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George Henry Bingham

Private George Henry Bingham, 202055, 4th Battalion, The Royal Welsh Fusiliers

George Henry Bingham was born at Gower Street, Leeds on the 22nd October 1878, the son of Leeds born painter Alfred Bingham and his wife, Mary Ann Duffrey (or Duffy) who married in Leeds in spring 1869. Two years later in 1871 the couple were living with their two young sons, Alfred and Thomas in South Leeds. By 1881 the couple were living in the Leeds Union Workhouse, Beckett Street with two different children, Caroline aged four years (born spring 1877) and George Henry aged twelve months (but actually two years old).

Things appear to have made a turn for the better by 1891 when Alfred and Mary Ann were living in south-east Leeds with six children, including Caroline and George Henry. Sadly Alfred Bingham died in 1897, aged 56 years. In 1901 Mary Ann, a widow was living elsewhere in south Leeds with five of her children including, George Henry who was now a painter like his late father.

On the 13th December 1903, at Wakefield Cathedral, bachelor and labourer George Henry Bingham, aged 25 years, married 20 year-old spinster Edith Metcalf(e). Both signed their own names and gave their address as Westgate, Wakefield.

By 1911 George Henry, a labourer at a cloth mill and Edith were living at 26, Florist Street, Kirkstall Road, Leeds with two children, Annie Louise aged six years and Alfred aged two years. The couple appear to have had two more children, Edith born in late 1914 and Leah born in summer 1916. Both births were registered in Dewsbury, suggesting the couple may have moved to live in Ossett by 1914.

For all of this there was no proof positive that George Henry Bingham had ever lived in Ossett, although it had been proven that he was not born in Ossett contrary to the War Office record. Then tragedy struck the family. Their third child, Edith, had been born on the 30th October 1914 at 7, Teall’s Yard, Dale Street, Ossett. Sadly Edith Bingham, the daughter of colliery labourer George Henry and Edith Bingham was not to see her first birthday and on the 23rd August 1915, she was buried at Ossett Holy Trinity Church. The record erroneously recorded that the father was George William Bingham, but Edith’s birth certificate said something different. Her father was most definitely George Henry Bingham of 7, Teall’s Yard, Dale Street, Ossett.

By the time of Edith’s death Great Britain had declared war against Imperial Germany. In the absence of his Army service record, which has not survived, it is not possible to identify when George Henry enlisted, but it is known that he did so at Dewsbury and joined the Territorial Force (T.F.), 4th battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, in the first instance serving with soldier number 10450 at their Infantry Base Depot. In common with all T.F. soldiers in early 1917, George Henry was allocated a new service number 202055. Army records also reveal that he once served with the Yorkshire Light Infantry with service number 1692.

Neither can it be said with any certainty when he embarked for France, but it must have been on or after 1st January 1916, and probably before 1917. The 4th battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, a Pioneer Battalion, came under the orders of the 47th (2nd) London Division. As such, depending upon the date of his embarkation, George Henry could have seen action at some of the battles of the Somme in late 1916 at Flers-Courcelette, in which the Division captured High Wood; Transloy Ridges in which the Division captured Eaucourt l’Abbaye and the attacks on the Butte de Warlencourt. After a "quiet" start to 1917 the Division had moved from the Somme area to Ypres where they played a role in the Battle of Messines (7th-13th June).

The Pioneer battalions, like the one in which George Henry served, were an early solution to the vast demand for labour. Pioneer battalions would be trained and capable of fighting as infantry, but they would normally be engaged on labouring work.  They differed from normal infantry in that they would be composed of a mixture of men who were experienced with picks and shovels (i.e. miners, road men, etc.) and some who had skilled trades (smiths, carpenters, joiners, bricklayers, masons, tinsmiths, engine drivers and fitters). A Pioneer battalion would also carry a range of technical stores that infantry would not.

On 7th July 1917 George Henry Bingham died of the wounds suffered in action against the enemy. It is likely that he was injured by a sniper’s bullet or by enemy artillery action whilst the Pioneer battalion was working on the laying of roadways and a mule track near their billet, named Chippawa Camp, close to Poperinghe, Ypres.

 The Regimental Diary for that time records:-

4th July 1917 The King and the Prince of Wales passed Chippawa Camp ... at 9 a.m.  and returned along the same route at 4.p.m after inspecting the Messines Ridge. They were enthusiastically cheered by the Battalions.

5th July Fine weather. Work as usual. Several hostile shells fell in and around Chippawa Camp. There were no casualties.

6th July Two Ordinary Ranks hospital wounded

7th July 1917 Fine weather. No change in work. Violent thunderstorm at night. One Ordinary Rank died of wounds

George Henry Bingham is buried at Locre Hospice Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium at plot I.A.15. Locre (now Loker) was in Allied hands during the greater part of the war, and field ambulances were stationed in the Convent of St. Antoine. The village changed hands several times between 25 and 30 April 1918, when it was recaptured by the French. The hospice, or convent, was the scene of severe fighting on 20 May, but was not retaken until first week in July. The Hospice Cemetery was begun in June 1917 by field ambulances and fighting units, and was used until April 1918. After the Armistice four graves were transferred to it from the garden of the Hospice, which was ultimately rebuilt. The cemetery now contains 244 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 12 of the burials are unidentified and ten graves destroyed by shellfire are now represented by special memorials.

Private Bingham was awarded the British and Victory Medals for his service overseas in a theatre of war. He was not awarded the 1914-15 Star indicating that he did not serve overseas until on or after 1st January 1916. His surviving daughter was born in 1916 and named Leah. A woman by the name of Leah Bingham married Wilfred Thackrah in summer 1937 in the Dewsbury area. Leah Thackrah died on the 2nd July 1995 and left an estate to a value not exceeding £145,000.

Until now George Henry Bingham was not remembered on any Ossett War Memorial.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site