Brave KOYLI soldier Philip Bedford

This is a story about a brave soldier who fought for King and Country in the Great War of 1914-1918 and his tragic death 36 years after the war had ended.

Philip was one of nine children born to Philip and Rose Bedford of New Street Darfield near Barnsley.

The Bedford family were no strangers to Army life; Philip’s late father was a Sergeant Instructor in the 42nd Black Watch, his brother Henry was in the Royal Horse Guards Artillery and his brother Samuel (Sammy) was in the York and Lancaster’s Regiment 14th Battalion (2nd Barnsley Pals)*

Henry Bedford

Title: Henry Bedford
Description: Phil's brother. Mexborough and Swinton Times. by-nc

All three Brothers previously worked at the Houghton Main Colliery where they left to join the army and fight for King and Country.

Philip at the age of 23, answered Kitcheners call and enlisted in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (K.O.Y.L.I.) 7th Battalion, one of the many coal workers of Yorkshire who were lured by the offer of regular pay, three meals a day and the adventure of a life time with their best mates.

The 7th Battalion K.O.Y.L.I. which was formed at Pontefract on the 12th September 1914  became attached to the 61st Brigade and went into training in Aldershot, then onto Witley and finally to Salisbury Plain were the Division was inspected by King George V. and found to be ready for war.

The Battalion left Salisbury Plain on the 22nd July 1915 and went by train to Southampton were they boarded the Mona’s Queen, a passenger ship which had been commissioned by the government as a troop carrier for the duration of the war. They crossed the English Channel to Le Have arriving the following day and stayed at a rest camp at Sanvic.

On the 24th July they bordered a train bound for Arques a journey of 182 miles where they went into billets. On the 28th July they route marched to La Creule near Hazebrouck were they rested over night. The following day they marched to their destination at Steewerck near Nieppe close to the Belgium boarder, where they received training in trench warfare. This training which would be of the utmost value for their morale, and knowledge of trench routine which ultimately could save their lives.

After their training the 7th/K.O.Y.L.I. took over trenches of its own as a fully fledged fighting unit, and were destined to spend the remainder of the war on the Western Front, where they would see action on many famous theatres of war.

Ypres, Passchendaele, and the Somme

The  trenches they occupied were typically 3 meters deep by 2 meters wide, mostly filled with mud and water. Sanitary conditions were poor, and the Soldiers were unable to bathe for weeks at a time and found it difficult to rest and sleep, they also lived in constant fear of being buried alive by shell fire. The trenches were infested with rats, and many Soldiers suffered from cholera, gangrene, trench foot, and trench fever, if that wasn’t enough, there was always the constant threat of gas attacks, and when it was finally time to go over the top, they all knew that they were forbidden from turning back, and had no choice but to advance.  Even their injured mates had to be left where they fell.

In August 1916, Phil was sent home suffering with trench fever and returned to duty in early September 1916, where the 61st Infantry  Brigade found themselves in action in  the Guillemont and Ginchy areas of the Somme. The onset of fierce fighting and gas attacks resulted in  many casualties, and this is probably where Phil is thought to have sustained shrapnel wounds to his shoulder and back which would cause him pain and suffering for the rest of his life. After treatment he returned to his unit and in October was awarded a Wound stripe to signify that he was a wounded soldier.

Samuel Bedford

Title: Samuel Bedford
Description: Phil's brother. Mexbourgh and Swinton Times August 1916. by-nc

Ironically, two months earlier and just 10 miles away at a Village called Serre, his younger brother Sammy was killed on the first day of  the Battle of the Somme on the 1st July 1916. Sammy was just one of tens of thousands of under aged soldiers who joined the Pals Battalions’ for comradeship and adventure, but paid the ultimate price for King and Country.

Phil was finally given a honourable discharge on the 29th December 1917, and received the following medals; the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the Silver War Badge, which was awarded to service personnel who had been honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service in World War 1. The lapel badge was made from sterling silver and worn on the right breast of their civilian clothes.

His Battalion went on to fight many heroic battles on the Western Front before it was finally disbanded on the  20th February 1918.

Phil returned home and went to live with his Mother Rose Bedford.  He was one of many men who came back from the War suffering from serious injuries and the effects of mustard gas and shell shock, better known now as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Tormented by his experiences and not being able to return to his former work, family recollections indicate that Phil never fully recovered  from the traumas he endured.  He suffered from depression and financial difficulties which only added to his already devastated life.

