Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Private Fred Walker

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

31722, 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
(Commemorated by C.W.G.C. as 34470, 16th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment)
Transferred to 22nd Labour Company, Serial Number 13081
Died, 29th September, 1917

Cemetery : Aeroplane Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Grave Reference or Panel Number : I.C.7

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Fred was born at Wetherby in 1887 to parents Henry, a Domestic Gardener, and Elizabeth Walker of Walton Road, Wetherby.  The family circumstances changed when Henry found employment with Wetherby Rural District Council as a Highways Labourer, the family then relocating to premises in Westgate, Wetherby. 

Finding employment as a Warehouseman at Wetherby Co-operative Society located in Crossley Street, Fred's fortunes also changed like that of his father's when he found employment as a Boilerman at the Tower Brewery, Tadcaster.

Enlistment & Initial Military Service: A Conundrum

Upon the outbreak of the Great War, Fred like many young Wetherby men flocked to answer his country's call but was rejected for military service in the Army on four occasions, no doubt on being deemed medically unfit for front line service however he was finally accepted for service in the Army and subsequently joined the ranks of a Labour Company.

As is recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Database, Fred's commemoration states that he had previously served with the 16th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment before being transferred to the 22nd Labour Company. Service with the 16th West Yorkshire's is however one of a number of inaccuracies that cloud research into his and some others initial military service prior to transfer. Firstly, upon examination of one Grave Registration document contained on the C.W.G.C. database, he is stated as previously serving with the 16th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, a  Labour Battalion raised in 1916 by the Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards). Secondly, an analysis of Serial Numbers subsequently issued also contains a number of irregularities. Upon cross-referencing the Medal Index Cards of a number of men with that of the Medal Award Rolls and the Soldiers Died Database, there would appear to be yet further anomalies:-

 

Arthur Darfield, commemorated by C.W.G.C. as West Yorkshire Regiment, 33002.

Medal Index Card denotes, Yorkshire Regiment, 30598.

Medal Award Roll, denotes, Yorkshire Regiment, 30958.

Soldiers Died corroborates C.W.G.C. entry.

 

Regarding Fred Walker, the various number sequences follow a similar pattern:-

 

Fred Walker, commemorated by C.W.G.C. as West Yorkshire Regiment, 34470.

Medal Index Card denotes, Yorkshire Regiment, 31722.

Medal Award Roll denotes, Yorkshire Regiment, 31722.

Soldiers Died corroborates C.W.G.C. entry.

 

Finally, as a further example and one that would imply a correct pattern of service, one George Thornborow:- 

 

George Edward Thornborow, commemorated by C.W.G.C. as 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. Transferred to 22nd Company, Labour Corps.

Medal Index Card denotes, Yorkshire Regiment, 30890.

Medal Award Roll denotes, Yorkshire Regiment, 30890.

Soldiers Died corroborates C.W.G.C. entry.

 

A further analysis therefore of what I the Author deem to be the 'true' number sequence places the latter firmly as those allocated to the Yorkshire Regiment. This batch of Serial Numbers located in surviving service documents also confirms categorically that these men served initially with the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, as opposed to service being conducted within the ranks of the West Yorkshire Regiment. A pattern now emerges as to a more accurate picture of the enlistment of Fred Walker. Attesting for military service in early December 1915, under the auspices of the Derby Scheme, i.e., voluntary enlistment, the terms of his service were that of a Short Service, For the Duration of the War, with the Colours and in the Army Reserve. Placed on the Army Reserve, a later newspaper article included in this commemoration reports that he was accepted for military service in March 1916 but a more accurate date based on surviving service documents indicates that he was more than likely mobilised in mid June 1916. Transferred to the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, it is at this juncture that we will examine the complex evolvement of solving the supply of labour to fulfill various tasks as the war progressed.

The Organisation Of Labour

A problem that existed from the outset of the war was the shortage of unskilled labour for tasks as varied as the construction of light railways and roads, to the unloading of stores and the materiel necessary for the prosecution of the war in general. In the interim, these tasks were carried out by fatigue parties of soldiers whilst not serving in the front line and in miltary parlance "at rest." The situation however needed to be addressed as the war continued and it was recognised that trained men or units returning from the front could not be spared to carry out these various duties required.

To alleviate the burdon of these tasks primarily borne by the infantry, Pioneer Battalions were sanctioned by the War Office in late 1914. Attached to an infantry division, the men came from a variety of employments, some of the men being skilled in various tasks such as bricklaying, miners, joiners etc. Also trained to fight as infantry, their primary role however was to provide labour at the front and the formation of these battalions was escalated in number throughout the course of 1915.

The introduction of the Military Services Act in January 1916 heralded the conscription of all males between the ages of 18 and 41 years and this in effect provided one answer to the shortage of unskilled labour at the front as opposed to the formation of the pioneers. It was found that some men conscripted under the Act were however not suitable for combatant service but were deemed to be capable of performing labour duties under the auspices of the military. As a consequence, both Labour and Works Battalions were formed, the men that comprised these units consisting of those who were advanced in age or those who suffered from some slight physical disability which prevented them from service in the front line, or, those down-graded from fighting service, i.e., below "A1" medical status required for front line service.

Formation Of The 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment: The Officer Cadre

The battalion were formed at Brocklesby Camp, Lincolnshire, on the 6th of June 1916 by the Camp Commandant, Lieutenant A.N. Healey. (Authors note: Possibly Hon. Lt. Arthur. A. Healey, East Yorkshire Regiment). One of the first officers posted to the battalion was one Second Lieutenant, Henry Charles Wooton Woolley, formerly of the 11th (Reserve) Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment. Subsequently posted to Number 1 Company, Woolley would soon be joined by Second-Lieutenant Francis D'Aguilar Burton of the 15th (Reserve) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers and Second-Lieutenant Stanley Marmaduke Carrington, 10th (Reserve) Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, Burton would be assigned to Number 2 Company whilst Carrington would assume duties as Acting Adjutant respectively.

It was on the 9th of June that one Major George Robertson Lightbound, 11th (Reserve) Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, joined the battalion. A Canadian by birth, Lightbound reported for duty with Number 3 Company and assumed command of the battalion. Designated the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment by Army Order 831 dated the 10th of June, yet another officer joined to swell the ranks when on the 13th of the month, Major Arthur Knox Armstrong of the 15th (Reserve) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment joined the flegling unit and was posted to Number 3 Company.

Officers still continued to arrive at Brocklesby when on the 14th of the month, Major James Joseph Cornelius Arthur O'Sullivan joined the battalion from the 11th (Reserve) Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment and was subsequently posted to Number 1 Company. On the 20th, Second-Lieutenant Ronald Bentley Cox of the 11th (Reserve) Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry joined the battalion and was posted to Number 4 Company followed by Lieutenant James Pilkington Hunt, 10th (Reserve) Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, who joined on the 23rd for duty with the 4th Company. Second-Lieutenant Herbert Cross, 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, also joined on this date and he too was posted for duty with Number 4 Company. The battalion at this point also lacked the appointment of a Medical Officer and to this end, Lieutenant David Rees was attached to the battalion as M.O. on the 26th of June and subsequently posted to Number 1 Company.

As the month of June 1916 now drew to a close, the structure of the officer cadre within the battalion now began to evolve. Command of the battalion was now assumed on the 28th of June by Major O'Sullivan, Major Lightbound subsequently being posted to Number 2 Company. On the 1st of July, Lieutenant-Colonel Hepworth Arthur Hill was gazetted to command the battalion. A graduate of Sandhurst and a veteran of the Boer War, Hill had served with a number of regiments but before posting to the Yorkshire Regiment, he had been placed on the Half Pay List having served previously with the 1st West India Regiment. Further changes were also instigated on the 1st of the month when Second-Lieutenant Woolley assumed the duties of Adjutant vice Second-Lieutenant Carrington who was in due course posted to Number 1 Company as a Temporary Captain (L.G. dated 1/7/1916). To fulfill the duties of Quarter-Master, Hon. Lieutenant Benjamin Anderton also arrived on the 1st having been recently commissioned from the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was duly posted to Number 1 Company. Finally on the 3rd of the month, Temporary Captain Harold Gaskell of the 7th Battalion, Notts. & Derby Regiment reported for duty with the battalion and was subsequently posted  to Number 2 Company.

As well as arrivals, there were also departures as the following officers were transferred and struck off the strength of the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. It was on the 4th of July that the following officers were transferred; Major Armstrong, 15th (Reserve) Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps, Major O'Sullivan, 2nd Garrison Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and Major Lightbound to the 1st Garrison Battalion also of the K.O.Y.L.I. (Authors note: Lightbound relinquished his commission in September 1916 no doubt due to a charge of embezzlement. Upon proven guilty, he would serve six months imprisonment).

A number of officers began to finally arrive to bring at least in the officer cadre the battalion up to near strength. Captain Swinburne Robinson, a prominent member of the Primrose League in the north-east of England joined the battalion on the 4th from the 25th (Works) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and was subsequently posted to Number 3 Company. Lieutenant Percival Lester Stanley Collett arrived from the Leicestershire Regiment on the 7th and was duly posted to Number 4 Company followed by Second-Lieutenant John Angell Hamlyn of the 10th Leicester's on the 10th who reported for duty with Number 2 Company. Their arrival would appear to be rather timely as on the 10th of July orders were received for the battalion to prepare for active service and embarkation for France. One officer however, Second-Lieutenant Burton, was reported as being unfit for duty overseas and as a consequence he was struck off the strength. Before we follow the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment's early service in this theatre of war, it is at this juncture that we will examine some of the men from different walks of life that constituted the battalion itself.

The Men

On a local note, there was one Walter Vipurs, a native of Barkston Ash, a General Labourer residing in the Main Street. William Thomas Goldsworthy, a resident of Wingate, County Durham. Goldsworthy would be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in September 1919 for actions in the previous year near Arras and Loos. Harold Hopwood of the Richmond Hill District of Leeds. A Flexible Tube Fitter by trade, Harry attempted to contact former members of both the 16th Yorkshire's and the 22nd Company after the war in 1939 however the fruits of his labours are not known. Samuel Bingham of Sheffield, awarded the Military Medal in 1918. Robert Thompson, a resident of Beverly Road, Hull and a Farm Labourer. One brother would serve with the 10th East Yorkshire's, 1st Hull "Pals" and be made a Prisoner of War in 1917, another would serve with the Australian Machine Gun Corps and rise to the rank of Lieutenant. Finally, one Arthur Darfield, a married man and a resident of Armley, Leeds. The names of the men are endless and warrants further research as to the composition of the battalion but in the vast majority, these men enlisted into the ranks of the Yorkshire Regiment circa December, 1915 in a number of locations in the north of England.      

France: Le Havre

It was on the 11th of July 1916 that Fred Walker and the men of the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment embarked at Southampton, their destination being the French port of Le Havre. The voyage was to be made on the S.S. "Mona's Queen," a paddle steamer previously operated by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, the strength of the battalion being recorded as follows:-

Officers   12

Warrant Officers   6

Sergeants   7

Corporals   32

Privates   988

Transport comprised of one limbered wagon, eight four-wheeled wagons, three two-wheeled wagons and one motor-car. As regards horses, there accompanied the battalion one riding horse, eight draught horses and seventeen heavy draught horses.

 

 

 

 

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S.S. Mona's Queen. Source: Wikimedia Commons (Photo Undated)

Upon disembarkation, the Battalion proceeded to the Docks Rest Camp however the exact location of the latter is not recorded. Upon the attachment of an interpreter to Number 1 Company, it was on the 16th of July that Headquarters and its associated staff and Numbers 1 and 2 Companies proceeded to Cinder City Camp followed by Number 3 Company on the following day.
Cinder City Camp itself was of a curious construction and located in the Graville area of Le Havre. Formerly a dumping area for ship's clinkers and furnace refuse, this former swamp area close to the sea had been reclaimed and transformed into a large camp with numerous hutted buildings and a large Y.M.C.A. hut to provide refreshment and entertainment for the men. For recreational purposes, coconut matting had been laid down for sports activities and concerts were performed regularly to break the monotony of life in the camp.
 
Work duties were however the primary duty of the battalion and in due accordance with orders, it was on the 19th that Lieutenant Collett accompanied by a party comprising of 126 N.C.O.'s and men of Number 4 Company were detached for duties at the ports railhead. Due to illness of an unknown nature, Lieutenant Collett was posted sick and admitted to a hospital located at Rouen on the 23rd, command of the party now devolving on Second-Lieutenant Hamlyn, a former member of the University of London O.T.C. who would eventually go on to serve with the Machine Gun Corps.
 
It was on the 26th of July that a draft of further officers joined the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. This draft comprised of Captain Flockhart Aitken? 25th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, Captain Robert Eric Burrell, Army Cyclist Corps (unattached), Lieutenant John Mitchell Allan Dobson, 14th (Service) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry and Second-Lieutenant John Russell Carrier, 1/5th Battalion, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade). These officers reported for duty with Numbers 2, 3, 4 and 1 Companies respectively.
 
The Battalion War Diary now becomes rather vague on precise details other than the promotion of the following officers to the Temporary rank of Captain, Hunt, Carrington and Woolley and the promotion of Second-Lieutenant Hamlyn to the rank of Temporary Lieutenant, London Gazette dated 2nd of August 1916, Page 7641. On the 20th of August, Lieutenant Hamlyn and 118 Other Ranks reported back to camp after detachment at the railhead and this unfortunately concludes the War diary entry for this month with no further details furnished.
 
Officers still however began to join the ranks of the 16th Yorkshire's when on the 2nd of September, Lieutenant Edmund Owen Ethelston Peel of the  5th Dragoon Guards joined the battalion. An experienced officer who had served on the Western Front since November 1914, Peel was attached to the battalion whilst undergoing treatment at the Number 39 General Hospital and subsequently posted to Number 1 Company.
 
Upon recreation and relaxation, it is worthy to note that on the 5th, fifty men employed on fatigues and other duties were allowed a days rest at about once every seventeen days, no doubt the men rotating in duties so this act could be initiated. Upon this day of rest, the men used their time in the morning washing and mending clothes, bathing and having the chance of a half decent haircut albeit to military standards. It would also appear that standard military procedure conducted by other labour units in the area was not adhered to as a 'special' privilege was granted to the men of the 16th Yorkshire's, passes being issued at 2 p.m. in the afternoon instead of 4 p.m. for the men to venture out into town for some amusement.     

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Le Grand Quai, Le Havre (Source: The Geneanet Community).

Second-Lieutenant Joseph Edward Gardner, 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment, was attached to the battalion on the 8th of September whilst undergoing treatment at the Number 39 General Hospital. Granted a commission from the Canadian Expeditionary Force in July 1915, Gardner was duly posted to Number 4 Company. On the following day, Captain Samuel John Markham Hole, 17th (Service) Battalion (Empire), Royal Fusiliers (City of London) Regiment, was struck off the strength of the battalion. (Authors note: There is no record of Hole joining the battalion and at this juncture he was also receiving treatment at the 39th Hospital, possibly due to wounds received near Carency in July.  Passed fit for general service, Hole returned to his allocated Base Depot and would go on to have an illustrious military career being awarded the Military Cross and Bar whilst serving with the 17th Battalion). Second-Lieutenant Vernon Reginald Chalk, 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry also joined the battalion on the 13th. Attached to the 8th (Service) Battalion, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment), Chalk had witnessed service with the latter battalion during the closing stages of the Dardanelles campaign. Also undergoing treatment at the hospital, Chalk was subsequently attached to Number 4 Company.
 
On a dietary note, the men's health also came under scrutiny when on the 14th, the sugar ration was reduced from three ounces to two and a half per day when a sweetened variety of condensed milk was used! There must have also been some incident or incidents as orders were issued for Warrant Officers, N.C.O.'s and men either quartered in the town or in the port area to always be in possession of their identity passes at all times, these, duly being issued by the Officer Commanding.
 
As Lieutenant Dobson was struck off the strength of the battalion on the 14th due to being pronounced fit for general service, it was on the 19th that the weekly routine of all the battalions located in the camp was altered when at 2 p.m., all units paraded for a Fire Practice, this being stipulated to be carried out once a week. An outbreak of a fire for most men would have been a welcome chance to keep warm as no doubt with the month becoming more autumnal and with the camp situated close to the sea, the September nights were proving to be now rather chilly. To this end, an issue of a second blanket had been authorised for all troops in the garrison and as a consequence, indents had been prepared and sent to the Army Ordnance Department.
 
With the month drawing of September drawing to a close, further officers joined the battalion from the 39th Hospital; Second-Lieutenant Cecil Arthur Burrage, a Gallipoli veteran having previously served with the North Staffordshire Regiment and commissioned into the 2nd Hampshire Regiment, and Second-Lieutenant Harry Duncan, 18th (Service) Battalion (3rd City), Manchester Regiment, both officers being posted to Number 2 and Number 1 Companies respectively. Finally on the last day of the month, Second-Lieutenant Reginald George Danks, 6th (Service) Battalion, Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment), was attached to the battalion from hospital and duly posted to Number 4 Company.
 
A Summary Of Activities
 
As is witnessed above, a major part of the officer cadre at this point was drawn from those recovering from wounds or treatment at the 39th General Hospital. I can only surmise this was to effect a transition from recuperation to that of returning to general service, to ease this change, the officers being temporarily attached to the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, for what in some respects would be 'light duty.'
During the month, the work carried out by the battalion was the same that had first been initiated on their arrival. Every day, about 700 men were employed on unloading cargoes of various description in the dock area and the loading and unloading of trains at the various railheads at the port. The weather had proved favourable and hot however as this no doubt assisted the men in completing their duties, the heat also took its toll physically on the men. The locality in which the majority of the work was carried out was paved with setts whose surface was uneven, this in addition to the weather caused the men to suffer considerably with their feet. To alleviate the problem, a daily dressing of Boracic Powder (Borax, with its anti-fungal qualities) was applied to the men's feet.
The issue of the number of officers detailed for duties was also raised with the Officer Commanding the Troops of the Town and Port of Le Havre. It was pointed out that the officers had little or no time to conduct their administrative duties such as the censoring of letters, pay parades for the respective companies, the inspection of barrack rooms and of course as previously stated, the inspection of the men's feet. It would appear that the O.C. Commanding Le Havre treated this 'correspondence' with little consideration as orders were received from the latter directed that these duties should be undertaken by the Orderly Officer and the officer in military parlance "at rest." It was noted in the War Diary that "it is very probable that the interior economy will suffer in consequence," but it would appear that the Colonel took matters into his own hands and directed his Company Commanders to carry out as much as the interior economy as they could after the men returned to the camp at the end of the day.
 
October: Reorganisation
 
As per the previous month, there were also departures and arrivals as regards officers. On the 2nd of October, Lieutenant Chalk was struck off the strength of the battalion upon having been passed fit for general service. On the following day, Second-Lieutenant Alfred Charles Tozer of the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry joined the battalion and was posted to Number 4 Company along with Second-Lieutenant Frank Hollingworth also of the 9th D.L.I. who was in turn posted to the 4th Company. Lieutenant Peel departed and was struck off the strength on the 6th, Peel eventually gain the award of the Military Cross in 1918 whilst serving with the Dragoon Guards.
 
In terms of equipment issued to the battalion, a welcome addition was sanctioned on the 6th when Oil Skin Long Coats and Sou'westers were granted to be issued to the extent of 70% of the strength of the battalion for use on fatigues. Exposed to wet and trying conditions at times, the facilities to dry clothes at the camp it was noted were woefully inadequate and this issue, when it came to fruition, would prove to be most useful. There was now an attempt to co-ordinate all of the labour available at Le Havre and it was therefore decided to place this labour under the umbrella of one single Corps. This Labour Corps as it was to be known, was to be placed under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Hill himself and would comprise of Army Service Corps Labour Companies, Naval Labour Companies, Cheshire Regiment Reinforcements the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment and all Labour units passing through Le Havre that were delayed for a long enough period to be employed. With Colonel Hill exercising complete control over the Corps, to assist in his duties the Labour Superintendent would be assigned to Hill's command and act as his Staff Officer, distributing labour as required.
 
Further officers still continued to join the battalion when on the 8th, 11th and 13th of the month respectively, Second-Lieutenant Richard Ernest Ramsbottom, 9th (Service) Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers, Second-Lieutenant Henry Lee Ellis, 11th (Service) Battalion, Sherwood Foresters and Captain (Hon. Major) Ivo Reginald Limbert, 3rd (Reserve) battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment, reported for duty. These officers were duly posted to Numbers 4, 2 and 3 Companies.
 
Due to the reorganisation of labour in the port, Lieutenant Hamlyn and Second-Lieutenants Cross, Ramsbottom, Tozer, Cox and Ellis commenced a course of instruction on the 16th of the month. This course comprised of instruction in the unloading and discharging of cargoes and the stacking of stores in the numerous Hangars located in the port area, this instruction being carried out under the direction of officers of the Base Supply Depot, Army Ordnance Depot and the Royal Engineers. It was no doubt a rather double edged sword as far as the officers were concerned as prior to this, their only main duty consisted of marching the men to and from their duties and the supervision of these work parties to ensure there was no 'slackening.' It was expected therefore that after the completion of the course, these officers would be then suitably qualified to take control of an entire task from commencement to completion.
 
As Lieutenant Rees, the Battalion Medical Officer departed on the 16th for duties with the 56th (London) Division, the health and well-being of the men was now supervised by the Medical Officer, Cinder City, however for one man, he would ultimately be beyond the help of any medical assistance due to a tragic accident.
 
It was on the evening of the 19th of October that one working party of Number 3 Company suffered a fatality whilst performing their duties at the Hangar aux Cartons. Private Edmund Wright, 31358, a native of Swaby, Lincolnshire, felt the urge to urinate and no doubt after either informing a pal or the officer in command, made his way to the Quai de la Garonne to relieve himself. It was surmised that Edmund was blinded by the reflection of light in the water and unfortunatley he fell into the water. A hurried telephone call was then received at Battalion Headquarters whereupon the Officer Commanding Number 3 Company, Captain Robinson accompanied by Captain ? Royal Army Medical Corps, proceeded to the spot immediately. At 9.30 p.m. and shortly after the arrival of the officers, Edmund's lifeless body was pulled from the water but it was unfortunately too late and the Medical Offer pronounced that life was extinct. On the 28th, the results of a Court of Inquiry were announced highlighting the dangers of the practice of urinating in the dock. As a result, strict orders were now issued that the practice must cease with immediate effect but for Edmund the order was too late in coming. Aged just 39 years, Edmund Wright, the first casualty to be suffered by the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, was laid to rest at the Sainte-Marie Cemetery, Le Havre. In addition to his place of burial, Edmund is also commemorated on the Swaby War Memorial, Lincolnshire.
 
Towards the close of the month there were also more departures amongst the officers. On the 28th, Second-Lieutenant Burrage proceeded to hospital and was subsequently struck off the strength whilst on the 30th, Second-Lieutenant Danks was passed fit for duty and upon proceeding to his allocated I.B.D. (Infantry Base Depot), he too was accordingly struck off the strength of the battalion.
 
As the days and nights turned colder still, orders were issued on the last day of the month for the authorisation of a third blanket for the men. In addition to this welcome item to make the possibility of a good night's sleep more conducive, a ration of two ounces of butter, when available, was to be issued as an equivalent to two ounces of bacon.
 
Summary Of Activities
 
Of the officers who had passed their course of instruction in unloading and discharging cargoes, it was noted that several officers who were now in charge of their duties from start to finish were growing in confidence and gaining a certain amount of satisfaction from their performance. The duties were of a similar nature to those carried out previously such as unloading at the docks, the stacking of stores and general warehousing but however mundane these activities appeared, it was noticed by higher authority that the 16th Yorkshire's and the Corps it was now contained in, were performing to the best of their abilities.
 
Deficiency In Kit: November
 
The first day of the month of November commenced with another departure when Second-Lieutenant Duncan, Manchester Regiment, was pronounced fit for service and proceeded to his allocated Base Depot. (Authors note: Re-joining his unit on the 6th of November, Harry Duncan would be killed in action on the 23rd of April 1917 whilst his battalion, the 18th Manchester's, were engaged at Heninel south-east of Arras). On the 11th, Lieutenant Albert William Heaton, Adjutant of the 7th (Service) Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, attached to the battalion whilst undergoing medical treatment, proceeded to re-join his unit.
 
A deficiency in kit in mid November no doubt caused some consternation in particular to the Quarter-master, Hon. Lieutenant Anderton. It soon became apparent that whilst the men were employed on fatigues, there was no allocated place for the men to store their great coats and other items of their equipment. As was so often the case, the men were sometimes hastily assembled to perform duties in a different Hangar other than that initially allocated for work and this left them very little if no time at all to gather together their kit. Subsequently, losses of equipment and uniform were duly reported daily despite attempts to recover the missing articles. It was even suspected that there may have been some foul play afoot and to this end orders were issued recommending that N.C.O.'s take every possible precaution to prevent these losses either by detailing a sentry to guard kit or depositing the latter in one place and kindly asking the nearest Military Policeman if one is available to see that it is not interfered with!
 
Towards the end of the month, two further officers reported for duty, Captain Gerard Norman Watney, 10th (Service) Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment, and Lieutenant John Alfred Anderson, 13th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, both officers reporting for duty with Number 2 and Number 1 Companies respectively.
 
Summary Of Activities
 
Duties had been performed as in the previous months namely at the docks, the Base Supply Depot however they had also found themselves carrying empty artillery shell cases to the Empty Shell Case Dump. On the last day of the month, the men had discharged cargo from the S.S. "Geddington Court," this work receiving high praise for their efficient handling. The Officer Commanding Labour Corps dated the 6th of December:-
 
"I beg to inform you that very good work was done in discharging S.S. "Geddington Court" on Nov. 30th.
I should be glad if you think fit to inform Lt. Breadmore and the men of E Section No 1 Coy. & C Section No 30 Coy. Labour Corps and the men of the Yorkshire Labour Battn. that their good work has been appreciated. The work on the Quay generally has been very good, but the score made by Lt. Breadmore & his men was exceptionally good."
Sgd. F Hervey-Bathurst   Capt.
D.A. Q.M.G., M.L.O.
 
High praise indeed from the Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General, Sir Frederick Edward William Hervey-Bathurst, Bt. (Authors note: Breadmore. Possibly Charles Walter Breadmore, Army Service Corps).
 
December: The Close of The Year 1916
 
December proved to be relatively quiet as regards the entry for the month in the pages of the War Diary, the work consisting of duties that had been carried out during the months previously.
Hon. Lieutenant & Quarter-master Anderton, in addition to his own duties, now assumed the role of Camp Quarter-master at Cinder City replacing Lieutenant J. Bennett (not traced) on the 6th. On the 10th, Captain Watney replaced Captain Carrington as O.C. Number 1 Company whilst on the same day, Captain and Hon. Major Limbert assumed the pay and command of Number 4 Company viz Captain Hunt.
With promotions and departures for leave recorded, on Christmas Day the vast majority of the men completed thier duties at noon, the remainder of the day being granted as a half-day holiday as special arrangements were made to provide the men with some Christmas fare and festivities. Upon their first Christmas away from home and their loved ones, the thoughts of Fred and his comrades must have been those of mixed emotions as the war moved on into its third year. Little did the men know that in 1917, the Allies would launch three major offensives by the close of the year and their names still resonate in history today; Arras, Third Ypres and Cambrai. All three battles and their various phases would ultimately lead to the death of many a man from the Yorkshire market town of Wetherby.
 
January
 
Of those officers who remained at Le Havre during the festive and New Year period, in the first weeks of the month many departed for a leave of absence to England. For one officer however, the gaiety of the festive season was not an opportunity to return home for a time of celebration with family and friends but to mourn the death of his mother. Captain Watney returned home to Valence, Westerham, Kent, on the 1st of January to attend the funeral of his mother who had unfortunately died on the 29th of December. As the Colonel and other officers went on leave and eventually returned, towards the end of the month there was an edict issued as to the reporting of accidents. All, no matter how trivial they may seem at the time, were to be reported at once to the Orderly Room with full particulars and signed witness statements. It was good safety practice beyond doubt and initiated to avoid the trivial accident, if it occured again, turning into one of a more serious nature. As regards duties for the month, they were more or less of the same as those carried out previously however there were some challenges due to the festive season.
 
Summary Of Activities
 
Some sections of the men had been employed in the Mails & Parcels Forwarding Depot and it was noted that the work in itself became arduous on account of a backlog of Christmas parcels and mail passing through the establishment. Despite this, work as a whole had not proved to be as much as a strain on the men as in the months previously but there was little variation in the work that the battalion performed and the tasks allocated were now performed and executed as part of their daily routine. The health of the men it was noted was excellent and there were few in number who reported sick to the Medical Officer during the month of January, rather surprising as on the whole the demographic composition of the battalion numbered men primarily over the age of 30 years of age. There was however one exception amongst the officers when on the last day of the month, Lieutenant Hamlyn was admitted to hospital on the 24th and subsequently posted to England on the 31st and struck off the strength. (Authors note: A former student at the University of London and a member of the O.T.C., Hamlyn would be posted back to the front in January 1918 subsequently serving with the Machine Gun Corps).
 
February: Drafts, Drunkeness & Division
 
As yet more officers departed for a leave of absence, it was on the 9th of February that a serious charge was levelled against one officer who as a consequence, was placed under arrest. Lieutenant Anderson it transpired, had been found in a state of drunkeness in the Officers Mess located at the La Floride Camp and proceedings were now initiated for trial by General Court Martial.
It was on the 12th of the month that a draft of 168 Other ranks arrived from an unknown Base Depot located at Etaples, near Boulogne, this draft being followed on the same day by a further influx of 40 O/R's. On the 22nd, the trial of Lieutenant Anderson was held, the promulgation of the sentence being announced on the 27th. Found guilty, Anderson was subsequently deprived of twelve months seniority.
 
Absorption Into The Labour Corps
 
It is during this month that the War Diary of the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment comes to an abrupt end. According to Wylly's History, the battalion remained at Le Havre until the month of April whereupon the battalion prepared itself for a major reorganisation during the early days of the following month. Absorbed by the newly formed Labour Corps as were a number of infantry labour battalions, the 16th Battalion were now divided into two Labour Companies, the 22nd and the 23rd Labour Companies under the commands of Captain Harold Gaskell and Captain Swinburne Robinson respectively. The date of the formation of at least the 22nd Company can be roughly ascertained from surviving service documents as on or about the 12th of May 1917, I can only presume that the formation of the 23rd also occurred on or around this date. With each company comprising of a Captain or Major in command with four subaltern officers, the establishment numbered about 500 non-commissioned officers and men. (Source: Wylly's History).
 
Although reorganised, both the 22nd and the 23rd Companies retained an affiliation with their parent unit, i.e. the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment as did most of the infantry battalions assimilated into the Labour Corps for a certain period. As both companies did not record a War Diary and came under the command of higher military authority, I will attempt to plot the movements of the 22nd Labour Company by a search criteria consisting of those who unfortunately fell in action or died of wounds and their place of burial.
 
Poperinghe
 
Wylly's History records that the 22nd Labour Company proceeded to the Belgian town of Poperinghe, one presumes, shortly after their formation. Of the 23rd Company, their destination was to be the town of Bailleul, near the Belgian border, both towns vital railheads that supplied the Allies with various materiel for the prosecution of the war.
 
Situated about eight miles west of Ypres, "Pops" as the town was often referred to by "Tommy Atkins," was vital to the supply of the Ypres Salient as well as being a billeting area and the location of numerous Casualty Clearing Stations. Often targeted by long range enemy artillery and subjected to frequent air raids, the town was far from being a safe haven but despite this, soldiers at rest frequented the many bars and other facilities that the town had to offer both for recreational and spiritual purposes. (Authors note: Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Robert Benyon Nevill Gunter Bt. was acting possibly as Town Major in June 1917 and residing at the famous officers club known as "Skindles." The reader may wish to refer to his commemoration on this website).               

Courtesy Of The Geneanet Community
Poperinghe.jpg
Poperinghe: Rue du Nord. Before The War Visited.

Commemoration Under Construction