Son of Thomas Edward and Elizabeth Precious (nee Wardle) of St. James Street, Wetherby.
George Riley Wardle
was born at Wetherby in 1894 to parents Thomas Edward Precious, a Railway Porter, and Elizabeth Wardle.
Recorded as George Riley Wardle by the Registrar of
Births, it is apparent that George was born illegitimate, his parents not marrying until the year of 1899. The 1901
Census records that at this juncture he was residing with his Grandmother, Hannah Wardle, a widow, in the next door property
located in St. James Street.
By the year of 1911, the family is recorded in the census details as still residing in premises located in St. James Street
and that Thomas Edward was now employed as a Plumbers Labourer. Two further children had also been born, Annie Elizabeth in
1904 and Margaret (Maggie) in 1909 respectively. This census also records that the couple had been married for 12 years and
that four children had been born, two were still living and that two had unfortunately died. An analysis of both birth and
death records reveals that three infants died by the surname of Precious and their deaths registered at Wetherby; David, born
1899, died, 1900, Annie, born 1901, died 1901, and William, born 1903 and died in 1903. Of George Riley, there is no record
of him residing in the family home. One George Precious however is recorded in the census working as a Farm Servant on the
farm of one William Escritt at Kirkby Grange near Tadcaster. One discrepancy though is that his age is recorded as 19 years
and to compound matters further, his place of birth is virtually impossible to decipher.
Enlistment, Mobilisation & Drafts
George Riley Precious attested for military 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 service with the Colours. The majority of men who
enlisted on this date at Wetherby were destined for service with the 9th (Service) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, however
as the men were numbered, some were allocated to different battalions of the Regiment. Possibly due to aquiring the skill
of handling a horse, George was posted upon immediate mobilisation to the Depot of the West Yorkshire Regiment and allocated
the serial number 11900 and subsequently posted to the Transport Section (Authors note:- Subsequent posting recorded to the
latter in a newspaper article dated April 1917).
is now somewhat ambiguous however an analysis of surviving documents suggest a possible posting to the 8th Battalion of the
Training Reserve and a subsequent renumbering. On or about the 8th December 1916, George was posted overseas and subsequently
posted to the 31st I.B.D. (Infantry Base Depot/Detail) located at Etaples near Boulogne. After a short period of training
in various types of warfare and the ever present marches and drill, he was posted to the 24th (Tyneside Irish) Battalion,
Northumberland Fusiliers later that month.
It is a nigh on an impossible task searching for these men who were drafted to the battalion as the War Diary only records
one or two instances of numbers received. For example, in late July 1916, the number of drafts totalled 224 men drawn from
the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, the West Yorkshire's and the West Riding Regiment, some only having experienced
military service for a period of ten weeks. The researcher is therefore more reliant on newspaper articles as is published
in an article for George contained in the Skyrack Courier dated the 27th of April 1917. Of course, these sources, are more
often than not, unreliable or innaccurate but one other man would appear to confirm the date of this draft, one George Herbert
Kershaw, 45546, a resident of Todmorden. Enlisting or attesting for military service in April 1916, his service is then somewhat
ambiguous but I surmise his origins may lie with the West Riding Regiment. Posted overseas in December of that year, George
would unfortunately be killed in action on the 9th of April 1917 leaving a widow and a seven year old daughter, Hannah.
Another soldier from Todmorden was one Joseph Ackroyd, aged 33 years and a married man. Enlisting or attesting for military
service in July 1916, Joseph was then posted, according to a newspaper article published in the The Todmorden & District
News dated the 25th of May 1917, to the Durham Light Infantry based at Rugeley, Staffordshire. Issued the serial number 37060,
service was then conducted with the 17th (Reserve) Battalion before the latter was redesignated the 2nd Training Reserve Battalion
in September. Transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers in November, the aforementioned article states that Joseph was then
posted overseas on December the 8th 1916 and would be killed in action on the 24th of April 1917 near Fampoux, east of Arras.
