top of page


World War One

Aysgarth Parish

A - C

Below are the biographies of some of the men and women from the Roll of Honour table who served during the Great War. The list seeks to remember all who served, not just those who lost their lives. Inevitably, it is incomplete, but it is hoped that additional names will be added as further information becomes available. Those who made the ultimate sacrifice are shown with a         alongside their name. 

Keith Taylor, author of 'Wensleydale Remembered,' has very generously allowed me to transcribe and display material from his excellent book about the lives of those from Aysgarth Parish who made the ultimate sacrifice. Some additional information has also been provided by the owners of the website, Craven’s Part in the Great War.

The names are in alphabetical order of surname to make it easier to scroll down to find a particular name. 

If you notice any errors or have additional people to add to the list, further information about people already included or a photograph, please contact me. Thank you.

Constance Emma Calvert was born at Leeds in 1871. She was the daughter of Alfred and Selina, her father’s occupation was a woollen manufacturer, in the developing industry of the West Riding of Yorkshire. In April, 1914, aged 43, she married Charles John Archer, widower and solicitor of Yarm, at this time Constance was living at Sorrelsykes Park, West Burton, see photograph below. Charles first wife Lucy Mary had tragically died at the relatively young age of forty-four, they had seven children.

After Constance and Charles marriage they lived at Sorrelsykes Park, and in 1916 they had a son, Edward Archer. Charles eldest son: Ronald Headley was a 2nd Lieutenant in the Northumberland Fusiliers had his leg amputated on Christmas Eve 1917 but died on 27 Dec 1917 aged 41.


Constance was greatly involved in the ‘war  effort’ and was the “Commandant” of the Red Cross Society for the district. In 1914, aged 43, she took over the command of the V.A.D. nurses that Dr. Pickles had established from the Aysgarth area.

Sorrelsykes - Mgt Proctor
© Thoralby Through Time
Mrs Archer, 1914
© Thoralby Through Time

Mrs Archer, “Commandant” of the Red Cross Voluntary Aid nurses, 1914

(courtesy F. & M.E. Snaith)

Sorrelsykes Park (courtesy of Margaret Procter.)

The ‘Upper Wensleydale Parish Magazine’, reported on numerous fund raising and knitting parties for the war effort led by Mrs. Archer of Sorrelsykes Park. A recurring appeal was the Red Cross “Our Day”, which primarily was collections made in the villages with the donations being used to enable the ‘Working Parties’ to produce the  garments to send to the troops, including: shirts, socks, scarves, body belts and mittens. Sewing meetings were held at Sorrelsykes Park, every Monday from May to October during 1917. Children were also involved in making collection boxes and selling penny flags, see photograph opposite. Concerts, Jumble Sales and Teas were frequently being held to raise funds. In 1918, an ‘American principle’, was adopted as a new and different way to raise funds, whereby everyone attending the sale would bring something in a parcel, to be sold for the good cause, with no limit being placed on the value of the parcel, with the hope that articles brought would be of a useful nature. Queen Alexandra Roses were also sold and the event which raised £240 which was ‘beyond anticipation’, according to Mrs. Archer.

Our Day - Flag

World War 1 Penny Flags, (courtesy of Worldwar 1

Mrs Archer JR
© Thoralby Through Time

Constance’s husband Charles John, died in May 1924, aged 73 at the Imperial Nursing Home, Harrogate, Constance was aged only fifty-three. They had been living at Castleton, Yorkshire.  Constance re-married a Mr. Perkins. She died in February 1935, at Kensington, aged sixty-four, widow home address, the manor house Helperby, Yorkshire.

Constance Emma  Archer at a society event at Sorreslykes Park, c.1917,  (courtesy of Jane Ritchie)

"Albert Dinsdale Bell was the son of John and Jane Bell, née Dinsdale. John was born at Sedbusk and Jane at Thoralby. In the 1901 census, Albert was aged 5, the family was living at Thoralby, his father's occupation was flag quarryman and he had two younger siblings, Tom aged 3 and Dorothy Jane aged 8 months. By the time of the 1911 census, the family had left their local area and was living at Steeton-with-Eastburn, a civil parish within the City of Bradford, West Yorkshire, and four more children had been born. The reason for the move was most probably for better chances of employment: many families left the dales for jobs in the mills of Bradford around that time. Father John's occupation in 1911 was a labourer in a wood yard manufacturing wooden bobbins. Albert, now aged 15, was a bobbin carrier in a worsted factory and brother Tom, aged 13, was also employed in the same factory.

