, and Fanny Adkin. The Adkin family, prior to Jessie's birth, had resided in premises
located in Belle Vue Terrace, Guiseley, but within the last twelve months the family had relocated to Wetherby, Abraham Jessie
Adkin being baptized at Saint James Parish Church on the 25th March by the then Curate, William Thomas Gifford.
One of ten children born, tragedy was to strike the family in 1904 when Alfred, aged just 43 years, unfortunately
died as a result of falling down some stairs at Linton Springs, Sicklinghall Road, whilst at work.
The 1911 Census
records that at this juncture, Jessie had found employment as a Groom/Gardener, his mother and one of his sisters, Lavinia,
running a Laundry from the family residence. George Parr Adkin, the eldest son, continued to work at the offices of the Wetherby
News as a Compositor/Printer, an association that would last for over 50 years. Following in his father's footsteps, Jessie
at some point between 1911-13 also became a Plumber, finding employment with his father's old firm of Hodgson's, Plumbers
Jessie was also active in sporting circles, the family as a whole being renowned in the cricket
fraternity throughout the district. Choosing to play football as opposed to the crack of the willow, he along with four other
team mates of the Wetherby Corinthians, Arthur William Hodgson, George Kitchen, Charles Winterburn, Edgar Telford and Frederick
Atkinson would join the ranks of the 5th West Yorkshire's.
Jessie enlisted into the 5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, a battalion
of the Territorial Force, in May, 1913 aged 17 years and 3 months. Formed as a result of the Haldane Reforms from the old
Militia and administered by the Territorial Force County Associations, the men of the battalion were recruited locally. With
company drill halls located across the county and with Headquarters based at Colliergate, York, the various companies would
be assembled together for annual camp once a year. Jessie, allocated the serial number 1430, would join the ranks of "F"
Company who in addition to having a Drill Station located at Harrogate, also had a station located in Wetherby Town Hall.
The men would train either in the week or at weekends in the Town Hall, enlistment requiring that the men attended a specific
number of drills during their term of engagement in addition to fulfilling other conditions of service. The Officer Commanding
the Wetherby Station was soon to be one Second-Lieutenant Charles Ellis Foulds, commissioned, June 1913, a Bank Clerk employed
by the London City & Midland Bank, Wetherby. A notable Hockey player, Foulds was also a member of Wetherby Golf Club and
in later life would reside in premises located at Boston Spa.
The terms of
Jessie's enlistment in the Territorial Force were 4 years service in the United Kingdom with no obligation to serve overseas
however if the man signed the Imperial Service Obligation he then became liable to serve in any place outside of
the United Kingdom in the event of National Emergency. The man would then be issued with the Territorial Force Imperial Service
Badge, a clear statement of his intentions to serve overseas, the badge being worn over the right breast pocket.
Witnessing the Attestation was Sergeant Harry Westerman, a long standing member of the Territorial Force and a resident
of the High Street, Wetherby. The Attesting Officer was one Captain Edward Peel Cross who had formerly served with the 1st
Volunteer Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment before its creation into the 5th Battalion of the Regiment, an amalgamation of
the York and Claro Rifle Volunteers with stations located at Knareborough, Harrogate and Ripon. A Harrogate solicitor, Cross
would later be appointed Adjutant to the 5th Battalion in October 1914.
medical examination was then conducted by Lieutenant Percy Gordon Williamson, a medical practitioner from Harrogate and an
officer with the 5th West Yorkshire Regiment. Jessie was therefore described as 5 feet 4 and a quarter inches in height with
a chest measurement, girth, when fully expanded, of 34 and a half inches with a range of expansion of 2 inches. Vision was
described as "Good" was physical development was recorded as "Fair." Considered "Fit"
for service with the Territorial Force, the Certificate Of Primary Military Examination was then signed by the
Recruiting Officer, Captain Cross before being signed at York by the Approving Officer, Hon. Major & Quartermaster James
Richard Hill for the Lieutenant-Colonel. (Authors note: Arthur Robert Morrell).
