Flanders - World War One battle 1915

- Gunner James William Clarke
- Gunner Joseph Rowbottom
- Gunner George Robinson
- Bombardier Tom Adamthwaite Carr
- Lance Corporal Ernest Jackson
- Private Thomas Harry
- Private George Albert Laybourne
- Private William Hastings
- Private Harry Wharton
- Private Gilbert Hepple
- Private Samuel Drydale
- Sergeant Percy Mccourt

As news of the 5TH Yorks stirring deeds at St Julien had filtered back to Scarborough the people of the town had for a few days been regaled with the tale of their exploits in the local newspapers. ‘Noble share in glorious episode’, and ‘In the thick of a great fight’ are just two examples of the stirring headlines that had accompanied the many accounts of their part in the battle. Copies of the ‘Scarborough Mercury’ and ‘Pictorial’ had of course eventually found their way to the local men in the front line in Flanders and consequently a letter had appeared in the Scarborough Mercury of Friday the fourth of June 1915 from a disgruntled Sergeant George F. Broadrick of the Royal Field Artillery’s North Riding Battery, [which had been attached to the Northumbrian Division] in response to the noticeable favouritism the newspaper had shown towards the infantrymen of the Division:

‘I should be very thankful to you if you could find it possible to find a little bit of space for me to remind the people of Scarborough and district that there is also a battery of Royal Field Artillery doing their part for the good of the old country, as well as the 5TH Yorks. During these last few weeks out it seems to me by the reports that I see in your papers that you have forgotten all about the local lads connected with the battery and the daring and magnificent it has been doing’. The Sergeants letter had continued:

I might mention that we went into action on the 13TH of May, wet through, as it was a fearful night, pouring with rain and we never realised our danger until the following day when we had just about covered ourselves with big trees and small green bushes and got our dugout made when we were shelled by the Germans, and had to put up with a very hot time. I am glad to say we were ready to reply to the occasion and did so in splendid style and coolness!’ [1]

During the period mentioned in the above article the article German artillery had bombarded the British line with the heaviest concentration of shellfire that had thus far been experienced on the ‘Western Front’, at one point over a hundred and fifty rounds a minute had been recorded as falling on the exposed British positions on the Bellewaarde Ridge near Ypres. Following this attack there had been a ten day lull in the fighting, however, during the early hours of the 24TH of May four red flares had shot into the pre dawn sky from the German line heralding the beginning of another bombardment which had been followed up with the release of chlorine gas. Again the British front line had been shrouded in the greenish yellow clouds which had begun the Second Battle of Ypres and caused so much confusion in April, however on this occasion the line had held and the subsequent assault by German infantry had been met with the ferocious rate of fire which had stood the B.E.F. in such good stead as it had since the opening rounds of the war the previous year.

Shrouded for the most part in black smoke and gas fumes the fighting on Bellewaarde Ridge had lasted for over five hours, during that time neither side had shown any quarter to their foe. Supporting the infantry with their antiquated Boer War fifteen pounders had been the gunners of the 2ND Northumbrian Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. Another letter, this time from Gunner Charles White, and originally intended for his parents, who at the time had been the proprietors of the Bedford Hotel in Scarborough’s Castle Road, had appeared in the ‘Mercury’ of the fourth of June:

‘Our Brigade have done really well up to Whit Monday, and fortunately we suffered few casualties. We had an awful time on Whit Monday, about 2 o’clock in the morning the Germans attacked and did not half shell our lot. The North Riding Battery suffered the worst of the lot! ‘A’ Gun Detachment, the one I was with in the battery, was absolutely ‘blown to bits’. One gun was brought out of action alright. I believe Batteries1and 2 had a gun apiece ‘outed’. Jack Brown had a providential escape, he was in ‘A’ gun detachment, and on the Sunday night he was sent to hospital with influenza. A fellow named Robinson, who lived at the Londesborough Vaults, was sent in his place and killed, Percy McCourt was wounded and gassed and Fred Wilkinson was slightly wounded’… [2]

Also amongst the Battery’s casualties had been twenty years old; 1015 Gunner James William Clarke.

Born in Scarborough on the 9TH of May 1895 at No 28 Trafalgar Street West, James William, popularly known as ‘Billy’ Clarke, had been the only son of Mary Ellen [formally Chapman] and John Daniel Clarke, a ‘Journeyman Butcher’ by trade. Following his father’s death at the age of thirty five years on the 9TH of June 1902, Billy had for the remainder of his life with his widowed mother and two elder sisters at No 27 Trafalgar Street West and had been educated at the nearby Central Infants and Junior Board School from the age of four until 1909, when he had left the establishment at the age of thirteen to begin an apprenticeship with his grandfather, Auctioneer and Butcher, James Clarke at No 9 Eastborough [in 2007 the site is occupied by ‘Molly Malone’s Fish Restaurant’].

Billy Clarke had enlisted at Scarborough into the Territorial Force North Riding Battery at their Headquarters in St Johns Road on the 22ND of January 1912, and had been at their annual summer camp in North Wales where the order to begin mobilisation had been received during August 1914. The unit had subsequently made their way back to their St Johns Road Depot, where the gunners had begun to make their preparations for war in earnest. Of this hectic period, the ‘History of the Fiftieth Division’ [Wyrall] describes:

‘For the artillery of the Division, mobilisation entailed considerable difficulties. Officers were sent out with parties to bring in horses. Ammunition had to be collected on arrival from ordnance, sorted out and packed into limbers and wagons. Clothing and equipment had to be inspected and made up to scale. New harness had to be fitted to horses and mules—an unenviable job, the temperament of the mule especially being the violent dislike of any kind of harness! But all went well and eventually, like the infantry of the Division, the gunners were ‘mobilised’ to date’.

The remainder of the summer and early autumn had been taken up with training and eventually during October 1914 the gunners had gone with their division to Newcastle where training had once again filled their days. The unit had remained there until April 1915 when the 50TH Division had summoned to the fighting in Belgium. The North Riding Battery had eventually landed at Boulogne on the fifteenth of April 1915, from where the formation had made their way to the Division’s assembly point, which had been near the village of Steenvoorde in Western Flanders. Killed in action on Monday the twenty fifth of May 1915, the news of ‘Billy’s death had been relayed to his mother in the form of a letter, written on the twenty sixth, from his commanding officer, Major C. H. Lemmon, which had reached her at her home at No 6 Lower Albion Street [now Northway] early in June 1915:

Dear Mrs. Clarke.
‘It is my painful duty to inform you that your son Gunner James William Clarke was killed in action yesterday. He was one of ‘A’ gun detachment, which, about 7am was engaging German infantry with rapid fire. A hostile battery opened fire, and the third or fourth shell exploded on the right gun wheel. Your son was killed instantaneously. He was buried with his comrades the same night near the spot where he so bravely met a soldier’s death. The last spot has been noted and marked, and will be communicated to you later if you desire. His effects will be forwarded through the Record Office’

Although the above letter states that the place where gunner Clarke had been buried had ‘been noted and marked’, after the war his remains [if indeed there had been any in the first place] had never been recovered, which is understandable considering the terribly torn state of the battlefield at Ypres after three years of relentless savage warfare. In addition Billy Clarke’s name had never found its way into the records of the then Imperial War Graves Commission and had, therefore, never been included on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres Additionally his name is not included in the volume of ‘Soldiers died in the Great War’ dealing with the casualties of the Royal Field Artillery. Fortunately gunner Clarke’s name had not been omitted from the War Memorial on Oliver’s Mount. [3]

Billy Clarke’s name can also be found on a small memorial in Scarborough’s Dean Road Cemetery [Plot C, Row 12, Grave 18] which stands directly in front of a gravestone which commemorates his Scarborough born father and two other children of grandparents James and Hannah Clarke, Mary Annie Hardcastle who had died on the? of November 1874 at the age of six months, and Arthur S. Clarke who had passed away during February 1904 like his elder brother John Daniel, at the age of thirty three years.

The fallen Gunner’s name is also to be found in Scarborough’s Manor Road Cemetery on a now broken Gravestone which also bears the names of his Scarborough born mother, Mary Ellen Clarke, who had died on January 10TH 1938 at the age of 73 years and elder sisters Agnes Hannah who had passed away on the 30 of December 1950 at the age of sixty years, and Gertrude Annie Clarke who had expired on the 13TH of May 1968 at the age of 74 years.

