Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Second Lieutenant George Jones Armitage

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

Royal Flying Corps and General List
Died Sunday 17th June 1917, age 20

Cemetery :- Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, Ieper, West Vlaanderen, Belgium
Grave Reference or Panel Number : I.B.27

Son of George Troughton Armitage (Capt.,Royal Air Force) and Elizabeth Anne, his wife, of Pudsey, Leeds, Yorkshire.
George Jones Armitage was born at Pudsey, Leeds, on the 16th of March 1896, the son of George Troughton Armitage, occupation, a Solicitor, and Elizabeth Anne Armitage. At this period the family were residing in premises at 'The Marsh,' Pudsey, but it would appear that the family led a transient lifestyle. Upon the birth of a daughter Dorothy in August 1896, the family residence on her baptism records that the family were residing at West Street, Alford, Lincolnshire, however the baptism itself is recorded as having taken place at St. Lawrence Church, Pudsey, the following month. By the year of the 1901 Census the family is recorded as residing at 'Rose Villa,' Littlemoor Road, Pudsey.
There now appears to be no trace of the family until the 1911 Census, the latter now recorded as having moved to Farlington near Easingwold, George senior now describing his occupation as that of a Farmer (Employer). Employing a number of Farm Labourers and Servants, the family had taken up residence at 'Raisebeck House,' both George and Dorothy being recorded in this census as at school.
An obituary published in the Yorkshire Post on the 23rd of June 1917 records that George was educated at Easingwold Grammar School located on the Thirsk Road but unfortunately there are no further details as regards to his education. 

Employed at the London City and Midland Bank and residing with his parents at Ashfield, Wetherby, George attested for service at York on the 2nd of September 1914 for a period of four years service with the Royal Garrison Artillery, Territorial Force. Described by his medical record as apparently 19 years of age and with a height of 5 feet 10 and 1/4 inches, he was declared 'fit' by the presiding Medical Officer. Posted to the 2/1st West Riding Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery, a Second Line Territorial Artillery Brigade attached to the 2nd West Riding Division, after a period of training at Hedon Racecourse Camp near Hull, George was allocated the rank of Gunner, Serial Number 458, with a qualification of Signaller. Further to this enlistment, he also declared on Army Form E 624 that he was willing to serve outside the United Kingdom in the event of National Emergency. On the 28th of March 1915, George was discharged to commission and posted as a Second-Lieutenant to the 155th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery at Leeds. (London Gazette dated the 9th of April 1915).

155th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery

The 155th Brigade Royal Field Artillery were also known as the "Coal Owners Own" 155th West Riding, Royal Field Brigade of Artillery. The brigade was formed in Leeds in early 1915 by the West Yorkshire Coal Owner's Association. Initially attached to the 31st Division as it's Divisional Artillery, the brigade were posted to the 32nd Division in the New Year of 1916. The 155th became an Army Brigade on the 16th/17th January 1917 and conprised of "A," "B" and "C" Batteries with 18-pdrs. and "D" Battery with 4.5" Howitzers.
In early spring 1915, the brigade was posted and billeted at Wetherby utilizing Grange Park as a training facility.
For a comprehensive account of the activities during this period spent at Wetherby and those of the brigades actions on the Western Front during 1916 the reader may wish to refer to the commemoration of Sergeant Robert Fowler.

To The Front

On the 29th December 1915 the 155th Brigade R.F.A., Lieutenant-Colonel William St. Pierre Bunbury, Officer Commanding, departed Fovant Hills between the hours of 6 and 9 p.m., destination Southampton.
Embarkation of the Brigade Ammunition Column and "A" Battery was completed by late evening whereupon they proceeded to Le Havre where disembarkation was carried out on the morning of the 30th. Hence, this advance element of the brigade proceeded to the Docks Rest Camp. Headquarters Staff plus "B," "C" and "D" Batteries respectively arrived at Le Havre on the 31st but did not join the advanced element of the brigade but instead proceeded to No.2 Rest Camp located at Sanvic, Le Havre. 
A Nominal Roll of the brigade contained in the War Diary records that George was one of three officers that comprised the Brigade Ammunition Column:-

Acting Commander Lieutenant Cyril John Mawson
Second-Lieutenant George Jones Armitage
Second-Lieutenant George Douglas Bottomley

The 155th Brigade would not have to wait long for active operations as on the 1st January 1916 they entrained for Amiens and proceeded to billets located to the north-west of the town at Argoeves. On the 6th of the month, George and the officers and men of the  "Coal Owners Own" would arrive in the chalky uplands of Picardy.


On the 7th January the batteries of the 155th began registration of targets from positions in the Mesnil, Martinsart and Aveluy areas as part of the Left Group of the 32nd Divisional Artillery. The Brigade Ammunition Column was to be located at Contay to the west of Albert, the village being located on a major railhead that was primarily involved in the transportation and dumping of ammunition.
After an initial period of intense action shelling numerous points and locations across the enemy front at Thiepval and its environs, the brigade were finally withdrawn into rest positions. Initially moving to Frechencourt to the west of Albert, all elements of the brigade finally moved to Montigny where the remainder of the month was spent in cleaning up and various forms of drill.

In early March, the brigade moved to positions near Albert where fire was directed against enemy positions in the areas of La Boisselle and Ovillers and in this position the remainder of the month was spent.
On April 6/7th, the brigade was gradually relieved to be placed in reserve at Rubempre but on account of suitable facilities to gain water, instructions were issued to move to Contay on the 13th.
A programme of training and drill was duly carried out in the days that followed. On the 20th April, notification was received that the Commanding Officer of the brigade Lieutenant-Colonel Bunbury was to be replaced by Major Ponsonby Sheppard D.S.O., this being duly carried out on the 28th instant.
The month of May was spent in reserve at Contay but far from remaining idle, the brigade carried on a routine of training and providing men for working parties digging gun pits at Aveluy.
On the 26th of the month, in accordance with the re-organisation of Divisional Artilleries, the 155th Brigade Ammunition Column was broken up, personnel being distributed to the 32nd Divisional Ammunition Column or to the Trench Mortar Batteries of the 32nd Division. The horses were distributed to the 32nd and 49th D.A.C.'s with some lucky enough to be 'evacuated.'
As a consequence of this restructure, George and his fellow officers were transferred as follows, dates are 26/5/16 unless stated:

Lieutenant D. Miller, Officer Commanding B.A.C., transferred strength (No unit recorded)
Lieutenant F.D. Smith, Army Vetinary Corps, transferred to 32nd D.A.C.
Second-Lieutenant George Douglas Bottomley, transferred to "C" Battery, 155th Brigade (15/5/16)
Second-Lieutenant George Jones Armitage, transferred to "A" Battery, 155th Brigade

Now attached to "A" Battery under the command of Captain Vivian Nickalls, George assumed his duties.

On the 24th June, the 155th R.F.A. commenced the preliminary bombardment of enemy positions in the Thiepval area.
At 7.30 a.m. on the morning of the 1st July, the infantry of the 32nd Division assaulted enemy positions located to the south of Thiepval village. The attack, though well supported by artillery, ended in costly failure.
Remaining in action until the 18th July when a gradual relief was completed, George and the men of the 'Coal Owner's Own' moved westwards, away from the from the stubborn defences of Thiepval village. The latter would not finally fall until the 27th September after a prolonged and protracted series of engagements.

Bethune Sector

Gradually moving northwards towards the Bethune Sector, by early August the 155th Brigade R.F.A. once again began offensive operations south of the Cuinchy Brickstacks area.
In September, the Officer Commanding Lieutenant-Colonel Ponsonby Sheppard D.S.O. was replaced by Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Allcard D.S.O formerly Officer Commanding 164th Brigade R.F.A.
It was during the month that the brigade began a period of reorganization when A/155 Battery was ordered to divide into two drafts. One was to be drafted to B/155 Battery and the other to C/155, thus, these batteries now comprised of six guns. One section of A/155 now combined with a second section of C/155 and was now designated A/155 also forming a six gun battery.

Authors note: The posting of officers from the 'old' A/155 Battery to other units in the 155th Brigade is recorded in the War Diary, albeit, with some 'confusion.'
George is recorded as being transferred to "D" Battery but is also still included in a 'Nominal Roll' of officers that either remained or were transferred to the new six gun "A" Battery. As the War Diary states that "D" Battery was not subjected to any reorganization during this period, one can only presume that this may be a translation error or that he was posted to "D" Battery as a supernumerary. The latter scenario however seems unlikely as as the War Diary also records that 'excess' personnel were distributed to the Divisional Ammunition Column.

