Son of Henry and Elizabeth Walker of Westgate, Wetherby.
Ernest was born at Wetherby on the 27th May 1893 to parents Henry, occupation, a Domestic Gardener, and Elizabeth
Walker, the family residing at Walton Cottage located in Walton Lane.
By 1903, the family had relocated to premises in Fox Yard, located off Bank Street behind the Fox Inn Public House.
In the Electoral Register of the following year, the Walker family are recorded as residing in Kell's Yard, off Westgate.
(Authors note: This location could in fact be the Yard located opposite the Fox Inn. The Yard itself being named after Councillor
Thomas Kell, a local solicitor).
1911 Census details now record at this period that Henry was in the employment of Wetherby Rural District Council as a Highway
Labourer, Ernest, now aged 17 years, employed as a Grocer's Errand Lad.
With the family now consisting of five children, Fred, employed as a Warehouseman
for the Co-operative, William, a Domestic Gardener, Lily, a Domestic Servant at Home and Henry attending School, Ernest took
the opportunity to enlist in the local Territorial Force contingent, the 5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment.
An analysis of the
serial number issued to Ernest, 1490, indicates an enlistment in August 1913, this act taking place at Wetherby Town Hall,
the Drill Hall of "F" Company. Upon attesting, his service obligation would be that of four years service in the
United Kingdom with the Territorial Force. After a series of questions put towards the recruit before enlistment, a declaration
and an oath would then be taken before the Attesting Officer or Magistrate, in this case, one Second-Lieutenant Charles Ellis
Foulds, employed at the London City & Midland Bank and also the Secretary of the Wetherby Hockey Club. The son of a Colliery
and Coal Merchant, Foulds had received his commission on the 17th June 1913 and would eventually rise to the rank of Captain.
After receiving a
medical inspection conducted by the attending Medical Officer, Herbert Hargreaves M.B. of Collingham, he was then declared
"Fit," the Approving Officer, Captain and Adjutant of the 5th West Yorkshire Regiment, Percy Gordon Williamson,
then signing the document.
At this period, the Territorial Force were under strength and struggling to find new recruits. In the Wetherby area
and in the County in general, a concerted effort was made to find recruits to fill the ranks of the 5th Battalion. One of
Second-Lieutenant Foulds first duties as an officer was a recruitment drive in the district, an analysis of various sources
indicating amongst others, the enlistment of William Pratt (1489), killed in action in 1917 whilst serving with the 2/6th
In early August 1913, the 1st West Riding (Territorial) Division attended
their Annual Camp at Aberystwith, Wales. Exactly one year later, the 1st West Riding Brigade containing the 5th, 7th and 8th
Battalion's, West Yorkshire Regiment, were once again attending or about to attend their two week Annual Camp at Scarborough
when on the 4th August 1914, war was declared on Germany. With most of the men of the 5th Battalion enjoying their free time
wandering around the town, at the battalion's camp located on Scarborough Racecourse near Seamer, the news was received
with both trepidation and excitement. For the men of both the 7th and 8th Battalion's (Leeds Rifles), the news was greeted
with a certain amount of disapointment, not just because the storm clouds of war were looming, but that they had just
arrived at the camp, looking forward to the chance of momentarily escaping the hardships of life and work in the city of Leeds.
For the men of the 5th Battalion, they had been 'lucky' in certain respects having already having spent one week on
the east coast enjoying glorious weather however if events had transpired, they themselves were due to be replaced in the
following week by the men of the 6th Battalion.
Men were now rallied at speed for departure to York. Special trains were
detailed at Scarborough Railway Station to overcome a further influx of holiday crowds, those already in the town estimated
at 70,000 people with a further 30,000 expected.
The first to depart the town was the 5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel
Cecil Ernest Wood V.D., each train detailed to depart within an hour of each other. As thousands of people assembled to witness
the departure of the "Terriers," the 5th Battalion were followed by the 7th and 8th Battalion's (Leeds Rifles)
under the commands of Lieutenant-Colonel's Albert Edward Kirk V.D. and Edwin Kitson Clark T.D. respectively. The Yorkshire
Post dated the 4th August 1914 records their departure as follows:-
"The Leeds Rifles had a particularly hearty
send-off. As soon as the strains of the "Ca Ira," the regimental march, were heard in the distance, a huge crowd
collected outside the departure platform, and cheered almost without a break until the last file had wheeled inside the gateway.
When, a few minutes later, the 8th Battalion appeared, some of the crowd took up the music of the band and sang "The
Old Folks At Home." Now and again the old cry was heard, "Are we down-hearted?" to which there came from a
number of tongues vigorous denial. The spectators gave salvoes of cheers, and the ladies waved handkerchiefs."
Upon arrival at their respective barracks, it was not long before orders arrived for the constituent units of the
1st West Riding Brigade to concentrate at Selby. By the 5th August, a telegram was sent to York by the Officer Commanding
6th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Oswald Wade, this stating that the battalion was virtually
at full strength, a further telegram sent on the 8th reporting that the 6th West Yorkshire's were now at War Establishment,
a remarkable feat of organisation by any standard.
The respective battalions now prepared for entrainment, the 6th from Belle
Vue Barracks, Bradford, the 7th from Carlton Barracks and the 8th from Whitehall Road and Green Lane Council Schools, Leeds,
respectively. On the 10th August, the 6th Battalion more or less 'slipped' away from the Midland Station at Bradford
without pomp or ceremony unlike the 7th and 8th Battalion's of the Leeds Rifles, the 7th being addressed before their
departure by both their Colonel and the Earl of Harewood, Lord-Lieutenant of the West Riding. The 7th West Yorkshire's
were the first to depart wearing full service dress and with rifles slung over shoulders. Marching via Woodhouse Lane, Briggate
and Kirkgate, Marsh Lane Goods Station was eventually reached, the men then entraining for Selby. For the 8th Battalion, their
route of march would witness them passing down Wellington Street and then Boar Lane, the latter lined with crowds cheering
loudly as the men passed by. It must have been a sight to behold as the crowd and the men were swept with patriotic fervour
however tragically, it was not without incident. Rifleman Thomas Beckwith, 1430, aged 37 years, a soldier with "D"
Company of the 7th Battalion and a resident of 14 Kelsall Terrace, Burley, Leeds, was thrown from his horse in Clay Pit Lane
on the journey to Marsh Lane. A Boot Riveter by trade and a married man with children, Thomas died on the 12th August at Leeds
General Infirmary after sustaining a fractured skull. Originally interred in Woodhouse Cemetery on the 14th August, Thomas
now lies in Lawnswood Cemetery, Leeds.
