We would like to share the story of nine young men from Keighley who enlisted as a body in late August 1914. The news reports state that they all joined up together and we think that they'd discussed this at their All Saints' Church Bible Class, possibly more than once and that they met at class on Sunday 30th August 1914, when they decided as a group that they would go down and enlist together and did so the very next day, Monday 31st August 1914.
We think all these men joined the 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment at the same time and after some initial training, some of them applied for a transfer in March 1915 to the Army Cyclist Corps, attached to the 8th West Riding Regiment. We don't have copies of service records for all these men but what we do have suggests that five of them made the transfer.
The Keighley News, Saturday September 18, 1915:
A GROUP OF KEIGHLEY YOUNG MEN PATRIOTS
The group consists of the Rev J. Wood, curate in charge of All Saints' Church, Keighley,
and seven young men of the All Saints' Bible Class, who enlisted in a body in the early days of the war.
Of the seven, three have unfortunately lost their lives, two - Sergeant J.E. Robinson and Corporal W. Nelmes - having been killed in action, while the third - Private Albert Gill - died at Malta from dysentery. A fourth member of the group - Private Rowland Eyre - has been discharged on medical grounds.
The members of the group as shown above are: Private Frank Gill, Private Rowland Eyre, Sergeant J. E. Robinson, Corporal Nelmes, and Lance Corporal R. J. Robinson.
Bottom Row: Private Louis Topham, the Rev J. Wood, and Private Albert Gill.
We think from searching available records that two of the other bible class members were Ivor Tempest Greenwood and Gerald Charlton, by a process of elimination from the names on the All Saints' Church roll of honour for the Great War and from mentions in newspaper reports.
We also think that from mentions in letters from these men, Joe Wright may also have been one of the Church parishioners, and quite possibly in the bible class.
The men's names are:
Rowland Eyre (Actually Ronald Eyre)
Ivor Tempest Greenwood
John Edmund Robinson
Robert Jowett Robinson
Louis (Lewis) Topham
We have found three separate Army service records which back this information up and are dated 31st August 1914:
Private Albert Gill's service record shows that he attested in Keighley on Monday 31st August 1914:
Private Frank Gill's service record shows that he attested in Keighley on Monday 31st August 1914:
Private Rowland Eyre's service record shows that he attested in Keighley on Monday 31st August 1914:
We also checked for a service record for all the other men and found one for Private Gerald Charlton:
This information is backed up by noting the Army medal records and finding they had almost consecutive numbers in the same regiment:
Army Cyclist Corps (which was attached to the 8th Battalion West Riding Regiment):
Gerald Charlton 5202
Albert Gill 5203
Frank Gill 5204
Lewis Topham 5206
Robert Jowett Robinson 5182.
8th Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment, medal roll/service records giving army service numbers:
Gerald Charlton 12085
Albert Gill 12148
Frank Gill 12082
Ronald Eyre 12068
William Nelmes 12123
John Edmund Robinson 12126.
Ivor Tempest Greenwood, his 8th Battalion West Riding Regiment service number was 4819 and it's possible he joined on a different date, although we are sure it was very close.
Private Ivor Tempest Greenwood, 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. Service number 4819.
Ivor was born on 26th October 1896 and baptised on 29th October at St Mary's Church, Eastwood in Keighley. His parents were William Henry and Sarah Eliza Greenwood and they were living at 6, Gate Street, Keighley. William was employed in the textile industry as a wool comb finisher.
By 1901 Ivor was four years old and living at 22, Eelholme View Street, Keighley, with his mother and elder brother (no mention of their father, who may have been working away at the time).
Ten years later in the 1911 census, Ivor was recorded as being a 14 year old student, living at 178 Devonshire Street, Keighley, with his parents, elder brother William Harper Greenwood, younger brother Henry Bruncker Greenwood, his maternal grandmother and a cousin. William was still a wool comb finisher for textile machinery (Wool Comb Maker and Wheel Cutting).
Ivor attended Keighley Boy's Grammar School and is mentioned in their 'Keighlian' School Magazine of the time.
He enlisted with the Army in the Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. (Probably on Monday 31st August, the same day as Privates' Gerald Charlton and Albert Gill)
While in training at Grantham Private Greenwood contracted typhoid fever and pneumonia, and he was conveyed to Lincoln Military Hospital, where he died on Wednesday 16th September. Ivor was 17 years of age at the time, his birthday being just a few weeks away on 26th October 1914.
Assuming he had joined up with Gerald Charlton and Albert Gill on 31st August, he would have served for just 17 days. He was buried in a military funeral at Utley Cemetery on Monday 19th September 1914.
Keighley News report dated Saturday September 19th 1914:
A KEIGHLEY RECRUIT'S DEATH
Mr Ivor Greenwood (17), son of Mr William Greenwood, Dalton Lane, Keighley,
and a member of the All Saints' Young Men's Bible Class enlisted along with nine other members of the class in Lord Kitcheners army three weeks ago.
During the time of training at Grantham he contracted double pneumonia and typhoid fever, and was conveyed to Lincoln Military Hospital, where he died on Wednesday last.
The funeral will take place at the Keighley Cemetery today (Saturday). We are pleased to hear that his companions, who left Keighley with him are in good spirits and well.
Keighley News report dated Saturday September 26th 1914:
FUNERAL OF A KEIGHLEY RECRUIT
The interment took place at the Keighley Cemetery on Saturday afternoon last amid many manifestations of sympathy of Mr Ivor Greenwood, one of the nine members of the All Saints' Bible Class, who enlisted in Kitchener's army a week or two ago.
While in training at Grantham Mr Greenwood contracted typhoid fever and pneumonia, and he was conveyed to Lincoln Military Hospital, where he died on Wednesday last.
Captain Tee made the arrangements for a military funeral, and was able to obtain a company of ambulance men and cadets, as well as a troop of boy scouts, who formed the procession to the cemetery, under the command of Captain Tee.
Besides relatives and personal friends there were present a number of the members of the All Saints' Church and Bible Class.
The services at the house and at the graveside were conducted by the Rev. John Wood (curate in charge of All Saints').
The hymn "On the resurrection morning" was sung, and "The Last Post" was sounded by the buglers.
Floral tributes were sent by the All Saints' Bible Class, by his fellow workmen, by his comrades at Grantham, and by members of the Smith House of Keighley Trade and Grammar School, where deceased had been a student.
The coffin, which was covered with a Union Jack, was of oak with heavy brass mountings. There was a very large attendance at the cemetery.
Keighley News - insertion dated Saturday September 26th 1914:
THE PARENTS and BROTHERS of the late IVOR TEMPEST GREENWOOD wish to THANK all who have shown Kindness to them and expressed Sympathy with them in their great loss, and beg to Acknowledge the many Letters of Condolence and beautiful Flowers, also the kindness and attention of the Staff of the Northern Military Hospital, Lincoln. - 56, Dalton Lane.
Ivor was given a military funeral and was a Private in the West Riding Regiment at the time of his death, so he should have been recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. However we could find no mention of him in their database so we submitted his details in 2012 and 18 months later he was accepted. We learned of the news just a couple of weeks before we marked the start of the centenary of the Great War in a public ceremony at Keighley war memorial and this was announced by Rev. Dr. Jonathan Pritchard at the ceremony and this was of great importance to Jonathan as he was the Vicar at All Saints' Church where Ivor was a parishioner 100 years before.
A new CWGC headstone was placed on Ivor's grave which had been poorly marked. We organised a service of dedication for Ivor's new headstone on 9th July 2017 which was attended by many local dignitaries and members of the public. We were particularly pleased to be able to reflect those present at Ivor's original funeral as we were accompanied by local Scouts with their standards and members of the St John Ambulance Brigade, plus a representative of the Yorkshire Regiment, on behalf of Ivor's old regiment. Wreaths were laid by David Pearson, Deputy Lieutenant representing Her Majesty the Queen, Bradford's Lord Mayor, Keighley's Mayor and a representative from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Serjeant John Edmund Robinson A.R.C.SC., 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment. Service number 12126.
Brother of Robert Jowett Robinson.
John was born in Keighley on 22nd September 1890 to parents Robert Arthur and Ellen Robinson who were living at 4, Ash Street.
His father Robert was a french polisher. John was baptised at Keighley on 19th October.
In the 1891 census he was one year old and still living at 4, Ash Street, Keighley with his parents, and his sister Mary.
By the time of the 1901 census he was 11 years of age and had moved to 100 Spencer Street, Keighley, with his parents, sister Mary and brother Robert.
He was taught at the National School and in 1903 he entered the Keighley Trade and Grammar School aged 13 years of age.
After five years, he left school in 1908 with a scholarship for the Royal College of Science and after graduating he spent time teaching as a science master at Jerusalem.
Whilst home on leave in August 1914 he joined the Army shortly after the war began. After training at Belton Camp near Grantham, the battalion moved later to Witley then they were posted overseas on S.S. Aquitania from Liverpool on 3rd July 1915 and John entered the Balkan theatre (Gallipoli) on 12th July 1915. The battalion bivouaced at Imbros for two weeks and landed at Suvla Bay on the 6th August. They suffered heavy losses on 7th, 9th and 12th August with quiet periods in between, notably in trenches at Chocolate Hill. John was killed in action on 21st August during an attack on the village of Anafarta when the battalion again suffered heavy losses.
John was awarded the 1915 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal for his wartime service.
He is remembered on the following memorials:
Helles Memorial at Gallipoli.
Keighley's All Saints' Church War Memorial - where he was a member of All Saints' bible class.
St Andrew's Church (Keighley Shared Church) War Memorial.
Keighlian Magazine roll of honour.
Keighley's Great War roll of honour book at Keighley library.
The Keighley News, Saturday September 11, 1915:
A BRILLIANT SCHOLAR.
By the death of Sergeant Robinson a career of much promise is terminated at the age of 24. He received his early education at the Keighley National School, and the testimony of Mr. J. H. Bentley (head master) regarding him is that he was one of the brightest lads that had ever come under his care.
Afterwards he proceeded to the Trade and Grammar School, and thence obtained scholarships in due course for the Royal College of Science. At the close of his curriculum there he was accepted by the Church Missionary Society as a science master in the English College at Jerusalem, where his duties lay with the Mohammedan students who are being trained in Western methods. When war began Sergeant Robinson, who was home on leave, felt it his duty to join the colours, and his influence on the young men's Bible class at All Saints' was such that ten of his fellow members promptly associated themselves with his decision. As an indication of his sense of duty it may be observed that Sergeant Robinson decided to enlist as a private in order that he might share the same conditions as his fellow members. On enlisting his promotion to non-commissioned rank was rapid, and in a few months he was appointed sergeant; and it is understood that only a few days before his death his captain had promised to nominate him for promotion to commissioned rank.
Sergeant Robinson had been a member of All Saints' choir from boyhood, and as a vocalist his services were in great demand. His educational attainments were considerable, and it was his intention at the termination of the war to prepare himself for holy orders. He was unmarried.
The Keighley News, Saturday 11th September, 1915:
THE STRUGGLE IN THE VALLEY OF DEATH.
In the light of Sergeant Robinson's death, referred to in our casualty records, the soldier's last letters home have a pathetic interest. Writing within sounds of the guns, he said:-
"We landed in large steam shore boats, having travelled from the base in destroyers. The hour was something after 11 at night, and our regiment had orders to land immediately behind a second battalion. Both were accomplished without great difficulty. Three-quarters of a mile were covered with caution, but in close order, until marching over a slope we were hailed by myriads of rifle bullets. Since then movement has been continuous and rapid. At the break of dawn I was ordered with my line to cross the valley beyond. We went forward, ploughed up with shrapnel and high-explosive shell, in a single line which was kept steady, until, after several mad dashes we reached cover under a ridge at the base of the opposite hill. The men, shocked and tormented by the risk, held themselves like true britons. Every man was true to his country's honour and himself. Captain___ himself a candidate for "baptism of fire" could not help but exclaim, "Well, you are a great lot of men!" But the details of that day will be told better than I can express by some who observed but did not take part. I cannot tell you how many casualties there were. Every movement we make, either in entrenchments or behind them, is seized by snipers as an opportunity."
The Keighley News, Saturday 25th September, 1915, page 4:
A TRIBUTE TO A KEIGHLEY SOLDIER.
Mrs. Desémea Wilson writes us from Wallingford-on-Thames enclosing some exceedingly fine lines in memory of the late Sergeant J. E. Robinson, of Keighley, whose death in the Dardanelles fighting was recorded in our columns a few weeks ago. Mrs. Wilson will probably be better known to Keighley people by her maiden name of Desémea Newman. Since leaving Keighley she has been engaged to some extent in literary work, and has gained distinction as a writer both of verse and short stories. She refers in her letter to Sergeant Robinson as she knew him years ago as being very highly gifted and of a charming disposition. "I knew his qualities very well." she adds, "for I was for some years his teacher at the National Schools, and to us it seemed as though his uncommon brilliance should lead him to great attainments. This, alas, was not to be."
The lines enclosed on the letter are as follows: -
John Edmund Robinson, killed at the Dardanelles.
August 21, 1915.
Within his heart there stirred the lure of lovely things,
The poetry, the music, the love of life;
The lore of books was his, the magic power it brings,
And youth's proud emulation all he dreamed of strife.
He loved the quiet dawn, the grey-white mist wreaths curled
Over the level fields; the twilight's dusky fall;
Yet saw red dawn of carnage break o'er a sombre world,
And in a deadlier field met the last night of all.
...Oh gallant soul that shrank, yet deep of danger drank,
Oh, hesitant, reluctant feet that yet pressed on.
The cup is quaffed, the journey done. Within the rank
Your place is filled. But eloquent though you are gone,
Your voice shall speak to those who loved, and through all days
Circle your dead but deathless brows the victor's bays.
From a letter written by Sergeant Fred Smith of Silsden.
The Keighley News 30th October 1915, page 12:
"We were advancing under fire and I was leading the platoon, and before we got the order to extend, Gill, whom I had placed in charge of the leading section, was just behind me. When we got about 1,000 yards off we extended and advanced a little later by short sharp rushes, taking what cover we could until we were about 250 yards from the enemy, when, on account of the terrific fire they poured into us we sheltered behind a low ridge for a short time. When the fire had abated somewhat our captain gave the order to advance, and the sergeant in charge of the next platoon and myself jumped up and called to our respective platoons to advance. That was the signal for another terrible burst of musketry and machine-gun fire from the Turks. The sergeant on my left – Sergeant John Robinson, of Keighley – immediately fell dead with a bullet through his throat, although I did not know until an hour afterwards. A few yards further on the captain fell badly wounded, so I was left with a couple of platoons."
