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

fredwalkerwebsite.JPG

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.