Of those who had witnessed
previous service with the West Yorkshire Regiment, there was one Private John Coates, 45719, a native of Leeds. Little information
can be gleaned from military documents but on his marriage to one Florence Thompson at St. Stephen's Church, Burmantofts,
on the 14th of October 1916, he is recorded on the marriage certificate as serving as a Private in the 13th (Reserve) Battalion,
West Yorkshire Regiment. Issued the serial number 31881, John enlisted at Leeds in about early December 1915. In October 1916,
the 13th West Yorkshire's had been redesignated as the 8th Training Reserve Battalion based also at Rugeley. I surmise
therefore that the date of his marriage was possibly due to the fact that he had prior knowledge that he was about to be posted
overseas. Residing at Number 4 Windsor Terrace, Burmantofts, Leeds, John was killed in action on the 9th of April 1917 and
is now buried in Roclincourt Military Cemetery.
regards closer to home, yet another young lad from Wetherby would also find himself serving in the ranks of the Northumberland
Fusiliers, Private Walter Westerman, 45717. With the full name of Lonsdale Walter Westerman and born at Boston Spa, by the
year of 1911 the family had taken over the Timber Mill located at what would now be the location of Wetherby Squash and Tennis
Club at the bottom of Scott Lane. The only information I can glean is that Walter transferred from the 24th to the 26th Northumberland
Fusiliers and was then attached to the 9th Entrenching Battalion upon the disbandment of the latter formation. Posted to the
23rd Battalion at the end of March 1918, Walter was subsequently captured and made Prisoner of War near Armentieres on the
11th of April 1918. Interned at Friedrichsfeld Camp, he would be repatriated on the 9th of November 1918.
I will commence the
commemoration of George in the month of January 1917 but before this, I will provide an overview of the Battalion in Brigade
at this juncture of the Great War. At the start of this New Year and after the grievous losses incurred during the Battle
of the Somme, the Brigade had been withdrawn from action. With replacements few and far between, the 24th Battalion, as we
have witnessed, did not receive any substantial drafts until later in the year of 1916. Preparations for the year of 1917
were already taking place with a planned French offensive on the Aisne that would be supported by a diversionary attack made
by the British Army to the north at Arras.
24th (Service) Battalion, (1st Tyneside Irish), Northumberland
Fusiliers:- January 1917
Contained within the 103rd Infantry Brigade of the 34th Division, the Brigade comprised
of the following units:-
(Service) Battalion, (1st Tyneside Irish), Northumberland Fusiliers
25th (Service) Battalion, (2nd Tyneside Irish), Northumberland Fusiliers
26th (Service) Battalion, (3rd Tyneside Irish), Northumberland
27th (Service) Battalion,
(4th Tyneside Irish), Northumberland Fusiliers
Under the command of Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Edward William Hermon,
the 34th Division had been occupying positions in the Armentieres Sector since September 1916 before moving to the Rue du
Bois Sector in December. By January 1917, the battalion was occupying the line between Bois Grenier in the south, to the Chapelle
d'Armentieres in the north, their first casualty of the year of 1917 being suffered on the 10th of January when Private
Walter Simpson, 41636, was unfortunately killed. Born at Gosforth, Newcastle, Walter attested for military service at Leeds
in December 1915 before being mobilised in about April 1916. After a period of training in England, Walter was posted overseas
and initially destined as a draft to the 1st Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, this was subsequently changed at Infantry
Base Depot level. Posted to the 24th Battalion, it is most likely that he numbered in a draft received by the battalion in
late October. Killed in action on the 10th of January 1917, possibly by shell fire, Walter now lies buried in Brewery Orchard
Cemetery, Bois-Grenier. With no next of kin identified, his medals were returned.
Relieved by the 11th Suffolk's of the 101st Infantry
Brigade, 34th Division, the latter brigade now took over the responsibility of the sector on the nights of the 9th/10th of
January, the 24th Battalion then proceeding to billets at Fort Rompu, east of Bac-St.-Maur. The next few
days were spent providing Working Parties and in training in all aspects of warfare before a move was conducted by the then
battalion on the 16th when they moved the short distance to Rue Marle, relieving the 21st Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers
(2nd Tyneside Scottish), 102nd Brigade, in 'Stand To' billets. Training and Working Parties continued until the 20th
whereupon the 24th N.F. relieved the 26th N.F. (3rd Tyneside Irish), 103rd Brigade, in the Left Sub-Sector, la Chapelle
d'Armentieres. Occupying the left of the line and with the 25th Battalion (2nd Tyneside Irish) on their left, the
weather was extremely cold and dull with hard frosts. With Battalion Headquarters established at Chards Farm, our
artillery and trench mortars were active of the enemy's positions, this being in turn responded to however damage to the
trench system in the sector was described as minimal. The real threat at this moment in time was the wind as it had been for
a number of days, a favourable wind that was ideal for the enemy to mount a gas discharge.