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George Metcalfe

Lance-Corporal George Metcalfe, 10703, Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards), 6th Battalion

George Metcalfe was born in early 1882 in Bedale, North Yorkshire, the only child of William Metcalfe and his first wife Mary (nee Gale), who married in the Bedale area in 1877. Mary died in the winter of 1883/84 and widower William Metcalfe married his second wife, Agnes Lambert, in Aysgarth in 1885. In the late 1880s the family moved to the West Riding and they had three children, all born in Cleckheaton.

By 1891, Bedale-born William, a labourer, and, Stainton-born, Agnes, with their children, and William's son George, were living at Union Street, Cleckheaton. William Metcalfe died in 1897, leaving Agnes a widow with three children of her own and her stepson, George. By 1901, George had set out on his own and was working as a servant for a farmer and timber merchant in Bedale, whilst his stepmother Agnes had moved to live at Junction Lane, Ossett where she lived with her three children. Shortly afterwards George Metcalfe also moved to Ossett.

On 17th June 1905, George Metcalfe married 18 year-old spinster, Emma Hartley, at South Ossett Christ Church. They had no children by 1911, when George was staying with his widowed stepmother and two of her children at 9, Tattersfield Street, Ossett. George was now working as a carboniser labourer at a woollen mill. His wife, Emma, was staying with her widowed father at nearby 91, South Parade, Ossett and subsequently her address, as George’s next of kin, was given as 87 South Leas, South Parade, Ossett. George also gave his uncle, Matthew Metcalfe, of Pudsey, as an additional next of kin.

George Metcalfe was an Army volunteer serving in the Volunteer Force for periods between 1902 and 1914. He first joined a volunteer Yorkshire Regiment for a year on the 1st December 1902, at the age of 20 years, then joined for a second time in May 1906 until the 21st March 1908. This was a period of re-organisation for the Volunteer force, which became the Territorial Army in 1908 and on 1st April 1908 George Metcalfe joined the 4th/13th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Regiment, enlisting at Ossett. He signed on for four years and re-engaged in 1912 and 1913 for a further year, undergoing annual training each November, until he was embodied into the 1st/4th Battalion, KOYLI at Wakefield on the day after the declaration of War on the 5th August 1914.

George Metcalfe was fit enough to serve in the Territorials for six years, but apparently not medically fit to serve in the Regular Army and on the 8th August 1914, he was discharged in consequence of being found "medically unfit on mobilization". He was having none of this and took himself off to Richmond, North Yorkshire where he enlisted in the 6th Battalion of the Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) with a service number of 10703. He embarked for the Balkans on the 14th July 1915 and was killed in action three weeks later at Gallipoli on the 7th August 1915, the day after arriving there.

The 6th (Service) Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment was formed at Richmond on the 25 August 1914 as part of K1 and came under orders of 32nd Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division. The Yorkshire Regiment is perhaps better known as the "Green Howards". They moved first to Belton Park near Grantham and then in April 1915 moved to Witley Camp near Godalming in Surrey. Sailed from Liverpool on 3 July 1915, going via Mudros to Suvla Bay, disembarking there on the 6th August 1915.

In December 1915, the Battalion was evacuated from Gallipoli and moved to Egypt via Imbros and in July 1916 they moved to France. On the 15th May 1918, the Battalion was reduced to cadre strength. The cadre was attached to 66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division for ten days (19th to 29th June). On the 30th June 1918, they landed at Folkestone and transferred to the 75th Brigade, 25th Division. They moved on to Mytchett near Aldershot and in July 1918 moved again to Margate. The Battalion was absorbed into the 19th Battalion during August 1918 and on the 9th September 1918, the Brigade redesignated the 236th Brigade, for service in North Russia. They sailed from Dundee on the 17th October 1918 and arrived at Murmansk on the 27th November 1918.

The 6th Yorkshire Regiment as part of 32nd Brigade, 11th Division were successfully ashore on 'B' Beach at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli by 10pm on the 6th August 1915. In the early morning of the 7th August, immediately after landing, the 6th Yorkshires led the attack on the Turks at Lala Baba using mainly bayonets, so as not to take unwanted prisoners. Fifteen officers, including the commanding officer and 250 'other ranks' were killed clearing the Turks from their trenches on the hillside, where they put up a very stubborn resistance right to the bitter end. Lala Baba is a hill 160 feet high, between the southern side of Suvla Bay and the Salt Lake. It is likely that Private George Metcalfe was killed during the action to storm Lala Baba.

George Metcalfe was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals and also the 1914/15 Star to acknowledge his service overseas before the 31st December 1915.

Lala Baba and Suvla Bay August 1915

Above: British troops from the Dorsetshire Regiment waiting for action on the slopes of Lala Baba above Suvla Bay in August 1915.

Lance-Corporal George Metcalfe, aged 33 years, died on the 7th August 1915 during the storming of Lala Baba at Gallipoli. He is remembered on Panels 55 to 58 at the Helles Memorial,3 Turkey (including Gallipoli). The Helles Memorial stands on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula. It takes the form of an obelisk over 30 metres high that can be seen by ships passing through the Dardanelles.

The eight month campaign in Gallipoli was fought by Commonwealth and French forces in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war, to relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in France and Belgium, and to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea.

The Allies landed on the peninsula on 25-26 April 1915; the 29th Division at Cape Helles in the south and the Australian and New Zealand Corps north of Gaba Tepe on the west coast, an area soon known as Anzac. On 6 August, further landings were made at Suvla, just north of Anzac, and the climax of the campaign came in early August when simultaneous assaults were launched on all three fronts. However, the difficult terrain and stiff Turkish resistance soon led to the stalemate of trench warfare. From the end of August, no further serious action was fought and the lines remained unchanged. The peninsula was successfully evacuated in December and early January 1916.

The Helles Memorial serves the dual function of Commonwealth battle memorial for the whole Gallipoli campaign and place of commemoration for many of those Commonwealth servicemen who died there and have no known grave.

The United Kingdom and Indian forces named on the memorial died in operations throughout the peninsula, the Australians at Helles. There are also panels for those who died or were buried at sea in Gallipoli waters. The memorial bears more than 21,000 names.

There are four other Memorials to the Missing at Gallipoli. The Lone Pine, Hill 60, and Chunuk Bair Memorials commemorate Australian and New Zealanders at Anzac. The Twelve Tree Copse Memorial commemorates the New Zealanders at Helles. Naval casualties of the United Kingdom lost or buried at sea are recorded on their respective Memorials at Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham, in the United Kingdom.

References:

1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site