Also killed by the same shell that had taken the life of Billy Clarke; 1308 Gunner Joseph William Rowbottom. Born on the 4TH of October 1887 at No 2 Albert Street in the North Lincolnshire village of Wrawby, Joe had been the only son of ‘farm labourer’ Fred and Maria Mary Rowbottom who by the outbreak of war in 1914 had been living in Scarborough. Prior to the beginning of hostilities the Rowbottom’s had been the proprietors of a grocery shop at No 8 Park Road whilst Joe had made his living as a self-employed dairyman that had earned him the nickname of ‘Milky Joe’.

Rowbottom had enlisted into the 2ND Northumbrian at its St Johns Road Barracks soon after the outbreak of war on the 10TH of August 1914. Aged twenty two years and ten months at the time and despite having a defective left eye Joe had nonetheless been considered fit for active service. Like his comrade, Billy Clarke, Gunner Rowbottom is also not commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and his name is also not included in ‘Soldiers died in the Great War’. [3]

[After the war Joe Rowbottom’s name had been included on Scarborough’s St. Saviours Church War Memorial. However, following the demise of this church in the 1970’s the whereabouts of this reportedly once fine Memorial is not known].

1682 Gunner George Robinson. A last minute replacement in the gun’s crew, George Robinson, the son of John A. Robinson, who had been the proprietor of a public house named the ‘Londesborough Vaults’ in Westborough at the time of his son’s death. Unlike Clarke and Rowbottom, George’s name is commemorated on Panels 5 and 9 of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres. Nonetheless, he too is not included in ‘Soldiers Died’.

1037 Bombardier Tom Adamthwaite Carr. Aged 36 years Tom had been the only son of Edward and Jane Carr who had been living at ‘Beaconsfield Villa’ in Scalby village at the time of their son’s death. A former employee at Dalton’s bookshop in Scarborough’s Westborough, and in addition a night assistant at the town’s telephone exchange, Tom’s parents had received an identical letter from Captain Lemmon as the other parents of the ‘lost soldiers’ except for:

‘Your son’s services were particularly valuable to the battery, both as an excellent non commissioned officer and gun layer, but also as my pay clerk, and I miss him very much. He was buried with his comrades close by’…

Tom Carr’s name is not included on Scarborough’s War Memorial, nonetheless, his name can be found on Scalby village’s War Memorial that is located just inside the gates of the Parish Church of St Laurence in Scalby. He is also commemorated on Panels 5 and 9 of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres.

The ferocious attack which the Germans had made on the British positions on the Bellewaarde Ridges in front of Ypres on Monday the twenty fifth of May 1915 had been a last desperate attempt to break the line that had been held since the Autumn of 1914 and had spelt the end of a battle that had later been named the Second Battle of Ypres. The battle had begun with the infamous gas attack of the 22nd of April, throughout the ensuing four weeks of unparalleled slaughter the B.E.F. had suffered 58, 000 casualties, [the Germans had suffered nearly 38,000] little wonder that two seemingly insignificant gunners from Yorkshire had been ‘lost’ in the final reckoning.

Following their exploits at St Julien the surviving members of the Fifth Yorks had been afforded little respite as they had eventually been rushed to the east of Ypres during May near to the village of Hooge where they had taken up residence in trenches which had been situated in a copse known as ‘Zouvre Wood’. Of the conditions in which the men had existed, a Scarborian officer, Lieutenant William Andrew Turnbull, had written;

‘We entered the trenches about midnight, we found them very uncomfortable, as there was only one dug-out for our company, and the officers were worse off than the men, for while they have a fire trench of their own, we have nothing. I spent six hours making myself a shelter in a communication trench, a sort of sofa with a waterproof sheet above it, cut out of one side of a five-foot trench. I worked most of the night throwing earth up to shield my bed, as the Germans were sniping at our parapet all day long. Meals were wretched, as we had nowhere decent to eat them, and we also lost our principal ration bag, containing tinned fruits and other joys’…

Though the battalion had played no part in the great gas attack of Whit Monday the 24TH of May [they had been held in reserve] they had come under intense artillery fire that had caused some casualties. Whilst there Scarborough soldier Private Ronald Gough had found the time to write a letter to a friend in the town:

‘Just a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and in the best of health. I am really suffering from overwork, because we have had a good deal to do just recently. I am very sorry to inform you that that Ernest Jackson was killed yesterday, of course, I cannot write where. Poor kid, he was killed instantly, so he would not have had any pain. He has done his duty to his King and Country… One can only thank God for the escapes that one has every day. I am sitting in the trenches writing this, and the birds are all singing, the cuckoo in particular. You would hardly think that such a war was going on, the bullets whizzing over your head, and the shells screaming. We got slightly gassed the other day, it was awful stuff. It makes your eyes ache and gets into the lungs. Some men further up the line were terrible, staggering like drunken men’…

The letter had been written on Wednesday the 26TH of May, the day after the trenches in Zouvre Wood had been bombarded by German artillery. Amongst the casualties had been the soldier mentioned by Private Gough, the twenty years old; 2035 Lance Corporal Ernest Jackson,

Born in Scarborough in1895 Ernest had been the eldest of five sons of Zillah and ‘The Noted Tailor, Clothier, and Boot Factor’, John Jackson who had been living above their shop at No 9-10 Queen Street at the time of their son’s death. A one time pupil at the nearby Friarage Infants and Junior School, Ernest had left the institution in1908 at the age of fourteen to go on to further education at St Martin’s Grammar School [which had been in Ramshill Road], where he had remained until 1911 when he had left to work in his father’s shop where at the time a ‘gentleman’ had been able to buy a ready made suit for thirty shillings [£1.50] and a pair of boots at ten shillings and sixpence [52.2p].

Shortly after the outbreak of war Ernest had enlisted into the Fifth Yorks at their Headquarters in Scarborough’s North Street and had eventually gone abroad with the unit in April 1915 as a member of ‘D’Company, which had been commanded by Major Cyril Harvey Pearce. The officer had written a letter to the Jackson’s on the 26TH of May informing them of their son’s death:

‘Dear Mr. Jackson. I much regret to have to inform you of the death of your son, Lance Corpl. Jackson, of my company. A shell burst in the trench and he was killed instantly. We buried him at night, and his grave is marked. I am sorry to lose such a capable young soldier, but he died for his country doing his duty to the last. With deepest sympathy’

It had been the usual practice, obviously for compassionate reasons, for the military to inform the relatives of the fallen that their sons or husbands had been killed ‘instantly and without pain’, and in addition to state, especially during the early days of the war, that they had been given a ‘decent burial’ as one can safely assume this could never be true for all. In all probability Ernest Jackson had been ‘blown to kingdom come’ by the exploding shell, there being nothing left to bury, as the letter states in a marked grave. following the three years of unremitting savagery in the Ypres Salient the remains of Corporal Jackson had never been located at the war’s end, and his name had eventually been included with the fifty five thousand names of British and Commonwealth soldiers who had lost their lives in Flanders and for whom there is ‘no known grave’ on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres, [Ernest’s name can be found on Panel 33].

In Scarborough Ernest Jackson’s name can be found on a badly damaged and neglected gravestone in the town’s Manor Road Cemetery [Section J. Border. Grave 33]. Also inscribed on the stone are the names of his Sherburn born Grandmother Mary Jackson who had passed away on May 18TH1912 at the age of seventy four years, and his Worcester born mother Zillah Jackson [formally Stephens] a former Mayoress of Scarborough who had died ‘following a long illness’ on Wednesday the 27TH of September 1950 at the age of eighty years. Also commemorated nearby is the name of Ernest younger brother Percy who had passed away on the 22ND of January 1974 at the age of 76 years.

Ernest father, ‘Johnnie’ Jackson the eldest of three sons of Mary and James Jackson had been born in Middlesborough in 1874 and had begun his working life at the age of twelve as a two shillings [10p] a week tailor’s apprentice eventually to open his own shop in Queen Street. Apparently always ‘larger than life’ John Jackson had in fact been a rather small and slight man sporting a huge waxed moustache above his upper lip. Always dapper in appearance as befitting a person who had spent most of his life in the clothing business, Johnnie had gone into local politics as a Liberal town councillor in 1924, and spent most of his time being a thorn in the side of the establishment.