Our family have fond memories of Phil, my sister Ann in particular, can recall visiting their house each week and do her grandmother’s hair, whilst listening to her uncle Phil play the organ in the parlour.

He looked after his mum for many years through her old age until she passed away at the age of 90 in April 1954.  Shortly afterwards in May 1954, Phil aged 63 took his own life while the balance of his mind was disturbed.  We can only presume that with the loss of his mum, he lost his will to live and wanted to put an end to his pain and suffering.

Whether people agree that this was the right or wrong way for someone to end their life I cannot say. All I know is that I am proud of my Uncle’s for doing their ‘bit’ for King and Country and I am sure if they were around today, they would be the first to volunteer again to keep our Country great and safe for all of us to enjoy.

I have dedicated this story to his Regiments Museums Archives who have provided me with the Battalions War Diary’s which has helped me put his story together, for which I am deeply indebted.

By Richard Ward – Philip’s Nephew


Private Michael Foster

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Title: 1911Census-Foster RG14-28-3-94-28394 0473 03
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At the time of the 1911 census my grandfather James Foster was 11 and he and his family lived at 25 Hope Street in York.

By the time he had a family of his own, he was living in Spalding.  However, he often visited York and he would bring back Rowntree’s chocolates for his grandchildren.   However, he never spoke about his childhood in York, nor about WWI, nor about his brother Michael who joined the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.  However, he named his first son (my father) Michael.  I can only assume he named him after his brother because he died fighting for his country when he was 19 years old.

Looking at the few records I have, the family was extremely poor.  The legend is that the boys got their first pair of boots only when they joined the army.

Michael was born in 1898 and he died on 9th October 1917.  Using this date, I think he must have died in Flanders at the Battle of Poelcappelle.  One record shows that he died in France but it could have been Belgium as that’s where he is commemorated.

Michael Foster Tyne Cot Memorial

Title: Michael Foster Tyne Cot Memorial
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I cannot find any photographs of Private Michael Foster but I’m hoping there might be one somewhere.  I can’t find any record of his service either.  However, I know his name is on the Tyne Cot Memorial.  Brief though it is, this is the only story I have.


Michael Foster register of effects

Title: Michael Foster register of effects
Description: by-nc

Walter Clempson

Walter Clempson was killed in action on 3rd May 1917, aged 36. At the time, he was serving with 2nd/5th Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. Walter’s remains were never found but he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial in France.

1882 – Walter Clempson was born in 1882 in Amington, near Wilnecote, in Warwickshire. His parents were Joseph Clempson and and his first wife Catherine Capenor.

1890 – Walter’s mother Catherine died in Amington when Walter was about 8 years old

1891 – The national census, taken on 5th April, shows Walter, aged 9, living with his widowed father Joseph, an agricultural labourer, in Amington. Also living in the household were Walter’s siblings Mary Jane (19), Joseph (14), Thomas (6) and Harriett (3). Mary Jane Capenor, who was likely a relative of Walter’s late mother, was visiting the family.

1897 – Walter’s father Joseph remarried to Jane Scott in 1897

1901 – The national census, taken on 31st March, shows Walter, aged 18, living in Amington, Warwickshire. He was working as a brickyard labourer. Walter was living with his father Joseph, stepmother Jane, his siblings John (26), Thomas (16) and Harriett (14). His stepmother’s children, William, Mary and Eleanor Scott, were also residing with the family.

1907 – Walter married Rose Amelia Pearsall in 1907 in Tamworth, Staffordshire. The same year, the Tamworth Herald reported that “Walter Clempson, late of Kettlebrook and Fazeley”… “signed on for Wilencote Victoria” football team

1909 – Walter and Rose’s daughter Lily Clempson was born in Tamworth

1911 – The national census, taken on 2nd April, shows Walter living at 221 Dearne Street in South Elmsall, working as a collier, likely at Frickley Colliery. His wife Rose and daughter Lily were living in Kettlebrook. His daughter Violet was born later that year.

