Albert was born in 1892 to parents, Robert Webster, occupation, Shoe
Maker, and Catherine Webster, of the High Street, Clifford.
unfortunately died in 1893, possibly in childbirth, whereupon Robert remarried and the family relocated to South Kirkby, South
By 1911, 'Kelly's Directory of the West
Riding' records that Robert and family, were now residing and conducting business as a Shoe Maker at premises
located in Victoria Street, Wetherby.
Little is known of Albert's early life but it is possible that he followed
in the footsteps of his father in the family business.
In 1913 Albert was married at Wetherby to one Gladys Nettleton,
daughter of John Nettleton, a self employed Laundryman, and Annie Nettleton, of 'The Laundry,' Highfield Terrace,
Wetherby. The young couple would eventually set up their marital home at 14, St. James Street, Wetherby. Authors note: It
would appear that both Albert and George, his brother, were courting two sisters, Gladys and Beatrice Nettleton respectively.
George would also marry his 'sweetheart' in the same year, 1913. Both marriages would be blessed with the birth of
four children. An analysis of Births recorded in Wetherby indicates that Albert and Gladys had their first child, Eric, in
the autumn of 1913, followed by a daughter, Kathleen, in the autumn of 1914.
Authors note: A newspaper article
dated January 1915 provides a fascinating insight into the Webster family's associations with the military both past and
The article records that three sons Albert, Herbert
and John had all joined the Colours, one son George however, had been rejected on account of his eyesight. Further research
indicates that George, residing at Deighton Gates, occupation, Builder/Bricklayer and married to Glady's sister Beatrice,
would be accepted for military service in November 1916 serving with the Royal Engineers. He would not be posted overseas
but would serve at Home on the Firth of Forth Coastal Defences.
Furthermore, the article also states that in addition
to the three sons of the Webster family serving at this period in early 1915, five nephews and one grandson had also joined
As regards the Nettleton family, an examination of surviving service documents records that the youngest
son, William, also enlisted. After serving with the Territorials, William would eventually be posted to the 1st Battalion,
Lincolnshire Regiment, a Regular Army unit, whereupon he would survive a gunshot wound to the hand and also the effects of
gas, only to be captured and made a Prisoner of War on the 29th September, 1918.
Finally it is apparent that the
Webster family possessed a military lineage stretching back to the Napoleonic War. Robert Henry Webster's Great Grandfather,
a native of Helmsley, North Yorkshire, had fought at the Battle of Waterloo. Standing at over six foot two inches in height,
he had received a sabre cut to the back of his neck causing his head to droop for the rest of his life. Robert recalled that
this however did not handicap the gentleman and that his last recollection of him was at the ripe old age of 96 years.
Recruitment & Attestation
Albert attested for
service at Wetherby Town Hall on or about the 31st August 1914. The terms of enlistment were a Short Service obligation, i.e.
three years with the Colours however it was stated that if the War lasted longer than three years, the recruit would be retained
until the cessation of hostilities.
As the men waited
to enlist, Army protocol declared had the prospective recruit received Notice and understood its meaning and who gave the
Notice to them. On confirmation by the potential recruit, Army Form B. 2065 was first signed by Rowland Meyrick, the issuer
of the Notice before recruitment could commence. The latter had proved to be very brisk, principally due to the efforts of
a number of individuals, but it was Mr. Rowland Meyrick of Hall Orchards, a Land Agent for the Montague estates, that was
the major protagonist encouraging many a young Wetherby man to "take the King's shilling."
A newspaper article dated September 1914 provides an insight as to his activities
as an unpaid
and night he worked with the greatest enthusiasm and wherever young men were, in the cottage, in the harvest field and street,
there he was to be found, exercising his persuasive powers and the young men answered nobly to his call.
Some men at
first however, had their reservations on joining the Colours;
One young fellow, anxious to enlist, was troubled about
throwing up his work and he went to Mr. Meyrick. Would he guarantee him work when he returned home? The answer was thoroughly
satisfactory, and the young fellow is probably now clad in khaki. That is the way to get recruits."
Concerns prior to enlistment were also raised for the soldiers
dependants, therefore, Wetherby Steeplechase Committee made the following offer to stimulate and encourage recruitment. A
further newspaper article dated September 1914 declared:
"The Wetherby Steeplechase Committee have announced that they will give 1 shilling a week each
to the wives of men who have joined the Colours, and any others volunteering in the town, in order to augment the Army allowance
while they are on service."
