Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Private Willie Coles

Gunter, R B N
Durrant, C M
Weston, C G
Kelly, K G
Armitage, G J
Durrant, H M L
Hargreaves, J P
March, G
Dukes, W
Fowler, R
Westerman, H
Kirk, J C
Wiggins, T A
Telford, G
Harper, J W
Alexander, H W
Mason, T F
Wilkinson, W
Brown, C
Adkin, J
Barton, F
Hobman, A
Webster, A E
March, E A
Miller, G
Hannan, E
Utley, G
Walker, F
Bygrave, E W
Chapman, E
Varley, N W
Bowen, F J
Byrom, F
Backhouse, S
Dalby, M
Crossland, A
Crossley, J S
Dean, R
Frost, A E
Hodgson, F H
Holt, J
Hood, W H
Hill, W
Kitchen, T
Linfoot, E
Metcalfe, J C
Marsden, J
Pawson, W
Precious, G
Scutt, T G
Wiggins, J
Walker, E
Wood, A
Young, T
Pratt, W
Taylor, H
Dawson, G W
Lister, J
Binge, T
Atack, G
Durham, E F
Precious, G R
Wheelhouse Smith, W
Backhouse, H
Swann, J W
Burnsides, G A
Coles, W
Kelly, H W
Miles, J G
Tapsell, K

34th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps
Died 8th October 1917, age 34

Cemetery : Bard Cottage Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Grave Reference or Panel Number : III.I.38

Son of James and Hannah Coles; husband of Beatrice Maude Coles, of 10, Brook Street, Selby, North Yorkshire.
Willie Coles was born at Fosdyke, Lincolnshire, his birth being registered at Boston in 1883. The 1891 Census records the family residing at Ridlington in the Uppingham district of Rutland, his father's occupation being recorded as that of a Coachman/Groom (Domestic). One of eight children, the majority of the residents of the village worked on the land in this rural idyll however by the recording of the 1901 Census, Willie and his family now comprising of his parents and three siblings had relocated to Hatfield near Doncaster. Residing in premises located in Doncaster Road, James Coles now described his occupation of that of a Fish Dealer (Employer), Willie and his younger brother Charles Frederick assisting in this family run business as a Fish Dealers Assistant and a Yard Boy respectively.
No doubt transporting fish from one of the east coast ports such as Goole or Hull, the journey necessitated the crossing of the River Ouse. Although there was a ferry in existence for foot passengers, transport had to cross the wooden Toll Bridge located at Barlby Bank on the east side of the river and it was here that there resided in the Bridge Office one Harry Asprey, the Toll Collector. Harry and Elizabeth Asprey had one daughter, Beatrice Maude, born in Battersea, London, and recorded in the 1901 Census as aged 17 years. One can only speculate that on his many journeys acoss the bridge, romance blossomed between both Willie and Beatrice and in 1909 they entered a union of marriage at Selby.
In the year of 1910, the couple are recorded as residing in St. James Street, Wetherby, Willie in the 1911 Census now describing his occupation of that of an Automobile Association Patrol Man. The marriage had also been blessed with the birth of a child, a daughter, Dorothy May born at Selby on the 25th of April 1910 and baptised at the latter place in the following month. In 1912, the Electoral Register for Barkston Ash records that the family were now residing in premises located in Barleyfields Walk, this apparently being their permanent address before the outbreak of the war. I can only speculate as to why Willie changed his vocation but it is of interest to note that in 1911, Harry Asprey now residing at Gowthorpe Street, Selby, describes his occupation of that of a Motor Engineer, possibly a skill passed from father-in-law to son-in-law.
Enlistment & Early Service
An analysis of the serial number issued to Willie, 33213, indicates enlistment into the British Army at York on or about the 10th of September 1914. Despite there being a lack of surviving service documents, his service obligation was that of Short Service (Three years with the Colours). Early service with this flegling unit is somewhat ambiguous but after being processed at York, Willie may have spent a number of weeks at Aldershot and then Sheffield. Recruits were drawn from a numerous parts of the country and one lad, Jos. Ryan, a native of Wigan, wrote a letter to the Wigan Observer And District Advertiser recounting his early weeks with the Field Ambulance:-