1917 – Having previously enlisted at Pontefract a few years earlier, Walter was killed in action on 3rd May 1917, aged 36. His widow Rose was by this time residing at 221 Dearne Street in South Elmsall



Conisbrough Miner Fred Valentine Wood

Fred Valentine Wood was already married with two small children when he joined the K.O.Y.L.I. 5th Battalion in 1914, Private 240235.

He had married Lily Halifax on the 4th December 1910 in Conisbrough, Lily was the daughter to William Halifax a Miner and residing in Hooton Roberts, although she was born in Wickersley in 1877, Lily was a Domestic Servant at the time of her marriage. Fred’s sister Ethel witnessed the marriage.

Their children were, Harold born 10th May 1911, Henry born 6th December, 1913, George W. born 7th October, 1920 and Mary born 27th July 1922 (she later married Irving Ellis in 1949).

Fred was born 14th February 1890 (according to the 1939 Register) and baptised 4th June the same year. He was the son of George Wood a Glass Blower who later became a Miner who was born in Conisbrough and Mary Ann who was born in Stainton.

In 1901 Fred was living at home with his parents and siblings at Wellgate, Conisbrough and was a Miner at this time, by the next census in 1911 he was married and was a Sickle Grinder living at 7 Brookes Square Conisbrough.

Fred left the K.O.Y.L.I. in 1920, he had been promoted to a Sergeant (No. 2252) have fought in France and was awarded the Victory, British and Star medals

At the time of the 1939 register, Fred was working as a Colliery Wagon Loader and living at 31 Denaby Avenue, Conanby.

Fred died on 24th June 1955.

Fred’s story was submitted to us by his grandson, Fred Victor Wood, who was named after him. His middle name is Victor instead of Valentine, as he was born near VE day 1946.

Pte Henry Hall , 8th Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. KIA Messines Ridge.

Henry was born in Sheffield around June 1895. Henrys family lived in the Firth Park area of Sheffield. He had 3 Brothers and 3 sisters. His mother was called Clara who was a widow.

The reason why I’m writing this story is to keep Henrys memory and knowledge of his sacrifice from been forgotten, although he was not from Doncaster he joined the KOYLI who recruited heavily from the area. I’m not related to Henry but I was given his medals by one of his sisters Eva, she was my grandparents neighbour and she always said hello when I was visiting. Eva gave me the medals to take care of when I was young and with the First World War centenary Ive completed a little research to find more about Henry and his service in the KOYLI and to do my best to keep his memory from disappearing.

Henry would have joined the Army around May 1916 , there’s no information or evidence about when he joined the 8th Battalion KOYLI as the war diaries of the battalion do not list individual replacements. The 8th Battalion Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry were part of 70th Brigade in the 8th Division. They were in the area of Hill 60 from 10th May and taking part in preparations for the attack on Messines Ridge. The Germans assaulted the line on the 13th May and resulted in counter raiding by the 70th brigade. The 8th Batt took part in the attack on Messines Ridge on the 7th June 1917 and would have witnessed the large mine explosions at the start of the battle. These explosions rank among the largest non nuclear explosions of all time. The mines exploding at Hill 60 and Caterpillar Hill siganalled the start of the attack. The battalions objective was the German trench called Image Trench and part of Illusive Trench these been the German frontline. The objectives were captured 3hours 40 mins after zero hour and  consolidated under the cover of Lewis guns. The 8th Battalion remained in the front until 10th June.



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At some part of the attack Henry became 1 of 250 casualties sustained by the 8th Battalion Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during the Battle.

According to a burial report Henry was initially buried near the front line north east of Zwarte Leen in Belgium. Fortunately after the war Henrys body was identified and was re buried  in La Brique Cemetery number 2 north of Ypres. Henry left behind his mother Clara 2 brother and 3 sisters one been Eva who gave me Henrys medals to look after, he also left behind his sweetheart Julia Cooper from Eyam. The inscription on Henrys headstone reads “To our hearts more dear from Mother,Brothers,Sisters”. Henry and his sacrifice will not be forgotten by my family,

Lest We Forget


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Thomas Cooke, from miner to military medal winner.

Thomas Cooke was born in 1887, one of fourteen children born to George and Mary Anne Cooke. They were originally from Derbyshire but by the time Thomas was born they were living in Greasley, Nottinghamshire. George was a miner and it seems the family moved around the Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfield in search of work where pits were hiring and paying decent wages. It was a hard life, five of the children died before they grew to adulthood, and the boys followed their father down the mines.

By 1911 Thomas was aged 23, single, living with his parents in Langley Mill and working at the mine with his father and younger brothers Walter and Alfred. His other four brothers had left home by this time, and all the family bar one eventually moved to Doncaster. Father got work there as did the brothers, all in the mines, mainly at Bentley Colliery. Sister Clara married a miner and they also moved to Doncaster. Thomas’ other sister Ellen married in 1895 and in 1923 she and her family emigrated to Australia.

Thomas’ life changed for ever when sometime in 1915, he decided to go and fight for his country.  He was living in Bentley and working at the local coal mine when he enlisted in Doncaster, joining the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI).  None of his brothers appear to have joined up, though they were all of enlistment age by 1914. When conscription was introduced in 1916 they would have been exempt due to working in the mines and so would not have been called up.

Thomas rose to the rank of Company Sergeant Major and was later transferred from the KOYLI to the London Regiment Royal Fusiliers. He proved himself to be a valiant soldier, winning the Military Cross, Military Medal and the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). His citation for the DCM which he won for his actions on the 26th January 1918 reads:

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When all his company officers had become casualties he organised the remainder of his company and beat off a determined enemy counter-attack. When the troops on his left had been driven back and the enemy were actually behind him, he left his Lewis gunners to hold the line, and attacked the enemy in his rear. The enemy were all killed, and he then rallied the troops on his left and led them forward again to their original position. He set a splendid example of determination and courage throughout.”

How proud his family must have been of him and, given that despite being in the thick of the action and  fighting for nearly three years he was still safe, how relieved that he had survived this latest act of bravery.

His family must have been hopeful by now that Thomas led a charmed life, and expected him soon to be home, as by August 1918 the war looked to be almost over – as of course three months later it was. However on the 26th August Thomas was killed in action. What a desperately sad ending to the life of a brave son and brother, and what a blow it must have been to his family.

Thomas is buried in Bronfray Farm Military Cemetery, Bray-sur-Somme, Picardie, France.

The day after Thomas was killed, his nephew was born. He was named Thomas Albert after his uncle and the town near where he was killed. There have now been three generations named Thomas Albert, ensuring that Thomas’ memory lives on in his family.

Denaby soldier William Hodgetts gone but not forgotten

This is the story of William Edward Hodgetts, a soldier of the First World War who has never been forgotten by his family.  They love and treasure his memory and are keen to keep his story alive for future generations. Their present day knowledge of the man; his character, emotions and his tragic death has been passed down through the generations from the people who knew him well.

William was born in 1893, into a large family where he was the oldest of nine surviving children. They lived in Edlington Street in Denaby Main, where the only work available locally was at Cadeby Colliery. Everyone called him Bill, though he liked to refer to himself as Will. As soon as he was able he got work at the pit to help support the family. He was a bright lad and a very devout Christian, attending the local Methodist Chapel regularly, organising the Boy’s Brigade and arranging outings for the youngsters to enjoy. He and his charges were proud of their distinctive uniforms and were often seen marching with the Methodist band to mark important dates in the Christian calendar.

Bill and his father

Title: Bill and his father
Description: Submitted by Dennis Hodgetts and Lilian Bell by-nc

Hodgetts' Bible

Title: Hodgetts' Bible
Description: Submitted by Dennis Hodgetts and Lilian Bell by-nc

He became a lay preacher, and carried his small black leather bound Bible around with him everywhere, even when he went to work. A red Prayer Book was another treasured possession.

He fell in love with the local schoolteacher, Elsie, and the family was delighted when he announced their engagement.  However, when war was declared both he and his father were among the first to respond, enlisting in Conisbrough.  Arthur was 21, his father, also called William, aged 44. Arthur was attached to the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, firstly with the 5th, then later with the 9th Battalion. He was shipped out to France in June 1915. William senior joined the 7th Yorks and Lancs Regiment.

Arthur was a good correspondent, always enquiring after Elsie and the family, but never mentioning what he must have been experiencing at the Front. He had one known spell of leave, around Christmas, when he attended Chapel and enjoyed seeing family and of course his beloved fiancée.