Albert enlisted at Cross Hills, near Skipton and Keighley, into the Sherwood Foresters, Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire Regiment. His death was reported in The Craven Herald on 24 August 1917: "On Saturday morning from a reliable source, Mr. and Mrs. John Bell, Seed Hill Terrace, Steeton, learned the sad news that their eldest son, Pte. Albert Bell, Stafford Regt., had been killed in action on August 8th on the Western Front whilst acting as a messenger. The deceased soldier was within a month of his 22nd year. He was one of the first batch of Derby men called to the Colours at Keighley early in 1916, and had been in France for nearly a year. Of a quiet and somewhat retiring disposition and never quite robust, the fallen soldier was, previous to joining the Army, employed in the piece room of Messrs. John Clough and Sons, manufacturers. He has a younger brother, Tom Bell, serving in the Navy." Albert is buried in the Sunken Road Cemetery, Fampouxi, France and is also remembered on the Steeton War Memorial (see image below) and at St Stephen's Church: marble memorial tablet, and in the Mechanic's Institute: Steeton-with-Eastburn Roll of Honour (now in St Stephen's Church).


Albert's younger brother, Tom Bell, who served in the Royal Navy, survived the war and came back to Wensleydale, where he married local girl, Margaret Eleanor Iveson of Aysgarth in 1926. Tom was buried in Aysgarth Church in March 1954, aged fifty-six".

[Information and images provided by the owners of the website, Craven’s Part in the Great War (CPGW)].

Pivate Albert Dinsdale Bell of Thoralby, c.CPGW
© Thoralby Through Time

Private Albert Dinsdale Bell, formerly of Thoralby, (courtesy of CPGW).

Steeton's War Memorial, c. of CPGW

Steeton's War Memorial, (courtesy of CPGW).

Private Albert Bell's name on the memorial, c. of CPGW

Private Albert Bell's name on the memorial, (courtesy of CPGW).

"James Pickard Bell was born in Aysgarth in 1888, the son of the station master William Bell and his wife Barbara, who lived in the Station House, but later moved to the Flattlands. After attending Aysgarth Infant School, he completed his education at Leeds Boys Modern School before returning to live in Aysgarth. In 1910 he emigrated to Canada where he farmed on the prairies of Manitoba, [see below}]

However, in 1915 he responded to the call for volunteers and enlisted in the 79th Battalion Cameron Highlanders, a Canadian Scottish Regiment. Training began in Canada and was completed in England, before they were sent to France in February 1916.

It was during the later stages of the Battle of the Somme, that on 4th October Private Bell was last seen leading a section of bombers towards the German lines facing Courcelette, a village halfway between Albert and Bapaume. He was never seen again and was reported "missing presumed dead". Official confirmation of his death did not arrive until July 1917. His body was never recovered and his name is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, France" [see below].

[Transcribed from 'Wensleydale Remembered', by Keith Taylor].


He is also commemorated on the gate pillars at the entrance of St. Andrew's Church, Aysgarth, on a brass plaque within the Church and on the village war memorial in the centre of Aysgarth village (see Aysgarth, Home Front Section for images).

J P Bell IWM

Private James Pickard Bell, formerly of Aysgarth. (Courtesy of IWM). 

A Settler's Homestead in Mantobia, Canada, (courtesy of Pinterest).

The Vimy Memorial, France where he is honoured, (courtesy of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

"Harold was born in 1894 in the hamlet of Well, to the east of Masham, the eldest child of Thomas and Elizabeth Binks. Thomas, also born at Well, had married Elizabeth from Thornton Watlass, near Bedale, and was employed as a gamekeeper on the nearby estate of Snape Park. Two daughters and another son, besides Harold, completed the family. By 1914, however Harold Binks was living at West Burton.

He enlisted at Leyburn and joined the 13th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. At 1.15 p.m. on March 21st 1818 the Battalion marched on Hamelincourt, between Arras and Bapaume, to occupy the east of St. Leger. There was tremendous confusion as the Germans had broken through the British lines. 