A champion of the underdog with a penchant for asking awkward questions ‘Johnnie’ Jackson passed over by fellow council members for many years and had been on the council for twenty years before he was finally elected Mayor in 1945, and then Alderman. It had been whilst he had been serving in this capacity that ‘Johnnie’ Jackson had been the principal speaker at the 1946 reunion of the Old Comrades of his eldest son’s old regiment [which had by then been renamed the Green Howards]. He had told how he had received a letter from Ernest, which had been written on the 25TH of May 1915, in which he had described the bullets coming through the trees when they had got the order to ‘move off’. That same night Ernest had been killed and he had always felt proud that one of his son’s had died for his country in a regiment like the Green Howards. Later he had been sent his son’s medals, and pausing dramatically, he had opened his coat and revealed the medals to the hushed assembly, he had then said:

‘They have never been uncovered up to today, but tonight I have put them on my right breast in honour of my son and to let you see that I am proud of them’…

Johnnie Jackson, often described as one of Scarborough’s most ‘colourful’ of mayors, had eventually died on Friday 24TH of April 1953 at the age of 79 years, thirty eight years to the day after his eldest son had gone into action for the first and last time at St Julien. The remains of John Jackson were subsequently buried in the family plot on Monday the 27TH of April [his name is not inscribed on the headstone].

Sadly the Jackson’s shop in Queen Street has now gone, for many years after his father’s death the noted Scarborough sea-angler John Alec Jackson, had carried with family business as a gunsmith’s cum outdoor clothing and boot shop. By 2002, however, 9-10 Queen Street had become the ‘Royal Tandoori Restaurant’. Of John’s two other sons Clifford and Bernard, I have no information.

On the day following the death of Ernest Jackson [Wednesday 26TH of May] the Fifth Yorks had suffered a casualty in Number 10 Platoon the victim of a sniper. He had been the forty-one years old; 2970 Private Thomas Harry.

Popularly known in Scarborough as ‘Dickie’, Tom Harry had been born in the town during 1874 at No 11 James Street and had been the only son of Hannah and ‘warehouseman’ Richard Harry. A labourer prior to his enlistment into the Fifth Yorks at their Headquarters in North Street during February 1915 Tom had been the husband of Ethel Harry who had been living with their two years old son at No 27 Roscoe Street where she had received a letter early in June from an officer of No10 Platoon, Lieutenant H.P. Bagge, informing her of her husband’s death in Flanders:

‘Dear Mrs Harry, It is my painful duty to have to inform you that your husband Private T. Harry No 2970 was mortally wounded about 2pm yesterday afternoon, May 26TH, and died about 7-30pm He was always a good soldier, always did his duty, and was very popular with all his comrades, and all who had anything to do with him. He has been buried close to where he had fallen’….

At the war’s end the grave of Thomas Harry had also never been located, and his name had also been added to the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres where it can be found on Panel No 33 listing the men of the Yorkshire Regiment for whom there is ‘No Known Grave’

Tom’s name can also be found on a gravestone in Scarborough’s Manor Road Cemetery [Plot M, Row14, Grave 40] which also has inscribed the names of his Knapton born father Richard Harry who had passed away at the age of 84 years on the 9TH of September 1909 and his Sherburn born mother Hannah Harry who had passed away at her home in James Street on the 23RD of January 1917 at the age of 86 year.

Tom Harry’s elder sisters Elizabeth [Ezzie] and Jane had for much of their lives been dressmakers. The sisters had never married and had lived together until Jane’s death on the 10TH of March 1950 at the age of 87 years. ‘Ezzie’ Harry had lived until March 16TH 1963 when she had passed away at the grand old age of ninety-three years. The two sisters were buried together in Manor Road Cemetery, a short distance away from their parents [Plot U, Border, Grave 71].

Like most of the widows and children of the fallen, Ethel Harry and her son had been given a small pension by the British Government [thirty seven shillings or£1.70p] in compensation for the loss of a breadwinning husband and father. Faced with the prospect of bringing a child up on a pittance of a pension and any money which could be scraped up from menial work such as charring and housekeeping there is little wonder that many of the widows had remarried, which had been the case with Ethel Harry who according to the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission had married a soldier named Page and her post war address had been No 30 ‘C’ Block, Cavalry Depot, Canterbury.

Towards the end of May the Fifth Yorks had again ‘lost’ a soldier. Like Private George Thomas Thorpe who had been missing since April the military could not account for this soldiers whereabouts. An article in the ‘Scarborough Pictorial’ of Wednesday July 14TH 1915 had highlighted the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of yet another soldier from Scarborough.

‘Missing - Scarborough Territorial’s Fate - Since the relatives of Private G.A. Laybourne were officially informed that he had been wounded on May 25TH, they have heard nothing of him, and the absence of news is causing them great anxiety. Every effort has been made to trace him, but beyond the information that he was ‘placed upon a motor ambulance, after being attended to by the doctor who was with the machine gun section of the 5TH Yorkshires, no trace of him has been discovered. His comrades can give no assistance, and an officer who has shown considerable interest in the matter, has failed to ascertain where young Laybourne, whose mother resides in Auborough Street, Scarborough, was conveyed after being hit. At least one comrade has written home indicating that he fears the worst has happened to Laybourne, but there is, of course, a chance that he may be either a prisoner, or in some hospital’

Born at Scarborough in Lownsborough Yard, Longwestgate in 1895 [Baptised at St Mary’s Parish Church on March 1ST] 1943 Private George Albert Laybourne had been the sixth of eight children of Rachel Ellen and printer/compositor Henry Laybourne. By 1901 the Laybourne’s had been living at No 11 Auborough Street in Scarborough, a stone’s throw from the Friarage Infants and Junior School in Friarsway which George had attended between the ages of four and fourteen, leaving the school in 1909 to begin work with local building contractor John Jaram & Sons [who had been based in Gladstone Street] as an apprentice Joiner. Laybourne had subsequently enlisted into the Fifth Battalion [at Scarborough] before the outbreak of war and by the time that the unit had mobilised in August 1914 he had been a member of the unit’s Machine Gun Section with which he had been serving up until the time of his death. [4]

George had initially been reported as wounded, the military had later informed the recently widowed Rachel Laybourne [husband Henry had died on the 6TH of January 1915 at the age of sixty years] that her son was ‘missing’, she had heard no more news until November 1916, when she had officially been informed that it must be assumed that George Albert had been killed in action on the 28TH of May 1915. His body was never recovered.

What had really happened to Private Laybourne [and Thorpe] will never be known. My own theory is that the wounded soldier had died at a Casualty Clearing Station. The fact that he had been seen being taken away and eventually posted as wounded means that his name had been taken at a dressing station. The station had probably been full to capacity with wounded and those that died had been left. In all probability Laybourne had died at the station and had subsequently been buried with a number of others his paperwork being lost, which had been a common occurrence during the ‘Great War’.

Another of the many Scarborough born soldiers with ‘no known grave’ the name of George Albert Laybourne can be found on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypre along with the names of his comrades from the Fifth Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment which adorn Panel 33.

Apart from Scarborough’s War Memorial George Albert Laybourne’s name is commemorated on a ‘Roll of Honour’ on the north interior wall of the Parish Church of St Mary’s in Castle Road and a gravestone in the town’s Dean Road Cemetery [Plot A. Row 5. Grave 22] which also bears the names of his Scarborough born parents, Henry Laybourne having died of ‘heart failure’ at his home at No 9 Auborough Street during the night of Wednesday the 5TH of January 1915 following a walk to Oliver’s Mount with son Alfred. An account of the inquest investigating the circumstances surrounding Henry Laybourne’s death had appeared in ‘the Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 8TH of January, and had highlighted the possibility of his death having been brought about by the shock of the recent bombardment of Scarborough. This could of course not be proved and the jury had eventually returned a verdict of Mr Laybourne’s death being ‘due to heart failure, caused by overexertion’. Albert’s mother Rachel Ellen Laybourne had died at the house in Auborough Street on the 30TH of October 1928 at the age of 71 years.

On the 17TH of July the Fifth Yorks had assembled their kit to march to a hamlet three quarters of a mile to the west of the French city of Armentieres named Pont-de-Nieppe where the unit had gone into billets. Shortly afterwards the yorkshiremen had gone into the line to the east of the nearby village of Houplines. Whilst there during the night of Wednesday the eighth of September another twenty years old soldier from Scarborough had lost his life, whilst assisting with the repair of the trench parapet

At some point during the following day the fallen soldier’s commanding officer, [Captain James Thompson] had written the letter informing the man’s parents of their loss. The terrible news had subsequently received at No 9 Caledonia Street on Monday the thirteenth of September 1915:

