Edith Purkiss wanted to tell us about her father’s war service. George Johnson Junior was a Richmond lad whose father, also called George had seen active service in Egypt with the West Yorkshire Regiment. The 1911 census shows George Jnr was working as a groom and living in Richmond at 20 Bargate along with his parents and siblings.
George Jnr enlisted into the Yorkshire Regiment on 3rd September 1914. Having survived the First Battle of the Somme unscathed he was later injured at the Second Battle of the Somme in 1918. He lay in no man’s land for a considerable amount of time, wounded, until he was carried to safety by Mr Buchanan who later became manager of Timothy Whites & Taylors chemist shop (now Boots). George was severely wounded in his right leg and left arm, and was sent to a convalescent hospital in Sheffield to recover. His wounds were so severe that he was discharged, aged 24 years on 26th June 1918.
Although he survived, George suffered from ill health due as a result of his wounds all his life. Ironically, he was finally granted a war pension of the day he died, 15th June 1959.
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Betty was born on the 3rd September 1896 in Clifton in the Bootham area of York. She came from a well off middle class background and was educated at home until she was 14 whereby she was despatched to boarding school at St Georges Wood in Haslemere Surrey. From school she went to Brussels to study music. In 1913 the family moved to Harrogate where Betty’s father, Arthur, established himself as a leading estate agent. Betty had a younger brother born in 1901, James Arthur Radford, in which in her letters referred to him as JARS. Both Betty’s parents were active supporters of the YMCA. Her mother Catherine served throughout the war as chair of the YMCA’s Women’s Auxiliary. Betty appears to have acquired early in her life a high sense of civic duty. Betty and her parents were part of the group that travelled to London to help with the Belgium Relief Fund after the outbreak of WW1. They would be involved in the transferring of refugee families to the Harrogate area from their encampment at Alexandra Palace. In January 1916 one of Betty’s aunts went to France to manage a YMCA canteen and Betty was determined to join her. She set off on February 11th, aged 19, to join her in the St Denis Hut outside Paris. She completed her time at St Denis, took some home leave and returned to France to become a driver at Etaples in April 1917. Betty was extremely young at the time…
John Charles Morris was from South Hetton. He was born in 1896 and was 18 when he enlisted in the Yorkshire Regiment as 14136 Private Morris. He served in the 8th, 9th and 10th Battalions and was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, as well as the Silver War Badge. He was wounded in December 1915 and again in November 1916. He suffered a gun shot wound to his left hand and lost part of a finger and substantial power and movement in his right hand. He also suffered a shrapnel wound to his left foot. These injuries precluded manual work due to a lack of power in his hands. After his discharge in December 1918 he was awarded a pension of 8 shillings a week and was subject to regular reassessments of his injuries. He died aged 61 in 1957.
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.