Believed to be George Arthur Wood, son of Brian and the late Mary Ann Wood of St. James Street, Wetherby.
George Arthur Wood
was born at Wetherby in 1889 to parents Brian, occupation, Plumber/Painter and Mary Ann Wood (nee Fozzard). The family are
recorded in the 1891 Census as residing in St. James Street along with Mary's mother, Ann, a widow. The 1901 Census records
that at this period, Brian, now a widower as Mary Ann had died in 1893, was residing with his two sons George and John at
premises in North Street owned by a relative by marriage, William Breasley. In the winter of the same year, Brian Wood remarried
one Annie Elizabeth Hodgson, this new family recorded in the 1911 Census as residing at premises located in St. James Street,
George Arthur, now employed as a Butcher still residing with the late William Breasley's wife, Faith.
Two newspaper articles, one dated October 1914 and
the other December 1914, provide us with an insight into 'Arthur's' life. Firstly October;
the popular captain and goalkeeper for the Wetherby Club, has been in a nursing home for some weeks, but has just left after
a successful operation, and hopes to be quite fit when his club gets into harness again."
The exact circumstances
surrounding the need for an operation become apparent in the following article as does the terminology 'club' which
is incorrect. In fact, Arthur was playing football for the 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment in an inter-battalion
competition whilst they were stationed at Grantham. The article dated December also incorrectly states the 'Wetherby Territorials.'
The Wetherby men who did serve with the 1/5th West Yorkshire's of which this term would particularly refer to did not
arrive in Lincolnshire until the spring of 1915, however in the context of the aforementioned article, the latter also includes
members of the Wetherby Club who did serve with the Colours.
"The Wetherby Territorials, who are stationed at Grantham, are taking
part in a medal competition, and have easily survived the first round. The Wetherby club players have "been in the wars"
in recent months. For some weeks in summer, and again later, their captain, Arthur Wood, was in hospital, and underwent a
couple of operations. Now Frank Ridsdale is in the York Hospital, where he has been subjected to an operation, but is progressing
nicely; and the last piece of ill-fortune is that Benny Wells their promising right half, has at work run a chisel through
Benjamin Wells, occupation, Joiner, would attest for service in December 1915 with the Royal Engineers. Posted to
France in August 1916, he would survive the War. Of Frank, he would perform service with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Posted
to Gallipoli in September 1915, he too would survive the conflict along with his brother Alfred, both residents of Sandringham
Recruitment & Attestation
Arthur attested for service at Wetherby Town Hall on
or about the 31st August 1914. The terms of his engagement were that of a Short Service obligation, i.e., three years with
the Colours however it was also stated that should the War last longer than this duration, the recruit would be retained until
the cessation of hostilities.
the men waited to enlist, Army protocol dictated that had the prospective recruit received Notice and understood its meaning
and who had gave the Notice to them. On confirmation by the potential recruit Army Form B. 2065 was at 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, 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 as to 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 call.
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
Arthur 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 this document by the recruit, this act was witnessed by John McEvitt, a former soldier
who had previously 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 such as height, weight, expansion of the chest etc.
Deemed to be '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 fledgeling ranks of the 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, the first Service Battalion of the Regiment
to be raised as a direct 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
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 three 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.
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 of the Division that also comprised of the following
6th (Service) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)
6th (Service) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment
8th (Service) Battalion, West Riding Regiment (Duke of Wellington's)
Brigade Commander Brigadier-General Henry
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 reveals
that proceeding Arthur the number 11872 was allocated to one Joseph Flynn. Joseph, occupation, Saw Miller and resident of
Victoria Street, Wetherby, would see no overseas service with the Battalion due to a hernia, the exact circumstances of his
discharge will be examined later during the course of this commemoration. Following on from Arthur, the number 11874 was issued
to Albert Emsley. Albert, attesting for service on the 31st August 1914 possibly at Wetherby, would also witness no overseas
service with the 9th West Yorkshire's. He would be posted to France in October 1915, battalion unknown, being subsequently
discharged in August 1916 due to wounds.
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 in Division.
Following this movement, a
second medical examination more thorough than the initial examination that had taken place on Attestation was conducted in
mid October. As a result of this many men 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 man 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 the heady
days of August 1914, 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 re-enlist and 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 Park turning into a veritable quagmire. By the
end of February 1915 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. Consequently on the 5th
April 1915 the 9th West Yorkshire's in Brigade and Division were ordered to prepare for entrainment 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 32nd Infantry 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;
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 to be more conducive for military
manoeuvres as the men were about to experience.
Witley Camp consisted at this stage of the War primarily of tented accommodation with just a few huts being erected
however the camp would rapidly expand and become more permanent as the conflict progressed.
On 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 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 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 throughout 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
and the men of the West Yorkshire's were soon to have their suspicions confirmed when orders were issued to the 32nd Infantry
Brigade and Division 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 definitely knew that the climate was to be hot 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: