Lance Corporal Wilfred Coates

A white circle with a glove crossing it's fingers and the words: Made Possible with Heritage Fund.This man is a candidate for addition to Keighley's Supplementary Volume under the proposal to add further names in 2024, the centenary of the original roll of honour.
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Supported by the National Lottery's Heritage Fund, our project intends to submit about 120 names for peer review to add them to the book which is kept at Keighley Library. The unveiling of the book with it's new names is planned for November 2024, 100 years after the unveiling of the original war memorial.

Lance Corporal. 42nd Machine Gun Company. Service number 4979.

Wilfred Coates, photograph from the Keighley News 29 Sept 1917. A head and shoulders image of a man facing the camera. He is wearing a British Army tunic.

Early life:

Wilfred was born in Keighley on 24th April 1889. His parents were Joseph Coates and Ann Coates née Wood and at his birth they were living at 11, Fig Street in Worth Village, which nowadays would be off Dalton Lane. Most of the terraced houses in that area have since been demolished and an industrial estate has taken their place.
In the 1891 census they were living at 12, Water Street and Wilfred was one year old. He had siblings John Joseph aged 9, Tom aged 7, Emma aged 5. Father Joseph was a cabinet maker and mother Ann was a worsted weaver.
Wilfred was baptised on 18th August 1896 at the age of seven, along with his sister Emma who was eleven and Polly who was just a month old (born 14th July 1896.)
By 1901 Wilfred was eleven and living at 1, River Street in Worth Village with his parents and siblings Tom aged 18, Emma aged 15 and Polly aged 4. These houses were newly built at the turn of the century and it would have been a great improvement to living at Worth Village. It may have influenced Wilfred's future employment, as the Stockbridge Works, (later the Stockbridge Finishing Company) was just a few minutes walk away.
On 10th December 1910, Wilfred married Alice Maude Simpson at St. John's Church, Ingrow. He was a 21 year old journeyman cloth finisher and living at 40, Aireworth Road and Alice was 19 and a Rover at a worsted mill, living at 6, Grafton Street.
By 1911 they were living with Alice's parents Walker and Grace Simpson at 6, Grafton Street off Queen's Road. Also with them was their daughter Gladys who had been born in March that same year, she was just a month old in the census. The census also indicates that Wilfred was working as a worsted cloth finisher at the Stockbridge Finishing Company at the other side of town.

War service:

Wilfred enlisted at Keighley with the Yorkshire Regiment in 1915, service number 23613. He would have trained for several months before travelling overseas and he was wounded whilst serving with them in September 1916, which was reported in local news:

Keighley News 16 Sep 1916 page 3:

Private W. Coates, Yorkshire Regiment, son of Mrs. Coates, of 10, Compiegne Avenue, Riddlesden, Keighley, has been wounded.

Some time later he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps with a new service number, 9479.
He was serving with 42nd Division Machine Gun Company when he was killed in action on 7th September 1917. The events leading up to this were available from the Machine Gun Company's war diary:

WO-95/1902/3 War diary 14th Division 42nd Infantry Brigade. 42nd Machine Gun Company. Mar 1916 - Feb 1918:

Neuve Eglise.
1/9/17: Moved to NEUVE EGLISE area (Hillside Camp) Party went forward to reconnoitre line East of MESSINES.
2/9/19: Transport and Details took over Transport Camp T9d central from 90th MG Coy.
Trenches East of MESSINES:
3/9/17: On night of 2nd/3rd Company relieved 16 guns of 90th MG Coy in line from O.35.b to U.1.b approx. 1 gun destroyed by Vaned bomb. 4 OR's killed about 1 am.
4/9/17: On night of 3rd/4th 6 guns relieved by 6 guns of 249th MG Coy. Line reconnoitred with DMGO with a view to arrangement of MGs.
5/9/17: Moved up new gun to position of SEPTIEME BARN to cover reserve line Southwards and changed 1 gun from barrage position to new position U11.a.7.9 to cover Windmill (U.5.b.8.0.)
6/9/17: Line reconnoitred with Brigade Major and DMGO.
7/9/17: On night 6th/7th Teams of Coy - Line relieved by fresh teams from Details Camp. 2 Officers & 2 Other Ranks wounded. 1 Other Rank killed. (it is very likely to have been Wilfred who was killed.)
8/9/17: 2 guns moved up to Steignot Farm (one firing Northwards and one Southwards to cover Support Line.) 1 Gun moved to GAAPARD firing South to cover Support line.
9/9/17: One gun moved up to SEPTIEME BARN to cover Reserve Line Northwards and 1 gun to O.34.b.2.3. to cover valley of BLAUWEPOORTBEEK.
10/9/17: Nothing to report.
11/9/17: Night of 10th/11th relieved by 41st MG Coy and went back to Camp. T.9.d. Central.

