Wetherby War Memorial - The Great War 1914 - 1918

Private Percival (Percy) Burton Shields

Introduction
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
Shields,P
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
Acknowledgements
Dardanelles
14999
9th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment
Died 22nd August 1915 , Age 30
Cemetery : Helles Memorial, Gallipoli
Grave Reference or Panel Number : 47 to 51

Son of Mr & Mrs J. Shields of Harome, York.

Percival Burton Shields was born at Harome, near Helmsley in 1887 to parents Job, an Agricultural Labourer and Esther Shields.
Little is known of Percy's early years other than in the 1901 Census he is recorded as being hospitalised either due to sickness or injury at York County Hospital, Monkgate, occupation being recorded as an Agricultural Labourer aged 13 years.
At some stage during his teenage years, Percy must have aquired a knowledge of machinery or mechanics, possibly via the use of agricultural machinery. This would later witness him finding employment with Mr. Rowland Meyrick, Land Agent to the Montague Estates as his chaffeur, the 1911 Census recording that he was residing in one of two rooms located over the Stable at Hall Orchards, Wetherby.

Recruitment & Attestation

Percy attested for service at Wetherby Town Hall on or about the 31st August 1914 no doubt actively encouraged by his employer. The terms of enlistment were a Short Service obligation i.e. three years with the Colours however it was stated that if the War lasted longer than three years, the recruit would be retained until the cessation of hostilities.
As the men waited to enlist, Army protocol declared 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, Percy's employer, that was the major protagonist encouraging many a young Wetherby man or resident of the town 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, Percy 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 signature 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 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.
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)
 
Brigade Commander   Brigadier-General Henry Haggard
Divisional Commander   Major-General Frederick Hammersley C.B.
 
Training
 
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 Percy the number 14998 was allocated to one Henry C. Day. Although no direct link to Wetherby can be ascertained at present, Henry served with Battalion on the Peninsula and was eventually discharged on the 15th January 1919 after further service with the Yorks & Lancs. The number issued following on from Percy,15000, was subsequently issued to James Holt, a native of Ticknall, Derbyshire. James, a married man, had found employment at Wetherby as a Gardener to Mr. Meyrick and would unfortunately succumb to wounds received on the Peninsula.
 
Yorkat this juncture with the Depot processing more and more men that had answered the 'Call to Arms' was now fit to bursting point with men. Due to this factor a move to larger training facilities located at Belton Park near Grantham, Lincolnshire, was initiated in September by the 9th West Yorkshires where they were joined by the remainder of the Brigade in Division.
Following this movement, a second medical examination, more thorough than the initial medical examination that had taken place on Attestation was carried out in mid October. 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 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.
An analysis of Army Pension Records reveal that of the men who had enlisted at Wetherby Town Hall in the heady days of 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 however 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 Park 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. Consequently 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 located 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 the latter 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 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 of command when Colonel Frend was replaced by another officer 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.'
Percy and the men of the 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 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: 

Dardanelles

Percy would not survive his first action as a soldier of the British Army in common with the many men who had enlisted at Wetherby Town Hall in the heady days of August 1914. It is unfortunate that Percy's body could not be identified after the conflict and as a consequence he is now commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Gallipoli. In addition to being commemorated on the Wetherby Memorial, Percy is also commemorated on the Harome War Memorial situated in the village cemetery.

Helles Memorial

The Helles Memorial, an obelisk standing over 30 metres in height, is situated on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula with commanding views over the Dardanelles Straits.

The memorial is one of duel function, i.e., providing a memorial for those Commonwealth servicemen who died and have no known grave and that of a Commonwealth battle memorial for the Dardanelles Campaign.
Of the Indian and United Kingdom forces commemorated on the memorial, the latter died throughout the Peninsula, the Australians who are now commemorated here, at Helles. Panels are also incorporated to commemorate those who died or were buried at sea in the waters surrounding Gallipoli. In this imposing position and remembering the sacrifices of those who served in the Campaign, the memorial now commemorates over 21,000 individuals.
In addition to the Helles Memorial, four further memorials commemorate the Missing of the Dardanelles Campaign, Hill 60, Lone Pine and Chunuk Bair memorials commemorate Australian and New Zealand forces at Anzac whilst Twelve Tree Copse Memorial commemorates New Zealanders at Helles. In the United Kingdom, the following memorials commemorate United Kingdom naval casualties lost or buried at sea; Plymouth, Portsmouth and Chatham respectively.


Shieldswebsite.JPG
Extract Of Panels 47 - 51. Photograph Courtesy of Bob Pike.
HellesMemorial.jpg
Helles Memorial. Image Courtesy Of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission.