Born in Church Fenton, Yorkshire in 1889, Leonard Yorke’s life was to come to a tragic conclusion ten years after the First World War came to an end. In his early years, Leonard lived in Castleford, the son of a Station Master with the NER. He moved to London to become an Electrical Engineer and following the outbreak of war was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. By May he was in Belgium where on 24th and 25th the 4th Battalion were involved in heavy fighting. 2nd Lt Yorke was pulled out of the line due to being a vicitm of the first gas attack of the war, not returning to front line duties until August 1915. In late 1916 he was promoted to Lieutenant and by June 1917 he had attained the rank of Captain. His Military Cross citation of 28th September 1918 states that he “displayed great courage in the leading of his platoon at a time of exceptional difficulty and danger…..He was seriously wounded during the action”. The Yorkshire Post of 11 October 1918 reported “Capt. Leonard James Yorke, Yorkshire Regiment, son of Mr James Yorke, 19 South End Avenue, Darlington, has been wounded and is in hospital abroad”. After two years in hospital, Yorke was invalided out of the army.
Leonard Yorke returned to London after leaving the army, but couldn’t cope following the stresses of war. On May 2nd 1929, Yorke shot himself on Hampstead Heath. At the inquest his wife explained that “In January last he slipped and broke his ankle, and he was laid up for eight weeks. This depressed him very much, because he loved his work. He also frequently had great pain from his wounds, especially during the cold weather….”. Before taking his own life, Leonard wrote to his wife – “I have failed you completely, and this evening I am afraid I must take the arm of a coward and walk across Hampstead Heath and go out for good…..I don’t think I can say anything else. I expect the dear old temporary insanity will come up again. As a matter of fact a lot of it was temporary madness.” A verdict of suicide while of unsound mind was returned; the jury added a rider that they thought Yorke was a victim of the war.
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Sergeant John (Jack) Charlton joined the Army as a Territorial in 1908 when he enlisted in the 4th Battalion, Alexandra, Princess of Wales’ Own Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards). He served on the Western Front from April 1915 where he had a distinguished career, earning a Distinguished Conduct Medal and being Mentioned in Despatches in 1917. One particular act stands out from his memoirs which earned him a commendation from his Commanding Officer was while serving at the Arras Front while he was in charge of Battalion communications. After heavy shelling cut phone lines he used a Lucas Day Light Signalling Lamp to request an artillery barrage to defend the HQ from German gas shells. This Lamp was donated to the Museum and can be seen on display. Jack also suffered injuries during his service, firstly in April 1915 when he was gassed at Zillibeck and another, more serious gas attack got him sent home towards the end of 1917 where he remained for the rest of the War. While on Leave in 1916 Jack got engaged to Phillis Blow but they didn’t get married until 1918 after we was sent home. During 1918 he attended various training courses including a Signals Course at the Armoury School near Dunstable but before he was able to finish the Armistice was signed and so he was demobbed at Hornsea.
William was the son of William and Mary Rutley of 8 Mabal Street, Middlesbrough. He enlisted in late 1914 and was posted to the 8th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. The 8th Battalion left for France in late August 1915 and occupied trenches in the La Rolanderie and Bois-Greniers districts throughout October, November and December. William is reported to have died of wounds on December 16th. He was 22 years of age. He was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He was buried at Sailly-sur-la Lys Canadian Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais.
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.