John's family later had an inscription dedicated to John, added to the family gravestone in Utley Cemetery:
2nd Lieutenant Robert Jowett Robinson, West Riding Regiment.
Previously Corporal, Army Cyclist Corps, attached to the 8th Battalion West Riding Regiment. Service number 5182.
Robert was the brother of John Edmund Robinson and one of the nine men from All Saint's Bible Class who joined together on August 31, 1914.
Robert was born in Keighley in 29th June 1895 and was five years younger than his brother John Edmund (above). His parents were Robert Arthur and Ellen Robinson. Robert's baptism was held at St Andrews' Parish Church in Keighley on 28th July 1895 when the family were living at 100, Spencer Street in Keighley and their father Robert was a french polisher.
In 1901 Robert was five years old and still living at 100 Spencer Street with his parents and elder brother and sister. By 1911 he was 15 and they had moved to High Shann in Keighley, All the family were present at the census apart from John who was away, probably at the Royal College of Science. Father Robert was a french polisher and upholsterer and Robert was a student. At some point he was educated at Keighley Trade and Grammar School, going by his age, this was probably for a five year period from 1909 to 1913.
We believe as one of the bible class members, he enlisted on 31st August 1914 with the 8th Battalion, West Riding Regiment and trained at Belton Camp near Grantham before going abroad to Gallipoli on August 6th 1915 as a member of the Army Cyclist Corps, attached to the 8th Battalion. He served with them throughout this period and survived, seeing several of his friends and his older brother being killed here.
He was gazetted from Cadet to 2nd Lieutenant on 29th May 1918 whilst serving with the West Riding Regiment.
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service.
After the war he returned to Keighley and lived at 25, Barlow Road until 1924.
Robert married Rhoda Barrett in Keighley in summer 1924.
He died at the age of 77 on 12th August 1972, with his death being registered in Leicestershire. He is buried in the family grave at Utley Cemetery, Keighley.
Corporal William Nelmes. 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. Service Number 12123.
William Nelmes was born in Bolsover in 1887 and his birth was registered in Chesterfield, Derbyshire, in the second quarter of the year. His parents were George W., and Elizabeth Nelmes. In the 1891 census, William was three and had an older brother George aged 8, a sister Gertrude aged 6 and a younger brother Thomas aged just 2 months. They were all living with their parents at 32, Cliffe View, Denaby in Doncaster. Their father George was a coal miner and sadly, two years later he had died aged 32. Elizabeth later remarried, to Charles Wild, a fitter and iron turner making machinery and they were recorded in the 1901 census at 6, Water Street, Keighley.
By this time, William was 13 years old and employed as a bobbin setter at a worsted mill.
Things had changed quite a bit for William by 1911, he was living (with his younger sister Clara) in the home of their elder sister Gertrude and her husband Charles Matthew Athorn and young family at 50, Dalton Lane in Keighley and William was by now carrying out a skilled job as a washing machine fitter for a machine works.
This was just a few doors away from the house where Ivor Tempest Greenwood would later be living at 56, Dalton Lane.
William had moved to 36, Henry Street and was a 25 year old moulder when he married 27 year old Hilda Simpson of 83, Spencer Street at St. Andrew's parish church in Keighley on 24th March 1913.
William probably enlisted at Keighley Drill Hall on Lawkholme Lane with the Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment on Monday 31st August, along with the other members of his bible group.
He would have been sent to Belton Park Army Camp at Grantham for training and on the 18th January 1915 the battalion was transferred to 32nd Brigade, 11th Northern Division. The battalion moved to Witley in April 1915. At some point William was promoted to Corporal, probably after spending a while as a Lance Corporal. The 8th battalion sailed on SS Aquitania from Liverpool on 3rd July 1915. They were narrowly missed by a U-Boat torpedo the next day and they passed into the Mediterranean Sea on 6th July when another alarm sounded as another U-boat had been spotted. The remainder of their voyage was uneventful and they arrived at Lemnos on the 10th of July. They spent the next ten (uneventful) days bivouaced then embarked for Imbros on the 22nd July, arriving the next day. The battalion was inspected by their commander in chief on 24th July and they spent the next few days in bivouacs whilst the Lt. Colonel and the Major went off (separately) to inspect the trenches.
The battalion received orders on 5th August to proceeed to the Gallipoli Peninsula, arriving there on the 6th and began disembarking, landing unhindered at Suvla Bay on 7 August 1915. The battalion was heavily engaged by the enemy at night and during the day, resulting in heavy losses. William was killed in action on the 7th of August 1915, shortly after the landings took place. Nothing more is known about his death and his grave was not recorded. William's name is one of 20,958 recorded on the Helles Memorial.
Keighley News 11th September 1915 page 5:
A FALLEN SOLDIER'S CHEERY LETTERS.
One of the band of young men of All Saints' Church (Keighley) Bible Class, who enlisted along with Sergeant Robinson, was Corporal W.Nelmes, of the 8th West Riding Regiment, whose death in action at the Dardanelles, has been reported to Mrs. Nelmes, who resides at 86, Spencer Street, keighley.
He was gymnastic instructor to the All Saints' and St Barnabas's athletice clubs prior to his enlistment, and weas a young man held in high esteem. Reference to his death was made last Sunday evening at All Saints' Church by the Rev. J. Wood.
Writing from the Dardanelles on July 27, Corporal Nelmes said: "I am in the pink of condition, but I wish it was over altogether; but we shall have to hope and put our trust in God., and he will help us to do our duty in an honest and upright way. I don't care what hardships I have to face as long as I come back safe and sound. I can tell you this, that it will make a big difference to a lot of young fellows up here who did not study what home was. We are in the best of spirits and not downhearted at all.
We have a lot of Ghurkas up here with their terrible knives fighting for us, and they are a fine lot of lads, and no mistake. Talk about drilling, they beat us into fits, and that is saying a lot. It won't last long up here, I can tell you. The Turks are a poor lot, and if it was not for the German officers they would throw it up. We have a few prisoners here, and they have hardly a rag to their back or a boot to their feet, and are glad to be prisoners.
Joe Wright is up here, and the other lads from All Saints'. In his postscript he said, "I do not think it will be long before I am home again."
Writing home to his wife on August 4, he said, "You must let me know how you like in the shell factory. You are just as much a soldier as I am - you helping to make the shot while we help to fire it. I shall be back in the firing line by the time you get this letter, but, never mind, God will take care of me and bring me, I hope, back to you."
In his last letter he wrote,: "I don't think it will be long up here - we hope not, anyway - but we have a stiff job on, and I think there will be some lives lost, but I hope I think wrong, as I would like to see all these lads come safely back. We shall have to trust and wait and see what will be done, when it is all over, which I pray to God won't be long, so that we can have peace on this earth once again. Then there will be some smiling faces in dear old England, and not half... We all have our little bit to do, and we must do it in a just and straightforward way, for it is a just cause, and we shall win in the end, and I hope to live to see it end, and then we can come back to our homes and work. We are in the best of spirits yet."
His wife Hilda received his remaining back pay of £1 4s. 4d on 29th January 1916. She also received a widow's pension of 10 shillings and 6d per week.
She remarried on 4th May 1918, to Charlie Mason and received a remarriage gratuity of £30 11s. 4d which we assume is a final payment of her widows pension entitlement which probably came to an end when she remarried. She later received a war gratuity payment of £4 on 7th January 1920.
As William's next of kin, Hilda probably also received William's medals in early 1920/21 as he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service. She would likely have received a King's scroll and a war memorial plaque with William's name on them, around the same time.
The Keighley News Saturday September 18, 1815:
SERVICE IN MEMORY OF KEIGHLEY SOLDIERS.
A large congregation assembled at All Saint's Church, Keighley on Sunday morning last, when the service took the form of a commemoration of Sergeant J. E. Robinson and Corporal W. Nelmes who were killed in action at the Dardanelles during the recent severe fighting. The pulpit and lectern were draped in black, and the choir wore crepe badges in memory of Sergeant Robinson, who had been a member of the choir from boyhood. Representatives of the Parish Church Athletic Club attended the service to show their respect for Corporal Nelmes who was formerly instructor to the All Saint's Gymnasium. A large body of Girl Guides also attended under the care of Mrs. Green. The preacher was the Rev. J. Wood, who in the course of a sermon on "The Palmist's prayer for a complete life," from the text, "O, my God, take me not away in the midst of my years," showed that a complete life consisted not in length of years, but in quality of service. At the evening service the choir, under the leadership of Mr. J. Robinson, rendered the anthem "Blest are the departed."
Private Lewis Edward Currer Topham, Army Cyclist Corps. Regimental Number: 5206. Previous Units: 11th DCC. 5206 Pte, XIIIth CCB.
Lewis was born on 12th December 1896 at Eastburn, to parents John and Sarah Topham. His birth was registered at Keighley in the first quarter of the year. The 'Currer' in his name comes from his paternal Grandmother's maiden name, Jane Elizabeth Currer.
In the 1901 census he was four and at 25, Lyon Road in Steeton, with his parents, brother Ralph and sister Lillian. Their father was a piece worker at a worsted mill.
By 1911 the family had moved to 164, Devonshire Street in Keighley, and Lewis had two brothers and two sisters. Father John was now a cashier at a worsted mill and Lewis was employed as a 'taker off' at a spinning mill which meant he removed the filled yarn bobbins from the spinning machines and took them to be despatched for either warping or weaving.
Lewis was a congregation member of the All Saints' Church on Highfield Road in Keighley and also a member of the Young Men's Bible Class at the church.
He joined the Army at the end of August 1914 along with his friends from the Bible class and would have trained at Grantham before going to Witley and eventually embarked for service at Gallipoli, where he entered that war theatre on 6th August 1915.
Having survived this part of the war and experienced the loss of some of his best friends, Lewis served in Egypt before the battalion moved to France. He was wounded in action in October 1916 and we think he returned to the front early in 1917.