At midnight on March 21st "A" Company occupied the front line trench and, with a Lewis gun team and bombing party, succeeded in killing or dispersing the enemy. At 7 a.m. on the 22nd, Captain Simpkin, with two platoons of "D" company, made a bombing attack in the German opposition trench, clearing it, killing 20 defenders and capturing 7 machine-guns. Within a few minutes some 300 Germans counter-attacked and drove out "D" Company, the Captain being killed.

A frontal attack on the trench with "B" Company was made after a barrage, and the enemy bolted, after sustaining heavy casualties. At 6.45 p.m. the order was received for a gradual withdrawal, with "B" Company covering the retirement. By this time the Company was almost completely surrounded, with some being captured, with some being captured.

Harold Binks was killed during this action, and his body never being recovered, he is honoured on Bat 5 of the Arras Memorial [France]. Died 22nd March 1918, age 23."

[Transcribed from 'Wensleydale Remembered', by Keith Taylor].

Harold had married local girl, Hannah Paley of West Burton on May 13th 1916, at Aysgarth Parish Church, he gave his occupation as blacksmith. Harold and Hannah had a daughter, Dorothy born in 1917 who married George Spensley in 1943, but she sadly died in 1948, aged 31, the father she hardly knew is remembered on her headstone in Aysgarth churchyard.

He is also commemorated on the gate pillars at the entrance of St. Andrew's Church, Aysgarth, on a brass plaque within the Church and on the village war memorial and in the Methodist Chapel in West Burton village (see Aysgarth and West Burton, Home Front Section for images).


Addition Information

Private Harold Binks of West Burton
© Thoralby Through Time

Private Harold Binks of West Burton

The Arras Memorial, France where he is honoured, (courtesy of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

Harold Binks remembered

on Snape Village Memorial

(courtesy of  War

Memorial Online)

Snape Institute WW1 Memorial Detail

Harold Binks remembered on Snape Chapel Memorial (courtesy of J.F. Knopp)

Snape Chapel WW1

As well as him being remembered on the village and chapel memorials at Snape, Harold’s widow, Hannah, had his medals, death penny, letter from the King and their wedding  photograph framed, see photographs below. See also the Memorabilia section.

Binks - Death oval
© Thoralby Through Time
Binks - Medal 1 R.jpg
Binks - Death Penny 3 R
© Thoralby Through Time
Binks - Medal 2 R

Harold Binks’ British War Medal, Death Penny and Victory Medal

(courtesy of Joyce Binks and Madge Sayer)

Binks - King George 1 R.jpg
© Thoralby Through Time

Letter from King George V

to Harold Binks’ widow

(courtesy of Joyce Binks

and Madge Sayer)

Binks - Wedding Day
© Thoralby Through Time

Harold Binks & Hannah Paley

on their wedding day, May 1916

(courtesy of Joyce Binks and Madge Sayer)

Binks - Hannah & daughter
© Thoralby Through Time

Hannah Binks and daughter, Dorothy (courtesy of Joyce Binks and Madge Sayer)

Jessie’s parents were Ralph Blades and Hannah née Brewster. Her father’s occupation was farmer, and bookkeeper, debt collector for the Aysgarth doctors and part-time sanitary inspector for the council (see photo of Ralph below). Ralph and his wife Hannah had four children of whom three survived, the eldest of these was Madge, followed by Jessie and May. In the 1911 census the family are living at Field House, Aysgarth and the two eldest daughters who did not marry, remained there till their deaths. Jessie was assisting at the Aysgarth village Post Office, aged 18.

Field House, Ays c.1905
© Thoralby Through Time

Jessie was born at the Mill farm in 1893, and attended the local national school until aged 14, then she transferred to a school held at Aysgarth vicarage. From here she went as an assistant at the village Post Office, just up the road from Field House, Aysgarth where the family were now living (see photo opposite). One of Jessie’s jobs in the Post Office, was a telegraphist, transmitting and receiving messages by telegraph. This had been   installed into the Post Office in 1906, from 1884 it had been at Aysgarth station. At the Post  Office messages would be received in Morse code and a telegram with the message on would then be delivered by post? Jessie would need to be proficient in both sending and receiving Morse code.

  Field House, Aysgarth. (Courtesy of  Clive Torrens.)

The Post Office at this time was owned by the Wray family, who also sold confectionaries and refreshments (see postcard opposite). They also had a small Tea Room, because of the renowned Aysgarth Falls in the village  attracted numerous  visitors. The delivery cart and driver was Decimus Durham, his Aysgarth village shop sold, tea, groceries and tobacco. Stood in the doorway, and outside the premises are Wray family members.

Aysgarth P.O. CT

  Post Office and Tea Room, Aysgarth. (Courtesy of  Clive Torrens.)

Jessie Blades in later years, Aysgarth. (Courtesy of 

John Pemberton.)

WAAC - uniform - Pinterest

After the declaration of war, Jessie’s elder sister Madge (see below) had joined the local V.A.D., nurses and also nursed in a military hospital in Leeds. Jessie decided on a different method of ‘serving her country’.

By 1917 the Army was running short of men  because so many had been injured or killed on the front line. The War Office had also identified that a number of jobs which did not involve fighting were being carried out by men who could have been in battle. It was decided that women could do many of these jobs and the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was formed.

Typical female uniform of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. (Courtesy of  Pinterest.)

© Thoralby Through Time
© Thoralby Through Time

Jessie joined the (WAAC) as a telegraphist, the position was much more than sending and receiving messages as she had done in Aysgarth Post Office. Jessie was obviously skilled at her job, as she also served on active service in France, being de-mobbed in November 1919.

'A proficient telegraphist would be expected to be able to do the following: 

Send on D.C. Key – messages per hour 40

Read and write down from sounder – messages per hour 20

Read and write down vibrator – messages per hour 40

Have familiarity with prefixes, code time, official code, and abbreviations, and recognised method of dealing with messages. Be  able to join up, set to work, adjust and operate: field telephone exchange, and portable telephones and localise and rectify faults and care for and maintain the equipment'. (John Copley, Telegraphist Service Record. TNA).

Messages during the war would be encrypted, so that if they fell into enemy hands, they could not be understood. Whether or not Jessie was involved in the encryption (a whole new set of skills), is not known. Communication between different units was vital in war time. This allowed important messages to be delivered and ensured soldiers across the front knew the plans for defence and attack. Operators with portable transmitters, for instance, were able to warn soldiers of an attack of poisonous gas, giving them time to don their gas masks. An example of a mobile transmitter being can be seen in the  photographs below.

mobile telegraph machine, being used in
© Thoralby Through Time

A mobile telegraph machine, being used in World War One. (Courtesy of the website: postalheritage.)

Wireless station WW1 R.jpg
© Thoralby Through Time

British Army forward wireless station, c.1917.

(Courtesy of Wireless World.)

The above details and photographs give details of her working life in the Great War. However, an interview with Annie May Martin, who was also a telegraphist, during the war gives, a vivid insight into the ‘living conditions’ in the camps, infested with rats, very ’primitive’ personal washing facilities and a ‘biscuit’ mattress folded in 3 parts. The signallers worked a 12 hour day, five days a week, and wore ‘blue and white’ armbands and were known as the ‘blue and white Angels’. There was such a shortage of men signallers, that eventually they were all replaced by women, where Annie Martin was stationed.   (Recording of interview with Annie May Martin)


After the war Jessie became a civil servant, (CS & J), using her skills from the war, she also helped to ‘look after’, Dr. Coltman’s, (Aysgarth G.P., and Dr. Pickles successor), two sons, ‘filling them with knowledge’ on  walks, spotting and naming aeroplanes especially were a favourite. Like her sister Madge, she was involved in village life, being a frequent attender at village activities, the W.I. and she was a regular churchgoer. Jessie never married and lived with her sister Madge at Field House, Aysgarth, their childhood home. Jessie died in September 1957, aged 64 and is buried in Aysgarth churchyard.

Madge Blades (1889-1983)                                                        Aysgarth

Ralph Blades of Aysgarth

For over forty years, Madge Blades worked for the Aysgarth medical practice as its dispenser. Her parents were Ralph Blades (see photograph opposite) and Hannah Brewster. Her father’s occupations were farmer, bookkeeper and debt collector for the Aysgarth doctors, and part-time sanitary inspector for the council. Ralph and his wife, Hannah, had four children, one of whom died in infancy. The eldest of these was Madge, followed by Jessie and May. In the 1911 census, the family were living at Field House, Aysgarth, and the two eldest daughters, who did not marry, remained there until their deaths. Madge at this time was assisting her father on the farm doing dairy work and sister Jessie was assisting at the local/village Post Office. During the great war, Jessie Blades was a telegraphist in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, (see photograph further down of the two sisters and separate biography of Jessie Blades).

Nurse, Madge Blades of Aysgarth

Ralph Blades of Aysgarth, farmer, bookkeeper, debt collector and sanitary inspector, (courtesy of John Pemberton).

John Pemberton described Madge's contribution to the practice in his book, Will Pickles of Wensleydale (1970): “In 1925 Ralph Blade’s daughter Madge became dispenser to the practice and occupied a singular important place in it for more than forty years. She was born at the Mill farm in 1890, and being highly intelligent and possessing a father who was blessed with a love of learning, and high principles, Madge developed her talents to the full. In the First World War, aged 25, she nursed as a V.A.D., [at Aysgarth with Dr.Pickles initially], and then in a Leeds hospital, and would have dearly liked to continue nursing as a career. After the war however, family reasons compelled her to return to Aysgarth. Her desire to lead a useful and practical life was satisfied, at least to some extent, when she became dispenser to the practice."

© Thoralby Through Time
© Thoralby Through Time

Nurse, Madge Blades, aged 25 of Aysgarth, (courtesy of F. & M.E. Snaith). The full photograph can be seen in the Home Front Section, Aysgarth.

"Will was very thorough in training her, and in addition to teaching her meticulously about the nature of the remedies to be prescribed and their measurement, he took great trouble in showing her how to put the pleat in the white paper wrapper round the bottle and to apply sealing wax neatly. She gradually assumed other duties beside dispensing. She would get out the panel cards on which doctors recorded consultations, diagnoses and treatment, and later when the telephone was installed she mastered the little telephone exchange that was set up in the dispensary."

The Dispensary, Aysgarth Surgery, 1953
© Thoralby Through Time

The Dispensary, Aysgarth Surgery, 1953, Madge's domain (courtesy of The Dales Central Practice, Aysgarth).

"She would come up and get through to the hospital at Northallerton or she would telephone the ambulance, or she would inform the locum that the adrenaline was on the right-hand side of the third shelf down. Whatever the question she was never at a loss. Like the computer she could store a mass of information, but unlike it, she could retrieve it flavoured with dry Yorkshire wit.

When her father died in 1938, she also took on the task of keeping the accounts and collecting unpaid fees. She walked, or took a bus where possible, up and down the dale as she could never master the bicycle. She acquired in this way a most intimate knowledge of where the three thousand patients lived, their histories, their characters and their family relationships. This is no mean task in isolated villages where almost the whole community appears to be kith and kin.”

Madge was active in village life and was a regular churchgoer. She was the organist at Aysgarth Church for most of her adult life, starting at the age of 20. On a brass plate near the church organ, (see photograph below), there is a tribute to Madge Blades, organist at the church for sixty-nine years, retiring at the age of ninety! Madge died in September 1982, aged 93 and is buried in Aysgarth churchyard.

Madge Blades, brass plaque
Madge & Jessie Blades, Aysgarth
© Thoralby Through Time

Madge Blades on the left, holding the bottles of medicine, and her sister, Jessie, outside  Aysgarth Surgery, (courtesy of John Pemberton).

© Thoralby Through Time

Brass plaque alongside the organ in Aysgarth Church.

William Edmund Bushby (1899-1918)                               West Burton

"Edmund Bushby, father of William, was a general labourer who lived with his wife Mary and children Margaret and William near Valley House, West Burton.

William was working in the Ulverston area, near Barrow-in-Furness, when he enlisted in the 20th Battalion D.L.I. At some stage during his service with the Battalion, William, together with his commanding officer and four other men, were awarded the Croix de Guerre [see photograph below] by the French for bravery on the field of battle.

By November 1st, just ten days before the end of the Great War, the Battalion was advancing strongly across Belgium and had reached the River Scheldt at Kerkhove, east Courtrai.


The last few days of October had been spent on the southern outskirts of Courtrai. Some shops were open and an abandoned German cinema was used for entertainment.

On the night of November 2nd a party of the 20th Battalion succeeded in crossing the River Scheldt by a broken bridge. It was not an easy passage and the patrol had to be withdrawn at daylight, but it is believed that these were the first British troops to cross the river.

The enemy had not been too active during these days but at dawn and dusk he put down a barrage on the main road and drenched the surrounding country with mustard gas and tear shells. 4 men were killed and 15 wounded.

William Bushby was one of those killed and is buried in grave V.C.4. Vichte Military Cemetery, 13 km. east of Courtrai, Belgium. Died 2nd November 1918, age 19."

[Transcribed from 'Wensleydale Remembered', by Keith Taylor].

William is also remembered on his parents' E. & M.I. Bushby's headstone in Aysgarth churchyard, see photograph below. He is also commemorated on the gate pillars at the entrance of St. Andrew's Church, Aysgarth, on a brass plaque within the Church and on the village war memorial and in the Methodist Chapel in West Burton village (see Aysgarth and West Burton, Home Front Section for images).

Private, William Edmud Bushby, West Burton
© Thoralby Through Time
Wm Edmund Bushby - Int. War Graves.jpg

The Vichte Military Cemetery, Belgium, William is buried in grave V.C.4., (courtesy of The International War Graves Photography Project.)

Private, William Edmund Bushby of West Burton


Croix-de-Guerre, medal awarded by the French to private Bushby for bravery. (Courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Wm Edmund Bushby, headstone, Aysgarth churchyard, courtesy of Pip Land.

His parents headstone in Aysgarth churchyard on which he is remembered, "Also William Edmund Bushby 20th D.L.I. Croix-de-Guerre son of the above killed in action November 2 1918 aged 18 years. 

(Courtesy of Pip Pointon.)

"George Charlton was the son of George and Elizabeth, née Greener. George senior was born at Bywell in Northumberland and his mother Elizabeth at Ryton in county Durham. In 1891 the family were living at Halls Cottages, Crawcrook, county Durham. George senior's occupation was a  tailor and there were six children in the family, sisters, Elizabeth and Margery, brothers Robert, John and James, George junior was the youngest, aged one.  By 1901 the family were still living at Crawcrook, county Durham and there had  been two additions to the family, brother, William and sister Dorothy.

By 1911 George aged 21 was living at Thornton Hall, Thornton Rust, where he was employed as a farm servant for John Chapman, also in his employ was Chapman Kilburn as a chauffeur, Chapman also enlisted, but survived. George Charlton  enlisted into the Reserve Calvary Regiment 5th and died from his wounds on 2nd December 1918. He is buried in Greenside, St. John's churchyard, county Durham". 

[Transcribed from 'Wensleydale Remembered', by Keith Taylor].

Additional information from John Richardson: "He served abroad with the Army Service Corps before being transferred to the 5th Reserve Cavalry Regiment in England. Soldiers' Effects states that he died of pneumonia in the Military Hospital at Tidworth."

He is also commemorated on the gate pillars at the entrance of St. Andrew's Church, Aysgarth, on a brass plaque within the Church and on the village war memorial on the Village Hall of Thornton Rust, (see below and Aysgarth and Thornton Rust, Home Front Section for images).

Thornton Rust Village Hall, built in 1924 as a memorial to the dead, c. of Clive Torrens
© Thoralby Through Time
Thornton Rust War Memorial Plaque

George Charlton's name above the doorway 

Thornton Rust Village Hall, built in 1924 as a memorial to the dead, (courtesy of Clive Torrens).

Gunner Tommy Coates PA

Gunner, Tommy Coates of Thoralby, (courtesy of Peter Alderson.)

© Thoralby Through Time

Thomas Coates was the second son of James Adam Coates and Jane Frankland. Before joining the  army, Tommy was working for his father on the family farm at Thoralby and living with his parents in the house now known as ‘Grafton’. From 1916, Tommy served in the Royal Garrison   Artillery, where he was a Gunner with the 209th Siege Battery (see photo opposite).


“Siege Batteries of the R.G.A. were equipped with heavy howitzers (see photograph below), sending large calibre high explosive shells in high  trajectory, plunging fire. The usual armaments were 6 inch, 8 inch and 9.2 inch howitzers, although some had huge railway-or road-mounted 12 inch howitzers. As British artillery tactics developed, the Siege Batteries were most often employed in destroying or neutralising the enemy      artillery, as well as putting destructive fire down on strongpoints, dumps, stores, roads and railways behind enemy lines.” (The Long, Long Trail)

Opposite is a photograph of an 6″ Howitzer of the type used by Siege Batteries.

The noise from these large guns must have been deafening, especially for gunners such as Tommy who were firing them daily. His hearing in later life must have been permanently damaged.

A 6-inch 26 cwt Howitzer in action, East

 6″ Howitzer of the type used by Siege          Batteries. (Courtesy of The East Riding, RGA).

Unfortunately, his service record did not survive, but we are able to piece together some details about his wartime experiences. Initially, Tommy was serving in France, as indicated by the clasp on one of his medals, but later he served in Egypt, sailing from Marseille to Alexandria. The most memorable event was probably surviving the sinking of the ship on which he and his fellow men were being transported. On 17 December he sailed aboard the HMT Aragon, a former Royal Mail steamer. Tommy eventually reached Alexandria aboard another transport ship. At this stage Tommy was 26 years old. It is not known how long he served in Egypt. 

See the separate account of the

‘Sinking of the HMT Aragon and Survivors’ Accounts.’
© Thoralby Through Time
Tommy Coates- PA
© Thoralby Through Time
Tommy Coates - PA
© Thoralby Through Time

           Gunner Tommy Coats, top left and far right                 with 5 fellow soldiers from his unit in Egypt.

(Courtesy of Peter Alderson).

Coates Medals PA
© Thoralby Through Time

Gunner Tommy Coats, campaign medals: British War & Victory.

(Courtesy of Peter Alderson).

His surviving medical records indicate that Tommy was in the 19 General Hospital at Alexandria from the 15th February to 23rd March 1918 suffering from an abscess on his buttock. From here he was transferred to Mustapha Hospital, Alexandria No. 15 for convalescence. The medical records record his religion as Wesleyan (Methodist).

Postcard of the 19 General Hospital Alexandria, Egypt, where Tommy Coates of Thoralby was a patient

A postcard of the 19 General Hospital Alexandria, Egypt, where Tommy Coates of Thoralby was a patient.

“No 19 British General Hospital at     Alexandria, through which thousands of soldiers passed during the Gallipoli  campaign.”

(The Australian War Memorial.)

 Courtesy of

The next documentation we have of Tommy’s war service is the fact that he was listed as an ‘absent voter’ at Thoralby, his home address, for the general election in December 1918. Soldiers voted  wherever they were posted. He probably returned home and back to civilian life mid-1919, aged 28.

He married Mary Elizabeth Harker at Thornton Watlass Church in 1927 and they started married life in Tommy’s family home at Thoralby. The couple had a daughter Nancy and his occupation was as a farmer and later in life as a part-time postman and gardener. Tommy died in 1949, aged only 58, and is buried in Aysgarth Churchyard.

Tommy’s sister’s husband, James Stewart Ridehalgh also served in the war. He enlisted with the 5th West Yorkshire Regiment and in 1916 he transferred into the Royal Air Force where he was an Air  Mechanic, having previously been a joiner. He and his wife, Annie, had a child called Elsie, who was born in 1914 and after the war the family settled in Harrogate.

The photograph opposite shows Tommy Coates and Willy Cockburn, known as ’Post Willy’, in 1946. Tommy is on the left near ‘beauty’ the cat.

William would collect the post from Aysgarth on his bicycle and deliver it to Thoralby and  Bishopdale. Tommy would deliver the post to the outlying farms that were not accessible by bike, such as Gayle Ing, Thoralby.

William Cockburn & Tommy Coates - smalle
© Thoralby Through Time

 Two postmen having a conversation     outside the Post Office in Thoralby.      (Courtesy of Bertram Unné c.1946.)

Willy Cockburn, known as ’Post Willy’ also served in the First World War, when he was also a Gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery (see the Roll of Honour).  

bottom of page