It is now that we turn our attentions to the 5th West Yorkshire's. The City of York, as one could imagine, was
by now virtually bursting at the seems as men flocked to the city either to enlist or re-enlist in the Line and Special Reserve
Battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment. Such was the influx of men that accommodation was at a premium, some men were lucky
to be housed in Fulford Barracks but for some, tents had to be established in the Barracks Square.
Upon their return from Scarborough, the 5th West Yorkshire's
had mustered at their Headquarters located in St. Andrewgate (Colliergate Drill Hall) whereupon equipment was issued from
the West Riding Territorial Association stores. As previously stated, accommodating the men was a serious issue and to this
end the 'Out-Companies' from Ripon, Harrogate and Selby were found billets in Haxby Road Council School. As per the
other constituent units of the 1st West Riding Brigade, the 5th Battalion journeyed to Selby by 'special' train and
once assembled, the brigade numbered about 4000 men. Accommodation once again proved to be problematic however some men were
to be found billeting arrangements in private houses whilst the remainder would be placed under canvas.
It is of interest to note that the 5th Battalion, even by the 28th August, were short of their full establishment.
In Harrogate, Frederick Arthur Kelley, late Captain of the 1st West Riding Royal Engineers and now commanding the Harrogate
Defence League, was tasked to make strenuous efforts to find yet more recruits without interfering with those responding to
Kitchener's 'Call to Arms.' About fifty men were required and if none were to be found, there was a possibility
that drafts would have to be found from outside the natural recruitment area of the battalion. Kelley enthusiastically set
about his own recruitment drive, men being found from a variety of sources, some from the National Reserve but also men who
had previously served with the Territorial Force but who were now time expired.
Harry Westerman of Horsefair, Wetherby, had previously served for a number
of years with the 5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment. Time expired, Harry re-enlisted at York on the 18th August 1914,
the attesting officer being one Captain Alwyne Percy Dale, a veteran of the South African War and a resident of York. The
3rd September 1914 proved to be a good day for Kelley and his recruitment drive, one example of a number of men who enlisted
on this date being one Harold Slee, 2185, a native of Pannal and aged 24 years.
The problem however of reaching War Establishment was
not unique to the 5th Battalion. The 7th Battalion (Leeds Rifles) did not complete full establishment until the 16th August,
the Yorkshire Post dated the 17th August declaring the rank and file as numbering 1,020 once complete. Their sister
battalion, the 8th, were in a similar predicament to that of the 5th with a shortfall of 50 men to bring them up to an establishment
of 1,010 but recruitment had moved swifltly in Leeds and by nightfall on the 17th, the Yorkshire Evening Post announced
that the battalion had reached their allocated strength.
As the men set about various tasks involved with the
act of mobilisation, yet still more men arrived at Selby to train with the territorials. Men arrived from the Jewish community
of Leeds as well as men of the National Reserve, transferred to the 7th and 8th Leeds Rifles. Even before the 1st West Riding
Brigade had arrived in the town, a detachment of twenty men of "D" Company of the Selby contingent of the 5th West
Yorkshire's had been detached to guard a War Office powder magazine located on the Selby - Market Weighton railway line
at Barlby. The remainder of this company, numbering 66 men under the command of Captain Henry Cooper Scott, then proceeding
to York to join their battalion.
As the County of Yorkshire mobilised their respective territorial units, one section of the 1st West Riding Field
Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps arrived at Selby to set up a Field Hospital. Provision for recreation tents was also submitted
by the Y.M.C.A. to establish and make available their resources pending substantial funding.
The threat of an enemy invasion was also foremost in
everyone's mind to the extent that some of the men became undoubtedly nervous and likely to act in haste. At just after
3 a.m. on the morning of the 17th August, the "Ammonia," a steamer belonging to a chemical firm from Goole
under the command of Captain J. Robinson, proceeded up the River Ouse in the direction of York. As the ship approached the
Selby Railway Swing Bridge, the vessel was challenged by the sentry on duty and after repeated calls whereupon there was no
reply, he duly opened fire. Upon the commotion, the guard on duty then turned out as the boat continued onwards towards the
toll bridge and began to fire volleys of rifle fire at the steamer which was then compelled to stop, three rounds being lodged
in the funnel of the boat. Captain Robinson was then brought ashore and questioned as to why he had failed to stop the vessel
when challenged. He stated that he was unaware that the steamer was likely to be challenged and he believed that the engines
had in fact ceased operation but that the boat was carried forward by the incoming tide. The identity of the sentry and the
guard are unknown but there is no question that this escapade brought much amusement to those who were not involved in the
'fighting' in the days to come.
|Hydraulic Bridge, Selby. Author's Collection.
On the 19th August, the 1/1st West Riding Brigade relocated to a camp near
Selby. The precise location of the camp is unknown but the Author is of the opinion that this may have been located near Barlby
and in close proximity to the Powder Magazine and associated rail and road networks. One may surmise that the 'camp'
was not an established facility for example, as late as October 1915, the Second Line Territorial Battalion of the Regiment,
the 2/5th, had to find accommodation on a march to York at Selby in four schools and halls, transport animals being housed
in an old disused mill.
