Biographies

World War One

Aysgarth Parish 

Q - Z

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.

Private Joseph Dixon Raw of West Burton

At 7.15 a.m. the Germans made an attack in force upon the Battalion front line and captured it. At 7 p.m. a counter-attack was ordered. "C" Company joined in the attack, gaining all the objectives, though at a very high cost, but were forced to withdraw when the Germans attacked at 9 p.m.

Among the many casualties was Joseph Dixon Raw. He has no known grave and he is commorated on Panel 52 to 54 and 162A on the Tyne Cot Memorial [Belgium]. Died 8th May 1918, age 21."

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

"Joseph was the youngest son of James Raw and his wife Mary. Although both James and Mary had been born at Melbecks, Swaledale, in 1901 they were living with Joseph their eldest son Simon in West Burton, where James was a cowman on a local farm.

Before joining up, Joseph was employed as a farm hand by Thomas Lambert of West Burton. Enlisting at Leyburn, he joined the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment and in September 1916 was at the front.

He was twice recommended for distinction and at the end of April 1918 was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry and for services rendered near St.Quentin from March 21st to the 28th. Sadly, one week later he would be dead.

On May 6th the Battalion was in the Ypres Salient , in the line near Voormezeele, just south of Ypres. The enemy guns were very active, firing many gas shells. 

At 3.15 a.m. on May 8th the Germans laid down an exceptionally heavy bombardment on the trenches lasting four hours and causing many casualties, while the trenches were practically obliterated.

Tyne Cot Memorial Belgium, Joseph Dixon Raw is commemorated on Panel 52 to 54 and 162A, (courtesy of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

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).

Additional information from the Darlington & Stockton Times, 1918: "Mr & Mrs James Raw, West Burton, have received official news that their youngest son, Pte. Dixon Raw, of the Yorks. Reg. has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry and for services renderednear St. Quentin, from the 21st to the 28th March 1918. Pte. Raw has been at the front since Sept. 1915, and has been twice before recommended for distinction. Before joining up he was employed as a farm hand by Mr T. Lambert, West Burton."

Military Medal (MM)

"Instituted on 25th March 1916 and backdated to 1914, the Military Medal was awarded to other ranks of the British Army and Commonwealth Forces. It was an award for gallantry and devotion to duty when under fire in battle on land. The medal was subsequently awarded to women; two were awarded to women in recognition of their role during the 1916 Easter rising in Dublin.

 

On the reverse of the medal is inscribed "For Bravery in the Field". Recipients of the medal are entitled to use the letters MM after their name." (courtesy of Rutland Remembers.)

"The award was discontinued in 1993 when it was replaced by the Military Cross, which was extended to all ranks in the British honours system, while other Commonwealth nations instituted their own awards systems in the post war period." (courtesy of Wikipedia.)

The Military Medal: Heads and Tails, (courtesy of Rutland Remembers.)

Cecil Riggs was born at Heaning Hall Thoralby, June 1892. Cecil attended the National School, Aysgarth enrolling in March, 1897, aged five. At this time the family were living at Wellfield, Aysgarth. The school photograph below, dated 1896, shows his mother, as the Sewing Mistress, and she is sat at the front alongside the master, Ebeneezer Brown. Cecil left school in 1906, aged fourteen, school records show he began work at the Doctors Surgery in Aysgarth, where he was probably a handy-man.

Private Cecil Riggs (courtesy of Jean Cockburn)

Cecil Riggs served as a private in the 3rd Yorkshire, 14th Yorkshire and judging from the above in the Scottish Regiment,  Duke of Edinburgh's Wiltshire, as he is photographed wearing a kilt (see above). Little is known of his military service, he was awarded the victory medal and British war medal, being de-mobbed in March 1919.

Aysgarth National School c.1896 (courtesy of DCM, Hawes)

Cecil's mother Jemima Riggs was the sewing mistress. All the pupils underlined in red served in WW1 and are named in the Roll of Honour.

At the time of the 1911 census he and his mother are living at ‘Well Field’, Aysgarth. Cecil was now aged eighteen and employed by James Lamb Haw, as a bootmaker at ‘Northampton House’, Thoralby, a mile away from his home. Cecil can be seen in the group photograph below and in the larger, single photo below. Cecil worked as a bootmaker for the Haw family, firstly at Thoralby and then at Aysgarth, finally working for himself, in the garage of his home.

‘Northampton House’, Thoralby c.1910

Master Boot & Shoemakers

L-R: James Lamb Haw, owner (holding son Dick in

arms); employees: Cecil Riggs, Tom Storey, John

Paley, John Mackew and child at front unknown.

(courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler)

Boot and shoemaker, Cecil Riggs (courtesy of

G.V. & A. Sadler)

Cecil Riggs married local girl Annie Scott at St. Andrews Church, Aysgarth in 1925, they were both aged thirty-three and lived at the family home of ‘Wellfield House’, Aysgarth. At the time of his marriage, Cecil was working as a boot and shoemaker. In 1926, a daughter Jean was born. Annie had been seriously ill from the flu epidemic, nearly losing her life, and was not able to have any more children. The family were life-long Methodists, at Aysgarth Chapel, where Cecil was the chapel organist for 60 years. In the 1939 identity register, Cecil and his family were still living at ‘Wellfield House’, Aysgarth and he was working as a boot dealer and repairer, for himself. He was also, a part time special constable and a member of the Royal Observer Corps, (stationed at Aysgarth). Cecil’s wife, Annie, died in June 1971, aged 79 and he died eight years later, aged 87, at his family home of ‘Wellfield House’, Aysgarth. They are both buried in Aysgarth churchyard.

Hugh Vernon Sadler was the fourth of ten children of Septimus and Ann Fawcett Sadler (née Lawson) of Thoralby. His father was described in census returns as living off his own means. Hugh was born at West Burton on 14th July 1891 and was baptised at   Thoralby Methodist Chapel. He was educated at Cross Lanes school, Newbiggin along with his siblings and other village children from Thoralby and Newbiggin. On leaving school at the age of fourteen he was living and working at Yoremill Cottages, Aysgarth, employed as a carter delivering flour ground at the mill. By the time of the 1911 Hugh was aged 20 and he was lodging at Newby Wiske, near Northallerton, where his  occupation was gardener, domestic.

In October, 1913 Hugh married local girl Tamar Metcalfe of Woodhall, daughter of James and Margaret Metcalfe. Hugh and Tamar had their first child, Hubert Bywell in May 1914 at Thoralby, they were living at Beech Cottage, Thoralby.

 Private Hugh V. Sadler

(courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler.)

Hugh enlisted on 17th April 1915 at Northallerton into the 4th Yorkshire Regiment, which his younger brother Vic. had joined in September 1914. Hugh was aged twenty-four, but unlike his brother he had a wife and young child.

Hugh was posted overseas to France in May 1916, the same year as his second child Evelyn was born, he was now aged twenty-five. Like many soldiers Hugh was injured, firstly being shot in the calf, the second time going over the top, just above the knee.

On 27th August 1917 Hugh was     admitted into Kitchener's Hospital, Brighton (see photo opposite) from a sick convoy from France. He was   suffering from “shrapnel wound 2-1 eye l. 2-1 simple flesh contusion wounds slight”, these wounds were  inflicted by shrapnel from shell in his face. Hugh at this time had been transferred to the 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.

Hugh was ‘patched’ up and sent back to France, only to be sent back to England again in April 1918 and back into hospital, he was now back with the 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.

 Kitchener's Hospital, Brighton     (Courtesy of website: brightonandhove)

His service records show that Hugh was granted leave back to Thoralby from the 19th November to 26th November 1918, no doubt wife and young family were pleased to see him. Although the peace treaty was signed on 11th November of that year, Hugh still had to go back to the army and wasn’t discharged until 19th March 1919 on medical grounds, being “no longer fit for duty”. He was aged 29 and had served almost four years. Hugh was awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal and Silver War Badge.

Hugh and Tamar and the family left Thoralby, moving to Inglby Cross, employed as Under Gamekeeper, where they had a second, son Hugh Michael. Tamar died in July 1961, aged 71. Hugh remarried May V. Parvin in Bromley, Kent, she died in September 1970, aged 79 and Hugh died in December 1970 at Bromley, Greater London also aged 79.

Victor Aubrey Sadler was the sixth of ten children of Septimus and Ann Fawcett Sadler (née Lawson) of Thoralby. His father was described in census returns as living off his own means. Vic. was born at Thoralby on 8th January 1896 and was baptised at Thoralby Methodist Chapel. He was educated at Cross Lanes School, Newbiggin, along with his  siblings and other village children from Thoralby and Newbiggin. On leaving school at the age of fourteen, he went to live with his cousin in Northallerton, where the 1911 census recorded him as a 15-year-old grocer’s apprentice. His grocer’s apprenticeship was put on hold when in September 1914 he decided to enlist into the army following the outbreak of war in June of that year. Vic. at this stage was aged just eighteen years old.