‘It is with the deepest regret that I write to you to offer you my most sincere sympathy in the loss you have sustained by the death of your son. He was in my platoon and was unfortunately killed the morning I returned from visiting England. His death was the most terrible blow to me as I had the highest opinion of him, and had always found him to be a most excellent soldier and I cannot speak too highly of him. I shall miss him terribly, as he was always so cheerful and willing to do anything for me. He died as he lived, as a soldier and a gentleman. Again offering you my deepest sympathy’…

Popularly known in the town as ‘Willie’, 2091 Private William Hastings had been born in Scarborough at No7 Trafalgar Street West in 1895 and had been the only son of ‘Louie’ and ‘housepainter’ William Hastings. [William Hastings and Louisa Schofield Richardson had married at St Mary’s Parish Church on the 16TH of July 1887]. A pupil of Gladstone Road Infants and Junior Schools between the ages of four and twelve years ‘Willie’ had left the institution during 1907 to take up employment as an apprentice house painter with painting and decorating contractor George Duke [whose office had been in Victoria Road] with whom his father had worked for many years. In his spare time Hastings had been a cornet player with Scarborough’s Salvation Army Band until he had enlisted into the Fifth Yorks at their Headquarters in North Street during September 1914.[5]

The dead soldier had at first been buried near to where he been killed and after the war the grave had been located by the Imperial War Graves Commission which had re-interred his remains in Strand Military Cemetery, which is located 13 Kilometres to the south of Ypres near the village of Ploegsteert, his grave can be found in Section 9 Row H, [Grave 3].

In addition to the Oliver’s Mount War Memorial William Hastings name is commemorated in Scarborough on a brass ‘Roll of Honour’ in the junior’s hall of his old school in Gladstone Road and on a gravestone in the towns Manor Road Cemetery [Section K. Row 3. Grave 40] which also has inscribed upon it the names of his Scarborough born mother ‘Louie’ Hastings who had passed away on the 14TH of June 1924 at the age of 60 years and that of his father William Hastings [also Scarborough born] who had died on the 16TH of June 1943 at the age of eighty three years [There is also at the grave site a stone urn which bears the inscription ‘Winnie from Edward’. ‘Winnie’ had been the niece of William Hastings, Winifred Hastings Brown, the daughter of his youngest sister Lillian and husband Edwin Brown who had died on Saturday October 7TH 1933 at the age of twenty years. At the time of her death Winnie had been residing with her mother and stepfather James Thomas Darling at No 33 Broadway on the then new Northstead housing estate She had been buried with her grandparents during the afternoon of Wednesday the 11TH of October 1933].

On the 27TH of September 1915 the 5TH Battalion, and Scarborough, had lost; 1454 Private Harry Wharton. Born in the town during 1895, Harry had been the son of Charles and Ellen Wharton, who had been residing in Scarborough at No73 Commercial Street at the time of their son’s death. Killed in action by enemy shellfire whilst serving in the Armetieres Sector, Harry’s final resting place is to be found in Grave No C 10 in the small ‘Old Military Cemetery’ in the village of Chapell D’ Armentieres, which is located in Northern France a couple of kilometres to the west of the large town of Armentieres.

Nearby, in ‘Chapelle’s New Military Cemetery’, can be found the final resting place of; 18992 Private Gilbert Hepple. The youngest son of Annie, and ‘wine and spirits bookkeeper’ Edward Hepple, although born in York Gilbert had lived for most of his life in Scarborough [where he had enlisted during Christmas 1914]. Killed in action just two weeks after he had arrived in France, on Saturday the 17TH of October 1915 whilst serving with the 10TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, the grave of the seventeen years old is located in Section A, Grave 5.

A former pupil of Scarborough’s Gladstone Road School, and member of the town’s St Savours Church, Gilbert’s name is commemorated on both of these establishments surviving World War One Memorials. Nevertheless, despite being a native of Scarborough for some reason his name is not included on the town’s Oliver’s Mount Memorial.

Reported killed in action in ‘The Scarborough Mercury of Friday the 22ND of October 1915, a photograph of a smiling Gilbert Hepple had appeared in the same newspaper of Friday the 29TH of October.
[Despite being severely gassed during 1915 whilst serving as a driver with the Royal Field Artillery, Gilbert’s elder brother [born 1893] William Hepple had survived the war].

