Son of George Robert and Elizabeth Precious of St. James Street, Wetherby.
George was born at Wetherby in 1892 to parents George, occupation, Woodman,
and Elizabeth Precious. The 1911 Census records that at this juncture the family have relocated to premises located at Ormond
Terrace, St. James Street. George Roberts' occupation is still recorded as that of a Woodman with further details now
recording that he was in the employ of a Timber Merchant, most likely his employer being the Westerman family who ran the
Saw Mill at the bottom of Scott Lane. Of George, he is not recorded as residing in the family home at this juncture but the
latter census records one George Precious, aged 18 years, working as a Horseman on the farm of one John Skirrow at Addlethorpe
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 stated that should the War last 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 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, George 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 the signing of 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.
A Preliminary Medical Examination was now conducted by Lieutenant Harry Winstanley Shadwell of the Royal Army Medical Corps
to determine vital statistics; height, weight, expansion of the chest etc. 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) formed part of the 32nd Infantry Brigade that also comprised of the following units;
6th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
6th (Service) Battalion, Yorks & Lancs
8th (Service) Battalion, West Riding Regiment (Duke of Wellington's)
Brigadier-General Henry Haggard
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
George the number 11893 was allocated to Arthur Hobman, a Gardener at Ainsty Lodge who was unfortunately to lose his life
at Gallipoli. The number issued following on from George, 11895, was subsequently allocated to one F. Dawson, possibly Frederick
Dawson, a Gardener of Westgate, Wetherby. Dawson disembarked into the eastern theatre on the 2nd July 1915 and it would appear
due his Medal Index Card that service was performed in this theatre after a transfer to the Military Mounted Police.
The annotation '2A' denoting theatre where first served indicates either Greek Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria or European
Turkey but this would indicate disembarkation after January 1916. It may be that this is just a typographical error but whatever
the scenario, it is clear that Dawson survived the War.
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 located at Belton Park near Grantham, Lincolnshire,
was initiated in September by the 9th West Yorkshire's where they were joined by the remainder of the Brigade and Division.
Following this movement, a second medical
examination more thorough than the initial examination that had taken place on Attestation was carried out in mid October.
Many of the men who had originally 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.
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 and Division 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 writes;
"Our 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. Witley Camp consisted at this early
stage of the War primarily of tented accommodation with just a few huts erected but the camp would rapidly expand and become
more permanent as the conflict progressed.
the 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 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 month of May would also witness a change in command of the Battalion when Colonel Frend was replaced by another
officer also 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.'
George 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 1915 to prepare for entrainment the following day.
Wherever the men suspected they were heading they knew definitely that the climate was to be a hot one due to the types of
equipment issued. The exact destination however was unknown to the Other Ranks of the Battalion, but orders dictated that
the West Yorkshire's were now bound for the Dardanelles to play their part in trying to break the stalemate that had now
developed on the Peninsula.
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: