Valerie Slater of Coverdale provided this story about her grandmother, Catherine Walls – a happy and unusual tale wherein all 5 of her sons survived the Great War.
In 1883, Catherine Louisa Polden, then living in Dorset set eyes on George Walls for the first time. It was love at first sight. George was twenty years older than Catherine and arranged the wedding with all haste – the marriage by licence took place at Hampreston near Wimborne.
Catherine left the county of her birth, never to return. After journeying north, Catherine and George made their home in Carlton at Coverdale Cottage. The couple had three daughters and five sons born between 1886 and 1898. George died in 1908 so Catherine had to face the anxious war years supported by her daughters. She was a religious woman, so her faith combined with her respected and busy life as unofficial midwife in the village helped her to get through. Her prayers were answered.
William Walls (born 1898) served in the Machine Gun Corps; George (born 1889) was with 21st Kings Royal Rifles, being wounded by shrapnel at the Battle of Flers-Courcelet on 17 September 1916; Alfred (born 1891) served in the Army Service Corps and then the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, he was hospitalised twice (the second occasion being the result of a gas attack); Joe (born 1896) enlisted with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps with his brother Dick. Joe was discharged from the army in November of 1916 due to ill health, and is likely to have returned home to Carlton. Dick (born 1892), who signed up in December 1915 was in the 21st King’s Royal Rifles and was wounded by gunshot to his right hand which entitled him to a pension of 5/-6d from March of 1919. Joe and Dick’s KRRC service numbers were consecutive (C/12882 and C/12884) as they went to war together.
Despite injury, all five brothers returned from the Great War.
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Jane Metcalfe visited the museum and outlined the story of her father, John Smith. He was born in Dundee, Forfar in 1883. After working as a boilermaker, he joined the Royal Engineers on 1 September 1909 and remained in military service until 31 January 1930. He spent time at Catterick Camp one hundred years ago at the time of the garrison’s founding. During the First World War John served in Egypt, before being transferred to the British Expeditionary Force in France. He became a Lance Corporal, and was promoted to Sergeant in April 1917. His record was ‘Exemplary’, and he was described as ‘Extremely honest, sober and reliable. A good organiser and very good in charge of men.’ 1852361 Sergeant John smith was awarded the 1914 Star, the British War medal, the Victory medal, the General Service medal and the Long Service and Good Conduct medal.
Joseph (third from left) was born around 1884 in Ainderby Steeple near Northallerton in North Yorkshire. He was the eldest of five children to Thomas and Amelia. He would eventually end up living at East Witton where he worked on the Jervaulx estate. He married Agnes Kendray and they would have three children. Joseph was a fine athlete as witnessed on Coronation Day June 22nd 1911. In the fell race to the top of Witton Fell and back Joseph came first. His exploits were published in the parish magazine. Joseph enlisted at Middleham joining the 7th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. The Battalion embarked for France on the 13th July 1915. It was during operations in February 1917 in an area of the Somme that heavy German artillery would take a heavy toll. A shell destroyed a cellar being used to house stretcher cases killing most of the men. One of those reported missing was Private Joseph Allen. His body was never found. Joseph’s name is commemorating on the Thiepval Memorial. A service was held at East Witton Church on the 3rd March. Tragically, one month after the service, Joseph’s widow Agnes died, aged 33, leaving three young orphans.
John Sweeny was 22 years of age when he enlisted in the Yorkshire Regiment in late 1914. He was the son of John and Mary Sweeney of Washington Station, Co. Durham. The 8th Battalion arrived in France in late August 1915 and John is reported to have been wounded in that November. He was again wounded in December 1916 and was killed in action in August 1917. The only reported 8th Battalion casualties at this period were working as Yukon Pack Carriers, re-supplying the front line with munitions in the area of Ypres. He is commemorated on Panel 33 of the Menin Gate at Ypres, Belgium. 144466 Private John Sweeney of ‘A’ Company was awarded the 15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.