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Herbert Stokoe

Corporal Herbert Stokoe, 11250, Yorks and Lancaster Regiment, 9th Battalion

Herbert Stokoe was born in Ossett in Spring 1884, the eldest child of five born to George Stokoe and his wife, Clara (nee Talbot), who married in early 1884. In 1891, Wakefield born George, a coal miner, his Ossett born wife and three young children from their marriage were living on South Parade, Ossett. A 9 year-old stepson, Henry Talbot, who was Clara’s child from an earlier relationship was living with them. By 1901, the family had moved to Dewsbury. There were by then five children born to George and Clara including the eldest, Herbert, who was aged 16 and working as a coal miner, like his father, his younger brother and also his half brother.

Herbert’s father, George, died in Spring 1903 and in 1911, Herbert’s widowed mother was living with three of her children at the same Dewsbury address. On the 20th May 1905, Herbert married 18 year-old spinster, Annie Hackshaw at Ossett Holy Trinity Church. The marriage register records his surname as Stoker and although Herbert originally signed the register in the name of Stokoe, for some reason, he changed it to Stoker. This would cause his wife Annie some difficulties with the War Office in 1916.

The next sign of Herbert is found in his army service record by which time he was living in Sheffield. Herbert was then 29 years old and working as a miner when he signed up in late August 1914. His Attestation record indicates that he volunteered for three years with the Colours and that he had previously been in the 3rd Battalion, York and Lancaster Militia. He was allocated to the 6th Battalion of the same regiment with service number 11250.

Herbert was 5’ 5½” tall, weighed 129 lbs and he had a scar on his right shin and on the back of his right shoulder. His complexion was sallow with brown eyes and brown hair and he was passed fit for service.

He was appointed Lance-Corporal in November 1914 and on the 1st July 1915 served in the Mediterranean until the 24th July 1915 when he returned to the UK. He subsequently embarked for France on the 30th December 1915. He was promoted to Corporal in the field on the 2nd March 1916 and he was killed in action on the 13th March 1916 whilst serving with the 9th Battalion.

In March 1916, the 9th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment were in training near Albert in the months leading up to the Battle of the Somme. It is likely therefore that Herbert Stokoe died whilst training although it is possible that he may have been in the trenches near the German lines. There were no specific battles taking place in which his 70th Infantry Brigade was taking part in March 1916.

The 9th (Service) Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment was raised at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Third Army and joined 70th Brigade in 23rd Division. They undertook training at Frensham, Aldershot, Hythe and Bordon Before proceeding to France. They landed at Boulogne on the 27th of August 1915 and in October 1915 they transferred with the 70th Brigade to the 8th Division. On the 17 July 1916 they returned to the 23rd Division and saw action on The Somme in The Battle of Albert including the capture of Contalmaison, The Battles of Bazentin Ridge, Pozieres, Flers-Courcelette, Morval and The Battle of Le Transloy including the capture of Le Sars.

In 1917 they fought in The Battle of Messines, The Battles of the Menin Road, Polygon Wood and the The First and Second Battles of Passchendaele. In November 1917 the Division moved to Italy concentrating between Mantua and Marcaria before taking over the front line at the Montello on the 4th of December.

In 1918 they were in action during the fighting on the Asiago Plateau and the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, including the passage of the Piave and the Monticano. At the Italian Armistice at 3pm on the 4th of November, the 23rd were midway between the Rivers Livenza and Meduna, east of Sacile. They moved to billets west of Treviso and demobilisation took place in January and February 1919.

On 24th March 1916 his widow was awarded the separation allowance (14/-) and the allotment of Herbert’s pay (3/6d). The award of a widow’s pension to Annie was more problematic and there was confusion and uncertainty in the War Office regarding Herbert’s marriage certificate, which Annie had to produce to prove her marriage. This was recorded in the name of Herbert Stoker and the War Office were by no means certain that Herbert Stoker and Herbert Stokoe were one and the same. Enquiries were subsequently made with the Vicar of Ossett who confirmed that Herbert signed the marriage register "Stokoe" and changed it to Stoker. The Vicar added that Herbert’s father was named George and this satisfied the War Office that Annie was indeed Herbert Stokoe’s widow. In September 1916, she was awarded a widow’s pension of 15/6d a week for herself and one child with effect from the 25th September 1916.

Following Herbert’s death, Annie had a number of Sheffield addresses, but finally settled when by August 1919 she was living as Annie Whitehead in Wombwell having married Alfred Whitehead at Barnsley in Summer 1917.

Corporal Herbert Stokoe was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals and also the 1914/15 Star in recognition of his service overseas before the 31st December 1915 when he served in the Balkans (Greek Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria and European Turkey) and later in France.

Herbert Stokoe was not remembered on any Ossett Memorial or Roll of Honour probably because he and his family had left Ossett before 1911. He is remembered in this 2014 biography and Roll of Honour because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and/or the "U.K. Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914-1918" listing records him as born or residing in Ossett.

Corporal Herbert Stokoe, husband of Mrs. A. Whitehead (formerly Stokoe), of 16, Station Rd., Wombwell, Yorkshire, died on the 13th March 1916, aged 31 years, and is buried at grave reference I. D. 31. at the Rue-David Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, 1 Pas de Calais, France. Fleurbaix is a village about 5 kilometres south-west of Armentieres. Rue-David Military Cemetery lies to the south-east of the village.

"Rue-David" (or "Rue-des-Davids") is the local name of the road running between La Croix-Marechal and La Boutillerie. The cemetery was begun by the 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers in December 1914 and closed to Commonwealth burials in December 1917. At the Armistice it comprised Rows A to F and part of G of the present Plot I and contained 220 graves. The cemetery was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in mainly from the neighbourhood of Aubers and Fromelles, including those of many of the 1st Middlesex who died at the end of October 1914, and of the 5th Australian and 61st (South Midland) Divisions who died in July 1916.

The cemeteries from which graves were brought to Rue-David Military Cemetery included the following:-

Abbey Wall Cemetery, La Boutillerie, Fleurbaix, under the North wall of the ruined Chartreux Abbey. Here were buried 60 soldiers from the United Kingdom (including 46 of the 1st Middlesex who fell in October and November 1914), five from Canada and five from Australia.

Croix-Marechal Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, at the cross-roads known as La Croix-Marechal. Here were buried 27 soldiers from the United Kingdom and one from Australia, who fell in 1914-16, and October 1918.

Orchard of Smith's Villa, Fleurbaix, at the cross roads nearly 1.6 kilometres West of Bois-Grenier, where twelve men of the 1st South Staffords were buried early in 1915.

Pont-de-la-Lys Indian Cemetery, Estaires, by the bridge between Estaires and La Gorgue, where 34 Indian soldiers were buried in 1914-15.

Sainghin-en-Weppes Churchyard, where 15 soldiers from the United Kingdom were buried.

Sainghin-en-Weppes Communal Cemetery, where 24 soldiers from the United Kingdom, who fell in October 1914 - January 1915, were buried.

Wangerie Post Old Military Cemetery, Laventie, on the road from the Rue-du-Bacquerot to Aubers, a little South of Wangerie Farm. (The New Military Cemetery was smaller, and closer to the Farm.) It contained the graves of 39 soldiers from the United Kingdom who fell in October 1914 and April 1916; and it was used by the Portuguese Corps in 1917.

There are now 898 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War in the cemetery. 429 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to four casualties known to be buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate 11 casualties buried in Abbey Wall Cemetery, La Boutillerie, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire, and six men of the Indian forces. The cemetery also contains ten German graves.

References:

1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site