of Tom and Agnes Crossland of Bank Street, Wetherby.
Alfred was born at Wetherby in 1893 to parents Tom, occupation, a Mason/Labourer, and Agnes Crossland residing at
premises located in Bank Street, Wetherby.
The 1911 Census
records that at this period the family were residing at Number 4, Wentworth Terrace, Westgate. Tom's occupation is now
recorded as that of a Domestic Gardener as is his son, Alfred, aged 17 years.
Recruitment & Attestation
Alfred 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 dictated 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
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 both 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, Alfred 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 who had served 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, vision and expansion of the chest.
Deemed 'fit' as the vast majority of 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:
(Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
(Service) Battalion, Yorks & Lancs Regiment
Battalion, West Riding Regiment (Duke of Wellington's)
Brigade Commander Brigadier-General Henry Haggard
Divisional Commander Major-General Frederick Hammersley C.B.
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 Alfred the number 11895 was allocated
to Lance-Corporal F. Dawson, possibly Frederick Dawson, also a Domestic Gardener and a resident of Westgate, Wetherby. Frederick
would serve overseas with the 9th Battalion at Gallipoli but would later transfer to the Military Police and survive the War.
The number issued following on from Alfred, 11897, was allocated to Private William Arthur White, a native of Kirk Deighton.
William would unfortunately not survive the War and was unfortunately killed at Gallipoli on the 9th August, 1915, aged 32.
York at this juncture with the Depot processing
more men that had answered the 'Call to Arms' was now 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 men in Army 'parlance' were "Discharged
not being likely to become an efficient soldier," their departure being confirmed by the Adjutant, Captain Alexander
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 of these discharged men 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 warning 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:
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 of 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."
The Battalion had also witnessed a change in 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.'
Alfred and the men
of the West Yorkshire's 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.
comprehensive account of the actions of the 9th West Yorkshire Regiment during the Dardanelles Campaign the reader may wish
to follow this link: