Son of Samuel and Elizabeth Hill, of the Market Place, Wetherby.
William was born at Wetherby
in 1893, the youngest of seven children, to parents Samuel, an Auctioneers Assistant, and Elizabeth Hill, the family being
recorded in the 1891 Census as residing in Hills Yard, off the Market Place, Wetherby.
The 1901 Census records that at this period the Hill family had now moved into premises at Number 27, Market Place,
owned by Samuel's brother, William, a Farmer, the premises being in the occupation of the Hill family since the Great
Sale Of Wetherby in 1824. Samuel had also changed his occupation at this juncture to that of a Farmer and on the death
of his brother the following year and inheriting his brothers property, the family moved to premises located at Number 41
the Market Place (Authors note: Period unknown but source as recorded in Clay's History Of Wetherby).
By 1911 Samuel had once again changed his occupation, the latter now being
recorded as that of a 'Jobbing Gardener,' William, aged 17years, finding employment as a House Joiners Apprentice.
Of the Hill family, an interesting passage may be found in Clay's History. Annotations by Author:
"Sam (Samuel) in his younger days was closely connected
with Greyhound racing, training dogs for the late Mr. Vyner (Robert Vyner, Linton Springs?). Mrs. Hill was a Wensleydale
woman, (Gunnerside) and one could always be sure of a little nice cheese when visiting her house."
From this very quintessential English home, William would also indulge in
his love of sport, playing football with the Wetherby Corinthians. Like so many of his team mates including amongst their
number Fred Byrom, Tom Beasley and James Newis to mention but a few, William would answer his country's call on the outbreak
of the Great War.
attested for service at Wetherby Town Hall on or about the 31st August 1914. The terms of his enlistment were that of a Short
Service obligation, i.e., three years with the Colours however it was also stated that if the War lasted longer than the duration
of three years, the recruit would be retained until the cessation of hostilities.
As the men waited to enlist, Army protocol at first 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 into 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 to both 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, William 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, this 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.
medical examination was now conducted by Lieutenant Harry Winstanley Shadwell of the Royal Army Medical Corps to determine
vital statistics; height, weight 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.
9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment was formed at York on the 25th August 1914 and designated a K 1 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 were 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 allocated to the 32nd Infantry
Brigade that also comprised of the following units:
6th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
6th (Service) Battalion, Yorks & Lancs Regiment
8th (Service) Battalion, West Riding Regiment (Duke of Wellingtons)
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
William, the number 11879 was allocated to one Ira Kitchen, a native of Stainland near Halifax. Ira enlisted at Wetherby Town
Hall on the 31st August 1914 but was discharged during mid October 1914 and determined "not likely to become an efficient
soldier." His exact link to the town of Wetherby however is not known at present. Following on from William, the
number 11881 was issued to one Harry Wiseman. Harry, the son of Robert Wiseman a local builder and at one time the Highways
Inspector to Wetherby Rural District Council, would rise to the rank of Sergeant and eventually Colour Sergeant. Born at Baildon
near Bradford, Harry would survive the War, marry one Hilda Waterhouse in 1917 and become the Parish and Town Clerk during
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 who had enlisted at Wetherby were discharged due to either
being found medically unfit with conditions ranging from chronic bronchitis to a hernia, or, just a lack of general ability.
The latter men in Army 'parlance' were "Discharged not being likely to become an efficient soldier,"
their departure being confirmed by the Adjutant, Captain Alexander Geary-Smith.
An analysis of Army Pension records reveal that of the men who had 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 constraints of the weather, the training programme proceeded apace.
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. Departing Belton Park on this date, the Brigade
in Division 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 the recorder of these events is referred to in the account
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.
1st May 1915, the 11th (Northern) Division played host to two most 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, an extract of which is quoted in Wylly's History;
"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 would also witness a change in command during the month of
May when Colonel Frend was replaced by another officer from the ranks of 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.'
William 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.
For a comprehensive account
of the actions of the 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment during the Dardanelles Campaign the reader may wish
to follow this link;