Hodgetts' letter home

Title: Hodgetts' letter home
Description: Submitted by Dennis Hodgetts and Lilian Bell by-nc

Bill managed to survive life at war until the 3rd Battle of Ypres – otherwise known as Passchendaele – which began in July 1917.  Then at the beginning of October his luck ran out.  As his best friend returned to their trench after a particularly horrific wave of enemy fire, it was Bill’s turn to go “over the top”.  Just before he climbed out he turned to his friend, gave him his Bible and said, “Please promise if I don’t come back that Mother gets this.”

Later a soldier reported that he had seen Bill badly wounded making his way to the Red Cross Station. But after that he was never seen again.

It was thought that being badly injured he must have fallen into a deep, flooded shell hole and drowned.

After the war Bill’s father and brother Harold travelled out to the Battle Grounds in response to a request for volunteers to help bury the dead. They hoped to find Bill’s remains while carrying out this grim task but sadly his body was never found.

Modern visit to Tyne Cot

Title: Modern visit to Tyne Cot
Description: Submitted by Dennis Hodgetts and Lilian Bell by-nc

The family never really got over his loss and his fiancée Elsie never married, instead devoting her life to teaching.

The Bible did come back to his Mother, and that, along with the red Prayer Book, is a treasured keepsake within the family.

Many decades later, in the year 2000, family members were able to go to Ypres and lay a wreath at the foot of a large stone plaque bearing his name in Tyne Cot Cemetery.

May Bill and his comrades rest in peace.

My Great Uncle John

Lance Corporal John William Perkins 2nd Bn Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, Died on 15th July 1917 203864 was the son of William and Annie Perkins of Hemsworth, he was born in 1894 in Hemsworth Pontefract West Yorkshire, he had two brothers and two sisters, one of which was my grandfather Frederick Arthur Perkins, when his brother died he was buried in Coxhyde cemetery Belgium. Last year a friend of mine who served in the military as an MP placed a wreath at his grave for me and my family. His brother “Fred” missed him terribly and until his death in 1964 had his battledress hung up in a long cupboard in his front parlour, and no one was allowed to touch it.

18 year old missing after 23 days in France

Harold Ernest Colver was born in Gainsborough on the 1st of August 1899 his father was the wages clerk at Marshalls of Gainsborough and the family were devout Methodists. Harold was born into a family of 6 children, 3 boys and 3 girls. He was next to the youngest and had one younger brother and an elder brother who was 17 years older than him. After school Harold probably went to work in his elder brothers outfitting shop in Misterton as in his letters from camp he complains about losing his retail skills.

Harold appears to have been enthusiastic to do his bit in the war and on the 24th January 1916 he joined the Lincolnshire Regiment at Gainsborough. His attestation document puts his age at 19 years and 17 days. Old enough to go straight to France after training, but in fact he was only 16. It is presumed that his father was not happy about this. A tribute to Harold in the Wesleyan Chapel magazine states that his father wrote to Harolds commanding officer and he was duly discharged for making a false statement on his age at enlistment. In the paper work Harold is described as 5 foot 8 inches and 120lbs (8 and half stone) with blue eyes and light brown hair with a 34 inch chest! The recruiting officer must have turned a blind eye to accept him as nearly 20!


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Description: Letter to Harold's sister where he explains how he is not allowed to write. by-nc

Harold bided his time and re-enlisted just prior to his 18th birthday joining the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry this time, probably at Pontefract. Posted for training he moved to Rugely Camp on Cannock Chase and wrote regularly to his family. At some time Harold was involved in some kind of infection as he was confined to his hut, which had guards on each door. Food was brought to them and left outside and they had to disinfect and scrub out the whole hut. He also had to wear a white armband. Though banned from sending out post Harold somehow managed to write to his sister about his experiences. In an undated letter he puts his address down as Hut 42, B Company  8th battalion KOYLI. This letter must have been written soon after June 1917 for he refers to the air raids on London and expresses his wish to get at the Germans with his bayonet- even if he only kills one before being killed himself. He also expects to be moved from the camp to a billet in a town for the winter. In another letter he describes his daily routine Turn out 7.45-12.30, 1.30-4.30, and 9.45-12.00pm.

By October 1917 Harold was billeted with a couple in Ipswich where he complains about being called out of bed to perform various duties, but still wishes he was back in camp with 3 blankets, 3 bed boards and a straw pallias rather than in a feather bed! Meals are provided in an old church and he now carries his steel helmet and gas helmet at all times.

