At the outbreak of the First World War, George Butterworth was being described as the most promising British composer of his day.
George was born in Paddington, London in 1885 but at the age of six moved to Yorkshire when his father became first solicitor and then General Manager of the North Eastern Railway Company. George inherited his mother’s talent for music (she was a professional singer before her marriage). His parents sent him to Aysgarth Preparatory School, near Bedale where he played the organ during school services. His musical ability led to him gaining an Organ Scholarship to Eton College. He initally entered Trinity College, Oxford with the intention of studying law, but this idea was abandoned as he became increasingly interested in setting down the folk music of the British Isles.
At the outbreak of the First World War, George enlisted in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry and was later granted a commission in the Durham Light Infantry. He was on active service for almost a year and awarded the Military Cross in 1917. The citation states that he had commanded the Company when the Captain was wounded ‘with great ability and coolness … and total disregard of personal safety’.
Less than a month later, on Saturday 5 August, he was shot through the head by a German sniper in ‘Munster Alley’. Only a day later, William Short of the 8th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment undertook the action which led to his posthumous Victoria Cross in the same spot.
In his letter of condolence to the Butterworth family dated 13 August, his commanding officer, who had been visiting the company moments before the fatal shot, wrote that George was ‘one of those quiet, unassuming men whose path did not appear naturally to be a military one, … [but he had done his duty] … quietly and conscientiously. When the offensive came he seemed to throw off his reserve and, in those strenuous 35 days in which we were fighting off and on, he developed a power of leadership which we had not realised he possessed.’ He was in charge of a group digging a trench under German fire – this trench was subsequently called the Butterworth Trench on all the official maps – and he was ‘cheery and inspiring his tired men to secure the position which had been won earlier in the night…. Within a minute of my leaving him, he was shot.’
His body was never recovered although it is thought that it might have been interred at the nearby Pozieres Memorial Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery. George’s name is displayed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Battles of the Somme. This memorial is near the village of Thiepval in Picardy, France, and commemorates the 72,195 missing British and South African men with no known grave.
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Researched by Will Young. Second Lieutenant Oakley Alsop Browning is burried in the cemetery in Catterick Village. He enlisted on 6th October 1915 as 9587 Private Browning, as a member of 12th Field Ambulance, Australian Imperial Force (Browning came from North Carlton, Victoria, Australia and was the son of Major Demby de Courcey Browning, Commanding Officer of Base Command, Keswick Barracks, Adelaide). He was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the Royal Flying Corps on 17th March 1917. On 11th August 1917, while flying an Avro 504 at Catterick aerodrome he was in a collision with a BE12 flown by Lieutenant Errington Edward Castle. Browning died on the same day while Castle (who is also burried in Catterick) died of his injuries on 12th August.
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…
2nd Lieutenant Arthur F Clarke was attending the 5th Battalion annual camp in Wales when war broke out. He spent the first months of the war moving between Scarborough, Hull, Newcastle, Hartlepool and Darlington. On the 18th April 1915 he went out to France and was wounded during a gas attack on the 26th May 1915. The Green Howards Gazette records: “The day seemed interminable as the poor shelter had to be hugged tight all the time. With darkness came the order that we were to pass through GHQ lines and take up a front line position in Zouave Wood facing Hooge, where the main attack by the enemy had been made. That little strip of ground has since been the cockpit of our Western front. On our journey up another man was killed, and Lieutenant A F Clarke was wounded. That tour was destined to be the worst we had so far entered upon.” We know he returned to the front line as the Green Howard Gazette for January 1916 records that he was wounded. He rose to the rank of Captain in November 1916.