Son of William and Hannah
Bella (Annabella) Kitchen of Wentworth Terrace, West End, Wetherby.
The Early Years
Tom was born at Wetherby on the 27th of May 1897 to parents, a Farm Labourer, and Hannah Bella Kitchen (nee Utley).
Baptised at Saint James Parish Church on the 16th of June of that year, Tom was the second child born to the Kitchen/Utley
At the recording of the 1901 Census,
William now described his occupation as that of a Horseman/Market Gardener, the family now comprising of three children, Bessie,
aged 7 years, Tom aged 3 years, and Fred, recorded as being just 6 weeks old. (Authors note: Bessie was in fact one Bessie
Utley, born in 1893 and baptised at Saint James. The father however is not recorded).
The 1911 Census now records the Kitchen family as residing at Number 8, Wentworth Terrace, a further child, Maurice,
having been born in November 1903 and baptised as a Primitive Methodist. Aged 14 years, Tom and his two siblings, Fred and
Maurice respectively, are recorded at this juncture as being at school, of Bessie, she is recorded as residing with her Aunt
at Oxenhope, near Keighley and employed as Worsted Spinner.
Attestation & Enlistment
It is surmised that Tom was deemed to have enlisted at York in May 1916 however his actual attestation for military
service may suggest on or about the 10th of December 1915 at Wetherby. Attesting under the Derby or Group Scheme,
i.e. voluntary enlistment, after undergoing a rudimentary medical examination performed by Dr. James Arthur Hargreaves, the
presiding Medical Officer, Physician and Surgeon of Wetherby, Tom was then placed on the Army Reserve and issued an Armlet
to denote that he had enlisted. Mobilised and posted to the Regimental Depot located at York, he was then
posted to a Reserve Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment and issued the serial number 29193. The terms of his enlistment
were that of Short Service (For the Duration of the War, with the Colours and in the Army Reserve). It is of interest
to note that amongst those attesting for service in this number sequence, there was one William Nettleton, aged 18 years and
6 months. A resident of Barleyfields Laundry, Wetherby, William would be allocated the serial number 29195. Shortly after
his mobilisation however, he would be posted to the ranks of the 2/4th Lincolns and serve with various battalions of the Regiment
until being captured and made a Prisoner of War whilst serving with the 1st Battalion in September 1918.
Posted To The Western Front
After a period of training in all military disciplines, Tom was despatched
to France and would be initially posted to one of the many Infantry Base Depots (I.B.D's) where he would be processed
and receive yet further training in all aspects of warfare. One may surmise that this initial service was conducted at the
33rd Infantry Base Depot located at Etaples, near Boulogne, before he joined his allocated battalion "in the field."
Posted to the 15th (Service) Battalion, West
Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds "Pals"), it is difficult to ascertain the date of his actual posting to the battalion
with some degree of accuracy however it is certain that Tom was contained in a draft of 394 men that were received by the
15th West Yorkshire's in October 1916. Drafts recorded during the month in question in the Battalion War Diary are as
Two Drafts Numbering 114 & 56 men
October 76 men
20th October 38 men
Either joining the battalion
whilst they were in the Givenchy Sector east of Bethune or on the 31st Divisions return to the Somme, Tom was subsequently
posted to "C" Company. (Source: Cox & Co 1919. First published for private circulation by the aforementioned,
this edition being published in 1988 by the London Stamp Exchange Ltd., in association with Toad Hall Medals, 5 Buckingham
Street, London WC2).
15th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment:- A Brief Service History
The battalion was formed at Leeds in September 1914 as a direct consequence
of Lord Kitchener's "First Call To Arms," an appeal for 100,000 men between the ages of 19 and 35 years
to enlist under a service obligation of SHORT SERVICE (Three years with the Colours). With the first contingent of
roughly 1200 men being raised by the 16th of September (Source: Yorkshire Evening Post dated the 16th of September 1914),
the battalion would be placed under the command Lieutenant-Colonel John Walter Stead, a former Solicitor and Commanding Officer
of the Leeds Rifles. (Authors note: Exact figures as to the strength of the battalion as of the 16th of September 1914 are
not known however number 15/1200 was issued on the 25th of January 1915 to one Henry Roland Jones).
Much has been written about the "Pals" and there is I believe no
better publication than Milner's History for those wishing to explore the history of the battalion in greater
detail. I will now therefore just provide a brief record of the movements of the battalion before Tom joined the "Pals"
in October 1916. After training at Colsterdale near Masham, North Yorkshire, during the autumn and winter of 1914, the battalion
moved to Ripon in May 1915 to join the constituent units of the 31st Division. Contained in the 93rd Infantry Brigade, the
latter comprised of the following units:-
15th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds "Pals")
16th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (1st Bradford "Pals")
18th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (2nd Bradford "Pals")
18th (Service) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry (Durham "Pals")
Divisional Commander Temporary Major-General Robert Wanless O'Gowan
C.B. (24th August 1915)
under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Campbell Taylor, the 15th West Yorkshire's, in division, moved to Salisbury
Plain in September and into camp at Fovant. Further training was carried out including musketry, the use of trench mortars,
and instructions in the art of trench warfare. Sport was also an integral part of camp life, a large cross country race being
run in November in which the Leeds "Pals" triumphed and took all the prizes.
Rumours quickly circulated that the 31st Division were bound for France in the New Year, officers of the 92nd Brigade
even collecting up all varieties of trench equipment such as waders, boots and trench coats. On returning to Hurdcott Camp,
one soldier of the East Yorkshire Regiment heard that the move to France "was off" and men were ordered
to immediately indent for 'Pith' helmets. As rumours continued, orders were eventually issued for the men
to prepare to move, not to France, but to Egypt.