Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Private George Utley

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
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

1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards
Died, 15th September 1916

Cemetery : Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France
Grave Reference or Panel Number : Pier and Face 7D and 8D

Son of William and Louisa Utley of Wetherby; husband of Mary Ellen Utley (nee Simpson).

The Early Years

George was born in 1880 to parents William, a Journeyman/Tailor, and Louisa Utley. Although George was baptised at St. Marys Church, Whitkirk near Leeds, the family residence was located in the Market Place, Wetherby. In 1882, the marriage was blessed by the birth of a further child, Mary Elizabeth, and in 1884, another daughter was born, Olive. At this juncture, the family are recorded as having relocated to Westgate where Williams' occupation is now described as a Tailor. In 1887, Louisa Utley would unfortunately die at the untimely age of just 30 years and in 1898, William would remarry one Frances Woodburn of West End, Wetherby. In 1901, William and Frances are recording as residing at East Keswick with five children however it is of interest to note that the first two children born to this union, aged eight and five years respectively, were born out of wedlock. Of George Utley, the 1901 Census records him as having found employment as a Servant/Agricultural Horseman at Wighill near Tadcaster, in the employ of one William Thomlinson, a Farmer and Auctioneer.

Courting one Miss Mary Ellen Simpson, the seventeen year old daughter of George and Sarah Simpson of Wighill, Mary was employed a General Servant (Domestic) in the home of Mr. George Dunwell, a Farmer of Wighill Grange. Married in the autumn/winter of 1901, it is not known at present where the newly married couple set up their home but by the recording of the next census in the year of 1911, the family, now comprising of five children, were residing at Moat House, Walton, near Wetherby. On a note of the children at this period, Sarah Louisa was born in 1902, Clara, 1904, Edward, 1905, Nellie, 1908 and Mary Eileen, 1910. A further two children blessed the marriage, Joan, born in 1913, and George Alfred, 1915 respectively.

As regards George's siblings, in 1901, Mary was employed as a Servant/General Domestic in the employ of one Thomas Woodhead, Landlord of the Royal Oak Inn, North Street, Wetherby. Olive in this same year, had found employment at East Keswick as a Domestic Servant with one Joshua Barrett, a Butcher and Farmer. Married in 1906 to one George Goldby at Harewood, Olive would relocate to Stocksfield-on-Tyne.


George Utley attested for military service on the 11th of March 1915 at York. Issued the serial number 15703, it is surmised that his initial service was conducted with the 4th (Reserve) Battalion of the Regiment, subsequently redesignated the 5th (Reserve) Battalion in mid 1915. The terms of his attestation were dictated on Army Form B. 2505 stating that of Short Service (For the Duration of the War) or as on Army Form B. 217., "3 years with the Colours and 9 years in the Reserve". Training was initially carried out at the Guards Depot located at Caterham, Surrey, where in June 1915, a number of recruits were discharged for various reasons, often denoted on their service papers as "not being likely to become an efficient soldier". The role of the 5th (Reserve) Battalion was primarily that of providing drafts to the Regular battalions of the Regiment serving in the field. Although the precise movements of George during 1915 and 1916 are unknown due to a lack of surviving service documents, I surmise that he may have been posted overseas in May 1916, akin to Private Ernest Collins, 15702, a native of Burton-on-Trent, who had also enlisted March 1915.

Posted Overseas:- 7th (Guards) Entrenching Battalion

Once posted overseas in May 1916, the movements of George Utley appear to be quite ambiguous however there is a suggestion that he may have at first been posted to the 7th Entrenching Battalion. Formed in November 1915 as organised labour controlled at Corps level, its duties included amongst others the construction of trenches and gun pits, road repairs and carrying duties. With these tasks normally being carried out by men at 'rest' and away from the line, the benefits of this labour establishment soon became apparent to the British Army and were therefore replicated throughout. More importantly, the function of the Entrenching Battalion was provide drafts to the battalions of the Regiment in the front line and although the personnel of the unit invariably changed, the officer cadre was, as circumstances allowed, maintained on a permanent structure. The year of 1916 would witness the battalion engaged on duties in the Somme region of France prior to the opening of the Allied offensive, George, being posted in a draft from the Entrenching Battalion to his parent unit, the Coldstream Guards, in June 1916.

June 1916:- Return To The Salient

Having conducted a series of tours in the line in the Ypres Salient, the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, had recently been relieved from the Hooge Sector in early May. After a series of movements to various Rest Camps, the battalion, Officer Commanding, Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. Guy Victor Baring, found themselves on the 3rd of June located at Merckeghem, France. Located on the top of a hill with panoramic views, it was on this date that a draft arrived from the Guards Entrenching Battalion numbering two officers, Lieutenants Hugh Henshall Clifford Williamson and William Kaneen, accompanied by sixteen Other Ranks, joined the battalion. Numbered amongst this draft was I believe George, whose first initiation into the unit was a programme of training including wiring, practice attacks and the digging of trenches.

It was on the 14th of June at 12.30 a.m. that the battalion received orders to prepare for a move back to the Salient early in the morning. With Colonel Baring proceeding on leave, command now devolved on Temporary Major Edward Byng George Gregge-Hopwood D.S.O. who departed ahead of the battalion to visit the trenches. At 9.30 a.m. on the morning of the 14th, the battalion under the command of Captain Humphrey Edmund de Trafford departed Merckeghem in motor buses and lorries bound for Camp "B" located to the south-west of Brandhoek, map reference G.11.c. Orders were now issued for the relief of units of the 2nd Canadian Division in the line on the following evening, the battalion departing their camp at 8.15 p.m. on the evening of the 15th of June to trenches in the Zillebeke Sector. Completing the relief of both the 27th and 28th Canadian Infantry Battalions of the 6th Canadian Brigade at midnight, the relief passed without incident which is remarkable as there were no communication trenches to the front line, the relief having to be completed by men moving over the open. 


The battalion now took over a frontage that extended for a distance of 1800 yards with Battalion Headquarters being established in a Brick Kiln at the Tuilerie, just north of Zillebeke. Holding the Original Support Line, companies were disposed of as follows; Number 1 on the left, Number 3 in the centre, Number 2 on the right with Number 4 in support positions. The following day was recorded as being relatively quiet, that is until 11.15 p.m. when German artillery opened out a heavy barrage of all trenches in the sector. Fifteen minutes later, gas alarms were heard from the direction of Hooge as Green Very Lights were seen to be fired by the enemy, this signal however was taken by the Headquarters of the 2nd Guards Brigade to be the firing of our own S.O.S. Signal. Upon these lights being fired, our artillery then began a heavy bombardment with shrapnel and high explosive of both the enemy's front line and areas to the rear, this bombardment continuing until about 12.15 a.m. when the firing on both sides began to die down. Although no signs of gas were detected, the enemy barrage had also fallen heavily on the brigade to the left and on the 1st Scots Guards who were holding positions in the Sanctuary Wood Sector. Shortly after 1.15 a.m., the enemy artillery erupted once again almost as if they were expecting an attack to materialise as once again our artillery retaliated, firing on the enemy's trench systems. As the fire died down about 2.30 a.m., it was left to the battalions holding the line to count the cost of men either killed or wounded in these two 'hates'. The 2nd Brigade Headquarters Staff had been particularly 'lucky' as at one point during the bombardment, the Brigadier, the Brigade Major and various officers including both the C.O's of the Coldstreams and the Irish Guards were present in the 1st Coldstreams Headquarters dugout. Losses to the Scots Guards had been particularly heavy, Lieutenant Martin Noel Schiff, aged 27 years and a resident of Lowndes Square, Belgravia, London, had been killed, and both Lieutenant David Halyburton Brand and Second-Lieutenant Francis Thomas Mann wounded. In Other Ranks, the battalion had lost 15 men killed and 25 wounded. It was at 9 a.m. on the morning of the 17th of June that enemy artillery once again opened up a heavy barrage of the sector for about thirty minutes but it was reported that his shelling was not very accurate. Although this may have been the case, the trenches held by the 1st Coldstreams had received some direct hits, blowing sections in at various points in the line. No casualties are recorded in the Battalion War Diary from these respective artillery duels however at some point, one man, Private William Henry Whiddon, 12759, had been wounded but would unfortunately succumb to wounds received.
William Henry Whiddon was born at Torquay in 1892 to parents Richard Albert Whiddon, occupation, a Sailor, and Mary Jane Whiddon, the family residing in premises located in Crownhill Terrace. By the year of 1901, the family had relocated to premises in Lower Regents Terrace, his father stating his occupation in the census of that year as a Tailor. Rather confusingly, Richard Albert states that he is in fact a widower but an analysis of pension documents confirm that his mother was in fact still alive. The 1911 Census records at this juncture that William had found employment as a Nurseryman/Gardener, his father stating this time that he was in fact 'married'. Attesting for military service at Exeter on the 18th of September 1914, his movements are somwhat ambiguous but William was posted overseas on the 24th of February 1915, joining the battalion 'in the field' at Hinges, north of Bethune, on the 27th of February as part of a draft numbering four officers and 246 Other Ranks. The telegram reporting the death of their youngest son was then received at the family home now located at Audley Villas, Torquay. More torment was to descend on the family home when in October of the same year, Frances Joseph Whiddon their second son and a married man with one child, was killed in action near Gueudecourt, Somme, whilst serving with the 7th (Service) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. William subsequently was buried at the Menin Road South Military Cemetery, Ypres, whilst Frances, denied a known grave, is now commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.                

