Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Lance Corporal Albert Edward Webster

Introduction
Gunter, R B N
Durrant, C M
Weston, C G
Kelly, K G
Armitage, G J
Durrant, H M L
Hargreaves, J P
March, G
Dukes, W
Fowler, R
Westerman, H
Kirk, J C
Wiggins, T A
Telford, G
Harper, J W
Alexander, H W
Mason, T F
Wilkinson, W
Brown, C
Adkin, J
Barton, F
Hobman, A
Webster, A E
March, E A
Miller, G
Hannan, E
Utley, G
Walker, F
Bygrave, E W
Chapman, E
Varley, N W
Bowen, F J
Byrom, F
Backhouse, S
Dalby, M
Crossland, A
Crossley, J S
Dean, R
Frost, A E
Hodgson, F H
Holt, J
Hood, W H
Hill, W
Kitchen, T
Linfoot, E
Metcalfe, J C
Marsden, J
Pawson, W
Precious, G
Scutt, T G
Shields,P
Wiggins, J
Walker, E
Wood, A
Young, T
Pratt, W
Taylor, H
Dawson, G W
Lister, J
Binge, T
Atack, G
Durham, E F
Precious, G R
Wheelhouse Smith, W
Backhouse, H
Swann, J W
Burnsides, G A
Coles, W
Kelly, H W
Miles, J G
Tapsell, K
Acknowledgements
Dardanelles

11899
9th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
Died Sunday 22nd August, 1915, age 23

Cemetery : Helles Memorial, Gallipoli
Grave Reference or Panel Number : 47 to 51

Albert was born in 1892 to parents, Robert Webster, occupation, Shoe Maker, and Catherine Webster, of the High Street, Clifford.
Catherine unfortunately died in 1893, possibly in childbirth, whereupon Robert remarried and the family relocated to South Kirkby, South Yorkshire.
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 present.
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 the Colours.

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
Recruitment Officer:

"Day 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 Artillery (Militia).
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.

Formation 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 13th respectively.

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)
6th (Service) 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 C.B.

Training

Basic 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:

"Our 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 progressed.


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.'
Albert and 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:



Dardanelles

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.

Helles Memorial

The Helles 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.
Of 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 respectively.

aewebsterhelles.JPG
Extract Of Panels 47 - 51. Photograph Courtesy Of Bob Pike
HellesMemorial.jpg
Helles Memorial. Image Courtesy Of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission