Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Gunner Norman Wetherill Varley

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

"B" Battery, 155th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
Died 26th August 1918, aged 26 years

Cemetery : Moyenneville (Two Tree) Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France
Grave Reference or Panel Number :- A.6

Son of the late John William and Sarah Varley of High Street, Wetherby.
Norman was born in Wetherby in 1889 to parents John, a Grocery Store Owner, and Sarah. Norman's father was well known in the Wetherby district as for a number of years he acted as Church Warden at Saint James's Parish Church and in addition to this role, he was also the manager of the Church School.

Residing in rooms above the shop which was adjacent to the National and Provincial Bank, little is known about Norman's early life in Wetherby. The family it would appear resided at numerous addresses according to the Electoral Register. Owning 'Freehold' property in North Street as well as their business premises, by 1911 the family are recorded as residing in the 'Bank Buildings,' a large property comprising of nine rooms.
The census of this year records that Norman was not resident in the family home at Wetherby but residing in lodgings at Number 2, Tavistock Place, Sunderland, his occupation being recorded as that of a Grocer's Assistant. The circumstances that found Norman relocating to the north-east of England are unknown as their appears to be no family link to this area but in about 1914, Norman's elder brother George had taken over the family business.
In 1915, Norman's younger brother Oswald, an Accountants Clerk, had enlisted into the ranks of the King's Royal Rifle Corps. Commissioned in November 1915 as a Second-Lieutenant in the East Yorkshire Regiment, Oswald would be posted overseas in July 1916 and serve with distinction on the Western Front. Shortly before his posting however, his father, John William Varley, died suddenly after suffering a "paralysis of the nerves" in June aged 63 years. Interred at Wetherby Cemetery, John left his estate of £4304, 17 shillings and 3 pence to his widow, his eldest son George and Charles Edward Whitaker, a Schoolmaster of Park Villas, Wetherby.
At some point after the year of 1911, Norman relocated to Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Attesting for military service at the latter place, an analysis of his serial number indicates that this attestation took place in February 1916. Placed on the Army Reserve, Norman was then mobilised in March 1917 and after a period of training in England, he was then posted overseas, date unkown due to an absence of surviving service documents. (Authors note:- The only surving piece of documentary evidence relating to Norman's service is a medical document dated February 1918. This states that at this juncture he was serving with the 110th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, attached to the 25th Division. On this basis, I will commence his commemoration in the month of January 1918 but prior to this, I will provide the reader with a brief overview of the activities of the brigade up to this period.
110th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery:- 1915
Posted overseas on the 24th of September 1915, the 110th Brigade, R.F.A., Officer Commanding Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Walter Comyn, embarked at Southampton on this date and disembarked at Le Havre on the following day. Entraining on the night of the 25th/26th, the brigade, attached to the 25th Division, first went into action on the Western Front near Armentieres on the 30th of September registering targets in the Frelinghien Sector to the east of Armentieres. On the 9th of October, the 110th Brigade moved into the Ploegsteert Sector to complete a relief of the 3rd Canadian Field Artillery, the brigade covering the front held by the 76th Infantry Brigade, 25th Division. The rotation of various brigades continued throughout the month, the brigade engaging in a number of 'shoots' at various positions and targets but on the whole, the month passed with little to mention of note. Remaining in this sector during November, rain was the paramount enemy at this period with positions being flooded out necessitating some batteries having to be re-positioned. The 17th however proved to be a successful day, the brigade supporting an attack made by the 1st Canadian Division, the 110th as a consequence receiving a congratulatory message from the Brigade Artillery Major of the Canadian Division for their valuable co-operation in what was described as a "minor offensive". Early in December, the brigade mounted operations in support of a minor scheme conducted by the 7th Infantry Brigade, 25th Division, against enemy held positions at Factory Farm, and on the 19th, gas was detected on the wind from the direction Ypres but fortunately it did not reach the gun positions and was only detected faintly at the Brigade Wagon Lines. Regarding the brigades horses and mules, it was noted that many had become sick due to the inclement weather. Basically suffering from frostbite, their hair and skin had started to come away leaving a hole that unfortunately took weeks to heal, conditions for the animals being far from adequate as there was no shelter. Christmas Day remained relatively quiet, the outstanding highlight of the day being the serving of a festive dinner to all ranks. As the year drew to a close, enemy artillery appeared to be more active but thankfully for the horses and mules, their situation slowly began to improve, no doubt to the assistance afforded by the Brigade Veterinary Officer.
1916:- Vimy Ridge And The Somme
Remaining covering the Ploegsteert Sector, it was on the 3rd of January that a number of officers and men had a lucky escape to say the least. An Observation Post (O.P.) located at a position known as the Thatched Cottage to the north-east of Ploegsteert Wood received four direct hits from enemy artillery firing from the direction of Halte, to the south of La Basse-Ville. Setting the thatched roof on fire, the occupants comprising of three officers and six Telephonists of "A" and "D" Batteries managed to escape without injury before the building burnt to the ground.
Little of importance occured during the remainder of the month however on the 29th of January, the Right Sections of the 110th Brigade were relieved by their opposite numbers of the 52nd Brigade, R.F.A., 9th (Scottish) Division, Officer Commanding the 52nd Brigade, Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur Montagu Perreau C.M.G. Upon these sections being relieved, they then proceeded to the Wagon Lines for the night but on the following day they then set forth for Borre, east of Hazebrouck, whereupon they proceeded to billet in a Rest Camp. They were joined on the 31st by the respective Left Sections of the brigade and Headquarters, the Brigade Ammuntion Column taking up their billets a short distance to the south. Remaining at this location for a number of days, their activities are not recorded but one may presume that they performed general clean up duties in addition to an inventory of various items of equipment. On the 4th of February, the brigade proceeded to Lederzeele to undertake a programme of training but literally this proved to be a washout with only a few fields available for training and the ground described as 'heavy'. Proving their time here to be of no value, it was on the 14th that the brigade proceeded back to Borre and their same billets, the men and their charges being reunited with the Brigade Ammunition Column (B.A.C.) who had remaind behind under the command of Temporary Captain Claude Milberne Blandy. Little of importance is recorded in the Brigade War Diary for the remainder of the month other than a letter of appreciation received from the General, Commanding-in-Chief, Second Army, Temporary General Sir Herbert Charles Onslow Plumer, G.C.M.G., K.C.B. On the  26th of the month, Colonel Comyn departed for England, command of the 110th Brigade now devolving on Major John Plunkett Verney Hawksley D.S.O. (Authors note:- Gazetted Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel on the 28th of March 1916).
The month of March would witness the brigade carrying on their programme of training but on the 10th as per orders issued, the brigade began a movement southwards into the Seventh Corps area, the latter under the command of Temporary Lieutenant-General Sir Julian H. G. Byng, K.C.M.G., C.B., M.V.O. Norrent Fontes to the west of Lillers was reached on the 10th followed by respective moves via route of march to Bergueneuse, Buneville before Gouy-en-Ternois, south-east of Saint-Pol was reached on the 17th. Continuing training, the brigade was inspected on the 31st of the month by Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, whilst the batteries were performing gun drill at Tincques on the Saint-Pol - Arras Road. That same day, three officers and ninety Other Ranks were sent to be attached to the 51st (Highland) Division Artillery Headquarters located at Hermaville for duties in connection with communications.
On the 1st of April a reconnaissance was carried out in connection with the establishment of the Corps Line and as a consequence, positions were selected to the east of Mont-Saint-Eloi, south of the Lorette Spur, north of Arras. With the Corps Commander inspecting the 110th Brigade on the 5th along with the 7th Infantry Brigade, 25th Division, on the route of march, after a period of familiarisation the brigade now occupied postions on the 23rd/24th about a quarter of a mile to half a mile south-east of Berthonval Wood, Wagon Lines being established at Camblain-l'Abbe. In support to the 7th Infantry Brigade, the 110th R.F.A. now covered the zone of trenches from S.28.c.44 - S.21.b.9.3. on Vimy Ridge, and on the 25th/26th, the relief of the 3rd North Midland Brigade (46th Divisional Artillery) was completed.
The whole area had been subjected to the underground warfare for a considerable length of time by the French at first and the British who had inherited their tunnelling systems. It was no surprise that the enemy detonated a mine on the 25th at the eastern end of Central Trench (Central Avenue) and fire was brought to bear on the position by the 110th Brigade, the infantry being pre-warned to vacate their front line positions. Yet another mine was blown on the 27th to the one days previously, the enemy, masters of crater occupation, taking up 'residence' in both positions but harrased day and night by the artillery to hinder consolidation.                  

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