Sam Sykes

Sam Sykes came from White Lee, Batley. He served as a private, service number 11371, in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the 6th battalion. He mainly saw combat in the Flanders area of France. On 28 January 1916, Sam was killed in action. He was buried at the New Irish Farm Cemetery in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The cemetery holds 1,450 causalities from the First World War, including Sam Sykes.

Ralph Hall – One of the 54,000

Ralph Hall came from Pelton Fell, Durham. He served as a private in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the 6th battalion. His service number was 18207. The 6th battalion landed at Boulogne, France on 21 May 1915. The battalion saw combat during the Action of Hooge and the second attack on Bellewaarde in the Ypres region. Ralph Hall was killed in action on 24 September 1915.

Like many others who lost their lives fighting at Ypres, Ralph Hall has no known grave. Instead he was been commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres along with more than 54,000 other soldiers. The Menin Gate is one of the most famous World War One memorials, and is an important stop for battlefield tours and pilgrimages.

George Kaye and the CCS

George Kaye was born in Castleford, Yorkshire. According to the records he was born sometime in 1894. His parents were James and Emily Kaye. He was one of ten children. His older siblings were Albert, Emma Jane, William, Maggie, and James. His younger brothers and sisters were named Ann, Walter, Agnes, and Frank. In 1911 he was 17 years old and living at 14 Cadler Street, Whitwood Mere, Castelford. At the time he was working in a glass bottle factory.

George served as a private in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry with the 1/5th battalion. His service number was 1719. His regiment landed in Boulogne, France in April 1915. He saw combat at Flanders on the western front. We was injured during battle and died of his wounds at the 7th casualty clearing station at Merville, France on 29 May 1915 at the age of twenty. Casualty Clearing Stations (sometimes referred to as CCS) were far from the front lines. Their main purpose was to patch up soldiers who had been injured and return them to service. More often than not though, the soldiers were too injured to return and were sent to a base hospital further from the fighting. The locations of many CCS can be found by the large amounts of wartime cemeteries surrounding the area. George Kaye was buried in one of them.

He was laid to rest at the Merville Communal Cemetery in Nord, France. George’s grave reference is III.H.5. There are also 1,275 other identified causalities buried at this cemetery from the First and Second World War.

Frank Gedney

Frank Gedney was born in 1881. He joined the service in 1908 when he was 27 years old and residing in Rotherham. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and the Victory medal for his service in France. He served as a private in the 5th, 1/5th, 1/4th, and 9th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry battalions with the service numbers 203848 and 706.

William Ganning – Life in the Military

William Ganning was born in 1892. Not a lot can be found about his personal life. As for his military record, he served as a private in the 9th Battalion of the Prince of Wales’s Own West Yorkshire Regiment. His service number was 18480. He then transferred and served as a lance corporal in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 1st Garrison Battalion. His service number was 53968. For his service he was awarded the three famous WWI medals: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal. He was discharged on 21 October 1918 at the age of 26. He resided in Durham county after his military service.

The Injured and The Wounded

Sydney Jolly was born in Blackpool, but signed up for the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in Doncaster. He served as a private in the 1/5th battalion territorial force. His service number was 241558. He was awarded the British War Medal and 1914-15 Star, which meant he saw combat on the Western Front sometime between August 1914 and December 1915.

The modern and new weapons of warfare used in the First World War caused new injuries and enormous amounts of casualties for both sides. Many soldiers had limbs amputated to prevent death and infection. In France, one way doctors would amputate an injured soldier was to use a modified guillotine. As unorthodox as that sounds, it saved a lot of lives. But bullets and the constant shelling were not the only way soldiers were wounded or injured. They also suffered from the use of harmful gases; trench foot, which occurred when soldiers stood in mud for too long and lost blood circulation; as well as trench fever, which was brought on by body lice and became a recurring disease for some.

While sources do not say what injuries Sydney Jolly suffered from, he was not able to survive them. Eventually, he died from his wounds on 16 August 1917. His next of kin would have received a memorial plaque after his passing. These plaques were made of bronze and were similar in appearance to the penny coin, which is why they were commonly called the “Dead Man’s Penny.” Sydney is buried in the Southport (Duke Street) cemetery in Lancashire. His grave marking is  XIII C.E. 467. There are 96 other soldiers buried in that cemetery who served in the First World War.

Pip, Squeak, and Wilfred

Joseph Ashley Taylor was born 7 March 1891. On the 29th of March he was baptized at St Peter’s church in Earlsheaton, Yorkshire. His father was James Taylor and his mother was Frances Ann Taylor. In 1899, just before the new 20th century arrived, he welcomed into the world his younger sister, Dora Evelyn Taylor. He grew up in Earlsheaton, a district of Dewsbury which lies northwest of Doncaster. In 1911 at the age of twenty, Joseph was working as a warehouse man.

It must have been sometime in 1914 or 1915 that he joined the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry for he was discharged on 14 March 1916. He was a private and his service number was 21572. For his service in the war, he received the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal (BWM), and the Victory medal. These three particular medals were quite common for service men during World War One.

The 1914-15 Star was authorized in December 1918. It was not given out alone but alongside the BWM and Victory medal. An estimated 2.4 million were given out to members who fought against the Central Powers in any theatre of war from 5 August 1914 to 31 December 1915, especially in France and Flanders from 23 November 1914 to 31 December 1915. The BWM was authorized n 1919, for any member who fought in a theatre over war or entered service overseas from 5 August 1914 until 11 November 1918. Basically anyone who served during the First World War. An estimated 6.5 million were issued. The Victory medal was authorised in 1919, and an estimated 5.7 million were issued. It was decided that each of the allies should each issue their own bronze victory medal with a similar design, similar equivalent wording and identical ribbon. However, this medal was a bit more restrictive than the BWM and not as many soldiers received it. As the medals were mainly issued after the war and into the 1920s, they were nicknamed Pip (1914-15 Star), Squeak (BWM), and Wilfred (Victory) after a popular comic strip that was published at the same time.

Joseph Ashley Taylor was issued these three medals just like millions of others in his generation who fought, died, and even survived the long four years of trench warfare. Joseph lived for 62 more years after his was discharged from the military. He passed away in 1978 at the age of 87.

A Life Before War – Arthur Noel Barnes

Not much can be found about Arthur Noel Barnes’ service record for World War I besides the basics. His service number was 2363. He was a private in the 4th battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. And according to the Military Rolls Index Card 1914-1920, his theatre of war was France, but it doesn’t specify where exactly. In short, he was a common soldier who served his country in the early stages of the Great War in 1914. However, thanks to the various census online, there is a lot of information about his life before the outbreak of war.

Arthur Noel Barnes was born on 20 November 1881 in York. His mother and father were Jane and George Barnes. On Christmas Day of the same year, Arthur was baptised in the Anglican church of St Sampson. In 1891 the family was still living in York. Arthur had a large family; he was one of eight children. His older siblings were George (22 years old), Jane (19), Theresa (15), Edward (16), James William (13), and Walter (11). His only younger sibling was Ethel (4).

At age 19 in 1901, Arthur was living with his older brother Edward and Edward’s wife Florence, their son George (5 months old), and their niece Lydia Cockram (9). They resided in Balby with Hexthorpe. Hexthorpe is a small village just outside of Doncaster, and Balby is a suburb of Doncaster. If you’re ever riding a train heading north east to Doncaster, both areas can be seen just before the train pulls into Doncaster station. During this time living with his brother, Arthur must have met his future wife Eliza, who lived in Hexthorpe. Eliza was born on 9 December 1884 in Doncaster to her father Richard and her mother Eliza, from whom she got her name.

By 1911, Arthur and Eliza were living at 2 Union Street in Doncaster. Arthur was earning a living as a worker in Doncaster. What type of worker wasn’t listed on the 1911 census. They had three children: Lily (5), Harry (3), the new-born Fred who had just turned 2 months old at the time of the census. Only three short years later, Arthur would be serving in World War I at the age of 32. Thankfully, Arthur’s story ends on a happy note. He made it through the war and eventually returned home. He even lived to witness the Second World War. He passed away in 1954 at the old age of 74. Eliza would go on to outlive Arthur by 14 years when she passed away in 1970 at the age of 86.

George Edward Hirst

George Edward Hirst was born in 1893. He lived in the village of Woolley in West Yorkshire. He was the fourth child of George and Ann Hirst.  His older siblings were Mary Eliza Hirst, Martha Hirst, and Ada Hirst. He had one younger sibling, Annie Elizth Hirst. Before he became a soldier, George was married to Millicent, a young woman who came from 42, Skipton Road, Earby, Colne, Lancashire.

George served in the 10th battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. His service number was 17356 and he achieved the rank of corporal during his service. George fought in the Battle of the Somme, which was a 5 month campaign lasting from 1 July 1916 – 19 November 1916. The campaign was a large effort to weaken German forces enough to secure an Allied victory and end the war. Unfortunately, George was killed in action on 25 September 1916. Just two days after his death, the British army successfully captured a key German position, the fortress village of Thievpal. Between 1928 and 1932 a memorial was erected at Thievpal for the soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Somme and had no known grave. George Edward Hirst can be found on pier and face 11C and 12A. Over 90 percent of those commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial died in the 1916 Battles of the Somme between July and November 1916.

Frank Hollings

Frank Hollings served as a private in the 1st and 4th battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. His service number was 2549. He died of wounds on the 20th of December 1915 in the French area of Flanders Fields, which is also known as Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Flanders Fields was also home to a large number of poppy fields. After the Great War, poppies became the symbol for remembrance.

Frank was born on 19 January 1895 in Sandal, Yorkshire. He was baptised on 6 March 1895 at Sandal Magna in St Helen church. When Frank was born, his mother, Emily Hollings, was 23 years old and his father, Isaac Hollings, was 26. Frank had three siblings. His brothers Walker Isaac were four and two years older, respectively. Frank’s third brother, Wilford, was three years his junior. By 1911, the family was living at 103, Haddingley Hill, Sandal, Wakefield, York. Frank was 16 at the time and working as a cutler, which is a person who makes or sells cutlery. Four short years later, Frank would be fighting, along with millions of others, in Flanders Fields.