It is of interest
to note that certainly after the 17th August, newspaper articles referring to the exact location of the West Riding Brigade
are virtually non existent. The reality of the seriousness of the situation it would appear, had been impressed by higher
authority upon the various newspapers reporting every movement of the brigade, a news 'blackout' in essence. Tempest's
History Of The Sixth Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, records that on the 24th August, the battalion, in brigade,
had moved to the Knavesmire (York Racecourse), this date of relocation being confirmed by a variety of sources. Although the
stay of the brigade on the Knavesmire was only about one week, a letter published in the Yorkshire Post dated the
7th September describes some of the facilities available to the men and the general daily routine. Wrote by the Reverend Stanley
Bickersteth D.D., Chaplain 2nd Class (T.F.) to the Leeds Rifles and dated the 24th August, the following extract is an abridged
account of the aforementioned letter:-
write here on duty as chaplain of the Leeds Rifles, and my work yesterday will give you a sample of my work. At 7 I celebrated
the Holy Communion for the 7th and 8th Battalions in the Y.M.C.A. tent, using the sacred vessels which the officers subscribed
to purchase a year ago. At 9 I conducted the parade service, and preached to over 2,000 men, the General, Sir Herbert Plumer,
K.C.B., and his staff attending. At the close of the service I gave a message to the troops from the Archbishop, whose home
at Bishopthorpe is hard by, that he was sending a large marquee, 120 feet long, to be used as a reading, writing, and games
tent, alongside of the invaluable Y.M.C.A. tent already pitched."
In August, Temporary Brigadier-General Frederic Alexander MacFarlan had
been appointed the G.O.C. of the 1/1st West Riding Brigade. An accomplished officer who had served with the Cameron Highlanders
in Sudan, Egypt, South Africa and China, MacFarlan was also an excellent sportsman who excelled in both cricket and rowing.
Command of the West Riding Division had been
assumed by Major-General Thomas Stanford Baldock C.B. in September 1911. Originally commissioned into the ranks of the Royal
Artillery in April 1873, Baldock had performed good service in South Africa and in addition to his military attributes, he
was also an accomplished and published historian.
command of the 5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, was one Lieutenant-Colonel Cecil Ernest Wood V.D. Originally commissioned
into the 1st West Riding of Yorkshire Volunteers in April 1886, Wood served as a Captain with the 1st Volunteer Service Company
of the 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment in the South African War (Second Boer War) and was awarded the Queen's South Africa
Medal with Three Clasps (Orange Free State, Transvaal and Laing's Nek). After the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act of
1907 was introduced, in effect the creation of the Territorial Force, Wood was appointed to the 5th Battalion, West Yorkshire
Regiment, in November 1908.
It was whilst in camp at York that the 6th Battalion volunteered for foreign
service, the first battalion in the brigade to do so. The Yorkshire Post dated the 4th September recorded that on
this day news was received by the West Riding County Association that in addition to the troops enumerated in the appeal over
the names of the Earls of Harewood and Scarborough, Lord-Lieutenant and Chairman of the West Riding County Association respectively,
the 5th, 7th and 8th Battalions of the West Yorkshire Regiment had also been selected for foreign service. In addition to
these units of the 1/1st West Riding Brigade, the 5th and the 7th Battalions of the West Riding Regiment (Duke of Wellington's)
of the 2nd West Riding Brigade also volunteered, the news of all these units volunteering also being announced in the Post
on the 4th by Brigadier-General Horatio Reginald Mends, Secretary of the West Riding of York County Association dated
the 2nd September.
on or about the 31st August that the respective battalions of the 1/1st West Riding Brigade proceeded to Strensall Camp. The
camp was established by the War Office in 1884 with the large expanse of Strensall Common providing an ideal natural area
for the performance of varied military activities. No sooner had the 7th West Yorkshire's arrived in camp, the Commanding
Officer, Colonel Albert Edward Kirk V.D., issued an edict published in the the Yorkshire Evening Post dated the 4th of September
1914 that stated that "no civilians are allowed in camp at Strensall, whether on Saturday, Sunday, or any other day".
This statement alone may have led to bouts of absenteeism but instances appear to have been few and far between other
than one man of the Medical Corps attached to the 5th West Yorkshire's deserting to be married at Rotherham.
As various programmes of training were initiated, medical inspections commenced
that ultimately led to those being declared unfit for military service being 'weeded out'. Struggling prior to this
juncture to reach war establishment as his previously been touched upon, it was in early September that men began to volunteer
for foreign service, i.e. "an agreement to be made by an officer or man of the Territorial Force to subject himself
to liability to serve in any place outside the United Kingdom in the event of National emergency". Referred to as
the "Imperial Service Obligation," suffice to say Private Ernest Walker, 1490, duly accepted the conditions
of service and signed the "Obligation" (Army Form E 624) on or about the 12th of September
1914 at Strensall.
|Imperial Service Oligation Of Private William Pratt, 1489, Of Wetherby
As a consequence of those volunteering for foreign service and
those that chose not to serve outside of the United Kingdom, the War Office now sanctioned a reorganisation of the Territorial
Force. To this end, the Force would now be formed into two parts, foreign service units and units designated for home defence
respectively. At a meeting held on the 15th of September at York, Lord Scarborough, Chairman of the West Riding Territorial
Force Association, addressed the meeting of the Executive and General Purposes Committee of the West Riding of York County
Association. It was announced that the state in terms of establishment and units at total strength as of the 9th of September
was 'encouraging,' the West Yorkshire Territorial Force numbering 608 officers and 20,211 men. (Source:- Leeds Mercury
dated the 16th of September 1914). Of the 5th West Yorkshire's, their establishment numbered 28 officers and 980 Other
Ranks, total strength as of the 9th instant numbering 32 officers and 1,277 Other Ranks. The report of this meeting continues
in some detail as regarding the needs of the Territorial Force for men to volunteer for foreign service:-
"Units in which not less than 60 per cent. volunteer will be designated
as "General Service" units and will at once recruit up to their establishment and 25 per cent. over.
Every unit comprised in the Yorkshire Mounted Brigade, the West Riding
Division and the Army Troops, has returned over 60 per cent. of volunteers, and will consequently be for general service.
The association, therefore, becomes
responsible for raising reserve units in each case, which means a duplication of the force, or, roughly, an additional 18,000
officers and men.
These units will
be raised and organised at the head-quarters of each regiment, and all recruits will be required to sign the Imperial Service
In order to prevent confusion
and discomfort, it has been decided not to commence recruiting for the Reserve Units until their commanding officers and staffs
are appointed, and proper arrangements have been made for accommodating and clothing the men".