During this period of the war Scarborough had also lost; 5960 Private Samuel Drydale. Born in Scarborough at Palace Hill Yard during 1876, Sam had been the fifth of eight sons of Ann and ‘lamplighter’ John Drydale. Already a veteran of the South African War of 1899-1902, at the outbreak of war in August 1914, Sam, had, nonetheless, enlisted into the army [at Scarborough] and had been serving in Flanders with the 2ND Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers at the time of his demise, on Whitsuntide Monday, the 24TH of May 1915.

Recorded as Private Drydale’s ‘Next of Kin’, during June 1915 Scarborough window cleaner Henry ‘Harry’ Drydale had received a letter from a comrade of his late elder brother. It had read;

‘It might be of some comfort to you to know he died a true soldier’s death, on Whit Monday, when our regiment was attacking trenches lost earlier in the morning through the most hellish form of murder [German gas and poisonous shells]. We were ordered to retake the trenches. We were a weak battalion for such a task, only mustering about 300. I am sorry to say that so far as I can hear there is not more than 20 men and two officers left. We had not advanced far before we were ordered to take cover in a very shallow ditch to wait until the flanks were in position. It was here that Sam received a bullet in the right side of his neck. I did all that it was possible to do and bandaged him up but he never spoke. He passed away without pain in about twenty minutes. I took a towel out of his pack and covered his face so as to attract the attention of the stretcher-bearers and enable them to pick him up, and if possible, bury him. I also took his paybook and offered it to an officer who told me to keep it. [I have forwarded it to the paymaster at York]. Shortly afterwards we had to advance and when 120 yards from the German trenches I got a bullet in the muscle of the right arm. I am just able to write now, never having been able to hold a pen before’…

[Private White’s letter had been included in ‘The Scarborough Mercury of Friday the 11TH of June 1915].

Despite his comrade’s efforts, the remains of forty years old Samuel Drydale had never been recovered from the Flanders battlefield, and like so many of his fellow missing Northumberland Fusiliers, is commemorated on panels 8 and 12 of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres.

[1] Sergeant George Broadrick had lived at No 185 Falsgrave Road in Scarborough and had eventually been awarded the Military Medal during 1916. He had subsequently been wounded during November 1917; nonetheless, he had survived the war.

[2] The youngest son of ‘Tramway pusher’ Thomas and Emma McCourt of Garibaldi Street [1901 Census], Scarborough; 1003 Corporal Percy Mccourt had been born in Scarborough during 1896 and had survived being wounded and gassed to be eventually transferred out of the 2ND Northumbrian Battery and issued with the Regimental Number of 755060] to ‘C’ Battery of 251ST Brigade of the R.F.A. where he had eventually been promoted to the rank of Sergeant and had served with this unit until the Battle of Arras when on Saturday the 19TH of May1917 when the twenty three years old had been killed by enemy shellfire some five kilometres to the south east of Arras near the village of Neuville-Vitasse. Percy’s final resting place can be found nearby to the village in ‘London Cemetery’ [Grave No. 1.B.43].

[3] During 2010 after extensive enquiries by the author, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have agreed that in the near future the names of Gunners James William Clarke and Joseph William Rowbottom should be included with the names of their comrades in arms commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres.

[4] At the time of the 1901 Census of the population of Scarborough the Laybourne family had been residing at No11 Auborough Street and had consisted of parents Henry and Rachel. Their eldest child had been their 21 years old daughter Rachel whose profession is recorded as a dressmaker. Son’s Harry and John had been 20 and 18 years old respectively who are listed as being employed as ‘journeyman joiner’ and ‘warehouseman’. Daughter Olive is listed as being thirteen years old, she is followed by the six years old George, the three years old Alfred, and one year old daughter Alice.

The Laybourne’s fifth child had been Thomas Walter Laybourne. Aged eleven years at the time of the Census. ‘Walter’ had eventually emigrated to Canada and at the outbreak of the war he had enlisted into the Canadian Expeditionary Force and had subsequently served with the 28TH[North West] Battalion on the Western Front. Wounded during the Third Battle of Ypres [Passchendaele] in November 1917. Walter had consequently been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and had survived the war.

[5] At the time of the 1901 Census of Scarborough the Hastings family had been living at No 15 Ireton Street and had consisted of William aged 39, wife Louisa aged 37, daughters Ethel and Lillian aged 10 and 11 respectively, and son William aged 6years all of whom had been born in Scarborough.

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