Private Jesse Adkin, 1430, had now
effectively enlisted for a period of four years in the Territorial Force.
The 5th West
Yorkshire's were contained in the 1/1st West Riding Brigade of the 1st West Riding (Territorial) Division, the Brigade
consisting of the following units:-
5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
West Yorkshire Regiment
7th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds Rifles)
8th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
Brigade Commander Colonel O'Donnell Colley Grattan D.S.O.
Annual Training Obligation:
Attending drills at Wetherby Town Hall it was in late July 1913 that
Jessie attended his first camp. For men not accustomed or to have the means to take a holiday away from home the chance to
travel to pastures new must have proved to be quite a novelty. The West Riding (Territorial) Division now found itself camped
in the vicinity of Aberystwyth, Wales, for a period of two weeks training. Infantry, artillery and engineers to name but a
few of the constituent units that formed the division now busied themselves in glorious summer weather performing a myriad
of exercises and tasks under the watchful eye of Major-General Thomas Stanford Baldock, G.O.C. West Riding Division whose
Headquarters were located at Lovesgrove. As the men of the Territorial Force had assembled for camp, the numbers of men who
presented themselves for annual training depicted the true state of the shortfall in recruitment to the T.F. The Yorkshire
Evening Post dated the 11th July 1913 announced the true strength of West Riding Division as of the 30th June 1913 in contrast
to the strength of the division a year previously. Overall there had been a decrease of 1,572 men and the division now required
3,210 non-commissioned to bring it up to strength. In the case of the 1/1st West Riding Brigade, the decrease was as follows:-
5th West Yorkshire's 755* 623
6th West Yorkshire's 770*
7th West Yorkshire's 851* 590
8th West Yorkshire's 698* 638
* Denotes Strength as of 1912
The weather for
the time of year was stifling to say the least and for some men, the hot weather proved to be too much to bear, pushing their
tolerance to and over the limit. Provost Sergeant John Walsh of the 7th Battalion, West Riding Regiment, was in charge of
the Guard Tent and had confessed to one Private Hills that "life was not worth living" and had asked to
borrow a razor. Quartermaster-Sergeant John Day had also noticed that something was wrong when Walsh arrived at the camp noticing
that he "looked depressed and downhearted" but he could not get to the bottom of what was wrong with him.
At about 7.50 on the morning of the 31st July he was discovered in the Guard Tent by Private J. Pontefract in the act of cutting
his own throat with a razor. Horrified, the Private grabbed Walsh's arm causing him to drop the razor and immediately
shouted for the ambulance whereupon Major Louis Petro Demetriadi M.D., F.R.C.S. who was instructing men close by ran to the
tent. The scene was horrific and the self inflicted wound to Walsh of a deep and severe nature, the Sergeant being supported
by two men. Walsh was removed to the field hospital and later to the hospital at Aberystwyth but unfortunately died of his
injuries on the 2nd August with his wife present at his bedside. A native of Huddersfield with a large family, John Walsh
aged 45 had previously served with the Colours for a period of twenty one years and had witnessed service in the South African
War. Complaining of pains in his head upon his return, a verdict of "suicide whilst of unsound mind" was
returned at his inquest, John being buried with full military honours on the afternoon of the 6th August.
Despite the tragic suicide, the division continued to carry out its training schedule. At a Church Parade on the
4th August, Sergeant Frederick Valentine Acton, 392, a native of York, was presented with the Territorial Efficiency Medal
by the Officer Commanding 5th West Yorkshire's, Colonel Morrell. The event was no doubt overshadowed by another attempt
at suicide when a Caterer, supplying the needs in the Officers Mess of the 7th and 8th Battalions, Leeds Rifles, attempted
to cut his own throat. Worried by the lack of supplies and also affected by the heat, this well known Caterer from Leeds attempted
suicide with a table knife but fortunately this proved to be too blunt to cause serious injury. So violent was his intent
however that it took six men to hold him down, the unfortunate man upon showing no improvement in his mental state, being
removed to the Carmarthen Asylum some days later.
