Private George Greenwood

Private George Greenwood. 5 Company, 3rd Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment. Service number 19463.

Early life:
George was born in Oxenhope on 10th October 1888, with his birth being registered in Keighley in the last quarter of that year. His parents were Frederick and Clara Greenwood and his father was a Joiner.
By the 1891 census George was three and living at 64, Low Utley in Keighley with his parents and brothers Joseph (age 6) and Frederick (age 1).
By 1901 the whole family had moved back to Oxenhope and were living at Lowertown. George was 13 but shows no occupation, which is unusual as he might be expected to be working in a local mill by that time as were his mother and his older brother Joseph. He now had a third brother, Bertram, aged 7.
In the 1911 census taken on the 3rd April, they were recorded living at 209 West Lane in Keighley and George was now 23 and working on a farm. His older brother Joseph had also moved out. George with his brothers Joseph, Frederick and Bertram now had a younger sister, Doris May who was four and was the only girl in the family. Sadly on the 23rd April, just a few weeks after the census, Doris died. This must have been quite a shock for all the family.

War service:
George attested for the West Riding Regiment on 10th December 1915 at Settle and his enlistment was approved at Halifax on 2nd March 1916. He gave his age as 28 years and 2 months and his occupation as farm servant. He was placed in Group II of the Army special reserve until March 1st when he was called up to Halifax for his medical on 2nd March which shows he was 5 feet 6.5 inches tall, weight 139 lbs and with a 37 in chest with good physical development (probably as a result of farming) so he was slightly above average development for the time. He was in training at North Shields from 4th March onwards. His next of kin was his father Frederick, living at 19, Emily Street in Keighley.
Whilst he was back on leave on 23rd April 1916, George drowned himself in a water tank at Bracewell. This was on the same date his sister Doris had died five years previously.

NLS Mapping extract - The reservoir tank to the North of Bonny Black Farm where George died.

George was buried at Utley cemetery in Keighley on 28th April 1916. He has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone marking his grave.

CWGC Headstone for Private George Greenwood at Utley Cemetery, Keighley.

The inquest of George Greenwood's death took place at the Town Hall in Barnoldswick on 25th April 1916 before the Coroner, Edgar Wood.
Verdict Returned:
Drowned himself in a reservoir in Hesketh Rough Pasture, Bracewell, being at the time of unsound mind.

Remarks: Superintendent Vaughan, I beg to report that in company with Inspector Cunningham and PC 404 Milburn at 2 pm attended inquest at the Town Hall, Barnoldswick before Edgar Wood Esq. (Coroner) and a jury - on view of the body of George Greenwood, a Private (19463) 5th Company, 3rd W.R.Regt., stationed at North Shields, after hearing the following evidence the above verdict was returned.

(1) Witness. Clara Greenwood, 19, Emily St. Keighley states: _ I have seen the body and identified it as that of my son George. Previous to joining the Army 6 weeks ago he worked for James Wilson Hartley, New Ing Farm, Gisburn. On Saturday 15th inst. he called at home (on leave) and stayed about an hour and then said he would catch the train to Barnoldswick. On Wednesday 19th inst. I received a letter from his Lieutenant telling him to return at once. I took it to him at Bonny Black Farm, Brogden, and gave it to him and he threw it in the fire and said he would not go back. He never did any good until he was 21 and when 16 years of age was in the Asylum 3 months. He was subjected to Epilectic Fits. He said he would drown himself before going back to the Army.
[Note: The Craven Herald newspaper account includes this exchange between the coroner and George's mother Clara:

The Coroner: Did he give you any reason for not going back?
George's mother: I don’t know that he did; but he has always been peculiar and never ought to have been passed for the army. He has been three months in Menston Asylum when 16 years old, and never worked until he was 21, when he started ‘messing about’ for farmers.
The Coroner: I suppose the military authorities would not know about that?
George's mother: He attested somewhere over Settle way, I think. I don’t know whether he told them or not. He was always 'funny' when the moon was at the full. We could not do anything with him, and had to let him have his own way.
The Coroner: Did he say anything about committing suicide?
George's mother: He said he would drown himself rather than go back.

(2) Clara Dyson, Domestic, Bonny Black Farm, Brogden, states: I have known the deceased for 2 or 3 years. He came to the farm on Saturday 15th on leave and stayed at our house for a week. I saw him again on Sunday night 23rd inst, he had tea with us then left the house about 6 pm. I did not see him again.

Richard Elsworth Farm Servant, Hesketh Farm, Bracewell states:- I knew the deceased and remember him joining the Army. He did not want to go but he never appealed. I saw him last Tuesday and shaved him. He said he was going back on Wednesday and seemed alright. I saw him in company with his mother on Wednesday 19th inst. She was persuading him to go back. He said he would not as he should only get 2 or 3 days in the Guard Room, he could not stand that. About 6.45 pm Sunday 23rd inst. I met him going towards Barnoldswick. I said to him "Tha'll catch it." He replied "I can't stand soldiering, they have broken my heart, tha'll find me in the tank." I saw Broughton Harmer and J. W. Hartley and told them what he had said.

James Wilson Hartley New Ing Farm, Gisburn, says:- I knew the deceased and he worked for me three weeks prior to joining the Army. He never appealed. He was a bit curious at times. I never knew he had been in an Asylum. I saw him on Friday 21st inst. he said he was going back the following day. I told him he better had or he would get into trouble. I saw him again on 23rd about 6 pm. I was about 2 or 3 hundred yards away. I and Broughton Harmer was having a walk round and we saw Richard Elsworth. He told us what the deceased had said to him and we went and looked in the tank at Hesketh Rough and saw his body in the bottom. Harmer gave information to the Police.

Broughton Harmer a weaver of Barnoldswick says: I knew the deceased and saw him about 6 pm of Sunday 23rd inst. getting his tea at Bonny Black Farm. I said you will have nice time to get the 7.30 pm train at Barnoldswick to go back. He said he was going and left the farm, I was walking round with James Wilson Hartley afterwards and met Richard Elsworth, He told us what deceased had said to him and we looked in the tank and saw his body there and I gave information to the Police.

PC404 Milburn states:- At 8.50 pm on Sunday 23rd he was informed by brought Harmer that a man named George Greenwood had drowned himself in the Bracewell reservoir in Hesketh Rough Field. He proceeded there but owing to the darkness and the danger he was unable to do anything. AT 9 am on Monday 24th inst. in company with myself he removed the body and brought it to the mortuary at Barnoldswick.
Signed John Williams PS 14.

His father Frederick received George's back pay of £2 18s. 4d. on 26th June 1916 and acknowledged receipt of George's memorial scroll on 5th April 1921. The Army pension was refused.

George is remembered in Keighley's Great War roll of honour book which is on permanent public display in Keighley Library.

Keighley News transcription 29th April 1916, page 5:

An inquest was held at Barnoldswick on Tuesday on George Greenwood (28), a private in the 3rd West Riding regiment, whose body was recovered from a private reservoir at Bracewell the previous day.
Greenwood had been employed as a farm labourer in the vicinity of the tragedy up to joining the Army about six weeks ago. He came home on week-end leave on Saturday, April 15, visiting his mother at Keighley, but left for Barnoldswick the same night.
On the Wednesday following his mother received a communication from the regiment stating that unless he returned immediately he would be arrested as a deserter. The mother said she took the paper to Barnoldswick and showed it to her son, who threw it in the fire, saying he would not go back until he was fetched. He had always been peculiar in his manner, especially when the moon was at the full, and had spent three months in Menston Asylum when 15 years of age.

The Coroner: Did he say anything about committing suicide? – He said he would drown himself rather than go back.
Had he ever threatened to do so before? – No; I don’t think he would have done so now if it had not been for the army.

Clara Dyson, a servant girl employed at Bonny Blacks Farm, said Greenwood stayed there a week. He told the witness he did not like the Army and was not going back. The witness tried to persuade him to return. He appeared all right until the time came for going away, when he became downhearted. He had expressed an aversion to the Army before attesting, but the witness did not know whether he had appealed for exemption or not.
Asked by the Coroner if Greenwood had given a reason for not liking the Army, the witness said, "Because he did not get sufficient food."
Was that the only complaint? - Yes. He had had a good home, and felt it very much going away. He said his mother sent him a parcel of food every week.
Robert Elsworth deposed to meeting Greenwood on Good Friday night and expostulating with him about not returning to the Army, to which he replied, "I shall only get three or four days in the guard-room; a young chap like me can stand that."
The witness met Greenwood again on Sunday evening, when he said he could not stand soldiering; they had broken his heart. He would "get six months if he went back." he added, "You will find me in the tank" (indicating the reservoir). The witness replied, "Nothing of the sort."

The Coroner: You thought he was only joking? - Yes.
Did he seem rather depressed? - No. He looked rather white. The tank was two field lengths away.
A verdict of "Suicide" was returned.

A year later his family posted a heartfelt tribute to George:

Keighley News 21st April 1917, page 8.
GREENWOOD - In loving memory of Pte. George Greenwood, of the West Riding Regiment, who died April 23rd, 1916, in his 29th year, second son of Frederick and Clara Greenwood, 19, Emily Street, Keighley; also of Doris May, their only daughter, who died April 11th, 1911, in her fifth year.
Some time, some day, our eyes shall see.
Those loved ones kept in memory.
- Father and Mother and Brothers.

George is remembered in Keighley's Great War roll of honour book which is on permanent public display in Keighley Library.

His older brother Joseph also served the war. Sapper 223186, Joseph Henry Greenwood in the Royal Engineers. He survived the war. His brother Fred may also have served and been wounded.

Source information:
England and Wales births 1837-2006
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
British Army Service Records 1914-1920
World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923
Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-1919
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
England and Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
Keighley News archives, Keighley Library.
The National Library of Scotland Mapping Service

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