Keighley News 29 Sep 1917 page 3: KILLED BY A SHELL.

Lance Corporal Wilfred Coates, Machine Gun Corps, of 6, Grafton Road, Keighley, has been killed in action. The sad news has been received in the following letter from Lieutenant S. H. Bridges(?): "It is with the deepest sympathy and sorrow that I have to break the news to you of the death in action of your husband on September 7. A shell burst in his gun position and he was struck, death being instantaneous. It is very sad, for Lance-Corporal Coates was about the finest and most popular man in the company.

Although above him as his officer, I looked upon him as a pal and comrade, and I feel his loss greatly. He was always so cheerful, and when under fire as fearless as a lion; he knew not the meaning of fear. The only consolation I can offer you is that he has gone to that great 'Peace, perfect peace' where we shall all join him at our appointed time.

Although this letter will unfortunately give you great sorrow, perhaps with time you will be cheered and proud to think that your dear husband laid down his life in the great sacrifice for freedom. 'Oh death, where is thy sting?' Not with dear Coates, as he is, I am sure, in happiness now, yet the sting, alas, is yours, for he has gone from you. Try to be cheered, for it is only for a time, and then the great reunion day will come."

An N.C.O. has also written a touching letter of sympathy to the sorrowing wife. Prior to enlisting in 1915 Lance-Corporal Coates was employed by the Stockbridge Finishing Company. He had been recommended for the D.C.M.

Wilfred would have been buried afterwards by his comrades and his grave marked with a cross inscribed: '9479. L/Cpl W. Coates 42nd M.G.C. Killed in Action 7.9.17. R.I.P.'
In 1920, the Graves Registration Group were locating isolated graves for exhumation and removal to concentration cemeteries in 1920. In this case the intention was to rebury Wilfred's remains at Messine Ridge Cemetery but no remains were found in his grave. Because of this his name is on a panel at Tyne Cot Memorial and Cemetery.

A cropped section of the Concentration Burial Return from 1920, giving the map location of Wilfred's original grave and the note which states there were no remains found at his grave location.

The Concentration Burial Return.

According to this 'Burial Return,' a good number of other battlefield graves nearby were also devoid of any remains which reminds us of the arduous task of locating and exhuming graves to concentration cemeteries after the war.

According to the 'Soldier's Effects' records, Wilfred's Army pay was in debit by £3 17s 4d. A £9 war gratuity was paid in two instalments to his widow Alice: £3 was paid on 22nd December 1919 and £6 was paid on 17th March 1920. She would also have received any personal effects and a war memorial plaque plus the King's certificate, along with his two medals - The British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Wilfred still lies somewhere out on the battlefield, but he is named on Memorial Panels 154 to 159 and 163A, at Tyne Cot Memorial and Cemetery.
He does not appear to be named on any local war memorial in Keighley or the Worth Valley.
He is listed on the Manchester Employers' Roll Of Honour 1914-1916 as a former employee of The Stockbridge Finishing Company.

Information sources:

England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915
1881 England Census
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
West Yorkshire, Non-Conformist Records, 1646-1985
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
1911 England Census
Keighley News archives held at Keighley Library
National Archives - WO-95/1902/3 War diary 14th Division 42nd Infantry Brigade. 42nd Machine Gun Company. Mar 1916 - Feb 1918:
British Army World War I Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War
World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923
Manchester Employers' Roll Of Honour 1914-1916
1921 Census Of England & Wales
1939 England and Wales Register
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007

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