Wheels were however already in motion in Harrogate. Captain Fred
Kelley of the Harrogate Defence League had commenced recruiting another Harrogate "Pals" Company. The Leeds Mercury
dated the 18th of September 1914 records that twenty names had been received out of a required number of one hundred and twenty
at this juncture, the League now in the process of drilling a number of men aged between the ages of seventeen and nineteen
with a view to forming a 'new' Territorial Force to replace those that had volunteered for active service.
As rumours circulated of a imminent move from Strensall, for some it could
not come soon enough due to inclement weather. Men were now inoculated against Typhoid which made many a good man feel "seedy".
Despite the effects of the 'jab,' men were required to attend parade, Swedish Drill, route marches and
musketry practice on the range. During the evening, the men had a chance to visit a picture theatre that was very popular
but on returning to their tents, lights went out promptly at 9 p.m. In early October, some men were lucky enough to be granted
24 hours leave to visit loved ones at home and as the nights turned colder, large numbers of comforters and mittens were sent
Colliergate, York, from all quarters of the recruiting areas. With regards to 'imminent' movements, the Bradford Terriers
were lucky and moved into the City of York on the 28th of October, the battalion being billeted in houses and schools. The
Leeds Rifles had also moved back into York, their behaviour being commented on by the Lord Mayor of York himself. The Yorkshire
Post dated the 23rd of November 1914 recorded his appreciation:-
"The Lord Mayor of York (Councillor J. Bowes Morrell) presided at a mass meeting in the York Opera House,
addressed by the Archbishop of York, yesterday afternoon, when he said that as Lord Mayor he was glad to hear on all sides
of the excellent behaviour of the soldiers in the city. (Applause.) "We have at our cocoa works dining-rooms something
like a thousand of the Leeds Rifles, and I am told by one of the heads of the department who has had a good deal to do in
trying to make their stay as comfortable as possible, how excellently they are behaving. (Applause).
the brigade were still billeted in various locations in the environs of York but it was early on the morning of the 16th that
sounds of gun fire could be distinctly heard at Strensall Camp seemingly from the direction of the east coast. As far away
as Kirk Deighton near Wetherby, this booming or muffled sound could be distinctly heard arousing both curiosity and alarm.
The sounds, unbeknown to the distant populace, was the sound of the infamous German naval raid on the north-east coast of
England. As people began to flee the town heading for the railway station, the North Eastern Railway Company did their best
to accomodate the panic stricken civilians attempting to board trains to York. Varying reports of the number of shells that
fell on the town were received but all concluded that the bombardment had been heavy and that there was a great loss of lives.
Due to the perceived threat
of an enemy invasion, all leave was stopped and the men of the West Riding Brigade were ordered to remain in their billets
at York during the course of the festive season. For the Leeds and Bradford Rifles, they faired better than most, the 6th
Battalion men receiving a souvenir box containing tobacco whilst a special train from Leeds was authorised so that relatives
of the Leeds Rifles could visit the men at York. Of the 5th Battalion, Colonel Wood and the officers augmented the rations
of the men, provision also being made for their entertainment.
|"A Stay At Home Christmas"
|Yorkshire Evening News Dated The 22nd Of December 1914
1915:- Coastal Defence Duties
As the year of 1915 dawned, the men carried on their training. In early February,
another night march and attack witnessed the men 'spilling' from their billets in Leeman Road amongst others located
in the City and assembling on the far side of the railway. The spectacle was impressive by all accounts as the men prepared
for manoevres, shadowed as they were by the moon.
the end of the month of February, the 1/1st West Riding Brigade moved to Lincolnshire to perform coastal defence duties. The
1/5th West Yorkshire's now took up 'residence' at Sutton-on-Sea and proved to be quite a novelty for the local
populace. A Brass Band was a rarity in the winter months however the Regimental Band of the 5th welcomed visitors on the lawn
of Mr T Dennis at Mablethorpe, a large crowd gathering to hear a series of selections that were thoroughly enjoyed by all
present. Guarding the coastline and maintaining the Defence of the Realm Act, this part of the coast was bleak, so much so
that a wife of one of the 'Hallamshires' (York and Lancaster Regiment) had complained that whilst they were stationed
there that they had virtually been forgotten about in favour of the Sheffield "Pals".
It was on the 17th of March that a football match was played between both "C"
and "D" Companies for the prize of Colonel Woods Challenge Cup. "D" Company, progressing through the competition
without conceding a goal, were no doubt the favourites with an impressive line up. The Ripon Company fielded Sergeant Robert
Darwin (Ripon City) in goal, the backs comprising of Sergeant Richard Render (Ripon City) and Private Fred James Ward (Ripon).
Playing in the half back positions were Private William Chadwick (Pateley Bridge), Lance-Corporal Harry Storey (Pateley Bridge)
and Private Edwin Swires (Pateley Bridge). (Authors note:- The Ripon Observer dated the 25th of March 1915 records "R
Swires). Up front, the forwards comprised of Private Thomas Kirkbright (Pateley Bridge), Private Ernest Massam (York St Cuthberts).
(Authors note:- As above, recorded as "A Massam"). Private William Flatley, (York, Rowntrees), Corporal Wilson (Harrogate
Old Boys) and Private Leonard Stead (Boroughbridge). In this 'Match of the Day', Ripon opened the scoring after a
pass from Render which was put in the net by Massam. A second goal then followed when Flatley passed through the centre which
was latched on to and putaway once again by Massam. The match finished two goals to nil, this being the second time that the
Ripon Company had lifted the trophy, strong favourites that were ultimately the victors.
At some point in March, a party of men numbering about half a dozen braved the
sea waters at Sutton-on-Sea whilst on a bathing outing. One of their number suddenly developed an attack of cramp, no doubt
due due to the icy waters and immediately got into some difficulties near the end of the breakwater. Private Edwin Crossley
Tattersfield, 2368, a resident of Victoria Villa, Forest Moor, near Knaresborough, sprang into action and after what was described
as a "very hard struggle from a quarter of a mile distance," somehow managed to bring the drowning soldier
ashore. Although completely exhausted himself, he had managed to save the man who did not recover consciousness for several
hours, the attending Doctor of the opinion that if the victim had spent one more minute in the water, he would have been surely
dead. Complimented by his fellow soldiers, it was hoped that he would receive some form of recognition for his brave act such
as one granted by the Royal Humane Society but his act of bravery, as far as is known, went unrecognised.
|Private Edwin Tattersfield
|Harrogate Herald Dated The 28th Of April 1915
It was on the 7th of April 1915 that the 1/5th West Yorkshire's
suffered their first death in the ranks on active service when Private Smith Fryer, 2200, succumbed to meningitis at Louth
Hospital, Lincolnshire. Aged 20 years, Private Fryer was a resident of Hartwith, North Yorkshire, and had enlisted at Harrogate
in September 1914. Buried in St. Jude's Churchyard, Hartwith, one brother Joseph would serve in the Army Service Corps
as a Shoeing Smith whilst another, Mark, who had emigrated to Australia, would attempt to enlist in the A.I.F. but would fail
his medical on account of deafness.
|Private Smith Fryer, 2200
|Leeds Mercury Dated The 26th Of May 1915
It was on the 9th of April that the 5th West Yorkshire's moved to
Gainsborough where the 1/1st West Riding Brigade were concentrating. In the days previous, one London business man describing
himself as a 'Traveller' appeared in court having being accused of trying to obtain information from soldiers of the
6th West Yorkshire's on the 23rd of March as regards to numbers of troops in the town as well as those in Lincoln and
Grantham. Charged with "eliciting information for the purpose of communicating it to the enemy," Lieutenant
Stephen Jefferson Gordon, Acting Adjutant, represented the military authorities as regards the case. The businessman, it was
stated, arrived at about 8 o'clock on the train from Lincoln and shortly after 9 o'clock he approached Private Paton
of the 6th West Yorkshire's who was standing outside his billet. (Authors note:- Believed to be Private James Payton,
3374, "D" Company). Bidding the soldier a "good-night," the accused then asked the Private how
many soldiers were billeted in the town to which he replied that he did not 'quite' know. Pressing further questions,
Paton answered as and gave a figure as near as he was able to do so but the businessman went on further in regards to numbers
stationed at Grantham and Lincoln. The accused also went on to question one Private Gellert (Authors note:- Private Edward
Gellert, 2353, "C" Company) if the battalion were going on a route march that night. Witnesses as to the accused
character were brought forward and it soon became apparent that the businessman, although it was true that he had indeed asked
these 'searching' questions, had been just foolish in his actions, one Mr. Philip Anthony Gamble, defending, saying
that his client "had been a fool, a silly fool and nothing more". Lieutenant Gordon then asked for the
accused to be remanded in custody, pending instructions from the War Office which was duly granted by the Bench. Thankfully
for the accused, some days later the War Office saw no reason for for the businessman's further detention, Lieutenant
Gordon thanking the Bench and also the Police for their assistance to the Military Authorities. The man was free to go and
so ended the 'spy scandle' of Gainsborough and the excitement it generated. Better to be careful than careless.
Departure For Overseas Service
As per the other units that comprised the 1/1st West Riding Infantry Brigade, the
inhabitants of the town of Gainsborough welcomed the battalion and showered them with hospitality. Billeted in many a private
home, the men made long standing friendships, friendships that were maintained via letter and visits when home on leave. It
was now the worst kept secret that the 1st West Riding (Territorial) Division were about to head overseas as men had now been
inoculated and final medical examinations 'screened out' those unfit for foreign service. Equipment was gathered together
and issued in preparation for embarkation at an unknown port as final orders were issued for entrainment. The first to leave
Gainsborough were the Battalion Transport and Machine Gun Section who departed the town at 3 a.m. on the morning of the 14th
of April from Gainsborough G.C. (L.N.E.R.) Station. Bound for Southampton Docks, this party arrived on the south coast of
England at 11 a.m. and embarked on the SS "Archimedes," subsequently disembarking at Le
Havre after an uneventful crossing.
It was now the turn
of the infantrymen of the 1/1st West Riding Brigade. As messages of goodwill were received from the Lord Mayors of the respective
towns and Cities of Yorkshire and the Chairman of Gainsborough Urban Council, Mr. James Arthur Little, the brigade paraded
and a large crowd assembled to send them off in style. In fine spirits, songs were sung and a party atmosphere almost manifested
itself. The 5th West Yorkshire's were the first to depart the town followed by the 6th Battalion, some of the streets
being decorated with bunting as the crowd cheered the men onwards. Although the platforms of the Station were closed to the
public, the approach was lined with yet more people, these including some of the relatives of the men. One man fortunate to
have his brother in the assembled throng was one Private Fred Baines, 2560. Born at Ripon but residing with his re-married
mother in Hunslet, Leeds, prior to the war he was employed as a Draughtsman at Messrs. Greenwood & Batley, Engineering
Manufacturers. A soldier in Number 4 Platoon, "A" Company, Fred wrote to his brother Harry in late April, the latter
employed at the Great Northern Railway Office in James Street, Harrogate. The letter was published in the Harrogate Herald
dated the 5th of May 1915 and described his entrainment and his embarkation, an extract of which follows:-
"Dear Harry,- Hope you received my p.c. which I sent along thanking you
for the sweets; they were much appreciated. As I have not yet sent you a letter, will try and tell you how we have got along
since I left you that morning in Gainsborough. By-the-by, what a time you had in getting back to Harrogate from there. We
left Gainsborough at 12 o'clock mid-day, arrived at Folkestone about 8 p.m., where we practically walked out of the train
on to the boat, the name of which was the Invicta, and at ordinary times serves as a mail boat. She is well fitted out for
a troopship, and makes about 22 knots an hour".
Fred's letter, unlike the vast majority, escaped the Censor. The 5th Battalion had departed Gainsborough in two
trains, their total strength on entrainment numbering 17 officers and 461 Other Ranks (Train X.33) and 14 officers
and 457 Other Ranks (Train X.34), a total of 31 officers and 918 Other Ranks respectively. (Authors note:- The War
Diary of the 5th Battalion records that upon departing Boulogne, the battalion numbered 26 officers and 906 Other Ranks. This
discrepancy may be accounted for by the departure of both the Transport and the Machine Gun Section, the Transport alone numbering
3 officers and 86 O/R's). In addition to this, Major William Oddie had been detailed as Officer in charge of Entrainment
Duties and Temporary Captain Barnet Swinton Bland as one of six Military Landing Officers).
Returning to the embarkation of the battalion, Fred's letter continued describing the crossing of the English
"The sea was as calm
as a mill pond and ships were knocking about as if such a thing as a German blockade was unknown. It was quite an interesting
journey; the lights of Dover, Cape Grisnez (sic) and Boulogne were discernible throughout the trip, if you can call
it a trip, when you come to remember that a man has swam the distance. Was rather disapointed we did not see Boulogne during
the daytime, as I suppose it is a well known watering-place".
|SS "Invicta" Departing Boulogne (Date Unknown)
|Courtesy Of The Geneanet Community
Divisional Headquarters under the command of Major-General Thomas Stanford
Baldock C.B., had proceeded to Boulogne from Doncaster on the 13th of April on the SS "Invicta". Accompanied
by the Divisional Royal Artillery Headquarters under the command of Temporary Brigadier-General Charles Trevor Caulfeild,
this party had arrived at about 10 p.m. on the evening of the 13th and subsequently billeted in the Hotel du Louvre located
in the Place Belle Vue. With the Divisional Artillery entraining from their respective stations between the 13th and 15th
of April bound for Le Havre, the men of the 5th West Yorkshire's disembarked at Boulogne and in the words of Fred Baines
marched a distance of about four miles to a Rest Camp. This Camp, St. Martin's, was located on heights above the town,
Fred noting that the personnel comprised of soldiers recovering from wounds or who were generally run down and sent here to
recuperate. He also noted that there was a large Y.M.C.A. Tent where English cigarettes and sweets could be purchased at a
reasonable price. For Ernest and the men of the battalion, they bedded down as best they could, some men, such as Signaller
George Timmins, 1336, a resident of Grosvenor Avenue, Harrogate, even having the time to write a postcard home. For the majority
though, it was a case of wondering what would happen and where would they be in the days to come. They were about to find
out as their stay at Boulogne was to be of a very short duration indeed.
The day previously, Major-General Baldock C.B. accompanied by five Staff Officers, had driven to Saint Omer in two
motor cars, the latter place being reached at noon. After visiting the Adjutant Generals Office, they continued their journey
via Hazebrouck and on to Merville to visit the Headquarters of Fourth Army Corps, G.O.C. Temporary Lieutenant-General Sir
Henry Seymour Rawlinson Bart. K.C.B., C.V.O. Establishing Divisional Headquarters in the Mayor of Merville's house located
in the Rue des Capucins, units of the 1/3rd West Riding Infantry Brigade, G.O.C. Temporary Brigadier-General
Robert Dawson, began arriving at the Station with their horses and transport and were subsequently billeted in the area of
Doulieu, north of Estaires. The 1/2nd West Riding Infantry Brigade also began to arrive in the area on the 15th/16th, the
brigade being billeted in the Estaires and Neuf Berquin areas. Brigade Headquarters, G.O.C. Temporary Brigadier-General Edward
Fitzgerald Brereton D.S.O., had however remained overnight at Saint Omer. Arriving at Merville on the morning of the 16th,
they then before established themselves in the western environs of Estaires. Of the 1/1st West Riding Infantry Brigade, the
5th West Yorkshire's spent a cold night in the Rest Camp before orders were issued to entrain at the Pont-de-Briques
Station at 11.30 a.m. on the morning of the 16th. On the march once again, it was far from First Class rail travel with
43 men crammed into a Truck, Fred Baines, writing to his brother, commenting on the journey to an unknown destination:-
"We moved off, to where I am not allowed to tell you. We were in the train
about eight hours, but if you knew the distance we travelled, it would be enough to make you (as a man prominent in the railway
Arriving at Merville
at 7.30 p.m., the battalion detrained and marched to the hamlet of le Sart to the north.
"After another five miles march with all the equipment plus blankets on
your back, we reached a small country village. We spent the night at the Hotel de Fresh Air. We were all pretty tired, so
we could have slept on a clothes line (you remember that phrase)".
Brigade Headquarters moved into billets at la Brianne, now forming part of the eastern suburbs of Merville, as the
remaining units of the 1/1st West Riding Brigade arrived and began to concentrate in the general area. As of the 17th of April,
the 1st West Riding (Territorial) Division were allocated the following billeting areas:-
1/1st Brigade Merville
1/2nd Brigade Estaires
1st West Riding Brigade R.F.A.
Haverskerque (In Training)
2nd West Riding Brigade
R.F.A. Neuf Berquin - Estaires Road
3rd West Riding
Brigade R.F.A. Merville
West Riding Heavy Battery
R.G.A. (4.7 inch guns) Haverskerque (As of the 19th)
Ammunition Column (D.A.C.) Haverskerque (As of the 18th)
Field Ambulances and the Divisional Train were also distributed in the above areas, the Divisional Cavalry Squadron
comprising of "C" Squadron of the 1/1st Yorkshire Hussars being billeted at le Doulieu.
Trench Familiarisation:- Fauquissart Sector
Ernest and the men of the 5th West Yorkshire Regiment now set about checking their
equipment and stores for it was now just a question of time when they would enter the trenches. It was on the 19th of April
that units of the 1/1st West Riding Brigade entered the line for instruction in the art of trench warfare. The 6th Battalion
dispatched their Platoon Officers and Platoon Sergeants and marching from le Sart, they were to be attached for instruction
to the 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, 21st Infantry Brigade, 7th Division, in the Fauquissart Sector. Once this party
had returned, on the following day, half of the Platoon Officers were sent for instruction under the Yorkshire Regiment, the
Company Commanders also being sent on the 21st respectively. Of the 7th West Yorkshire's (Leeds Rifles), it was also on
the 19th that they sent a party numbering 21 officers and N.C.O.'s to the trenches under the instruction of the 2nd Battalion,
Bedfordshire Regiment, also of the 21st Brigade. The Bedfordshire's were an 'experienced' battalion, no doubt
this is why their 'visitors' on the two days that the Leeds Rifles were attached numbered two Commanding Officers,
Lieutenant-Colonel Albert Edward Kirk, 7th Battalion, and, Major James Whitelaw Alexander 8th Battalion respectively, plus
16 officers, 16 Platoon Sergeants and 4 Company Sergeant Majors. It was now the turn of the 5th Battalion, who, also on the
19th, went into the trenches for instruction under the 2nd Battalion,Yorkshire Regiment, this first party numbering 8 Platoon
Officers, 12 N.C.O's and the battalion Adjutant, Captain Sidney John Wilkinson. After twenty-four hours in the line, this
first party returned describing their 'tour' as "highly instructive," a second party comprising
of only senior officers also taking their turn on the 21st. On the following day, 10 Platoons went into the line for instruction
with the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, 20th Infantry Brigade, 7th Division, returning at midnight on the 23rd.