During his time in Ipswich he describes his training routine. 14 mile route marches every Thursday and on Monday, Wednesday & Friday they “go into battle” 7 miles from Ipswich with full pack, rifle, hose respirator & steel helmet. The pack alone weighing 90lbs. He also asks his elder brother about the rifle he has received on joining the home guard. Stating that those with a projecting barrel and magazine buried in the stock are a failure!

By November he has moved billets from 34 Phoenix Rd to 765 Woodbridge Rd. Here the owners are more elderly and he describes sitting up with them in the night during an air raid warning. He is now carrying his full pack, rifle, gas regulator and steel helmet ready for France. Though he worries about being sent to Egypt or Salonika instead.


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Description: “Don’t go too far in the girl line as they are easy to pick up but hard to shake off”! by-nc

While in Ipswich Harold appears to have met a young lady called Dora though his brother advises him “Don’t go too far in the girl line as they are easy to pick up but hard to shake off!” he then, perhaps humorously advises him to “burn this letter”. He also describes meeting a senior old family friend he calls uncle in a local hotel where he has to walk into a room full of officers. He goes into great detail about the food provided (soup, roast beef and rice pudding with apple pie), taking his uncle back to his billet and showing him his equipment followed by tea and trip to the local Methodist chapel where he receives hot milk and biscuits. In many of his letters he refers to the fact that he is likely to get promotion and that he will give this up when he goes to France as the men look down on those “who don’t have active service experience”

Harolds letters are full of his hopes to go to France and he expects this to be there for the spring offensive of 1917 which may be March or May, unless things go wrong! Details of which are “being kept quiet from the public”. He also knows that his mother is worrying about him and asks his brother not to tell her what he has said, as he is telling her that when he goes to France he will go to a base camp and not to the trenches. Again there appears to be some confusion about his exact age in the army as he mentions that the army thinks that he is 18 years and 5 months old whereas in fact he is 18 years and 1 month. This means that he can go on active service abroad 4 months earlier.

Arthur and Harold Colver

Title: Arthur and Harold Colver
Description: Harold went to France three days after this photo was taken. Kindly submitted by Jim Colver. by-nc

No more letters from Harold have survived though we know that he continued to write almost every other day to his family. He returned to Doncaster and from there was part of a draft rushed to France to counter the German March offensive. this move was so rapid that his leave was cancelled and his family had to come to Doncaster to see him off.

We do not know when Harold reached the front but he arrived in France on the 30th March and was probably moved immediately up to the Ypres Salient just south of the Menin Road. The 9th Battalion had suffered heavy causalities and had had no time to properly absorb its new recruits before a major German attack on the 9th of April “The battle of Lys”.


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Description: Medal ribbons sent to Harold's parents by-nc

Harold was reported missing assumed dead on the 21st of April 1918 he had been in France only 23 days and was still only 18. Details of the location of his death are confused but all the accounts concur on the cause of death. The part of the trench he was standing in suffered a direct hit from a shell and he was never seen again. This may have been near Zillebeke Lake on the 15th of April or near Onraet Wood in the Wytschaete Sector on the 21st. A letter to his mother from a wounded friend puts the date of death as the 24th. Several accounts report that it was a German “five nine” heavy shell that hit the trench and this makes the earlier date more likely as the shelling on the 21st was caused by “Friendly Fire”. It is probable that with all that was happening at the time Harold’s death was not recorded until the 21st though in fact it had occurred earlier.

Harold’s family’s first knew of something being amiss when his letters stopped, his cousin Harry Hopthrow who was also at the front tried to visit him on the 3rd of May and learnt that he was missing, he immediately wrote to inform the family. On the 8th of May a wounded friend also wrote to the family to inform them of his loss, this was followed by a second letter on the 17th of June giving more details. All the letters confirm that there is no hope and that Harold has been killed, however it is obvious from the language used that Harold’s mother finds this very hard to accept, even when the fact is confirmed by Harold’s CO.