Menin Road South Military Cemetery
Author:- April 2022

It was more of the same on the 19th of June when at 9.15 a.m. enemy artillery commenced a bombardment of the line from Railway Wood to Hill 60. The trenches of Number 1 Company holding the left sector of the line were particularly targeted as retaliatory fire from our own guns screamed over the heads of the men as they attempted to take cover from the maelstrom of steel. Finally, the barrage slackened at about 10.30 a.m. but was opened up again by the enemy at 1 p.m., this bombardment eventually ceasing at 2.30 p.m. It was recorded in the pages of the War Diary that the remainder of the day was without incident and duly following Operation Orders, the battalion were relieved by the 2nd Irish Guards at midnight. Upon relief, George and the men of the Coldstream Guards proceeded to billets located in the Infantry Barracks at Ypres. Although the War Diary records once again that no casualties had been sustained, two men had in fact been killed during the course of the day, Privates John Mudge, 15719, and Alfred Thomas Rice, 14791.
John Mudge, akin to William Whiddon, was a native of Torquay. Born in 1881 at Torquay, his parents were John Tozer Mudge, occupation, a Coachman (Domestic), and Mary Ann Mudge, the family residing in premises at Woodfield Cottages, Lower Woodfield Road. By the year of 1901, John had found employment in the City of London as a Servant in the employ of one Mr. Hoare, a Banker, at premises in Fleet Street. Returning to Torquay at some point between 1901 - 1911, John was once again residing in the family home located at this period in Meadfoot Lane and had found employment as a Hotel Waiter. Attesting for military service at Exeter, he was posted overseas on the 26th of October 1915 and joined the battalion 'in the field' on the 5th of November as part of a draft of 24 Other Ranks whilst the Guards were billeted at Saint-Hilaire, west of Lillers. Most likely killed in one of the artillery duals, John was denied a known burial and is now commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres. In addition to this, John is also commemorated on the Torquay War Memorial.
Alfred Thomas Rice, a native of Wotton, Surrey. Alfred was born in the year of 1893 at Wotton to parents William, occupation, a General Labourer, and Fanny Rice however by the year of 1901, William describes his occupation as that of a Woodman (Estate). In the next census recorded in the year of 1911, Alfred, now aged 17 years, had found employment as a Farm Labourer and was residing with his parents and two siblings, William Charles, a Roadman employed by Dorking Urban Council, and Arthur James, a Gardener (Domestic). Also residing in the premises was one Robert Rice, a grandson, but unfortunately I can find no further details as regards this young man. In May 1914, Alfred entered a union of marriage with one Ada Snelling at Dorking but with the storm clouds of war already over five months old and with Ada carrying their first child, Alfred attested for military service in January/February 1915 at Dorking. After a period of training In England whereupon his daughter, Florence Ada was born in May 1915, he was posted overseas on the 30th of October 1915 and joined the battalion in the same draft as that of John Mudge whilst the Guards were billeted at Saint-Hilaire. Alfred was unfortunately killed on the 18th of June 1916 and is now commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial Ypres as well as on the war memorial located in his hometown. Also commemorated on this memorial is Arthur's brother, Arthur James Rice late of the Labour Corps who, along with his three year old son, died on the same day in the family residence in 1919, presumably of the Spanish Flu. Shortly after the death of Alfred Thomas Rice, two newspaper articles were published as regards his death, the first describing his civilian background and members of the family who served and the second describing the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his death. The first article was published in the Dorking & Leatherhead Advertiser dated the 8th of July 1916 page 5, the second in the same newspaper but dated the 15th of July, page 5. As regards this latter article, some annotations are added by the Author.
"A Wotton Man Killed"
"The death in action is reported of Pte Alfred Thomas Rice, Coldstream Guards. The deceased was the youngest son of Mr. William Rice, of Broadmoor, Wotton, woodman in the employ of the Duke of Norfolk. His wife lives at 18 Rose's Cottages, Dorking, and is left with a child of twelve months. Pte Rice joined the Guards about fifteen months ago, and after undergoing training at Windsor and Caterham left for the Front where he had been about nine months. When in civil life he was employed at Tillingbourne and afterwards as a carter on Bradley Farm. His brother Bert , now with the Norfolks in India, was badly wounded in France; another brother is serving abroad with the Royal Fusiliers, and a nephew, Able Seaman Jack Rice, went down with the Queen Mary".
"Reference was made in our last issue to the death of Pte Rice. His widow, who lives at 18 Rose's Cottages, Dorking, has since received the following letter from Sergt. Harms (Author:- Sergeant Leonard Harms, 5324) :- "Please accept the deepest sympathy of his comrades of No. 9 Platoon in your sad bereavement. Your husband was a good soldier, and liked by all, and he died doing his duty for King and country. It may perhaps console your feelings to know that he suffered no pain, death being instantaneous. We who are out here sacrificing our lives cannot realise what anxieties our loved ones at home are suffering, and I feel that I am only doing my duty writing to you, being Pte Rice's commander." Mrs. Rice has also received a letter from Pte F. Wilkinson, of the same regiment. (Author:- Possibly Private Frank Wilkinson, 24248). "Please accept the deepest sympathy of all the boys of No. 9 Platoon. Poor Tom was well liked by all of us; he was a good comrade, and we were all very much upset when we knew he had met his death. It will be a consolation to you to know that he did not suffer an instant's pain; he was asleep at the time the shell exploded, so that he did not suffer in the least. I have been asked by Pte Jackson (who is a Dorking man, living in Mint Gardens) to let you know that Tom was buried quite decently close to the trench in which we were shelled so badly. (Author:- William Jackson, 8658? of Number 4 Mint Gardens). I think everyone thought their end was at hand; we had a terrible time; about four hours incessant shelling. Poor Tom was hit by the first shell which the enemy fired at our trench. Up to a short time ago Tom and I slept together, and had rations together. He was my best chum; in fact, where one was, the other was sure to be found. But I was moved to another platoon, so of course we were separated. I shall miss him very much indeed."            

