Wilfred was born in March 1896 in Marske by the Sea near Redcar on the East coast. When he was young his family moved to Middlesbrough where his father worked in the steelworks. Wilfred was training as a draughtsman when war broke out. Wilfred was just 5’ 2’’ tall, an inch shorter that the regulation height. But due to the great manpower losses he eventually got his chance in early 1915 when recruitment standards were somewhat relaxed. He enlisted in the 4th Battalion.
It was in November of 1916 in the latter stages of the Somme offensive that the work party that Wilfred had volunteered for came under fire. On his way back to his own lines he was caught by a shell explosion. He was taken to a hospital at Abbeville where his left arm was amputated.
Back in England Wilfred had to adjust to life without a limb. He was classed as ‘incurably unemployable’ and found it impossible to get a job. He used his time to study employment law and became a ceaseless campaigner for better conditions of his fellow jobless war wounded. He would continue to do so even when after he eventually gained employment. He was instrumental in establishing one of the first branches of BLESMA (British Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association) in Teesside.
He married Elsie and his daughter Sylvia was born in 1932. However, his fifty cigarettes a day habit for most of his life would take their toll. He died of lung cancer in 1958, just 62 years old.
Wilfred recorded his military and civilian campaigns in a diary that spent years in the loft of his daughter’s home in Middlesbrough. His family edited the diary into a testimony of one man’s war experience and his fight against injustice and discrimination. The book is called ‘Wasted Effort: A Journal of the First World War’.
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Bert Brocklesby, a school teacher from Doncaster, applied for exemption from military service early in 1916 on religious grounds. Bert went before his local and appeal Tribunals in February and April 1916, and was given exemption from Combatant Service Only by both. To Bert, this was an unacceptable decision – joining the Army, even in a Non-Combatant role meant going against his deeply held conscientious belief that war in all forms was a crime. He was arrested as an absentee after refusing to obey the order to report to his nearby barracks to be enlisted into the Non Combatant Corps. Bert refused to compromise his principles in any way, and did not even take the step of signing his Army papers – denying the military authorities even this rudimentary control over his life. For making this stand, and for disobeying other orders, Bert was Court Martialled and would soon become one of a group of Absolutists (known as the ‘Richmond 16’) sent to France from Richmond Castle, Yorkshire, as military prisoners. It seems that Bert managed to drop a cleverly edited field service postcard out of the train while being transferred to France for further punishment. This postcard alerted Bert’s local MP (who sympathised with the principles behind Bert’s objection to military service) that men were being transferred to the combat zone, where, considered to be on active service, they could be sentenced to death for disobeying orders. Bert would find this out on arrival at Henriville Camp, Northern France….
Carol Sheard of Richmond shared these details with us about her grandfather. Henry Tissiman was born on 10 July 1892. Aged 22, he enlisted on 12th April 1915 at Scarborough as L/12208 Driver H Tissiman with the Royal Field Artillery. He was posted to ‘C’ Battery, 161 Brigade. He went to France on 30th December 1915 from Liverpool and landed at le Havre. He suffered the effects of gas and was briefly hospitalised on 28th February 1916. His service record details that he was granted leave to return home 17th September 1918 until the 1st October during which time he married Emily Guest. This photograph was taken on their wedding day, 21st October 1918. He died on 30th July 1992 at Harrogate.
John was born in Leeds on the 31st July 1892. He was the eldest of five children. The family obviously moved round the country a lot as the 3rd youngest child was born in Liverpool and the two youngest children were born in Nottingham. John’s father originated from Norfolk, his mother from Hawnby in the North York moors. At some point the family settled in Great Yarmouth, the 1911 census giving an address as 86 Churchill Road. It was in Great Yarmouth that John married Dora (Dolly) Mary McQueen in September 1924. By 1939 they were living in Richmond, John’s occupation being a Secondary School Master, with Dora doing unpaid domestic duties. There does not appear to be a record of any offspring. John was obviously heavily involved with the town of Richmond and the people as he served as town mayor in 1957/8. John died on the 23rd November 1982 aged 90. At the time of his death he was living at 8 Gilling Road. During WW1 John served as a pilot, with the rank of Captain, in the Royal Flying Corps. John had joined the 10th Squadron RFC at Abeele, an airfield near Ypres Belgium, in May 1917. The 10th had been formed at Farnborough on the 1st January 1915. In April 1918 it would be re-designated the 10th Squadron RAF. Initially John flew De Havilland BE2s, a 2 seat biplane until the Squadron was re-equipped with Armstrong Whitworth FK8s, general purpose biplanes with a synchronised Vickers machine…