We are absolutely delighted to announce that Gunner Gilbert Hardy Midgley has been admitted to the Perpetual Roll of Honour with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. We received the notification from them yesterday January 29, 2018. We submitted his details for consideration just a year ago on January 27, 2017.
Gilbert went down to Great Yarmouth in March 1916 to begin his training with the Royal Garrison Artillery unit there. He'd been issued with his uniform and had parcelled up his civilian clothes and sent them home. On the way back to barracks he took a wrong turning in the blackout and stepped over the edge of the fish quay into the river Yare. He was caught by the strong currents and drowned. Anyone who has taken a boat through this area whilst boating on the Norfolk Broads will be only too aware how treacherous the currents are. Gilbert did not stand much of a chance. His cries for help were heard by passers by but nobody could see him in the dark and his body was found later. The coroner's inquest recorded a verdict of misadventure and his body was taken home and his remains lie in the family grave in Utley Cemetery, Keighley. There is no stone to mark his passing whilst in service with the Army. Here's the newspaper report of the inquest into his death:
Keighley News report 3rd June 1916:
A KEIGHLEY SOLDIER DROWNED AT YARMOUTH.
WALKED INTO THE RIVER IN THE DARKNESS.
Alderman J. W. Midgley, of Malsis Road, Keighley, on Monday night received intimation that his second son, Gunner Gilbert H. Midgley (20), of the Royal Garrison Artillery, has been found drowned at Great Yarmouth that day.
Gunner Midgley, who was connected with the firm of Messrs Midgley, Douglas & Co, manufacturers, of Keighley, had been missing since the night of Friday, March 24. Only the day before he went to Great Yarmouth to join the Royal Garrison Artillery, and on the following day dispatched his civilian clothing home. Leaving the railway station after handing over the parcel he went to the Y.M.C.A. rest-room in the centre of the town, and wrote a long letter to his parents, which was exceedingly cheerful in tone. Shortly before 9 o'clock he left the Y.M.C.A. room, and as he departed he was directed on his way. What happened subsequently is not known, but the circumstances suggest that he took a wrong turning and came to the fish quay on the river Yare, which is not far from the Y.M.C.A. room. The night was dark, and severe lighting restrictions were imposed on the town, and everything pointed to the soldier having fallen into the river while trying to find his way.
The inquest was held on Wednesday last. The Coroner said deceased came to Yarmouth on March 23 from Keighley to join the R.G.A. He arrived in the afternoon and met Mr Charles Green of, of Broad Row, with whom he got into conversation and asked him for a box in which to send home his civilian clothes. Next day deceased took his clothes to Mr Green's shop, and he packed them for him, and he left the shop about 6.40 p.m., stating he would take the parcel to Vauxhall Station, where he expected to meet a friend who had also come from Keighley to join up. Mr Green asked deceased to come and see him again on any day except Saturdays, but this was the last he saw of him. The same evening about 8.40 a boy cycling past South Town Gas Works was told by two soldiers that someone had fallen into the river, and they asked him for his cycle lamp to see if they could find him. They were able to hear a man but could not see him. From that time until deceased's body was picked up on Monday last nothing more was heard of him. It had been said that he went to the Y.M.C.A. on the night, but there were so many soldiers going there it was impossible to trace a newly arrived soldier. The comrade who was with deceased on March 24 had left Yarmouth, and it was not known where he was.
There was no evidence to show how deceased came into the river, but it was dark, and as he did not known his way it was probable he walked into the river. It did not follow that because cries were heard from the river that they came from deceased, but it looked very much like it. His identity was proved by the number on his uniform, which was his regimental number, and corresponded with that in the recruits register entered on his arrival at Yarmouth Barracks on March 23.
Bombardier Ablitt said deceased was reported missing one or two nights after his arrival.
Charles Green, clothier, Broad Row, said that on March 23 he left Norwich by the 3.55 p.m. train for Yarmouth. In the same compartment were two men, who told him they had joined the R.G.A. at Halifax, and were proceeding to Yarmouth. The next day deceased came to his shop and brought his civilian clothes, which witness packed in a box to be sent to Keighley. Deceased wrote the address and took the box, stating he was going to Vauxhall Station, where he might meet his friend. Witness did not see him alive again.
CRIES FROM THE RIVER
Sidney Joseph Ayden said that about 8.50 on March 24, when riding to Yarmouth from Gorleston-on-Sea station, where he was employed, two soldiers near the gas works asked him for his lamp, stating there was someone overboard. He lent it, but it
was impossible to see anyone in the water. it was very dark, and witness could hear someone calling three or four times from the river, but he could not distinguish what was said. William Charles Wolsey, labourer, Row 142, said that on Monday he was fishing from the South end of the Fish Wharf, when he saw the body of deceased floating down the river. He secured it, and landed it on the quay.
Police-Constable Brown said that among the articles found on deceased was a wristlet watch that had stopped at 9.47.
There were some cards bearing deceased's name giving his address as Park Villas, Malsis Road, Keighley. Sergeant Parker said that no other soldier had been reported missing.
Alderman J. W. Midgley said his son had had no trouble whatever, and had left home in good spirits. He wrote from the Y.M.C.A. a bright and cheerful letter to his parents after reaching Yarmouth. Mr Green said deceased expressed to him his great satisfaction with his treatment by the military at Yarmouth.
A juror remarked that in his opinion the young man had died in the service of his country just as though he had fallen on the battlefield.
The jury found that deceased was "Accidentally drowned through falling into the river."
The coroner and jury expressed their deep sympathy with Alderman Midgley and family in their sad loss.
The body was removed from Yarmouth to Bradford during Thursday night, and the remains were cremated at Scholemoor Crematorium yesterday morning, a short service being previously conducted by the Rev. Douglas S. Sharp (Keighley). The ashes will be deposited in the family vault at Keighley Cemetery today.
We're expecting a headstone to be installed on his grave after the CWGC has completed enquiries with Bradford District Council and any possible owner of the grave plot.
We would very much like to contact any surviving members of Gilbert's family, if you or anyone you know, are related to him, please get in touch with us through our 'Contact' page.
December 2018 update: Gilbert's grave had a headstone installed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in December 2018. See the relevant blog post here.