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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Molly Copland visited the Green Howards Museum to tell us about her uncle Arthur Edward Arnett. Arthur Arnett was born in Wakefield on 3rd July 1896 and was educated at Sanda Elementary School and Leeds Central High School before working as a Junior Clerk at the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. He enlisted with the 2nd Battalion, York and Lancashire Regiment on 17th February 1916, serving with the British Expeditionary Force from 28th June. Following a transfer to the 5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment Arthur was wounded at the Somme around 11th September 1916. He spent five weeks in hospital before being sent back to England, eventually returning to France with the 6th Yorks and Lancs on 18th March 1917. After transferring to the 10th Battalion following losses at the Battle of Loos, Arthur was killed in action at Gheluvelt on 28th September 1917 and is buried at Hooge Crater Cemetery in Belgium.
Information submitted by Liz Thompson, a resident of Richmond. Michael Joseph Kavanagh (Liz’s Great-Uncle) was born in Walsall, Staffordshire on 20 February 1879. He joined the South Staffordshire Regiment, serving in the Boer War in the Cape Colony, the Transvaal and at Wittegbergin. At the outbreak of the First World War he reenlisted into the same regiment as a Private and advanced to the rank of Colour Sergeant. He was Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in January 1915 and promoted to Lieutenant in September of the same year. He was wounded twice during the Battle of the Somme and was awarded the Military Cross. The citation published in the London Gazette stated “For conspicuous gallantry during operations. Though knocked over and wounded by a shell, he took over command of a machine gun company two days later, and, suffering from shock and considerable pain, stuck to his command and did good work”. He was promoted to Acting Captain on 8 March 1918. On his retirement in November 1919, Michael Joseph Kavanagh was granted the full rank of Captain. In later life Captain Kavanagh moved into local politics, being elected to the position of Mayor of Walsall in 1945. During the Second World War he served as Platoon Commander of No. 21 Platoon of the 27th Staffordshire Home Guard.
Story submitted by Mrs Drury, a resident of Richmond. Nancy Bainbridge was born in Weardale, County Durham in May 1894. She was one of eight children whose parents were hardy hill farmers. Nancy was a very practical person and joined Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service in 1914. Nancy served at a military hospital in East Anglia where the nurses received casualties straight from the Somme. Her upbringing on a farm had afforded her some preparation for the ensuing, distressing sights and sounds. She described how the men arrived with mud and tufts of grass in their wounds. The nurses found out the hard way that soldiers’ skin, subjected to the mustard gas attacks in the trenches, could not be washed with water as that inflicted pain. Nancy received many deathbed requests. After the war Nancy worked as a private nurse in families with disabled soldiers and patients with other conditions. She married Captain Jack (John Adam) Bell. Nancy had a brother William, also a hill farmer and ten years older. He joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, but saw little service because, when detailed to chop an officer some sticks, a splinter blinded him in one eye. Another sibling, Violet, worked in Barnard Castle’s recruiting office. Her soldier husband Harry Raine was awarded the Military Cross. The medal was presented to the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.