 Private Vic. Sadler,

(courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler.)

 Private Vic. Sadler, 4th Yorkshire Regiment

(courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler)

Vic. enlisted on 14th September 1914. He most probably did so at Northallerton, as that is where he was working. He was the first in his family to join-up, with his elder brother, Hugh, enlisting in April 1915. Vic. served as a private in the 4th Yorkshire Regiment. For the first year, as Vic. was only aged 18, he was training in England at Northallerton, and subsequently at Newcastle. [Regimental War Diaries].

On 9th September 1915, Vic. landed in France, aged 19. The photograph above shows Vic. on horseback in a tented camp, possibly in France. The 4th Battalion in which he served were at the Battle of the Somme in 1916, so it is more than likely that Vic. took part in this historic battle.

“It was the first great offensive of World War I for the British. Fought between trenches, troops on both sides were living in squalid, extreme conditions. It was one of the bloodiest known battles in history. On the first day alone 100,000 Allied members were sent over the trenches, resulting in 60,000 casualties and around 20,000 deaths.” (Wikipedia.)

His arrival in the trenches in 1915 qualified him for the award of the 1914–15 Star campaign medal. He was also entitled to wear a ‘Wound Stripe’, having been wounded on 6th July 1916.

Trench warfare is a type of land warfare using occupied fighting lines consisting largely of military trenches, in which troops are well-protected from the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery. The most famous use of trench warfare is the    Western Front in World War I. It has become a byword for stalemate, attrition, sieges, and    futility in conflict.” (Wikipedia.)

 Trench warfare, The Somme,

 (courtesy of the Telegraph.)

“The first use of tanks on the battlefield was the use of British Mark I tanks at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (part of the Battle of the Somme) on 15 September 1916, with mixed results; many broke down, but nearly a third succeeded in breaking through.” (Wikipedia.

Tanks, The Somme,                     (courtesy of the Daily Mail.)

As his service record did not survive, we know nothing more about his wartime exploits until November 1917, when he was shot in the right leg during the Battle of Passchendaele. The injury was sufficiently serious for him to be evacuated on the 31st Ambulance Train.

“With their pristine white sheets, carefully-arranged tea cups and attentive teams of young nurses, the ambulance trains which brought injured Tommies back from the front could not have been further from the horrors of war the men had lived through. The insides of the specially-adapted train coaches were often the first taste of home the wounded soldiers experienced as they made their way back to Britain after months spent fighting in the trenches...Trains brought soldiers back from the battlefield to the French ports of Calais and Bologne, where they were transferred onto boats before being taken, again by train, to hospitals throughout Britain.” [Daily Mail]

“A cup of tea from a nurse was often the first treatment a     soldier got as he headed back to Britain.” [Daily Mail]

Vic. was transported by the   ambulance train from Camiers to the port of Calais, where he was transferred to the hospital ship HMHS Newhaven (see   photo below) bound for England.

Where in England Vic. was hospitalised is not known, but the photograph below shows him recuperating in hospital.

Ambulance Train,                     (courtesy of National Railway Museum.)

Vic. in bed on the right    (courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler.)

SS Newhaven                (courtesy of The Library.)

Vic. may have been given home leave in Thoralby before he was posted back to the frontline, by which time his regiment had been posted back to the Somme. He was discharged from the army “in consequence of being no longer physically fit for War Service” on 28th November 1918, although his medical discharge was signed 17 days after peace had ben declared. He did not return home in time to vote at the general election in December 1918, being listed as an ‘absent voter’ on the Thoralby return. At the date of his discharge, he was aged only twenty-two and had served 4 years and 76 days in the army.

Vic. was awarded the medals shown in the photographs, below: “The 1914–15 Star is a campaign medal of the British Empire which was awarded to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served in any theatre of the First World War against the Central European Powers during 1914 and 1915. The medal was never awarded singly and recipients also received the British War Medal and Victory Medal. The Silver War Badge was issued in the United Kingdom and the British Empire to service personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service in World War I ” (Wikipedia.)

Vics Medals - Heads Best PP R

Medals from left to right: The 1914–15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal and Silver War Badge.

(courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler.)

When Vic. did return back to civilian life, he became a grocer’s assistant in Thoralby Village Shop & Post Office, which Michael Webster had taken over from his widowed mother, Ann. At this period in his life, he lived with his parents at Town Head Cottage, Thoralby.

