Judith Farrah told us about her great-grandfather James Allen, who’s joinery business contributed to the war effort on the Home Front.
“James Allen was born in 1855 in Newbiggin, Richmond. He was originally called James Thistlethwaite but changed his name to Allen, which was his stepfathers name. He apprenticed with William Raworth, learning to be a joiner, and married his daughter Matilda. By 1901 he had set up his own joinery business known as James Allen & Son Ltd and worked on the Kursaal (later known as The Royal Hall) in Harrogate.”
During the First World War, James did not join the armed forces but used his joinery business to create boxes for munitions. Static trench warfare required huge numbers of shells; the First World War became a war of production. Hundreds of manufacturing companies, including James’, were commandeered for munitions production. As men were sent to the trenches, women moved into the factories. Some factories’ workforce was almost entirely female, and this was true for James’ business.
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Alyson Swift contacted us through our website to tell us about her great grandfather, John Mattison. John was from Richmond and was called up on 10th May 1917, joining the Royal Flying Corps. While he may look very smart in what is known as his ‘Maternity’ pattern tunic and side cap, Alyson wanted to draw a different aspect of his role in the First World War to our attention: “He was an entertainer in the the camp concert party. He and his party won a talent contest at the Croydon Empire Theatre. He sang ‘the Laddies who fought and won’ and ‘keep right on to the End of the Road’ for which they won 20 pound!!”
Valerie Slater of Coverdale provided this story about her grandmother, Catherine Walls – a happy and unusual tale wherein all 5 of her sons survived the Great War. In 1883, Catherine Louisa Polden, then living in Dorset set eyes on George Walls for the first time. It was love at first sight. George was twenty years older than Catherine and arranged the wedding with all haste – the marriage by licence took place at Hampreston near Wimborne. Catherine left the county of her birth, never to return. After journeying north, Catherine and George made their home in Carlton at Coverdale Cottage. The couple had three daughters and five sons born between 1886 and 1898. George died in 1908 so Catherine had to face the anxious war years supported by her daughters. She was a religious woman, so her faith combined with her respected and busy life as unofficial midwife in the village helped her to get through. Her prayers were answered. William Walls (born 1898) served in the Machine Gun Corps; George (born 1889) was with 21st Kings Royal Rifles, being wounded by shrapnel at the Battle of Flers-Courcelet on 17 September 1916; Alfred (born 1891) served in the Army Service Corps and then the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, he was hospitalised twice (the second occasion being the result of a gas attack); Joe (born 1896) enlisted with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps with his brother Dick. Joe was discharged from the army in November of 1916 due to ill…
Harold was born in 1894 in Well, a small hamlet to the east of Masham in North Yorkshire. He was the eldest of five children of Thomas and Elizabeth Binks. Thomas had also been born in Well, whereas Elizabeth was from Thornton Watlass near Bedale. Thomas was employed as a gamekeeper on the nearby estate of Snape Park. Harold enlisted in Leyburn in 1915 and joined the 13th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. The Battalion mobilised and arrived in France on June 6th 1916. The Battalion went into the front line near Loos and would see action at The Battle of Ancre on the Somme. In 1917 they saw action during the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line and at the Battle of Cambrai. March 21st 1918 saw the start of the German Spring Offensive. At the action between Arras and Bapaume on the 22nd March Private Harold Binks was killed. His body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. He was 23 years of age.