William was born in 1897 in the village of Thoralby, near Aysgarth, in the North Yorkshire Dales. Birth registrations show he was born in the first quarter of that year. He was the youngest son of farmer John and his wife Alice, living at Town Head Farm. The 1901 census shows he had two older brothers, Ralph 10 and John Hunter 7, and a sister Elizabeth 9. However, the 1911 census only shows William, and by that time his mother was a widow at 42. Also at the time, three boarders lodged at the farm. William attended the local school and in his teens became a valued member of Aysgarth Amateur Dramatic Society.
At the outbreak of war, aged 17, he enlisted in the 10th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. He went to France in October 1915. By the onset of the 3rd Battle of Ypres in 1917 William was now a Corporal. It was during this offensive on the 3rd October that the 10th Battalion was involved in an action on Broodseinde ridge. It was during the heavy shelling on the 4th that William was killed. His body was never found. William is commemorated on a panel at the Tyne Cot Cemetery. He was just 19 years of age when he died.
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Alfred was born around June 1882 at Thornaby near Stockton, the son of Thomas Salmon, a foreman brewer. Alfred would eventually become an assistant grocer at Leyburn. Here he courted Lizzie Chiltern. Lizzie’s brother James had joined the West Yorkshire Regiment and was killed in June 1917 aged 20. It would appear that they never married as Alfred’s attestation form, when he signed up, has him as unmarried. The 1911 census has Alfred living in Leyburn as a boarder to a widow Catherine Pearson, aged 70. He enlisted on the 8th April 1916 at Leyburn joining the 5th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. By early 1917 Alfred had been wounded and was to spend the rest of 1917 and part of 1918 convalescing in England. He was discharged from the Army on the 15th April 1918, his rank being Lance Corporal. Alfred was now living in Waverley Terrace, Darlington. It was here that he died from pneumonia, exacerbated by his war wounds on the 16th February 1919 aged 36. Alfred was buried in Darlington West Cemetery.
Matthew Bell was born in West Scrafton, Coverdale on 21 October 1895. He served with the Yorkshire Regiment, initially joining before the war with the 4th Territorial Battalion, probably around 1912 according to his regimental number (3899). He later served with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (235593) before returning to the Yorkshire Regiment later in the war. He went to France on the last day of September 1915 and survived the war, being awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his service. Matthew died aged only 40. Two of his children are still alive and living in Leyburn but they don’t remember him. His youngest child was born posthumously which must have been very hard for his widow.
Diane Hawthorne sent in a request for us to look into her grandfather’s First World War service – this is what we managed to discover. Gosnay William Riley attested on 10th December 1915 into the 11th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment at Brighouse and was assigned the regimental number 27654. The 11th was a Home Service Battalion dealing with Drafts and Reinforcements. In September 1916 the 11th amalgamated with the 16th Durham Light Infantry as a Training Battalion thereby losing its distinct identity. At some time prior to this Gosnay transferred to the 10th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. He had been promoted to the rank of Corporal. Sometime thereafter he transferred to the 9th York and Lancaster Regiment. His Regimental number was 34441. On the 3rd March 1919 he became a reservist in the British Army with many thousands of others.