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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Wilfred Wood, an employee of the North Eastern Railway before the outbreak of war, served with the 5th battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. His commanding officer, 2nd Lt G H Smith wrote the following to his father: “Dear Mr Wood – It is with deep regret that I inform you of the death in action of your son, Pte. W. Wood. He was instantaneously killed on the morning of the 19th instant by a whizz-bang shell, which dropped into the trench he was in; he was buried behind the line on the 20th, and a good cross is being erected to his memory. Words cannot express how deeply I feel for you in your great loss. He was a good soldier, and always kept up bright spirits. The men of my platoon join me in the deepest sympathy for you” 240637 Private W Wood died on 19 July 1917 and is buried at Heninel Communal Cemetery Extension.
Submitted by Michael Kent. Joseph Hatton was my dad. I only recently learnt about his early life. Dad never spoke about the First World War. He was born 20 February 1896 in Bradford and had three sisters and two brothers. My dad never told me that grandad was a train driver in the 1890’s, or that I had a half brother born in 1915, that he lost his father in 1919 and his wife, when he was in his early twenties. I do not know what happened or where he went from 1922 until 1950 when he was living in London where I was born thirty years later, in 1952. 10724 Private Joseph Hatton was recruited in Yorkshire in August 1914 and served in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (3rd West Riding) as a Reserve. After training in England he was sent to the Western Front in 1915. In May of that year he was poisoned by gas. My dad didn’t die, unlike so many around him who suffered this cruel death, but he was evacuated via Boulogne to Manchester Western General Hospital to recover. He was posted again in December 1915. In March 1916 he was then posted to the 9th Battalion and embarked for France again in April. He had a few days leave in Etaples and then returned to the front. He was wounded in July 1916 by a shell explosion killing many men. Dad lost his hand. He was put on a train back to England….
This is 65038 Private Samuel Revel Staite, born in 1878, a native of Leeds and self-employed house painter. He joined the army in Leeds on 11th December 1915, at the age of 37. He saw service with the Royal Engineers and the Northumberland Fusiliers. He served with the 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment in North Russia 1918-1919. After the war he returned to his job as a painter. His own son intended to enlist when the Second World War broke out, however, he was employed in a reserved occupation, so Samuel did not have to see him off to war. Samuel died in 1944. Members of the family still live in Leeds. Samuel’s grand daughters Philippa and Deborah brought their treasured family possessions into the museum for us to take care of. Their items relate to his service in Russia in 1918 and 1919, and will help us add to our collections of items from this less well known period of Green Howards history.