Story submitted by Mrs Drury.
Jack (John Adam) Bell was the son of a gamekeeper at Langdon Beck in Teesdale, County Durham. He grew up in the countryside a became a railway clerk. When he joined the army and went to experience life in the trenches he had the horror of standing next to a fellow soldier when his head was blown off. Jack also had to endure the news that his own brother had been killed.
Jacks country knowledge became most useful in the mire of Flanders. He would cut trenches to make a sleeping place out of the mud, trap rabbits and stew them in a metal helmet. He would look after horses for officers who had never had to look after their own mounts before. He described how starved the horses were near the front line – the near stampedes when fodder was brought and how the horses gnawed each others’ manes and tails for food. He remembered how long the cavalry had to stand mounted and how weak horses collapsed.
Remounts were needed constantly and Jack was sent in to break in and train them. He was stationed on the Thames, possibly at Tilbury, to receive horses, practically wild sent by ship from South America and often in a sorry state on arrival. He had six weeks to prepare each batch (size unknown) for dispatch abroad. During this training Jack rode these recovered and lively horses with a ladies side saddle as he said it was easier to jump off when necessary form a side saddle than from astride!
It was on 26th June 1918 when Jack received his commission as Second Lieutenant. Later, as Captain, he dealt with German Prisoners of War in Italy. He was also involved in the Macedonian Campaign 1915-17 but that is another tale. After the war he attended Magdalen College, Oxford on one of the courses the University put on for officers. He enjoyed rowing on the Isis and soon married Nancy Bainbridge, one of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and they saw their golden wedding anniversary when we had a fine family party.
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Submitted by Wendy Patch I am the granddaughter of the much celebrated Harry Patch, who is famous, for the most part because he survived the First World War. But I often think of my other grandfather, or great grandfather to be precise, who didn’t survive and of his wife, who was left a widow with five young children, my grandmother amongst them. His name was Warwick McCartney and he was a deserter. Who knows why, fear, no doubt but surely just as much a reluctance to leave his wife and young family. He was caught, taken to Scotland to be as far from his family as possible (he was a Londoner) to discourage absconding. I know my great grandmother travelled up to Scotland by train to see him and that she knew when he was passing through London on his way to the front, so she went to the station hoping to see him as he passed through. Needless to say she was unsuccessful. He was put in the front lines, as I understand deserters often were and was killed, leaving his wife to manage on her own as best she could. [Warwick’s] wife was called Caroline (maiden name Farmer) and she actually had seven children when he died, my grandmother Annie, Warwick (known as Wally), Nell, Carrie, Harry boy, Bobby and Georgie. The two little boys were in hospital, we think with diphtheria and when the policeman came to the door to tell her that her husband had been…
Major Harold Carey Matthews was born in 1879, son of F W W Matthews, he went on to join the 4th Battalion Green Howards where he acted as subaltern during the Second Boer War. After retiring from the military he worked for Barclays Bank at Leyburn, where his father also worked. When World War One broke out he re-enlisted with the Green Howards and was promoted to Major, on 29th August 1914. He was killed in action on the 25th April 1915 near Ypres and is buried at Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, Belgium.
Fred, the fourth child of five to Ned and Ann Shaw, was born around 1884 at Slaithwaite near Huddersfield. His father Ned was a railway signal man and part time photographer. Two of Fred’s brothers would emigrate to Canada before the Great War began. Fred trained as a journeyman tailor and travelled to seek employment. Whilst in the Hawes district he met and married a girl from Hawes, Mary Elizabeth Blades, in November 1909. Fred enlisted in Hawes in June 1916, joining the 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Fred went to France in September 1916. Private Fred Shaw was killed on the first day of The Battle of Messines on the 7th June 1917 aged 33. Fred’s body was never found and his name is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres. Sadly, just four and a half months after his father died, their son Jimmy died aged 5.