Vic. married Elizabeth Leyland (Tilly) in December 1932. She was the eldest child of Thomas and  Catherine Leyland, a baker and flour dealer from Liverpool. The couple first lived at Goose Lane Cottage and then at Prospect House, both in Thoralby.

Vic. continued to work as assistant grocer in the shop at Thoralby whilst living at Prospect House. In 1933, a daughter, Brenda, was born and their family was completed when, in 1935, George Victor was born. The children attended the local school at Cross Lanes and later attended the Grammar School at Yorebridge, Askrigg. During the Second World War, the Sadlers provided a home for one of the      evacuees who were sent to the area from the cities of the north east. In 1946, Vic. and Tilly bought the shop and ran it for the next 15 years.

This photograph and the following one show Tilly and Vic. at work.

Opposite: Tilly is serving master Robert Webster of Warnford House, Thoralby, c. 1950. On the counter are tomatoes and pork pies. In the shop window hangs a poster for national savings. Among the other products for sale were Palmolive shampoo, scrubbing brushes, Lifebuoy soap, Oxydol soap  powder, combs, pens and pipes.

 Tilly Sadler serving master Robert Webster, c.1950

(courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler)

Opposite: Vic. is shown behind the shop counter serving Nellie Percival* who lived at South View, Thoralby.

Nellie is examining a tin of  something and Vic. is placing a bottle of Robinson’s Lemon Squash into her basket.

Behind Nellie can be seen hair combs and pipes. Stuck below the counter is an advert for Min Furniture Cream.

Behind Vic. can be seen packets of Puffed Wheat, Farmers Glory, Rowntree’s Cocoa and labelled drawers containing various spices. Life in a bygone era!

 Vic. Sadler serving Nellie Percival in Thoralby village shop

(courtesy of G.V. & A. Sadler)

Vic. and Tilly retired in 1961 when their son, George, and his wife, Audrey, took over the business and George also ran a taxi service taking pupils to West Burton Primary School and to West Burton to catch the service bus to go to the secondary school at Leyburn.

Vic. died in 1976, aged 80, and Tilly died in 1986, aged 86. They were both cremated.

Vic. and his brother, Hugh, never talked to family members about their experiences in the war, only talking to each other and fellow servicemen, then falling silent if anyone else entered the room. We cannot imagine what they endured and how they managed to get back to a ‘normal’ life is testament to their strength of character and the debt we all owe them for the lives we are able to lead today.

*Nellie's husband, John Thomas Percival also served in WW1 as a lance corporal in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. His name can be seen in the Roll of Honour, along with Vic.’s brother, Hugh SadlerSee also the Memorabilia section.

 Thoralby Village Shop, Post Office and Reading Room, c.1924.

Vic. delivering from the

village shop c.1940s

(courtesy of G.V.& A. Sadler)

Albert Morton Senior (1883-1916)                                          Carperby

"Born 1883 in India and from a military background, Albert Senior was the youngest son of Colonel H.W.J. Senior, Indian Cavalry, and Mrs Senior of Hall Garth, Carperby.

He followed in the family's military tradition by receiving his commission in January 1903 and was gazetted in the Indian Army a year later, being promoted to Captain in March 1912. In August 1914 Captain Senior married Winifred, second daughter of Sir V.H. Carewe of Calke Abbey in Derbyshire and they made their home in Earl's Court, London.

The oilfields near the Persian Gulf were of essential importance to Britain's oil supply and with war against nearby Turkey imminent, a small Indian force of one division was dispatched to safeguard them. 

Basra was capture in November 1914 but another Indian division was required to repulse the Turkish attacks of Spring 1915. General Townsend's Division was set up the Tigris to take Amara and defeated the Turks at Kut in August 1915. The growing superiority in numbers of the Turkish forces compelled Townsend to retreat to Kut. Here, isolated and far from help his forces became besieged in December.

Two newly arrived Indian Divisions, with Captain Senior as one of the officers, battered futilely against heavy Turkish defences surrounding Kut. Their atacks were repulsed throughout March and early April, with heavy losses sustained. One of the soldiers wounded was Captain Albert Senior.

With starvation near, Townsend capitulated, surrendering 2070 British and 6000 Indian troops on April 29th 1916.

The unsuccessful British relief force had suffered over 21,000 casualties. 

Captain Senior died from his wounds on April 22nd 1916, age 23, but there is no known grave. Instead, his name is in Panel 49 and 66 of the Basra Memorial", Iraq.

