Acting Sergeant Clifford Illingworth, 201036, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Regiment, 1/4th Battalion
Clifford Illingworth was born in Ossett on 6th October 1894 and baptised at Ossett Green Congregational Church on 20th October 1895. Clifford was the second of three sons born to George Edward Illingworth, a tailor, and Theresa Heald who married in Summer 1891. Sadly, Theresa died in 1905, aged 40, and George Edward re-married, taking Annie Allen Chatterton as his bride in April 1907. In 1911, George Edward, Annie and the three boys from his first marriage: George Arthur (born 1893), Clifford and Norman (born 1898) were living on The Green, Ossett. Clifford was a bookstall assistant and George Arthur, a printer’s apprentice.
Tragedy was to strike the family again in Autumn 1911 when Clifford’s stepmother, Annie, died, aged 48 years. George Edward married for the third time when, in December 1912, he married Alice Jane Wilby of Horbury at Ossett Green Congregational Church.
War was declared on Germany on the 4th August 1914 and Clifford, by then only 20 years of age, was one of those Ossett men who were quick to volunteer their service to King and Country. He was a volunteer, since conscription was not introduced until early 1916, and Clifford Illingworth of The Green appeared in the list of names in the "Ossett Observer" Roll of Honour, published on Thursday, 24th December 1914.
Clifford was allotted to K.O.Y.L.I. (Reserve) Battalion with service number 3281, which suggests that he may have enlisted in October 1914 i.e. about two months after the declaration of war. These were men who volunteered after the declaration of war and who were attached to this Reserve Battalion, which was formed in late September 1914. It became known as 2/4th Battalion K.O.Y.L.I. i.e. the second line Battalion with the remit to train and deploy recruits as replacements to the 1/4 Battalion, which was composed of mainly regular soldiers, when the need arose. The 2/4th Battalion did not embark for France until the 15th January 1917, although many of the men on this listing would have become replacement soldiers for 1/4th Battalion and other K.O.Y.L.I. battalions much earlier than this. The 4th Battalion was a Territorial battalion.
Clifford’s WW1 Army Service record has not survived, it being one of the 65% or so destroyed in WW2 by a Luftwaffe bombing raid in September 1940 on the War Office Repository, Central London, where the records were stored. It is known, however, that Clifford served overseas, since he was awarded the British and Victory medals for service overseas in a theatre of war. It is also known that he did not serve overseas until the 1st January 1916 at the earliest, since he was not awarded the 1914-15 Star medal.
He almost certainly will have spent his early days in training with the 2/4th Battalion, KOYLI, which was formed at Wakefield on the 30th September 1914 as a second line unit. On the 1st March 1915, the battalion moved to Bulwell and was attached to 187th Brigade in the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division. It moved in April 1915 to Strensall and in May to Beverley, going on in November 1915 to Gateshead; January 1916 to Larkhill and June 1916 to Flixton Park, near Bungay. It moved again in October 1916 to Wellingborough and was posted overseas landing at Le Havre on the 15th January 1917.
Clifford’s medal award records also indicate that he was transferred from the 2/4th Battalion to 1/4th Battalion KOYLI where it is known that he served as the rank of Corporal with service number 3281. 1/4th Battalion was formed in August 1914 in Wakefield and was part of the 3rd West Riding Brigade, West Riding Division. The battalion moved on mobilisation to Doncaster and in November 1914 to Gainsborough. It moved on to York in February 1915, and on the 12th April 1915 they landed at Boulogne. On the 15th May 1915 the battalion became an Infantry unit in the 148th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division. In common with all men serving in the WW1 Territorial battalions Clifford was allocated a new six digit service number, 201036, in early 1917.
In the absence of his service record, we can only estimate when Clifford Illingworth served overseas. Clifford has left a couple of clues to help the search. Firstly, he was not awarded the 1914/15 Star, so he was not overseas before the 1st January 1916. Secondly, because both of his service numbers appear on his Medal Index Card, he must have gone overseas before early 1917. Thirdly, 2/4th KOYLI did not go overseas until January 1917, so Clifford is likely to have been in the 1/4th at the time of his sailing from Great Britain.
Thus, even though Clifford’s service record has not survived, it can reasonably be concluded that, although he volunteered and probably signed up in October 1914, he embarked for France at some point during 1916 and by this time he had been transferred from 2/4th to 1/4th KOYLI.
This being the case, he would have served with the 1/4th KOYLI in the 148th (3rd West Riding) Brigade of the 49th (West Riding) Division. This Division embarked for France in April 1915. Clifford would join them sometime during 1916, and depending when this was, he may have seen action at the Battles of the Somme at Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Pozieres Ridge and Flers-Courcelette between the 1st July and 18th November 1916. By 1917, the Division had been transported north to Ypres in Belgium and it took part in the operations on the Flanders Coast (Hush) and the Battle of Poelcapelle.
1918 saw the Division back in France where they participated in the battles of the Lys at Estairs, Messines, Bailleul, Kemmel Ridge and Scherpenberg. In mid/late 1918, the Division were also involved in final advance in Picardy, which included the pursuit of the German forces to the Selle, and later to Valenciennes by the time of the Armistice in November 1918.
At some stage during this period Clifford, still barely 24 years old, attained the rank of Acting Sergeant. He was demobbed on the 7th March 1919 when he was almost certainly placed in "Z" Reserve. This was to be the end of Clifford Illingworth’s war, except to the extent that his memories of that conflict would remain with him for the rest of his life.
On the 20th July 1918, while still a serving soldier, Clifford Illingworth, aged 23 years, married Ida Littlewood, aged 22, at Ossett Green Congregational Church. Ida Littlewood, the daughter of George Littlewood, school teacher, and his wife Emma, was born on the 4th September 1895 and baptised at the Ossett Green Congregational Church, close to the family home, on the 12th October 1895. Clifford and Ida’s baptisms were held just eight days apart in 1895 and they are separated in the Register by only one entry. 23 years later they would marry in the same Church.
Above: Baptism Register from Ossett Congregational Church for October 1895 showing entries for the baptisms of Clifford Illingworth and his future wife, Ida Littlewood, separated by only eight days.
At the time of their marriage in July 1918, Clifford’s home address was The Green, Ossett, and Ida, a munitions worker, lived just around the corner at George Street, Healey Road, Ossett. The street is now known as Broomcroft. A son, Kenneth was born in early 1920 and a daughter, Ruth M, was born in summer 1931. Clifford’s father, George Edward Illingworth buried his third wife, Alice in 1929 and he died in 1935. Clifford died in 1967 and his wife, Ida, died in 1984.
Above: George Street, Ossett.
Clifford’s father, George Edward Illingworth was born in Flockton in 1864.
Clifford’s bride, Ida Littlewood, had a brother called Fred Littlewood who also served in WW1. However this is a story told by Fred’s son, Michael Littlewood and it relates to Clifford and Ida’s wedding in July 1918. Michael relates this tale:
"My father told of an experience which took place at Clifford's marriage to Ida, when the presiding minister, who was stepping in for the regular minister, mistook dad as the groom, and started asking him to repeat the marriage vows. There was muttering in the congregation, but the minister continued. Eventually Clifford decided that he should take action before dad married his sister, and turned to the minister and said 'Hey it isn't him, it's me!' (Laughter in the congregation)."