Betty was born on the 3rd September 1896 in Clifton in the Bootham area of York. She came from a well off middle class background and was educated at home until she was 14 whereby she was despatched to boarding school at St Georges Wood in Haslemere Surrey. From school she went to Brussels to study music. In 1913 the family moved to Harrogate where Betty’s father, Arthur, established himself as a leading estate agent. Betty had a younger brother born in 1901, James Arthur Radford, in which in her letters referred to him as JARS.
Both Betty’s parents were active supporters of the YMCA. Her mother Catherine served throughout the war as chair of the YMCA’s Women’s Auxiliary. Betty appears to have acquired early in her life a high sense of civic duty. Betty and her parents were part of the group that travelled to London to help with the Belgium Relief Fund after the outbreak of WW1. They would be involved in the transferring of refugee families to the Harrogate area from their encampment at Alexandra Palace.
In January 1916 one of Betty’s aunts went to France to manage a YMCA canteen and Betty was determined to join her. She set off on February 11th, aged 19, to join her in the St Denis Hut outside Paris. She completed her time at St Denis, took some home leave and returned to France to become a driver at Etaples in April 1917. Betty was extremely young at the time to be a driver, and her main duties involved transporting people to YMCA events such as lectures and convert parties, delivering stores, and taking relatives to visit their wounded family in hospitals and to attend funerals. Driving conditions at the time were exhausting, terrible roads, open topped vehicles in all weathers, and could be close to the front line.
The German spring offensive on 1918 had seen Etaples come under constant threat from air raids. During one such raid on the 30th May Betty was killed. She had been driving back from a train station with other workers and even though they had taken shelter under a bank a bomb would take her life. Betty was posthumously awarded the Croix de Guerre and is buried at the military cemetery in Etaples. She was just 21 years old.
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Percival Dunning was born in 1889 in Thormanby Yorkshire. By 1901 he is listed as Perewal Dunning residing in Coxwold Easingwold. He is living in his grandfather’s (Frances Dunning) house who is a plate layer ganger with North eastern railways. A plate layer’s job was to inspect and maintain railway tracks. Percival attested in Richmond on the 26th of February 1906, at that time his occupation was as a farm labourer. He was 17 years of age, weighed 114 pounds, and had hazel eyes and brown hair. It was noted in the ledger that he was flat footed and had an old injury to the end of his right long finger. He was initially posted to the 4th battalion. In the regimental gazette he is recorded as being wounded towards the end of 1915. The 2nd Battalion were deployed in the Givenchy and Essars area. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission states that Private Dunning was killed in action on the 7th of June 1917. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial (panel 33). He also remembered on the memorials at St Michael’s church Coxwold and the King’s book at York minster.
Kenneth Henderson was born on the 29th May 1895 at Sutton in Surrey, the third and youngest child of Robert and Janie Henderson. His father was a bank manager. The family were quite reasonably well off as the 1911 census shows the family having 3 servants. By this time Kenneth was at Charterhouse School. His early life is undocumented. On the outbreak of WW1 Kenneth enlisted in the 28th Battalion, The London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles). This was a popular unit for volunteers and a number would be selected to be officers in other Regiments, as Kenneth would be. On the 26th October he landed in France with the Artists’ Rifles and on the 15th March 1915 was made temporary 2nd Lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. During 1915 he saw action with the 2nd Battalion at Fromelles, Festuber and Givenchy. On the 7th July 1916 during the Somme offensive he received his fourth wound of the war. After the war he was with the newly reconstituted 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, for service in the Russian Archangel campaign. It was here that he received the Military Cross. The London Gazette of the 21st January 1919 read: ‘He has carried out the duties of a Company Commander of a mixed force at Bolshe-Ozerki and has worked in a very efficient way. He has had continuous service on this front since November 1918 and in four engagements in which his company has taken part he has proved to be a fearless and…
Midshipman Herbert Lawson Riley Ann Luxmoore came to one of our drop-in sessions at The Station to tell us about her Uncle, Herbert Lawson Riley. At the age of 15 years and 7 months, Herbert is not only probably the youngest serviceman from Richmond to die during the First World War, but he was also the first. Herbert was the grandson of Sir John Lawson of Brough Hall. He initially attended the Royal Naval College at Osborne on the Isle of Wight before becoming a Cadet at Dartmouth Naval College. On the outbreak of war in August 1914 Herbert was appointed to the patrol cruiser HMS Aboukir, becoming a Midshipman shortly afterwards. HMS Aboukir, along with sister-ships HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy were sent to the Hook of Holland to patrol the North Sea coast. At 6.25am on 22nd September 1914 the Aboukir was hit by a German torpedo – while the cruiser was listing badly Herbert jumped into the sea and managed to make it to one of the lifeboats. Finding apparent safety on board the Cressy, Herbert and his surviving shipmates began to recover in the ship’s sickroom. Disaster struck a second time. HMS Cressy was hit twice by the same German submarine that had sunk the Aboukir. Herbert Lawson Riley was last seen clinging on to wooden wreckage along side one of his closest friends. All three patrolling cruisers were sunk with the loss of more than 1400 lives.