* It is worth noting that in a 1916 Hawes parish magazine there is news of an urgent request from Northallerton for thousands of mittens etc. to be sent to Mesopotamia [Iraq] immediately"

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

The Basra Memorial, Iraq, Captain Senior  is commemorated on Panel 49 an 66, (courtesy  of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

Mittens, scarves and socks were also some of the many items that were made in Aysgarth Parish, see the Home Front, for more details.

He is also commemorated on the  village war memorial in the centre of Carperby village (see Carperby, Home Front Section for images).

John Shannon (1878-1916)                                                       Carperby

"John Shannon's father, Thomas Shannon, was born in Scotland, but travelled throughout the north of England seeking employment as a gardener. His Emily [née Stocks] was from York and their first child John, was born at Long Bertham, Newcastle-on-Tyne, in 1878. By 1882 the family was living at Denton in Northumberland, where William, James, Emily and Laura were born, before relocating for a short stay in York in 1892, where another daughter, Hilda, was born.

However, by 1893 they were living near the Wheatsheaf Inn at Carperby, in Wensleydale, where children Thomas, Ellen and Lena became, additions to the family. The eldest child, John, was no longer living with the family, for, aged 23 years he had travelled into the Ripon area to seek employment. The family in Carperby later moved just outside the village, to the farming settlement at Bear Park [see photograph below], close to the banks of the River Ure.

With Kitchener's plea for volunteers in August 1914, it was not long before John Shannon enlisted at Ripon, before joining the 10th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, in which he rose to the rank of Lance Corporal. By this time both his parents had died. 

The role of the 50th Infantry Brigade, of which the 10th Battalion was part, was to attack Fricourt on July 1st, a ruined village in the little valley of the River Ancre, and then attack Fricourt Wood. Instructions were to advance against their objective, with the 7th Yorkshires and the 10th West Yorkshires ordered first to make a frontal attack on the village.

The two leading companies pressed on to their objective, the northern edge of Fricourt village,  but the artillery fire which should have covered their right, keeping the enemy below ground until the assault of the 7th Yorkshire Regiment had taken place, was not sufficient protection and the enemy swarmed up from underground defences in largo numbers.

The 3rd and 4th Companies had attempted to cross no-man's land in support but as they left the trenches, a murderous machine-gun and rifle fire swept along the leading ranks, practically annihilating the whole of the two companies.

Strenuous efforts were made by other battalions to reach the West Yorkshire, especially by the 7th East Yorkshire and 7th Yorkshire Regiments who again attacked at 7.30 p.m., but the same murderous fire swept the attack away. In three minutes only, the the 7th Yorkshire Regiment lost 13 officers and 300 men.

What little remained of the 10th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment was withdrawn to Ville on the night of the 1st/2nd July. Together with the 1st Battalion Newfoundland Regiment, the 10th Battalion lost the highest number of men of any Battalion on that first day of battle - 700 men killed, wounded or missing, including all the officers. Despite the great gallantry shown throughout the day, it was sheer, bloody murder.

Lance Corporal John Shannon's body has no known grave but he is commemorated on Piers and Face 2A, 2C and "D of the Thiepval Memorial, [The Somme, France, see photograph below]. Died 1st July 1916, age 38. His name is also honoured on the churchyard gatepost at Aysgarth Church and on the small roadside memorial in the centre of Carperby."

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

John is also commemorated on his parents' T. & E. Shannon's 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 in the centre of Carperby village (see Aysgarth and Carperby, Home Front Section for images).

Bear Park Estate, Carperby.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Somme, France, John Shannon is commemorated on Piers and Face 2A, 2C and 2D, (courtesy  of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

"Thomas's father, John Spence was a farmer at Hargill Haw Farm, three quarters of the way down Walden Dale. His wife Margaret had been born at Newbiggin and their children were Thomas (the youngest), Margaret, Grace, Sarah and John.

Thomas returned safely from the war but in earl 1919 he contracted influenza, which developed into pneumonia. He died on April 18th and was interned in the churchyard at Aysgarth." A headstone, with his parents is in the  SE  Section of Aysgarth Churchyard (see photographs below)."

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

Monumental Inscription: In loving memory of John SPENCE of West Burton died May 2nd 1914 aged 60 years also Margaret his wife who died May 9th 1936 aged 77 years also Thomas their son who died April 18th 1919 aged 25 years.

St. Andrew's Church and churchyard, where Thomas Spence was interned, (courtesy of Ann Holubecki).

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).

"Henry Storey was born into a farming family in the small village of Downholme, between Bellerby and Richmond, his parents being Fred and Maria Storey. Later on life they moved to Bardin Lane Farm, near Constable Burton.