Keighley News 28th October 1916, page 5:
It has been officially announced during the past week that the following Keighley soldiers have been wounded: West Riding Regiment, Private W. Howker and Private A. Narey. King's Royal Rifles, Private F. Dixon (7607), Private F. Fortune (20656), Private E. Harper (7606), and Private P. Rushworth (208383). Army Cyclist Corps, Private L. Topham (5206).
In 1917 the Keighley News published a report stating that Lewis Topham had been killed in action. We have found that he was actually taken prisoner on 7th June 1917. However despite scouring the later issues we have not been able to locate any retraction of this reported death:
The Keighley News, Saturday 16th June 1917, page 5:
KEIGHLEY. CYCLIST KILLED IN ACTION.
News was received on Thursday by Mr. and Mrs. J. Topham, of 164, Devonshire Street, Keighley, of the death, in action of their eldest son, Private Lewis Topham, of the Cyclist Corps, attached to the West Riding Regiment. Aged 20 years, Private Topham was among the first 100,000 men to enlist in Lord Kitchener's army, and before being drafted to the front on which he met his death, he had seen service in the Gallipoli Peninsular and Egypt. He was wounded in France last September, and returned to the front early this year. He was a member of the Young Men's Class at All Saints' Church.
In civil life he was a painter employed by Mr. Eli Thompson, Keighley. The following letter has been received by Mr. Topham from Captain Grant:
"It is my painful duty to have to inform you that your son was killed in action on June 6. I cannot tell you how deeply I deplore his loss, for your son was a great favourite, and I regarded him as one of the most reliable and best men in the company. By his quiet and willing disposition he impressed everyone who came into contact with him. His character was exemplary, and he was never known to complain. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy in the great loss you have sustained."
They even posted a photo of Lewis in uniform which suggests his family supplied it, so maybe they thought he was dead. It's likely a mistake was made (we know of other instances of this happening) and that he did not report in and because his body was not found they assumed he had just been killed. Sometimes it takes a while for prisoner reports to come back through the Red Cross so there would have been a period in which they thought he was dead. We imagine his parent's joy at discovering he was still alive, albeit a prisoner of war.
The International Committee of the Red Cross have made their prisoner of war records freely available online and we have found several documents which state that Lewis was taken prisoner on 7th June 1917 at Arras and held at Nürnberg Camp in Bavaria. They give his service number 5206, that he was with the 11th Division and his regiment was the Army Cyclist Corps, 'B' Company (although it also says 'A' Company in another document.) They also record his father's name as John Topham, living at 164, Devonshire Street, Keighley all of which confirms he's the right man and not another soldier with the same name. Other information suggests he had been shot in the left thigh. We don't know when he was repatriated after the war but usually they came home in early 1919 and indeed his Army medal records show he was discharged to the Army's class Z Reserve on 19th March 1919.
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service.
Lewis also appears in the electoral rolls for the Keighley area from 1919 until 1922 and from the time of his marriage to Lily Louise Smith in 1923 at Kingston in Surrey, he was living with her in Surrey until at least 1939, when they are also both named in the 1939 register at Ember House, Orchard Lane, East Molesy, Chertsey, Surrey.
Lewis' actual death at the age of 47, was recorded in 1944 and registered at Marylebone District, London. His widow Lily died in 1973.
Private Albert Gill. 8th Battalion West Riding Regiment. Service number 12148.
Later 11th Divisional Army Cyclist Corps, attached to 8th Battalion West Riding Regiment. Service number 5203.
Brother of Frank Gill.
Albert was born in Keighley in 1895 and the birth registration was made at Keighley in the third quarter of the year. His parents were John and Harriet Gill. John was a grocer/shopkeeper. In the 1901 census he was five years old and the family were living at 112, Spencer Street in Keighley.
Albert had several brothers and sisters. they were Hector, aged 18, Arthur, aged 15, Frank, aged 8 and Mary at just 5 months old. By 1911 the family had moved to 22, Paget Street and Albert was a coal merchant's clerk. he also had another brother called Percy, who was five years old.
Albert is not named on the Keighley Boy's Grammar School roll of honour, but Frank is and it's hard to imagine that Albert did not also attend this school.
Albert's Army service records show us he enlisted with the West Riding Regiment at Keighley on 31st August 1914 and was aged 19 years and 121 days at the time. He was an automatic machinist in civilian life and living at the family home at 22, Paget Street in Keighley.
His initial Army service number was 12148, but after initial training, on 1st March 1915, he applied to be transferred to the Army Cyclist Corps with a new number, 5203. He embarked for Gallipoli as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 30th June 1915.
The Keighley News, Saturday September 18, 1915, page 9:
KEIGHLEY DISTRICT LOSSES
Another of the band of young men from All Saint's Church, Keighley, who enlisted at the commencement of the war has died. Private Albert Gill, whose parents reside at 22, Paget Street, Keighley, died of dysentery at Malta on August 31. The Chaplain there writes to the bereaved parents that Private Gill was buried with full military honours at the cemetery of St. Pieta the following day. Private Gill was a former member of the All Saint's choir, and was greatly admired by those who knew him.