During the afternoon of the 4th August,
the West Riding Division were inspected by Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer K.C.B., General Officer Commanding-in-Chief,
Northern Command, who had arrived to observe and pass comments on manoeuvres. The culmination of the annual camp took place
for Jessie and the men of the 5th West Yorkshire's on Friday, 8th August. With the West Riding Division assembling over
9000 men, the exercise involved the landing of a supposed Irish Force near Aberystwith, a Welsh Force under the command of
Captain Robert Kingsbury Healing, Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster-General, Commands and Staff, Territorial Force
being sent from Brecon to get in touch with their outposts near the Devil's Bridge.
The West Riding
Division, Major-General Thomas Stanford Baldock C.B. in overall command of the exercise, would operate under their own brigade
commanders. 1st West Riding Brigade consisting of the four constituent West Yorkshire Regiment battalions were tasked with
an attack on the Welsh force's left flank supported on the right by the Yorkshire Light Infantry and Yorks & Lancashire
battalions of the 3rd West Riding Brigade. With the exercise being observed by Lieutenant-General Plumer, by noon the operation
was developing into a general attack on the positions held by the Welsh Force, the men of 3rd Brigade then moving forward
in open formation suitably covered by the moorland vegetation. With the Division being supported by the guns 10th (Otley)
and 11th (Ilkley) Batteries, 4th West Riding (Howitzer) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery firing live ordnance, it was now the
turn of the 2nd West Riding Brigade who performed a flanking manoeuvre that successfully reached the summit of a hill from
which a commanding and dominant position was obtained over the left flank of the Welsh Force. Opening fire at a distance of
2000 yards, the position adopted by Healing's Force proved to be virtually impregnable and by 1 p.m. fighting still continued
in the centre of the field of operations. When the engagement was finally brought to a close at 2 p.m., Lieutenant-General
Plumer brought together all the commanders present for a conference whereupon the exercise was annalised and vital tactical
lessons to be learnt were no doubt brought to the fore.
A "Special Correspondent"
writing a series of articles in The Times newspaper summed up his news feed on the two weeks annual training. The infantry,
especially those of the 1st West Riding Brigade, were described on the whole as "soldier like" however the presence
of so many youths lacking in certain physical attributes somewhat nullified their ranks. Particular criticism was aimed at
the men hailing from the cities of Bradford and Leeds, their employers and the lack of support for the Territorial Force in
general. According to the opinion of the "Special Correspondent," this was due to a widespread belief in part
of the theories of Norman Angell that militarism was obsolete due to the far reaching integration of the economies of Europe.
Comments proved to be more favourable regarding the divisions artillery and auxiliary arms but the underlying tone of the
aforementioned article was that the infantry contained too many youths unfit for military service.
With the storm clouds of war just one year away, the officers and men of the West Riding Division would be mobilised.
Not yet regarded by some as efficient in all military aspects, further training by committed officers and N.C.O.'s would
eventually mould Jessie and the men of the division into an efficient and well disciplined fighting force.
In July 1914, the Drill Stations of
the 5th West Yorkshire Regiment busied themselves in preparation for their annual camp. At Wetherby, Second-Lieutenant Foulds
recorded the names of the men as they mustered in preparation to join the remainder of the battalion who were assembling at
York. Entraining at the railway station, the battalion journeyed to their annual camp, this year to be held at the east coast
resort of Scarborough. Upon arrival, the Regimental Band assembled at the head of the column as the men were arranged in order
of march. As the band struck up, the battalion proceeded by route of march to Scarborough Racecourse located near Seamer where
they would spend their fortnight of annual training.
With the weather once again the epitome
of a lazy English summer day with crowds strolling the promenades of the North and South Bays of the town, the men were at
liberty to enjoy the amenities and pleasures of the spa resort, the date, the 4th August 1914.
the men, back at camp, activity had suddenly reached fever pitch as orders had been received by the battalion to mobilise
and to entrain for York with immediate effect. This necessitated the difficult task of the rounding up of all of the men in
the town but by late evening the task had been completed, the men marching to the train station bound for the Regimental Depot
located at York.
