Private George Summerscales, 200917, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 2nd/4th Battalion
George Summerscales was born in 1884 at Woolley near Wakefield after his parents had moved there from Thornhill. In 1891, George, then aged 6, is living at Top Row, Woolley Colliery, near Wakefield with his parents Lee Summerscales, a colliery under-manager and Lee's wife Emma. There were already eight children in the Summerscales household, aged between 1 to 16 years and George was the third youngest.
Lee Summerscales and Emma Pye married at Darton All Saints Church on the 16th of April 1876. In 1901, the family had moved to Calder Grove, Crigglestone where George was living with his widowed father, Lee, a colliery contractor and five of his nine siblings, including two born after 1891. The youngest sibling, Herbert Harry Summerscales (born 1899) was the only child born at Calder Grove, indicating that the family had moved there from Woolley only recently.
George’s mother, Emma Summerscales, died in late 1900 aged 45. George’s father, Lee, was now a widower, aged 48, with nine children. The 1911 census records that George is now the publican of the Little Bull on Teall Street, Ossett and that he has a new partner, Sarah Ann Summerscales. Lee Summerscales (50) married widow Sarah Ann Green (37) on the 12th of September 1902 at Skegness and they had a son, Archie Summerscales, born in early 1903. George's father, Lee Summerscales died on the 12th April 1911 aged 59, leaving his wife of nine years widowed for a second time.
George Summerscales (23) a colliery bye-worker, living in Junction Lane, Ossett Common and Mary Stanyard (21) from Horbury were married on the 15th of August 1908 at St Mary’s Church, Horbury Junction. In 1911 George, still a colliery bye-worker, and his wife Mary were living with their two year-old daughter Mabel at 18, Audrey Street Ossett. At the time of George's death, the couple were living at Hilda Street, Ossett and another daughter, Iris, had been born in 1915.
The 2nd/4th Battalion of KOYLI was formed at Wakefield on the 30th September 1914 as a second-line unit. On the 1st of March 1915 they moved to Bulwell, Nottingham and were attached to 187th Brigade in 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division. They moved in April 1915 to Strensall, York and on then in May to Beverley, going on in November to Gateshead, January 1916 to Larkhill and June 1916 to Flixton Park near Bungay. They moved again in October 1916 to Wellingborough and landed at Le Havre on the 15th January 1917.
George Summerscales was fatally wounded by enemy shelling on the 27th May 1918. At that time, the 62nd (West Riding) Division were not on the front line, but in the area of Bucquoy, engaged in a period of "active defence" i.e. no all-out attacks, but harrying the enemy hard with raids and sustained artillery fire. However, this of course caused German reprisals and on the 18th to the 23rd May, the area where 62 Division was located was drenched with enemy mustard gas shells.
"Until the end of May, the artillery of both sides continued to shell one another unmercifully, and the infantry in the front-line trenches had a bad time. The above is a fair summary of trench warfare at this period. It was costly in the extreme. During May (1918), the 62nd (Division) lost nineteen officers killed, wounded or missing and sixty-two other ranks killed, 392 wounded and fourteen missing." 1
The "Ossett Observer" 2 had this obituary for George Summerscales:
"The sad news of the death in a German hospital, while a prisoner of war, of Private George Summerscales, K.O.Y.L.I., whose home was in Hilda-street, Station-road, Ossett, is received. The deceased, who was 34 years of age, was well-known in the borough, in Horbury and the Crigglestone district where he formerly resided. He leaves a widow and two children, aged 10 and 4 years respectively.
Prior to joining the second battalion of the K.O.Y.L.I., which was raised locally, soon after the commencement of the war, he had worked for many years at the Old Roundwood Collieries, and he used to be associated with the South-parade, Primitive Methodist Church, where at one time he was a Sunday School teacher. After taking part in the fighting in the vicinity of Rheims, towards the end of May, Private Summerscales, was officially reported missing, and his wife heard nothing further as to his fate until a few days ago. Then she received a letter from a soldier whose home is at Menston, near Leeds, who had been a patient in the same German hospital, and who returned home during the armistice. During a visit to this soldier, Mrs. Summerscales learnt that he had obtained her address from her deceased husband, who had occupied the next bed to him in hospital. She had ascertained that her husband had suffered from a broken thigh, caused by enemy shell fire, during the fighting on May 27th, and that the Germans treated him fairly well, giving him such food as they possessed, which, the soldier added, was not very much. Later, his leg had to be amputated and he died about five weeks after his admission to hospital, being buried with military honours at Briennes, near Rheims.
His personal belongings, the soldier says, were taken charge of by a German sergeant, who said that in due course, they would be forwarded to England. Deceased first went out to France in January 1917, but due to illness, was invalided home for two or three months, afterwards returning again to the front in the following September."
George Summerscales died on the 27th May 1918 at the age of 34 years, whilst a prisoner-of-war in a German hospital.
Above: A German artillery team during WW1.
Private George Summerscales is buried at grave reference 1717 at the Rethel French National Cemetery 3 Ardennes, France. Rethel is a town 36 kilometres north-east of Reims, along the N51-E46 main road to Mezieres.
Rethel was in German hands from the early days of the First World War until 6 November 1918. Rethel French National Cemetery contains the graves of almost 3,000 French soldiers who died, for the most part, in the fighting at Bertoncourt in 1914, and at Herpy in 1918.
The Commonwealth Plot, in the east part of the cemetery, contains 110 graves, four of which are unidentified. Sixty-eight of these came from the German National Cemetery on the north-east side of the town, and the rest from the German cemeteries of Asfield, Blanzy, Brienne-sur-Aisne, Herpy, Juniville, Le Thour, Neuflize Policourt, Sevigny, Tagnon, Faissault Churchyard and Chateau Porcien Communal Cemetery. The French National Cemetery also contains Russian and Rumanian graves.
1. "The History of the 62nd (West Riding) Division 1914-1919, Volume 1", Page 167, by E. Wyrall, John Lane, The Bodley Head Limited.
2. "Ossett Observer", 21st December 1918