Henry left home to work on a farm at Carperby and became engaged to a Carperby girl, Miss Wiseman, who later in life became the village shopkeeper. He enlisted and joined the 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. 

Three days into the Battle of the Somme, Henry's Battalion moved through Albert up the main Bapaume road. An attack was made on Horseshoe Trench on July 5th, the Battalion receiving heavy losses in capturing 146 German soldiers.

The Albert Communal Cemetery Extension, The Somme, France, Henry Armistead Storey is in grave 1.M.52, (courtesy of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission).

He is also commemorated on the village war memorial in the centre of Carperby village (see Carperby, Home Front Section for images).

On July 10th an attack was launched against Contalmaison, a key village, with the Battalion crossing 1500 yards on the open. They burst through the wire and entered the village, taking 100 prisoners, but receiving casualties. At 7.30 p.m. a German counter-attack was repulsed, but the cost to the Battalion for the actions on July 5th and 10th had been a heavy one, with 438 men killed, wounded or missing. One of those wounded by shell fire was Henry Storey who died in a Field Ambulance Station on August 2nd and was buried in grave 1.M.52. in Albert Communal Cemetery Extension, [The Somme, France]. Died 2nd August 1916, age 21.

News of his death was received by his family and his fiance, Miss Wiseman. Devastated by his death, she remained a spinster and always dreaded Armistice Day coming round each year.

A month later, on September 3rd, another man from Carperby and one from West Burton, comrades in the same Battalion, died together as they attacked a strong-point in Thiepval."

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

John was the son of George Welburn Wood and Sarah Cooper of Ampleforth. His father was a platelayer on the railway at Aysgarth. By the 1901 census, the family were living at Scroggs Cottage, Castle  Bolton, where his mother Sarah was a railway crossing keeper on the line from Northallerton to Garsdale, the Hawes branch.

By the time of the 1911 census, John, aged 24, had left home and was living at his employer’s home at West Bolton, Carperby, where his occupation was cowman. Also working at the farm was his future wife, Kate Percival, who was a domestic servant. John married Kate Percival in 1912 at Aysgarth Church, at which time he was still working on the farm. However when he enlisted in the army in December 1915 at Leyburn, aged 29, his occupation had changed to that of platelayer. By this time, he had three children, Sarah Muriel, Phoebe and Robert and a fourth, Annie, arrived a year later, so it was quite a    commitment for him to enlist.

John started his army life in the Royal Engineers, Railway Troops Depot, continuing as a platelayer. From his service records he appears to have become a sapper in the Royal Engineers and was then   promoted to Lance Corporal. John seems to have had an exemplary service record with no behaviour requiring punishment and no serious injuries listed on his casualty form, despite having served on active duty in France.

“The war of 1914-1918 relied on engineering. Without engineers there would have been no supply to the armies, because the RE’s maintained the railways, roads, water supply, bridges and transport. RE’s also operated the railways and inland waterways. There would have been no communications, because the RE’s maintained the telephones, wireless and other signalling equipment. There would have been little cover for the infantry and no positions for the artillery, because the RE’s designed and built the front-line fortifications. It fell to the technically skilled RE’s to develop responses to chemical and underground warfare. And finally, without the RE’s the infantry and artillery would have soon been powerless, as they maintained the guns and other weapons. Little wonder that the Royal Engineers grew into a large and complex organisation.” (quoted from the website, The Long, Long Trail, the British Army in the Great War.)

For John, tragedy was to happen at home. His wife, Kate, contracted the Spanish flu but, unlike William Metcalfe of Thornton Rust, he was able to return home to Carperby on compassionate leave, being   present at her death in November 1918 at the age of 27. John, aged 32 was now a widower with four young  children. They probably went to live with other members of the family until John was de-mobbed in  February 1919. The Percival family had already faced bereavements with three of the eight from the parish who had served in the war losing their lives. In 1920, John re-married at Aysgarth church: his bride was Harriet Ellen Webster. At the time of this marriage, he was employed once more as a railway platelayer and he was still living at Carperby. John remained in Carperby and continued his employment on the railway for the rest of his working life, dying there in 1959, aged 72, and being buried in Aysgarth churchyard alongside his wife, Harriet, who had died 10 months earlier, aged 80.

 France. c. 1918. British Army Royal Engineers building a new railway.                            (Courtesy of the  Australian War Memorial.)

Platelayers with trolley on the Hawes branch at Aysgarth Station, where John Wood worked, c.1930s. (Courtesy of  Ann Holubecki.)

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