He fell ill at Gallipoli and was invalided on H.M.H.S. Ascania, to England from Mudros on 19th August 1915, but he only got as far as Malta where he died at St. Andrew's Hospital on 1st September 1915.
He is buried in St. Pieta Military Cemetery, Malta. Plot A, Row XII, Grave 01.
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service.
He is remembered on the All Saints' Church war memorial at the church, and also named in Keighley's Great war roll of honour book held at Keighley Library.
Private Frank Gill, 8th Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. Service number 12085.
Later 11th Divisional Army Cyclist Corps, attached to the 8th Battalion West Riding Regiment. Service number 5204.
Brother of Albert Gill.
Frank was born in Keighley on 6th September 1892, the birth registered in the third quarter of the year. His parents were John and Harriet Gill. In the 1901 census he was aged 8 years and living at 112 Spencer Street with his parents, three brothers Victor, Arthur and Albert, and his sister Mary. Their father John was a grocer and shopkeeper.
By 1911 they had moved to 22, Paget Street and Frank was by now 18 years old and working as an iron turner. They had another son, five year old Percy.
He enlisted with the 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment on 31st August 1914. After several months training he applied for a transfer to the Army Cyclist Corps along with his brother Albert and several of his pals. They were attached to the 8th Battalion West Riding Regiment. In civil life he worked for Smith, Pease & Co, of Trinity Works, Lawholme, Keighley as a turner.
He would have served at Gallipoli and the Western Front, with some of his friends and his brother, dying in the war.
Frank was discharged no longer physically fit for war service (due to sickness) on 17th June 1916 having served for two years and 66 days.
He was issued with a Silver War Badge to signify his sevice in the war and received this on 1st December 1916.
He was secretary of the Keighley All Saints' Athletic Club and also Manager of 'The Vanities', a refined concert party.
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service.
On 23rd December 1926 he married Doris Elizabeth Ann Whitaker. Frank was a 34 year old book keeper and Doris a 26 year old spinster of 45, Cliffe Street.
They lived in Surrey for a number of years and Frank died aged 81 in October 1973.
He is remembered on the All Saints' Church roll of honour at the church.
Acting Corporal Gerald Charlton.8th Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. Service number 12085.
Later 5202, 11th Divisional Army Cyclist Corps, attached to the 8th Battalion West Riding Regiment.
Gerald was born on 26th February 1898, his birth being registered in Keighley in the second quarter of the year. Parents Harry and Jane Charlton.
in 1901 he was two years old and living at 6, Belgrave Road in Keighley, with his parents, sister Nellie aged six, brother Harold aged four and younger sister Bessie aged one.
Their father Harry was a clerk at a washing machine works.
By 1901 Gerald was 12 and they were living at 50, Drewery Terrace in Keighley and Harry was still working as a clerk. Gerald was at school, probably Keighley Boys Grammar School at this time, as he is later mentioned in the school magazine.
Gerald was a member of the All Saints' Church bible Class and enlisted along with the other lads from this group on 31st August 1914. This means that Gerald was 16 years and 6 months old at the time he enlisted. He actually gave his date of birth as 26th February 1895, making his declared age 19 years and six months. Whether the Army knew or not is another matter but he was certainly underage, along with his friend Ivor Tempest Greenwood.
After a period of training, Gerald applied for a transfer to the Army Cyclist Corps, which was granted on 1st March 1915, when the two Gill brothers also transferred, so it seems these lads made more than one decision together. They would likely all have trained at Belton Camp near Grantham and then moved to Witley, before embarking for Gallipoli sailing from Liverpool on 3rd July 1915 on SS Aquitania.
Gerald would have served through the initial landings, been in the trenches at Chocolate Hill and in the fateful attack on Anafarta. He would have been serving there when some of his best friends were killed in action.
He was confined for 10 days on camp at Mudros on 28th July 1915 for drinking unboiled water, which was strictly against standing orders. This was a serious breach of the rules and for good reason, considering his pal Albert Gill had been hospitalised with dysentery and died on 1st September.
Gerald was himself hospitalised with dysentery on 29th September 1915, a month after Albert. Unlike Albert, Gerald survived and he was admitted to a field hospital. On the 10th October he was transferred to the 21st General Hospital at Alexandria. He was later invalided to England on 29th October and arrived at the 2nd Western General Hospital in Manchester on 8th November 1915, with dysentery and enteritis. On recovery, he was allowed a furlough from 14th to 23rd January 1916. He joined the 21st Division Cyclist Company on 5th February 1916.
Keighlian Magazine December 1915, page 17:
On receipt of one of the parcels which we sent out to Old Boys who are serving in His Majesty's Forces, Percy Stirk has replied in a long and interesting letter, which lack of space, however, prevents us from quoting but briefly :- "It was a pleasant surprise I had when the mail arrived today, and I hope you will convey my very best thanks to the people who are trying to do a bit for the sake of the Country and the protection of our people... It is a grand thing to know that the younger boys, who are following in our steps at School, take such an interest in the Older Boys, and I am certain that every one of us appreciates fully that interest which is so enthusiastically shewn."
Arthur Driver speaks in similar terms, and says :- "I greatly appreciate the kindness of pupils and Staff in sending me the parcel and I wish them all the season's compliments."
Also Gerald Charlton :- "Please express my thanks to the Staff and boys, also to the ladies who made the cakes, for the parcel which I was so pleased to receive. I most thoroughly enjoyed it's contents."
The Regulation Army Card has also been received from A. Taylor and Fred Varley, expressing thanks. Up to going to press no further communications have been received, but any others will be mentioned in our next issue. The School's best wishes accompany them all.
Gerald was appointed acting (paid) Lance Corporal on 14th July 1917 and had a further period of leave on 5th August 1917.
He contracted influenza on 16th June 1918 and was admitted to 59 Casualty Clearing Station, rejoining his unit on 21st June. He had another period of leave to the UK from the 7th to 19th September 1918. He was transferred to the UK via Boulogne on 26th February 1919 and then transferred to the Class Z Reserve on 2nd March 1919.
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service.
He was also awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre, gazetted on 4th September 1919, conferred by the King of the Belgians.
Gerald was finally discharged on demobilisation on 31st March 1920, however the whole family had already emigrated to Canada in 1919 and were resident at Burnally in British Columbia when he was discharged.
He appears in the Canadian 1921 census aged 23, employed as a bookkeeper.
Gerald married Edith May Dodson at St Paul's Church, Vancouver on 19th November 1928.
He died on 28 May 1982 at Burnaby, British Columbia.
Obituary for Gerald Charlton: 1 Jun 1982 - Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
CHARLTON. Passed away in hospital May 28, 1982, Gerald Charlton, aged 84 years, late of Burnaby.
A Gallipoli veteran of First World War, member of R.C.L. No. 148. Survived by his loving wife Edith, daughter Margaret Charlton, brothers Harold and Cyril Charlton, a sister Mrs. T. N. Varty, 4 grandchildren. Funeral service Wednesday, June 2 and 1 pm from St. Nicholas Church, Ingleton and Triumph Street. Rev. E. J. Rockwood officiating.Cremation. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Jessie R. Burke (Memorial) Cancer and Research Fund IODE Room 408, 207 W. Hastings St., Vancouver, B.C. V6B 1H7 will be appreciated. Burnaby Funeral Directors in charge of arrangements.
Gerald is also named on the All Saints' Church roll of honour list at Keighley.
Private Ronald Eyre. 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. Service number 12068.
Attested at Keighley on 31st August 1914.
Ronald's age on that date was given as 20 years and 190 days, If this is accurate, it means his birthday was on or around 1st March 1894, or possibly late February.
His birthplace was Bramham, York which is roughly halfway between Leeds and York. No birth record or census records have been found and he seems to have been adopted.
Ronald was a member of the All Saints' Church Bible Class and joined the 8th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment on the same day as the other members of this group, Monday 31st August 1914.
He gave his occupation as Labourer.
His adopted father's name was given as John Hare of 24, Mornington Street, Keighley.
His first medical at Keighley on the same day describes him as:
Age: 20 years and six months; Height: 5 feet 9 inches; Weight: 140 lbs; Chest: 34 inches; Complexion: medium; Eyes: grey; Hair: brown; Religion: Church of England.
Ronald was discharged at Grantham on 13th October after 44 days service. He was found to have slight paralysis on the left side and his left arm was three inches shorter than his right, having suffered from infantile myelitis (possibly polio) leaving him with a 30% degree of disability. He also had poor eyesight in both eyes. He was described as having 'Good' military character.
How he passed his first medical on 31st August is a mystery, but he got as far as serving at Belton Park Army camp at Grantham and managed 44 days of service before they discovered he was unfit.
He was discharged under King's regulations paragraph 392 (III) (c) which states:
'Not likely to become an efficient soldier - (c) Recruit within three months of enlistment considered unfit for service.'
A Ronald 'Hare' was living at 12, Campbell Street, Keighley in the 1922 electoral roll.
Ronald Eyre died in 1936 aged 40. His death was registered at Keighley in the second quarter of that year.
He is listed on the All Saints' Church roll of honour as 'R. Eyre.'
Corporal Joseph Wright. 11th Divisional Army Cyclist Corps. Service number 6566.
We think that Corporal Joseph Wright is the 'J. Wright' named on the roll of honour at All Saints' Church, Keighley. This is because he is mentioned in a letter by William Nelmes which is in his section above on this page so William certainly knew him well and he infers that Joe was part of the church, if not the bible class. We don't think he joined with them on 31st August, although we can't rule him out completely.
Joseph Wright survived the war.
Births, Marriages and Deaths records.
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
The 'Keighlian' Magazine archives at Keighley Library
British Army Service records.
British Army Pension records.
British Army medal index cards and medal rolls.
Soldier's Effects records.
International Committee of the Red Cross: ICRC Archives [ACICR C G1]