Private Rice
Dorking & Leatherhead Advertiser Dated the 15th Of July 1916

Providing working parties for the trenches at Hooge, it was on the 21st of June that the battalion were relieved by the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infanty who now took their place in Brigade Reserve. Upon this relief being completed at 11 p.m., the Colstreams now proceeded by motor lorries to Camps "G" and "P" located on the Poperinghe - Woesten Road about three miles west of Elverdinghe. Arriving at about 2 a.m., Headquarters and both 1 and 4 Companies took up billets in Camp "G" whilst 2 and 3 Companies took up their respective billets at Camp "P". The following days were spent in cleaning up and resting with the men having a chance to bathe, but wiring and musketry were also practised as well as drill. Orders were now issued for the battalion to return to the line, the Officer Commanding accompanied by the Adjutant and Company Commanders performing a reconnaissance of the line on the morning of the 26th. It was at 9 p.m. on the evening of the 27th that the battalion paraded and proceeded by route of march to commence a relief of the 2nd Grenadier Gaurds, Headquarters and 2 and 3 Companies establishing themselves at Elverdinghe Chateau, Numbers 1 and 4 Companies moving into dug-outs located on the Canal Bank. Now in Reserve, on the following day George and the men of the battalion paraded at 10 p.m. to commence a relief of the 1st Irish Guards in the line, this relief duly being completed about 12.30 a.m. The trenches were in a deplorable condition due to recent heavy rainfall and the attentions of German artillery and trench mortars. Snipers were also active along with trench mortars during the course of the 29th resulting in the death of Private Albert Owen, 15063, a resident of Mosborough, Sheffield. Aged just 21 years, Albert had attested for military service in January 1915 at Sheffield and was posted overseas on the 3rd of October 1915. Joining in a draft numbering 29 Other Ranks that was received by the battalion on the 5th of November, the Eckington, Woodhouse and Staveley Express dated the 15th of July 1916 records his fate:-
"Pte. Albert Owen, of Queen street, Mosboro', has been killed in France. He formerly worked as a miner at Holbrook Colliery. He was 21 years of age, unmarried, and had been in France nine months. Lieut. J. R. Fleming (Authors note:- James Ronald Fleming) writing to the deceased's father says: He was killed two nights ago by a trench mortar bomb when we were taking over a new trench. A piece of metal hit him on the temple, killing him at once. A white cross marks the grave, with his name printed on it. The colonel attended the funeral. He was killed on one of the most famous battlefields in Belgium. We, as well as you, miss him. He was the life of the platoon. In the greatest danger he was as cool as when on the cricket field. In him I have lost one of my best workers and one of my best friends".
On the last day of the month and with communication trenches to the front line in an almost inpassable condition, another man was to fall, Private Joseph Haworth, 5821, a resident of Blackburn. Attesting for military service at Accrington on the 4th of November 1904, Private Haworth was truly an 'Old Sweat'. A resident of Blackburn, he was recalled to the Colours and posted overseas in August 1914. Witnessing many engagements commencing with Actions on the Aisne, Joseph was killed in action, circumstances unknown.
Both Albert and Joseph now lie at rest in Essex Farm Cemetery.
Commemoration Under Construction   

Enter content here

Enter content here

Enter content here