Attachment To The R.F.C.

On October 20th the 155th Brigade R.F.A. returned to the Somme battlefield in preparation for the Battle of the Ancre which was scheduled to be launched on the 13th November.
Taking part in this offensive the brigade were finally relieved on the 4th December.
It now becomes unclear as to George's further movements or indeed his attachment to the Royal Flying Corps, however, there is a brief annotation in his service file that records leave being granted to the U.K. between the dates of the 24th December 1916 - 4th February 1917. The 155th Brigade War Diary states that he was subsequently struck off the strength of the unit on the 10th of February 1917.
A Supplement to the London Gazette dated 30th June 1917 however indicates a date of attachment to the R.F.C. as February 1917:

"Flying Officers (Observers). - 9th June 1917:-
Temp. 2nd Lt. G.J. Armitage, R.A., with seniority from 13th Feb. 1917, and to be transfd. to Gen. List."

Sunday 17th June 1917:- The Death Of Second-Lieutenant George Jones Armitage

War Office Telegram dated 20th June 1917

Second-Lieutenant George Jones Armitage was subsequently attached as an Observer to No. 4 Squadron Royal Flying Corps. based at Abeele, Belgium.
At the time of his death the squadron were in the process of converting to RE 8's from BE 2G's, BE 2E's and BE 2Ds, the Bleriot Experimental Type produced by the Royal Aircraft Factory.
Also manufactured by the Royal Aircraft Factory the first production models of the RE 8 (Reconnaissance Experimental) had reached France by late 1916. Accidents on conversion to the new type proved to be numerous but later modifications in design led to a more stable aircraft making it ideally suited for the purpose of aerial reconnaissance, however, it was 'rumoured' that under stress, the upper wing was liable to collapse.
George, acting as observer, with Second-Lieutenant Charles Melville Sayer, a native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, at the controls, took off from Abeele aerodrome in RE. 8 Serial Number A4172.
At some stage during their flight, it is not recorded wether this was in training or on active operations, the aircraft crashed killing them both.
For the source of the above information the Author would like to express his gratitude to Gareth Morgan of Castle Hill, N.S.W., Australia who also provided an analysis of 'Airmen Died In The Great War 1914-1918' by Chris Hobson. This publication records that both airmen were "Killed while flying" indicating that the cause of their deaths was an accident and not as the result of enemy action. Some sources available on the internet suggest that the aircraft 'broke up' at a high altitude however these sources require corroboration.
With the family now residing at 'Moorcroft House,' Pudsey, Leeds, the notification by War Office Telegram of the death of George arrived on Wednesday, 20th June 1917. Furthermore, on the 24th July, the Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries informed the family that George had been buried at Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, west of Ypres. The letter concluded that:-

"The grave has been registered in this office, and is marked by a durable wooden cross with an inscription bearing full particulars".

On the 30th July, George's personal effects were forwarded to Cox and Co's Shipping Agency prior to being sent home to his grieving family. These effects contained amongst other items:-

1 set of mathematical instruments in case
1 leather tobacco pouch
Royal Field Artillery buttons
1 Observer's note book
1 leather photo case and photo
1 Cheque Book, London City and Midland Bank

As regards the above effects, George's father, waiting to be Gazetted and being posted away from home requested on the 4th July to the Assistant Financial Secretary of the War Office that:-

"My sons effects be forwarded to me at once, that I may save his mother the pain of putting his kit etc.away before I leave".

Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery, Ieper, West Vlaanderen, Belgium

Vlamertinghe New Military Cemetery was constructed prior to the launch of the series of battles known as Third Ypres in July 1917. Burials commenced however in the cemetery on the 3rd June (Authors Note: There is one burial however dated May 1915, possibly an isolated burial located on the battlefield and concentrated here) and continued until October 1918.
The cemetery now contains 1,813 Commonwealth burials of the Great War.
Second-Lieutenants Armitage and Sayer, Observer and Pilot respectively, are now buried in adjoining graves, one crew, of one aircraft that fell in the Great War.