Thomas was born around 1883 to George and Margaret Coates. George was a farm worker. By 1901 the family was living at Marsett in Raydaleside where Thomas and his two brothers, George and Albert were born. The children attended Stalling Busk School. On leaving school Thomas worked in the Council Offices in Hawes.
Thomas enlisted on the 6th October 1915 joining the 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Thomas would gain the rank of Lance Corporal. On the 26th September 1916 during the latter part of the Somme offensive Thomas won the Military Medal for bravery in the field. However, he was severely wounded. On an attack of a German trench a soldier threw a stick bomb which exploded at Thomas’s feet whereby he received serious wounds to his leg and face. Despite this he still managed to dispatch the German soldier with his bayonet and in doing so saved a colleague.
Thomas spent 11 weeks at a hospital at Rouen where he underwent four operations. Two more operations followed in England before he was discharged from the Army on the 14th July 1917.
Thomas eventually went back to his old job until he married Elizabeth Watson in 1921. They then went to live at The Heugh, a large isolated house above Nappa Scar near Settle in the Yorkshire Dales. They ran it as a guest house, and it was here that their two daughters, Margaret and Mary, were born.
On the 21st January 1925, after only three day’s illness, Thomas died from meningitis, partly attributed to the head wound he had sustained in the war. He was buried in Stalling Busk cemetery.
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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…
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.
Percival Dunning was born in 1889 in Thormanby Yorkshire. By 1901 he is listed as Perewal Dunning residing in Coxwold Easingwold. He is living in his grandfather’s (Frances Dunning) house who is a plate layer ganger with North eastern railways. A plate layer’s job was to inspect and maintain railway tracks. Percival attested in Richmond on the 26th of February 1906, at that time his occupation was as a farm labourer. He was 17 years of age, weighed 114 pounds, and had hazel eyes and brown hair. It was noted in the ledger that he was flat footed and had an old injury to the end of his right long finger. He was initially posted to the 4th battalion. In the regimental gazette he is recorded as being wounded towards the end of 1915. The 2nd Battalion were deployed in the Givenchy and Essars area. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission states that Private Dunning was killed in action on the 7th of June 1917. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial (panel 33). He also remembered on the memorials at St Michael’s church Coxwold and the King’s book at York minster.