William Colling – Sunderland
Joseph William Colling was the father of Brenda Crinall of Little Crakehall, who called in at the museum with a friend who wanted to contribute a story to the Ribbon of Rememberance. Brenda didn’t really know a great deal about her father’s participation in the war, but was interested when we offered to take a look and see if any records still existed from that time. As fortune would have it, her father’s service record was available to see and so we were able to piece together some of his experiences from the time of the First World War.
Before enlisting Colling worked as a sorting clerk and telegraphist for the G.P.O. in Sunderland. Prior to going to German East Africa (G.E.A.) in 1916 he served for 13 months in France. Some of the most dangerous activities he undertook was to lay cables as close to the enemy lines as possible. These cables were essential for information and orders to be relayed to and from the battlefront. In 1916 the German plan for war in G.E.A. was to divert Allied forces away from the Western Front in Europe. Colling sailed from Devonport on the 8th of February 1916 and he arrived in Durban on the 6th of March.On the 14th of March he arrived at Kildini inlet near Mombassa. Over the next few months he and his comrades came under heavy attack several times as they advanced south towards German forces.This included fierce action near Kilosa.
At times they ran short of rations, suffered terrible weather conditions and eventually he contracted malaria in September.He was hospitalised in Dar es Salaam, Durban and Wynberg hospital in Cape Town. When he eventually returned to England at the end of 1916 he was detailed for home service.
He died on the 15 of August 1949 aged 53. His grave bears the inscription, “All great men are not good, but all good men are great”
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2nd Lieutenant Arthur F Clarke was attending the 5th Battalion annual camp in Wales when war broke out. He spent the first months of the war moving between Scarborough, Hull, Newcastle, Hartlepool and Darlington. On the 18th April 1915 he went out to France and was wounded during a gas attack on the 26th May 1915. The Green Howards Gazette records: “The day seemed interminable as the poor shelter had to be hugged tight all the time. With darkness came the order that we were to pass through GHQ lines and take up a front line position in Zouave Wood facing Hooge, where the main attack by the enemy had been made. That little strip of ground has since been the cockpit of our Western front. On our journey up another man was killed, and Lieutenant A F Clarke was wounded. That tour was destined to be the worst we had so far entered upon.” We know he returned to the front line as the Green Howard Gazette for January 1916 records that he was wounded. He rose to the rank of Captain in November 1916.
Si Wheeler submitted the story of his great grandfather, Dixon Overfield, but it’s also a great example of the impact of war on all those connected to the soldier who served. “Dixon was married to Margaret and they had a daughter Madge, born in 1915. Dixon enlisted in Filey in September 1916. He originally joined the Royal Field Artillery but soon got transferred to the 6th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment. He was sent to France and saw action at Arras, before being moved to Belgium. Dixon survived this fight, but twelve days later he too was killed in action at the Battle of Poelcappelle on the 9th of October 1917 when a shell burst just above himself and several comrades. Their bodies were never recovered. Dixon is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial. Dixon’s wife died in 1924, leaving my grandmother, Madge, aged 9, an orphan. Raised by two aunts, then entering service at 13, Madge was taken under the wing of her housekeeper boss, Lizzie Andrew and became part of her extended family. Aged 18, Madge moved to London to train as a nurse, working through the Blitz and marrying a Dunkirk evacuee soldier, my granddad, Harry Wheeler. Harry didn’t mind where they settled to start married life, so they moved to Swanland in East Yorkshire, where Lizzie lived. My parents live there to this day.”
Arthur John Buchanan Richardson Arthur was born in Guisborough North Yorkshire in the first quarter 1895. He was the eldest son of Colonel William Richardson, a solicitor of Guisborough and his wife Averil Mary, daughter of Arthur Buchannan, also a solicitor of Guisborough. Arthur entered Rugby Public School, Warwickshire, in 1909 and left in 1913. In August 1913 he entered as an Articled Clerk in the firm of Solicitors founded by his great grandfather and carried on by his grandfather. He received his Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment in June, 1913, and went to camp with them in August, 1913. He was again in camp in August 1914, at Colwyn Bay, when War broke out. The Regiment was recalled into training at Darlington, when he was given the command and a new Company of Signallers. He next went with the Battalion to Newcastle on Tyne, on coastal defence. Arthur would not die leading his men over no-man’s-land or in some heroic fighting. He would die of meningitis, contracted on service, in his billet at Newcastle on 4th January 1915. Three months later, the Battalion went out to France. Arthur was just 19 years old. A local newspaper report, headed “Cleveland Mourns the Death of a Gallant Officer”, provides details of a military funeral at Guisborough Church attended by local dignitaries: ‘The coffin was borne by men of the 4th Battalion, with fellow Officers Colonel Bell, Captain Charlton and Lts Williams and Jervelund present….