Training & Coastal Defence Duties
With York a hive of activity, orders were then issued for the 1/1st West Riding Infantry Brigade to begin to concentrate
at Selby on the 10th August 1914. Just over a week later the brigade moved once again to York and Strensall where at the latter
place there now commenced an intense period of training with endless marches across Strensall Common, the camp itself reduced
to a veritable quagmire due to heavy rainfall with cold nights to dampen the mens spirits further. It was whilst at Strensall
in September that men who had not as yet signed the overseas service obligation, Army Form E 624 proceeded to do so. The witness
to this act of signing was the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Ernest Wood V.D., Wood having being appointed
to command the battalion upon the death of Colonel Morrell in March 1914.
There were however
men rejoining the ranks of the battalion and in particular one face amongst many must have proved to be more than welcome
to the lads from Wetherby. The indomitable former Sergeant Harry Westerman of St. James Street, although time expired, had
now re-enlisted at York on the 18th August. An experienced soldier who had witnessed the signature of many a young man from
Wetherby into the 5th Battalion, the need for his experience and standing in the unit was reflected by his promotion to the
rank of Corporal in little over one month. Authors note: Harry possibly enlisting from the Territorial Force Reserve.
In August, one of Jessie's brothers, Edgar Leonard Adkin, a married man and a Postman from Otley, had rejoined
the Colours from the Reserve. A Boer War Veteran, Sergeant Adkin, 5845, was posted overseas along with his unit, the 1st Battalion,
West Yorkshire Regiment on the 8th September 1914. Reported as missing in action on the 20th September near Troyon, Chemin
des Dames located to the north of Reims, the Adkin family were notified that Edgar was fortunately alive and a Prisoner of
War in Germany.
With the perceived threat of an enemy invasion on the east coast of England,
the constituent units of the West Riding Division now found themselves posted to various strategic positions to perform coastal
defence duties such as the guarding of dock areas and the construction of trenches and dug outs on the coast line itself.
With the division now concentrated in Lincolnshire by late 1914, in mid January 1915 all battalions were reorganised from
an eight company structure to that of four. Authors note: Although the designation of the actual company in which Jessie served
is not recorded in surviving service documents, a great number of men who had enlisted from Wetherby were to found in serving
in the ranks of "C" Company.
Operations On The Western
It was in March 1915 that the British Army launched their first offensive
of the year at Neuve Chapelle in the Artois region of northern France. Despite an initial breakthrough of the German defence
system, this penetration of the line was not exploited due to a number of factors such as poor communications and the
ability of the enemy to quickly reorganise and regain the initiative. With the offensive resulting in over 11,000 British
and Indian casualties, back in Lincolnshire the West Riding Division were busy in preparations for departure to the front.
In early April the men underwent a medical prior to service overseas and were inoculated against Typhoid. On the 9th April
1915 the 1/1st West Riding Brigade completed concentration at Gainsborough, orders being issued on the 14th to prepare for
programme for embarkation was complex with some of the brigade departing for overseas service from Folkestone and some from
Southampton. Transport of the 5th West Yorkshire's numbering 3 officers and 86 Other Ranks plus horses and wheeled vehicles
would depart Gainsborough Station at 3 a.m. on the morning of the 14th, arriving at Southampton Docks at 11 a.m. Embarking
at the latter port, the Transport along with other transports of the brigade would disembark at Le Havre. Headquarters and
half of the battalion numbering 17 officers and 461 O/R's would then depart Gainsborough at 12 noon on the 15th, arriving
at Folkestone at 7.40 p.m. The remainder of the battalion numbering 14 officers and 457 O/R's would then leave the station
half an hour later, arriving at Folkestone twenty minutes after H.Q. and the first party. The battalion, minus transport,
then proceeded to embark on the S.S. "Invicta," a former cross-channel passenger ship, arriving at Boulogne
on the 16th.