The 5th West Yorkshire's had,
on the 22nd, moved along with the Battalion Transport to la Gorgue, the remainder of the 1/1st Brigade joining them
in billets, Brigade Headquarters being established just to the south of the Rue Jean Memoz. For the 4th Battalion,
West Riding Regiment, 1/2nd Brigade now in billets at le Doulieu, they were about to suffer their first casualties. As a Platoon
of "B" Company were returning from instruction in the line, two men were wounded and one man killed, Private James
Joseph Noone, 2499, a resident of Park Place, Hipperholme, Halifax. Enlisting at Halifax in September 1914, James was employed
as a School Teacher at St. Maries', Halifax, and was a keen swimmer. Secretary of the Halifax Schools' Athletic Association,
he was hit by a bullet fired by a Sniper whilst leaving the trenches and killed instantly. Aged 25 years, James now lies buried
in Rue-David Cemetery, south of Fleurbaix. In addition to his place of burial, James, originally born at Widnes, is also commemorated
on the Widnes Secondary School War Memorial and in the pages of the Halifax Books of Remembrance.
|Leeds Mercury Dated The 28th Of April 1915
The 4th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, 1/3rd Brigade, were
also to suffer their first casualty on the 21st/22nd of April when Private Harry Saunders, 2478, was unfortunately killed.
Aged 20 years and a resident of Mitchell Street, Sheffield, Harry had enlisted in the City in September 1914. Newspaper accounts
vary as to the cause of death but it would appear that he died of wounds received whilst undergoing a period of trench familiarisation
with the 2nd Rifle Brigade, 25th Infantry Brigade, 8th Division, in the Fleurbaix Sector. Buried in Sailly-sur-la-Lys Canadian
Cemetery, tragedy would strike the family again in 1918 when Private Joseph Saunders, 49909, aged 19 years, would succumb
to wounds received in action whilst serving with the 1st Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Buried at Tourgeville
Military Cemetery, south of Le Havre, Harry is also commemorated on the Carver Street Wesleyan Church and Sunday Schools Roll
of Honour, of Joseph, I can find no trace on a local memorial.
|Private Harry Saunders, 2478
|Yorkshire Telegraph & Star Dated The 28th Of April 1915
As units of the 2nd and 3rd Infantry Brigades moved up into the sector
occupied by the 8th Division, these movements were ordered to be completed by 6 a.m. on the morning of the 28th of April.
As of this date and time, the G.O.C. West Riding Division would assume command of the northern sector of the line held by
Fourth Corps. In addition to the infantry, batteries of the 1st and 3rd Field Artillery Brigades of the Divisional Artillery
were also moved up into gun emplacements to cover this part of the line, the 1/1st West Riding Infantry Brigade subsequently
being placed in Divisional Reserve. The first battalion of the brigade to be entrusted with occupying a section of the line
were the 6th West Yorkshire's who, on the 27th, took over 'old' trenches, the "E" Lines,
one mile east of Laventie from the 2nd Border Regiment, 7th Division. The eight machine guns of the brigade were to be attached
to this battalion, the latter remaining in the trenches for twenty-four hours until being relieved by the 2nd Battalion, Rifle
Brigade. During this short tenure of the line, the battalion suffered seven men wounded, Private Oliver Craven, 4024, recounting
in a letter to his parents, that it was a "trying experience".
"The first time under fire is a rather trying experience, but after the
first few shots you get used to them that you think nothing about it. You might be talking to a pal when the Germans put their
maxim gun on you. Then you start with a jump and get your 'nappers' down, and say 'Let 'em all come
Fritz!' Then one of our artillery guns start to cough, and all is quiet for an hour or two. The first place we were in
was about eighty yards from the Germans, and was called 'The Devil's Orchard.'"
On the night of the 27th/28th of April, "A" Company of the 5th West Yorkshire's
were ordered to man the Redoubts, three in number and referred to as D11, D12 and D13, north of
Fauquissart. With orders to remain here indefinateley, 2 platoons of the battalion were also sent to the 6th Gordon Highlanders
for the continuation of instruction in the trenches. A further 2 platoons were sent up the line during the course of the following
day as the others returned along with the Machine Gun Detachment. A Brigade Grenadier Company had also been formed on the
28th under the command of Temporary Captain Barnet Swinton Bland and by the 29th of the month, all of the battalion had now
spent a period of twenty-four hours in the trenches. "A" Company returned on the 30th but in the sector held by
both the 2nd and 3rd Brigades, casualties had already began to mount. In an unfortunate incident, "D" Company of
the 6th West Riding's suffered two men killed and one man wounded when a shell burst near their billets in the Rue
de Quesne at Fleurbaix. Private Thomas Critcheson, 6/1958, a resident of Tyne Street, Keighley, who had enlisted in 1913
was one of the men killed, along with Private Fred Pickles, 3061, a married man with a daughter and also a resident of Keighley.
The wounded man, Private Joseph Midgley, 1658, also of Tyne Street, Keighley, would be discharged (Time Expired) in March
1917 having enlisted in January 1912. Suffering from shrapnel wounds to the head and back, he was lucky to survive the detonation,
Private Pickles being so "mutilated" that the dead men were buried in the impact crater at location H.26.b.8.3.
near la Croix Lescornex, south-west of Fleurbaix. Private Fred Bell, 1763, of the Transport Section, writing to one Mr. Walter
King at the Eastwood Conservative Club, Dalton Lane, Keighley, described briefly the events leading to their deaths:-
"Dear Walter, - Just a few lines to you and my 'pals,' to let
you know I am alright and in the thick of the war. Poor Tom Critchison (sic) and Pickles were killed by a German
shell. I was only fifty yards away with the horses when the shell killed them. It was terrible. They buried them together
where they fell. It made me think of old England". (Source:- Bradford Daily Telegraph dated the 5th of May 1915).
Tom Critchison now lies in the Rue-du-Bois
Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, Private Fred Pickles, his body being 'lost' or unidentifiable due to the nature of his
death, is now commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial. Interestingly, buried besides Tom in cemetery are two unknown soldiers.
Could one be Fred Pickles? The answer is that most likely, we will never know.
The 1/8th West Yorkshire's, whilst undergoing trench familiarisation with the 2nd Scots Guards, also suffered
their first casualty on the 30th April/1st May. Four platoons had been sent to the line for instruction when they came under
heavy shell fire that as a consequence delayed their relief. One man, Private Frances Edwin Almond, 2718, a married man with
four children and a resident of Morley near Leeds, was hit in the back and died in just a few minutes. Aged 27 years, Frances
was originally buried just to the north of Neuve Chapelle and west of the Ducks Bill, his body being exhumed in 1921
and removed to the Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy.
May:- Into The Line
Private Fred Baines of "A" Company wrote to his brother in Harrogate about activities whilst in billets.
There were plenty of pubs, but the beer they served was of a very low strength but cheap. Cigarettes and tobacco however were
sold by the local populace at exorbitant prices, many a letter sent home by men of the battalion requesting large quantities
of the aforementioned to while away the hours. Lance-Corporal Arthur Charles Chapman, 1299, "C" Company,
of Mount Parade, Harrogate, writing home to his mother, stated that he had to pay 10d for a packet of 10 Gold Flakes, Private
Roland Alderson, 2149, of "B" Company, of Oatlands Mount, declared that they were "rotten" anyhow.
He did mention though in a letter home that he had found a shop where the price for food was reasonable. For his repast he
had two fried eggs, fried potatoes, bread and butter plus coffee for the price of 10d. The quantity of potatoes he did remark,
was so great, that some had to be left, much to his dismay!
As the month of May dawned, the 1/1st Brigade received orders from the 8th Division to Stand To at 6.30
a.m. on the morning of the 1st due to heavy enemy artillery fire on the Neuve Chapelle Sector. By 8 a.m., orders to Stand
Down were received, Brigade Headquarters issuing orders for a further move on the following day to billets at Bac-Saint-Maur.
Consequently at 9.15 a.m. on the morning of the 2nd, the 5th West Yorkshire's, in brigade, proceeded by route of march
to the latter place, the battalion being billeted in scattered farms that were found to be in an unsanitary condition. Engaged
in route marches and further training during the course of the following day, it was on the 4th of May that the battalion
received orders to proceed to the trenches in front of the village of Fauquissart. Met by Platoon Guides from the 2nd Rifle
Brigade, 25th Infantry Brigade, 8th Division, the battalion sallied forth from Bac-Saint-Maur at 5.30 p.m. and after being
delayed due to the Guides losing their way to the positions, the 5th West Yorkshire's, on a dark night and under fire,
eventually arrived in the "E" Lines after marching a distance of over two miles, the relief being completed
by 10.55 p.m.
|German Front Line, Fauquissart
|Map, First Army Front, Map F, Ordnance Survey Dated March, 1917
Private Marmaduke Robert Todd, 1020, a soldier in "D" Company
and a resident of Kirkgate, Ripon, who had enlisted in April 1910, described his experiences in a letter posted to his father.
Published in the Ripon Observer dated the 13th of May 1915, an extract is as follows:-
"At the present time I am in the trenches. We came in last Tuesday (sic)
night. After we left our billets to march to the trenches we had to pass a small town which bore the German trade mark,
the damaged church. After passing through this pitiful town we had to march about two miles to the communicating trenches,
passing alot of our heroes' graves by the road side. It was here where the fun started because when we started walking
up the communicating trenches to go up to the firing line, with our backs bent and heads nearly touching the ground, the enemy's
bullets were flying on both sides, and a few shells over the top of us so you can guess what it was like. When we got into
the trenches which hold about 6 men and a corporal, we had to take sentry duty in turn. We had to keep popping our heads to
the loop holes to see that the enemy did not make a charge and take us by surprise. When it came to my turn I fired a few
rounds but don't think I hit anything but earth, as the Germans are fly enough to keep their heads below the parapets,
but it was a case of letting them know we were there".
With Ernest and the men of the battalion settling down as best as they could, it was on the 5th that the
remainder of the 1/1st Brigade moved to Laventie. Under Brigade and Divisional Orders, the 6th Battalion took up
their positions in the trenches near the Pont du Hem, north of Neuve Chapelle, the 7th, relieving the 2nd Scots Guards in
the "D" Lines at 10 p.m. whilst half of the 8th Battalion relieved the 6th Gordon's of 7th Division,
the remaining half moving into billets in Cameron Lane and Divisional Reserve. (Authors note:- Despite the apparent
lack of a trench map specific to the locations of the 1/1st West Riding Brigade circa the 5th of May, the Neuve Chapelle/Fauquissart
Sector was divided as follows:- The "A" lines were located to the west of Neuve Chapelle whilst
the "B" Lines extended eastwards to a point south of and east of the infamous Moated Grange
(Ferme Vanbesian). Heading further eastwards, the "C" Lines then continued the line to a point west
of Mauquissart, the "D" Lines then prolonging the line to the east of Chapigny Farm and the Rue
du Bois and to the south of Fauquissart. Finally, the "E" Lines were established just to the south
of Fauquissart, heading eastwards towards a position south of the Wick Salient ).
|Fauquissart Line Looking North-East
|5th West Yorks Positions (To The Left Through The Line Of Trees)
Due building development, the above photograph is taken just in front
of the positions, to the left, of the 5th West Yorkshire's, looking northwards towards le Tilleloy. The terrain is completely
flat and crossed by numerous water filled ditches, the only high ground in the locality being that of Aubers Ridge, surmounted
by the villages of Aubers, Fromelles