Private George Gawthorpe, 202248, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own), 1/5th Battalion
George Gawthorpe was born in 1885, in Darton, near Barnsley, to Ossett-born Paul Gawthorpe and his wife Ada (nee Saxton) who had married at Dewsbury All Saints on the 22nd January 1882. Ada Saxton was the daughter of William Saxton of the Bulls Head Beerhouse which once stood on Bank Street Ossett.
In 1891 Paul and Ada were living in a 2 roomed house on Green Road, Ossett. Paul was a labourer and father of four children, Fred (1881), Annie (born 1882), George (born 1886) and Guy (born 1889). Fred and Annie were baptised at South Ossett Christ Church on the 18th of February 1892. Another sister, Gertrude was born in Ossett in 1891.
By 1911, the Gawthorpe family are living at 1, New Street, Ossett. Paul Gawthorpe is working as a labourer at the Gas Depot in Healey Road, Ossett, with his wife Ada at home. George is working as a dyer’s labourer. Guy is a labourer at the Ossett G.N.R. Goods Station and William is a cloth finisher. The Census indicates that Paul and Ada Gawthorpe have had six children but only five have survived to 1911. Sadly Gertrude Gawthorpe died aged 14 in 1905.
George Gawthorpe enlisted in the British Army in Ossett and went on to serve with the West Riding Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own), 1/5th Battalion. George’s service record has not survived and his medal card only bears reference to his West Yorkshire regimental numbers 4830 & 202248 and to his award of the Victory and British medals.
On the 10th August 1914, the 1st West Riding Brigade was formed (1/5th, 1/6th, 1/7th and 1/8th West Yorks) of 1st West Riding (Territorial) Division and they concentrated at Selby before moving to Strensall, York and then the Lincolnshire coast for training. The 1/5th West Yorkshire Regiment landed in France at Bolougne on the 14th April 1915. 1st West Riding Brigade became 146th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division on the 12th of May 1915 and then moved to Fastubert.
Private George Gawthorpe was killed in action, aged 31 years, on Tuesday the 9th of October 1917 at Poelcapelle during the Battle of Passchendaele. Sadly, his body was never recovered and he was at first posted as missing, presumed dead. He was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals.
The "Ossett Observer" 1 in 1918 had this report about George Gawthorpe and also his brother William Gawthorpe, who was serving with the 34th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps and who also was reported as missing:
"Of the three soldier sons of Mr. Paul Gawthorpe of New Street, Ossett, two, Private George Gawthorpe (31), West Yorkshire Regiment and Private William Gawthorpe (21), Machine Gun Corps have been officially reported by the Army authorities to be missing from their regiments. George, who used to work as a dyer's labourer at Messrs. R.F. Jagger's mill, Townend, joined the army over two years ago is now presumed by the authorities to have lost his life in early October last year. William, who has been in the army nearly three years, two of which have been spent on the Western Front, in civilian life was employed at Messrs. Archer, Ritchie and Co.'s Millfield Mill at Horbury Junction. He has been missing since March last."
A third brother, Guy Gawthorpe also served in WW1, but survived. Guy was born in Ossett on the 9th of May 1888 and was baptised at South Ossett Church on the 19 May 1892 along with his sister Gertrude who was born on 6 May 1891.
On 15 June 1913, aged 25, Guy Gawthorpe married Annie Firth, aged 20, at Ossett Holy Trinity Church when his address was given as 1, New Street, Ossett and his occupation was given as "goods super". Guy Gawthorpe's service record has not survived but his medal card reveals that he served in the West Yorks Regiment as Private, 29940, and also in the Labour Corps, 10935. Like his brothers Guy was awarded the British and Victory medals but not the 1915 Star indicating that none of the brothers served abroad before the 31st December 1915.
Private George Gawthorpe was one of 58 men of the 1/5th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment who were posted as mssing on the 9th of October 1917. The Regimental War Diary 2 records the action of the 1/5th Battalion on that day:
"Attacking the Germans of the 5th Jäger Regiment at 05:20 hours, an artillery barrage was put on and lifted at the rate of 100 yards every six minutes; resting for 75 minutes at the limit of the first objective, where smoke shells were used. The Battalion advanced from the assembly position behind the barrage. The ground was extremely wet and cut up and great difficulty was experienced in keeping pace with the barrage, especially in the crossing of the Stroombeek which was found to be a small stream adjoining a marsh, about 200 yards wide.
Few casualties were caused by the enemy barrage, but the Battalion after crossing the Stroombeek came under machine-gun fire and fire from enemy snipers who were able to fire through our barrage from pill-boxes and selected positions in shell-holes, most casualties being caused by machine-guns from Belle Vue and Yetta Slopes, south of Wallemolen where the enemy appeared to have held most strongly. Once the allied troops reached the Germans, they broke and ran, with many being shot. The German stragglers were bayoneted and no prisoners were taken."
Private Gawthorpe is remembered at the Tyne Cot Memorial 3, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium at panels 42 to 47 and 162. The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.
The Tyne Cot Memorial now bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker with sculpture by Joseph Armitage and F.V. Blundstone, was unveiled by Sir Gilbert Dyett on 20 June 1927.
1. "Ossett Observer", 20th April 1918
2. Regimental History, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’ Own)