Private Percy Audsley, 23/484, Durham Light Infantry, 19th Battalion
Percy Audsley was born in Leeds in 1879, the son of Ezra Audsley and Emma (nee Hant) who married in Wakefield in 1863. In 1881, Ossett-born Ezra Audsley and Thornes-born Emma are living on High Street, Gawthorpe with their four children: two girls, Annie and Harriet and two boys, George and Percy. Ezra Audsley is working as a rag grinder.
By 1891, Ezra has started working in his own right as a flock and rag merchant, living with his family on Queen Street, Ossett. The children now number six with the addition of two boys, Willie and Wilfred, born in 1883 and 1885 respectively. Percy, aged 11, is a scholar, but his older siblings are all working in the rag trade, probably for their father.
1n 1901 Ezra and Emma have moved to Mount Pleasant in the Stanley district of Wakefield where Ezra is now working as a store dealer. Percy Audsley is working as a rag merchant, aged 21, and is the eldest child in the household, which includes his two younger brothers.
In 1911, Percy Audsley is working as a rag warehouseman and is living at 12, Wilson's Row, Town End Ossett with his wife of seven years, Mary, and their two children, Emmie, born 20th July 1903 and Nora, born 5th January 1905. Percy and Mary Kitson had married at the Register Office, Dewsbury on the 9th June 1903. The couple went on to have two more children, both girls: Gladys, born 9th March 1914 and Marian, born 10th June 1916.
Percy enlisted in the army on the 20th July 1916 and joined the 23rd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. He trained at Atwick Camp in August 1916 and was transferred to the 3rd Durhams on the 30th August 1916, serving at home until the 6th January 1917 when he embarked with the B.E.F. for France. He was aged 36 years and 10 months when he enlisted: a mill labourer, height 5 ft 3½ inches, weight 110 lbs and 35” chest measurement. Also, according to the Army Medic, he had defective teeth. In France, he was posted to the 19th Battalion, Durham Light infantry.
The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this short obituary for Private Audsley:
"Ossett Soldier's Death From Disease - The death has taken place at a French clearing station of Private Percy Audsley (39), an Ossett soldier in the Durham Light Infantry, whose home is at Wilson's-row, Town-end, Ossett. Information of his death from laryngitis was conveyed to his widow in a sympathetic letter from an army chaplain. He formerly worked for Messrs. H. Wood and Son, and leaves a family of four children. His younger brother is serving with our forces in Mesopotamia. A letter since received by Mrs. Audsley from the deceased's officer says: Your husband was my batman, and I was getting to know him well and to estimate very highly his many excellent qualities. He would not report sick until he was absolutely compelled to do so. It was no doubt your husband's grit that caused his death."
From his army records, Private Audsley died of chronic myocarditis (heart disease) at No. 13 Casualty Clearing Station, France on the 12th December 1917. The medical notes record that "the above mentioned died half an hour after admittance to the CCS 12.12.17 in consequences no previous history was obtainable." The cause of his death was confirmed by post mortem. His widow was awarded a 30 shillings Separation Allowance and a weekly pension for herself and four children following Percy’s death.
The Army requested the usual family and next of kin information in respect of a deceased soldier. In addition to his wife and children, the form, dated the 15th May 1919, records that Percy has a brother William (38) "In Mesopatomia, no home of his own" and sisters: Sarah Ann Johnson (54) of South View, Painthorpe, Wakefield; Annie Johnson (49) of 15 Home Road, Chesterfield, and Harriet Pickard (47) of Denholme Drive, Ossett. There is no mention of his other siblings, George and Wilfred. Percy’s father, Ezra, died in 1903 and was buried at South Ossett Christ Church on 16 December 1903 and his mother died in 1909.
Private Percy Audsley, aged 39 years, died from heart disease on the 12th of December 1917 in a French hospital. He was the son of Ezra and Emma Audsley and husband of Mary Audsley, of 12, Wilson Row, Town-end, Ossett, Yorks. He was awarded the Victory and British Medals.
Private Percy Audsley is buried at grave reference I. B. 3. at the Arnke British Cemetery 3, Nord, France. he village of Arneke is approximately 50 Kms south-east of Calais and about 8 Kms north-west of the town of Cassel.
The cemetery was begun by the 13th Casualty Clearing Station which moved to Arneke from the Proven area in October 1917. It was joined by the 10th and 44th Clearing Stations in April 1918. The cemetery was used by these hospitals until the end of May, and again from July to September 1918 by the 62nd (1/2nd London) Clearing Station. In November it was used for a short time by the 4th and 10th Stationary Hospitals. A few French soldiers were buried from clearing stations in April 1918 and French units buried in Plots IV and V at the north-west end of the cemetery, mainly in May and June 1918.
Arneke British Cemetery contains 435 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and five from the Second World War. There are also 126 French and five German war graves.
1. "Ossett Observer", 5th January 1918