Submitted by Mike Crisp.
Private 47165 George Laws was by trade a painter and decorator from the small market town of Beccles, Suffolk. He joined the 22nd Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers (Tyneside Scottish) and served in France. On the opening day of Operation Michael, 21st March 1918 his battalion was in the front-line trenches around St Leger / Bullecourt where he was reported missing. His body was never recovered, and he is commemorated on the Arras memorial. According to the battalion diary they suffered 1,130 casualties on that day.
George’s wife Gertrude, was heartbroken and never gave up hope of her husband being found, writing to the War Office on several occasions to try and gain more information. It was not until many months later friends of George visited her to relate that George was a member of a bombing party which went to a flank and were never seen again.
Not only was Gertrude in mourning but also on the poverty line, forced to bring up 2 small children on her own. To help make ends meet she took in washing, sat with the dying, and laid out corpses for the local undertakers.
Her son became the surrogate ‘man of the house’ and it was not until 1968 that he felt that he could leave his mother to get married himself.
Gertrude died at the age of 97 in 1977.
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Richard Birkenhead Wilton was the son of Charles and Elen Wilton of Stafford. After the outbreak of war Richard joined the 15th (Reserve) Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment which had 12 officers and 750 non-commissioned officers and men. The battalion moved from Skipton to Rugeley in Staffordshire. In January 1916 Richard is listed as a temporary Second Lieutenant in the Reserve battalion. November 1916 sees him transfered at that rank to the 9th battalion. The Green Howards Gazette records that Richard was Killed in action on 1st October 1917. On the night of 30th September the 9th battalion took over from the 8th battalion in the line where the war diary states “Very heavy barrage put up by enemy from 4.30am; ‘C’ Coy on our left attacked; heavy casualties feared. Communication between HQs and Coys very difficult” His death is recorded on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.
Submitted by Angela Atkinson. L/Sgt Joseph (Joe) Taylor – shown in the picture on the wall – served in 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Joe was my Grandad’s brother, born in 1887. Joseph worked as a length man on the North Eastern Railway before the war. He was killed in action on 25/4/1915. He is commemorated at Ypres and on the Lych Gate in Brompton, Northallerton. His parents were my great grandparents and I believe the others on the photo are all his family. The other person in uniform is William Robert (Bill) Taylor, who was born in 1883. Captain Stead wrote to Taylor’s family:- “Sergeant Taylor, along with his Company Commander, Major Matthews, were the first of their battalion to fall for their Country. His rapid promotion shows the confidence that was placed in him. He was an excellent soldier and a brave man.”
William was born on the 16th December 1894 in the village of Murton in County Durham. At 14 he would follow his father down the pit at Mutton Colliery. At the outbreak of war he enlisted on the 3rd September, aged 20, into the Yorkshire Regiment, The Green Howards, and was posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion. The Battalion travelled to France in August 19115 as part of the 69th Brigade, 23rd Division. It was during the Somme offensive in 1916 that William would win his first Military medal, having gone out into no-man’s-land to rescue a wounded officer. The following year during 3rd Ypres, generally known as Passcheandaele, he received a bar to his Military Medal, again recuing men wounded or buried under shellfire. In late 1917 he was part of the detachment of British and French troops sent to the Italian front to bolster the Italians after their disastrous defeat at the Battle of Caparetto. In October of 1918 the allied advance culminated in their victory at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto paving the way for the total defeat of the Austrian Army. It was during this battle that William received the Victoria Cross having put to flight the enemy and capturing a machine gun. William left the Army in February 1919 and returned to life down the pit at Murton Colliery. He married and would father 6 children. In 1940 he joined the Local Defence Volunteers in Murton and the following year served in the Durham Home…