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Description: Second hand account from the Red Cross by-nc

In the KOYLI archive there now survives a whole list of replies to what is obviously a desperate attempt by Edith Colver to find any trace of her son or his grave. On the 5th June she receives a reply from the war office saying enquiries are being made. On the 19th June a letter from Lichfield Military hospital to say he is not there. On the 13 July a letter from the war office responding to her letter of the 21st of May again saying that there is no news. Further letters follow on the 15th of August and the 12th November. Attached to these is leaflet that details the actions that are taken to try and trace soldiers reported missing. However this does still not seem to be enough for Edith and on the 17 December she receives a reply from the Red Cross to her enquiries. Unfortunately however they have only been able to trace another second hand report of her son’s death. On the 21st July 1919 the war office writes to inform her that Harold will shortly be declared officially dead. She is advised not to advertise in the papers for more information as this has led to impostors supplying false information for money. In September 1919 the Certificate of Death is officially issued.

Edith however continued her quest to find Harold’s grave. In May 1920 the family receive Harold’s back pay of £6 6s and in June 1921 a letter from the barracks at Pontefract to say that there is no trace of Harold’s grave and that they are forwarding her letter onto the Imperial War Graves Commission. Finally a letter on the 20th June 1921 confirms that Harold has no known grave and that Harold will be commemorated on a memorial soon to be erected.

Harold’s name is inscribed on the Tyne Cot War Memorial (panel 108 to 111). Alongside 35,000 other names of soldiers who have no known graves.

Edith died in December 1924 aged 62. The Tyne cot memorial was unveiled on the 20th June 1927.

Wounded twice but lived to 97!

Harry Appleyard grew up in East Ardsley where he helped his father run his market gardening business. He joined up on the 6th December 1915 at Pontefract when he was 19. He is described as being 5 feet 4 inches tall with a 31 inch chest and weighing 122 lbs, he also had large scar on top of his head!

Harry was initially posted to the army reserve for training and then on the 2nd march 1916 to the 3rd (Reserve )Battalion of the K.O.Y.L.I. who were then based in Hull. However in April 1916 the battalion moved to Withensea. His son records that his father remembered beings barracked in Withensea for a while and that Patrington Church was used as a signalling point during exercises. He also recalled firing exercises on the coastal firing ranges and using the hand worked rail line along Spurn Point. In October the battalion again moved and this time to Hedon near Hull. Around this time Harry must have had an accident, for on the 26th October 1916 he was admitted to Reckitts Hospital in Hull with a broken collar bone. Reckitts hospital was located in the social hall of the Reckitt company (now Reckitt & Colman) it held 45 beds and was entirely funded by the Reckitt family and staffed by Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses. Harry staid in Hospital until the 7th November when he transferred to the “convalescent home Wilton” which I have been unable to trace.

Harry’s move to the war appears to have been a surprise as he recalled being woken up in the middle of the night and put on a train to the south coast. He embarked at Folkstone and on the same day the 1st of March 1917 arrived at Boulogne  in France. From there he travelled to the infamous Etaple camp half an hour away on the coast. This was the British Army’s largest base in France and could hold up to 100,000 troops, here soldiers were “toughened up” ready to go to the front. Conditions in the camp were poor and Harry was twice treated for Scabies during his time there. Each Regiment had its own area and Harry initially joined the 9th Battalion on the 2nd of March before being posted to the 6th Battalion in the field on the 26th of March.


At this time the 6th battalion was preparing for the battle of Arras at Berneville, from there they moved up to the caves at Ronville just behind the front line. The caves were apparently very quiet as the shelling could not be heard. From there Harry would have moved to the trenches where the attack commences on the 9th of April at 7.34 with support being provided by 6 tanks. Pine Trench was soon taken and then the attack moved on to capture Fir Ally redoubt and Telegraph Hill both of which formed part of the Hindenburg Line. The battalion consolidated its position and the attack continued the next day with relief coming at 4.30pm when the unit was withdrawn to the old front line. During these 2 days of hard fighting 28 men were killed 131 wounded and 1 reported as missing. The 6th then marched to Agnez les Duisens in a blizzard before arriving at Sus St leger on the 14th of April to re organise. On the 2nd May the battalion was back in the line at Cojeul Switch before moving up to Wancourt.

