Private Bernard Clayton, 15080, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 7th Battalion
Bernard Clayton was born in Ossett in late 1893, the fourth of five children born to John Henry Sims Clayton and his wife Hannah (nee Richardson) who married locally in 1882. In 1901, the family were living on Chancery Lane, Ossett and John Henry was a scale picker at a local colliery.
By 1911 John Henry, Hannah and two of their children: Bernard and Alice, had moved to 34, Woodbine Street, Ossett. John Henry was a rag grinder for a mungo manufacturer; Bernard worked as a mechanic and his sister, Alice, was a pyrotechnist working for Riley & Sons at Flushdyke, Ossett.
On the 31st August 1914, Bernard volunteered at Ossett and joined the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI). He was 20 years and 332 days old, had served an apprenticeship and was an engineering mechanic by trade. Bernard was 5’ 8” tall, 132 lbs in weight with a chest measurement 36½" with blue eyes, auburn hair and a fresh complexion. His pulse rate was 80 bpm and his physical development was rated as "good." In fact, he was physically taller and heavier than the average 21 year-old in 1914 so would have been regarded as an ideal candidate for the British army.
Bernard Clayton's religion was Wesleyan and he was passed fit for service at Pontefract on the 4th September 1914 and then transferred to the 7th Battalion KOYLI on the 12th September 1914. It was to be a short posting because on the 18th October 1914, he was discharged in accordance with Paragraph 392 (III)(c) of the King’s Regulations 1912. This section provided the Officer in Command (O.C.) to authorise and confirm the medical discharge of recruits, within three months of enlistment, those who were considered unfit for service. This required a further medical examination and provided for discharge without delay if circumstances were discovered which caused the O.C. to believe that the recruit was "not likely to become an efficient soldier."
It was found that Bernard Clayton had an undescended testicle and he was deemed unfit for service. His address on discharge was 34, Woodbine Street, Flushdyke, the home of his parents John Henry and Hannah. His sister had married by this time and was recorded as Sarah Ellen Rayner of Queens Terrace, Ossett.
Bernard Clayton was amongst the first Ossett men to volunteer to serve his country in WW1 and these circumstances would have been very troubling for him and for his proud family. As a young man, he would have been required to return to work and in the coming years may well have faced accusations of cowardice from those who were unaware of the circumstances.
In many cases, where men had been discharged on medical grounds, the issue of the Silver War Badge (S.W.B.) and King’s Certificate to such men would often be sufficient a defence in the face of such cruel accusations. The sterling silver war lapel badge was intended to be worn in civilian clothes. It had been the practice of some women to present white feathers to apparently able-bodied young men who were not wearing the King's uniform. The badge was to be worn on the right breast while in civilian dress, it was forbidden to be worn on a military uniform.
Bernard Clayton would not have been entitled to the King’s Certificate, which was restricted to men who had served overseas in a theatre of war, and were discharged on the grounds of wounds or illness. Neither is it certain that he would have qualified for the S.W.B. because this was restricted to men that had been discharged, but who had served at home or overseas. It is not clear that his 49 days service in the army would qualify as service. No record has been found which indicates that he was awarded the Silver War Badge and, of course, he did not qualify for the British or Victory War medals.
On the 4th August 1917, at the New Wesleyan Chapel, Wesley Street, Ossett, 23 year-old Bernard Clayton married Kate Isabel Burge, a 26 year old spinster living at Walton Place, Flushdyke. Bernard’s occupation was a metal turner’s mechanic and his given address was High Street, Saxilby, Lincoln. His father was named as John Henry Sims Clayton. Kate Burge worked as a moulder at a doll manufacturers.
Bernard’s address at Saxilby, a Lincolnshire village, 6 miles north-west of Lincoln, suggests that he may have moved away from Ossett in the hope of avoiding uninformed confrontations. The death of a Bernard Clayton, born 1893 was registered at Leicester in the December quarter of 1918. It is not certain that this was the same Bernard Clayton who was born in Ossett. However, at this period in 1918, the Spanish Influenza epidemic was in full-flow and is perhaps the reason that a 25 year-old man may die so prematurely?
Bernard Clayton was not remembered by name in the ceremonial programme for the Ossett War Memorial, but he does appear on the Roll of Honour of the New Wesleyan Chapel, Wesley Street Ossett. His army service record reveals that he was an early volunteer and thereby made more effort than many men to serve his country. Through no fault of his own, he had a different sort of War to most men, but it would still have been a troubling and very difficult time.
There are several marriage records in the 1920s for a Kate Clayton. None are local, but there is one to a man named Campbell, registered in Lincoln in 1927.