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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Henry Parker In October 2015 the Green Howards Museum was contacted by the Ministry of Defence’s Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC). Human remains had been found in a field to the north- east of the village of Martinpuich on the Somme. The JCCC wanted to know if we could do anything to help identify this unknown soldier. We looked at events around Martinpuich between 25 and 27 September 1916. 77 men were lost, whilst an additional 319 Officers and Other Ranks were either wounded, or listed as ‘missing’. The remains could have belonged to any one of a potential 396 men. Through a process of elimination using research and archive information, we produced a shortlist of 12. To get any further, science needed to play its part. The Forensic team from JCCC collected DNA from the femur of the remains. DNA was taken from the next of kin of our shortlisted missing soldiers who had agreed to take part in the process. The remains were positively identified as those of 3183 Private Henry Parker, born 29th September 1893 in Weavererthorpe, in the Yorkshire Wolds. He was killed in action, aged 22, during the Battle of the Somme on 26 September 1916. Shoulder badges, uniform buttons, a belt buckle and clip, bullet and cut throet razor were found with the remains of Private Henry Parker – these are now on display at the museum. He was reburied with full military honours in Warlencourt Cemetary in France on 17th May 2017….
Teresa Maxwell came into the museum to tell us about her grandfather, Percival Charles du Sautoy Leather. Captain Leather was born at Cramond near Edinburgh on 28th March 1867. He graduated from New College, Oxford in 1886. He worked as a Tea Planter and Stock Broker. Captain Leather original saw service as a Captain with the 3rd Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers but was transferred to the 4th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment on 5th September 1914 and he joined his new Battalion in France on 8th May 1915. It was not long before he was in action and he suffered the effects of a gas attack on 23rd May 1915 and was wounded again at Sanctuary Wood in June 1916. His wounds ended his military service and he relinquished his Commission on account of ill health stemming from his wounds and was granted the honorary rank of Captain from 15th November 1918. After the war Percival lived at Maison Dieu in Richmond where he died on 4th October 1944.
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.