Agreeing that he now understood the terms of his engagement, Albert now declared that all his answers to questions
declared on the Army Form were true and that he was willing to fulfill the engagements made. On signing the document, it was
witnessed by John McEvitt, a former soldier with the 1st Battalion, Connaught Rangers and a veteran of the Boer War. Former
Colour Sergeant McEvitt in civilian life, was the Caretaker of the Conservative Club located in the Market Place, who, although
recorded in the 1911 Census as an Army Pensioner, fulfilled the roll of Acting Recruitment Sergeant.
A preliminary medical examination was now conducted by Lieutenant Harry Winstanley
Shadwell of the Royal Army Medical Corps to determine vital statistics; height, weight, expansion of the chest. Deemed 'fit'
as the vast majority of the men were at this early stage of enlistment, the final signature that would approve the man for
military service was that of the Approving Officer, 14th Recruiting Area, Colonel Harold P. Ditmas, late Durham Royal Garrison
That final signature would witness over forty-five recruits from the locality joining the ranks
of the fledgeling 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, the first service battalion of the Regiment to be raised
as a response to the outbreak of the Great War.
In the first week of September, the men prior to leaving for the Regimental
Depot located at York, were entertained to a dinner by the townsfolk of Wetherby. After the event and bidding their farewells,
the men of 'Kitchener's Army' were conveyed to York in a fleet of motor-cars amidst, what was described as "much
scenes of jubilation and enthusiasm."
Of the men, many would never return.
of The Battalion
The 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment was formed at York on the 25th
August 1914 and designated a K1 Battalion as formed under Lord Kitchener's first 'Call to Arms,' an appeal for
100,000 men to join the Army for 3 years or for the duration of the War between the ages of 19 and 30 years. The Battalion
was contained in the 11th (Northern) Division, a New Army Division which was formed under Army Order No. 324, published on
the 21st August, 1914. This order approved of the addition to the Army of six divisions, the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and
The 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, Officer Commanding, Lieutenant-Colonel
George Frend (attached from the 3rd Battalion, West Yorkshire's), were contained in the 32nd Infantry Brigade that also
comprised of the following units:
6th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
Battalion, Yorks & Lancs Regiment
8th (Service) Battalion, West Riding Regiment (Duke of Wellington's)
Brigade Commander Brigadier-General Henry Haggard
Divisional Commander Major-General Frederick Hammersley
training ensued for the recruits from Wetherby at the Regimental Depot where they became accustomed to the vagaries of life
in the British Army. Possibly the first blow to patriotic 'fervour' was the issuing of a Serial Number to each man,
an individual in civilian life but now a number throughout his service in the Army. It is of interest to note that the numbers
issued to the recruits from Wetherby follow no alphabetical sequence as is sometimes the case. An analysis therefore conducted
of this specific batch of numbers issued reveals that proceeding Albert the number 11898 was allocated to Charles Edward Walker
of Horsefair, Wetherby, employed as a 'Yardman' (Groom) at the Swan and Talbot Hotel. Charles was to be discharged
from the Battalion in October 1914 for reasons we will examine later during the course of this commemoration. Following on,
the number 11900 was issued to George Riley Precious. George, the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Precious of St. James Street
was not to serve overseas with the 9th Battalion. Serving with the Regimental Transport in the U.K, he was eventually posted
to the 24th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (Tyneside Irish) in the winter of 1916 and was unfortunately killed at the
Battle of Arras in April 1917.
York at this juncture with the Depot processing more men
that had answered the 'Call to Arms' was fit to bursting point with men. Therefore a move to larger training facilities
at Belton Park, Grantham, was initiated in September by the 9th West Yorkshire's where they were joined by the remainder
of the Brigade.
Following this movement, a second medical examination, more thorough than the Primary Military Examination
that had taken place on Attestation was carried out in mid October. Many men from Wetherby were discharged due to either being
found medically unfit with ailments ranging from chronic bronchitis to a hernia, or, a lack of general ability. These latter
men in Army 'parlance' were "Discharged not being likely to become an efficient soldier," their
departure being confirmed by the Adjutant, Captain Alexander Geary-Smith.
An analysis of Army Pension Records reveal
that of the men who enlisted at Wetherby Town Hall in August, 6 were medically discharged who had a direct link to the town
in addition to one man from Kirk Deighton. Some would eventually serve in some military capacity as the War progressed.