The accounts of the 6th battalion are rather vague after this until the 12th July when they moved to join the IX Corps, Second Army. They travelled by train from Doullens to Bailleul and then marched to camp at Montnoir where they were inspected on the 26th July. On the 3rd of August Harry was promoted to lance corporal but he remained unpaid for the role! From the 3rd to the 18th of August he had another outbreak of Scabies but was back with his unit in time for the next attack. On the 21st of August they move back up to the front line at Sanctury Wood ,during this move which was at night they were shelled and had to wear box respirators as some of the shells contained gas. At 7am on the 22nd they supported the attack on Inverness copse. Digging themselves in under fire, a counter attack by the enemy was driven off. During the day 3 men were killed and 72 wounded- including Harry. He was admitted to the 42nd File Ambulance unit with gunshot wounds to his right arm and left forearm. Though he later told his son that he had suffered shrapnel wounds?  He was rapidly moved to the 3rd Stationary Hospital at Rouen which was located on the racecourse arriving there on the 22nd. By the 26th of August he was back in England. Which hospital he was transferred to is unrecorded but it is likely to have been in Portsmouth.


On the 10th January 1918 Harry was once again fit for duty and returned to the 3rd Reserve battalion which was then based at Hedon just outside Hull. On the 4th April 1918 he repeated his journey to Etaples via Folkstone and Boulogne, this time being temporarily posted to the 12th Battalion before joining the 5th Battalion in the field on the 16th April. At this time the battalion was recovering from the fighting at Bucquoy Wood where it had suffered severely during the German spring offensive. They had withdrawn to Authie to absorb and train the new drafts which were then arriving to fill the ranks. The Bucquoy sector being relatively quiet at this time. The 5th battalion were involved in minor fighting and raids in the Bucquoy sector until July the 14th when they marched from their camp at Couin to Doullens and there left by train to an unknown destination. They travelled via Paris, St Florentine & Acis to Sommesous where they detrained. Buses then took them via Chalons to Aulnay on the Marne. From there the battalion marched to Bisseuil where the morning of the 18th of July was spent bathing in the river! That night they marched again, this time to the Bois de Pourcey  near Reims where they prepared for an attack on the 20th. This area of the Champagne was completely different to the area they had left at Bucquoy and consisted of open fields with standing corn and dense woods. The barrage commenced at 8am and the 5th battalion advanced through woods studded with machine gun posts towards the Chateau of Commetreuil. The battalion suffered heavy casualties to well entrenched machine gunners and it was during this attack that Harry once again suffered a gun shot wound to his left wrist.

By the 24th of July Harry was back at the hospital in Rouen where he once again sent on to England and admitted to the 5th Southern General Hospital at Portsmouth which occupied various buildings in the Portsmouth area on the 25th July 1918. He stayed there until the 1st of August with his wound described as “bullet wound through lower end of radius above wrist. Wound rather septic! From the 5th he moved to Clayton Court military Hospital where he stayed until the 27th August and is listed as having “impaired movement of the wrist” .Clayton Court was a private house in East Liss, Hampshire which had been given up by Mr& Mrs Elger for use as a military hospital.

By the 14th September Harry was back in Pontefract at the KOYLI depot who passed him on to the Northern Command Depot at Ripon where he arrived the next day the 15th. During his time at Ripon North Barracks Harry remembered using the firing range just south of the Harrogate Road and marching to church on a Sunday with the band playing “The Great Little Army” which had been composed by K Alford in 1916. Harry remained at Ripon until November when on the 19th he was posted to the reserve unit with a medical category of D1 (which meant that he was unfit for service but could recover in 6 months) and returned to Pontefract. On the 10th of December 1918 Harry was in trouble and lost his lance stripe due to “absence”. This was signed by the officer commanding the 3rd (reserve) KOYLI who had moved to Patrington near Hull in August 1918. In Patrington Harry was assessed for a disability statement on the 24th of December this stated that the wound had healed well but that he still suffered pain when using his hand, his degree of disablement was assessed at 20% and he was awarded a small weekly allowance. Harry finally left the army and transferred to the reserve on the 14th of February 1919.


Harry returned to East Ardsley and work as a Market Gardener and on the 16th of October 1926 married Nelly Ward at St Mary Magdelin Church Outwood. He was then living on Station Road, East Ardsley. By 1939 the couple had moved to 34 Common Lane, East Ardsley and there their son Derek was born in the 2 quarter of 1930. They remained at this address until 1986 when Nellie died on the 17th of February. Sometime after this Harry moved to the Cedars Residential home at Methly where he died on the 21st of October 1993 aged 97