Not much is known about the service of Sergeant William Bowman of the Yorkshire Regiment. However, Stuart Hodgson a volunteer at the Green Howards Museum noticed something slightly unusual when he came across a photograph of William. The second button on his tunic is covered in black material.
There is a good deal of evidence which suggests that some soldiers who had lost relatives during the war started wearing a black button on their tunic, or sometimes a button wrapped in black crepe. This was probably an un-official practice and a blind eye was turned. However, evidence in an Eastern Command Order (1593) of August 1918 states:
“Mourning wearing of, by Non-Commissioned Officers and men.
The practice by Non-Commissioned Officers and men of covering the second button of the service dress jacket with black material as a symbol of mourning is irregular and will cease forthwith. (War Office Letter No. 54/ Gen No./3025 (QMG 7) dated 19th July 1918)”
We do not know who was being mourned, but it appears that William Bowman survived the Great War.
Explore more memories from the ribbon
Margaret Carrigan visited the museum on a recent drop-in day, to tell the story of her father, 38026 Private George W Kidson of C Company, 9th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. He enlisted in Richmond in May 1916 – but was told to return home until his call up papers arrived, which they duly did on 5th September 1916. George spent two weeks at the Depot in Richmond and then went to Hartlepool for training. One memorable incident during the night of 29th November occurred when George was on guard duty – a German Zeppelin was brought down. The war really began for George when he arrived at Canada Trench near Ypres – he recalled, “In the trenches each night we were told what to do, I was told to stand on the Fire Step. While I was there at night about 7 Germans walked past me, so near they could have picked me up, if they had seen me. I said to the Serg, “should I fire?”, he said no – not to give the position away.” Later in the year he saw action at Polygon Wood. “On Sunday 30th September we were rushed back, where a German prisoner gave himself up. He told us that the Germans were coming the next day – October 1st. I shall always remember Polygon Wood. Come they did on the Monday. Our Platoon were firing for all they were worth. My rifle was muddy, and the bolt would not work, so I took out…
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!!”
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.