The winter of 1914
and the spring of 1915 were most notably wet resulting in the camp at Belton turning into a veritable quagmire. By the end
of February, all ranks had been issued 1914 Pattern Equipment, made under contract in the United States and despite the weather,
training proceeded apace with the usual musketry drills, marching discipline etc.By late March orders had been
issued of an impending move away from Lincolnshire. On the 5th April 1915, the 9th West Yorkshire's, in Brigade, were
ordered to entrain at Rugby, the destination being Witley Camp, near Godalming, Surrey. Leaving Belton Park on this date,
the Brigade proceeded by route of march via Scalford, Thrussington and Whetstone reaching Rugby on the 8th. Here the Brigade
entrained during the following day after an eventful march. An account of this may be found in the Green Howards In The
Great War by H.C. Wylly. 'The Optimist' as he is referred to in the account writes:
march on Wednesday took us through Leicester where the Division was accorded a really wonderful reception; all work was suspended
and the streets were lined by an enthusiastic and cheering multitude who showered all kinds of gifts on the troops."
Settling into their new surroundings 'The Optimist' remarked that the change in weather and that of
the scenery was most welcome. He also noted that the extensive heathland and commons so characteristic of the area proved
more conducive for military manoeuvres as the men were about to experience.
The camp consisted at this stage of the
War primarily of tented accommodation with a few huts but the camp would rapidly expand and become more permanent as the conflict
On the 1st May, the 11th (Northern) Division played host to two distinguished visitors, namely His
Majesty the King who was also accompanied by Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War. After inspecting the men, the following
Divisional Order was issued:
"His Majesty the King has desired the G.O.C. to convey to the troops his
appreciation of the splendid appearance and steadiness of the men on parade yesterday. His Majesty also remarked on the good
condition of the horses. Finally His Majesty said to the G.O.C., It has been a very great pleasure to me to see such a splendid
body of men, and I desire you to so inform the troops."
In early May 1915 there
was a change of command when Colonel Frend was replaced by another officer from the 3rd Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment,
Lieutenant-Colonel John O'Brien Minogue. An experienced officer who had risen through the ranks, Minogue had served with
a variety of regiments during the course of his service career however the Colonel did possess an affiliation to the West
Yorkshire Regiment dating back to 1893.
Towards the end of June there must have been rumours of
an impending move to active service circulating as the American equipment previously issued to the men was replaced by the
British made 1908 pattern webbing. Suspicions were no doubt aroused further when all the men were issued with khaki drill
and helmets of the 'Foreign Service' variety, the latter also referred to as the 'Pagri.'
the men of the West Yorkshire were soon to have their suspicions confirmed when orders were issued to the 32nd Infantry Brigade
at 3 p.m. on the afternoon of the 31st June to prepare for entrainment the following day, destination, as yet unknown to the
men, was to be the Dardanelles.
For a comprehensive account of the actions of the 9th West Yorkshire Regiment during
the Dardanelles campaign the reader may wish to follow this link:
Surviving the landing at Suvla on the 7th August and
the subsequent events that transpired on the 9th that resulted in great loss to the Wetherby men who had enlisted in the Battalion,
Albert was unfortunately killed on the 22nd August, 1915, during the Battle of Scimitar Hill.
It is a sad reflection,
like so many of the men of the Battalion who fell in August, that his body could not be identified after the cessation
of hostilities. Albert, aged just 23 years, leaving behind a young widow and two small children, is therefore now
commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli.
Memorial, an obelisk standing over 30 metres in height, is situated on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula with commanding
views over the Dardanelles Straits.
The memorial is one of dual function i.e. providing a memorial for those Commonwealth
servicemen who died and have no known grave and that of a Commonwealth battle memorial for the Dardanelles Campaign.
the Indian and United Kingdom forces commemorated on the memorial, the latter died throughout the Peninsula, the Australians
who are now commemorated here, at Helles. Panels are also incorporated to commemorate those who died or who were buried at
sea in the waters surrounding Gallipoli. In this imposing position and remembering the sacrifices of those who served in the
Campaign, the memorial now commemorates over 21,000 individuals. In addition to the Helles Memorial, four further memorials
commemorate the Missing of the Dardanelles Campaign. Hill 60, Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair memorials commemorate Australian and
New Zealand forces at Anzac whilst the Twelve Tree Copse Memorial commemorates New Zealanders at Helles. In the United Kingdom,
the following memorials commemorate United Kingdom naval casualties lost or buried at sea; Plymouth, Portsmouth and Chatham
|Extract Of Panels 47 - 51. Photograph Courtesy Of Bob Pike
|Helles Memorial. Image Courtesy Of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission