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Percy Summerscales

Private Percy Summerscales, 1465, 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade, Australian Imperial Forces

Percy Summerscales was born on the 10th June 1881 in Thornhill, the son of coal miner John Summerscales and his wife, Middlestown girl Mary (nee Ramsden) who had married in 1866. During the first 17 years of their marriage John and Mary Summerscales had six children: Florence b. 1866, Charles b. 1871, Lot b. 1873, Faith b. 1879, Percy b. 1881 and Law b. 1884, all born in Thornhill.

Percy Summerscales lost four maternal uncles in the Thornhill Combs Pit disaster of 1893. At 12 years old Percy was certainly old enough to know all of them.

His mother, Mary Summerscales died in 1898 at the age of 55 and the following year, just three weeks after he turned 18, Percy signed on for 12 years service with the York & Lancaster Regiment. According to his attestation papers, Percy was already a volunteer with the 1st Battalion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. In January 1900 Private Percy Summerscales 5435 was posted to the 1st Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment and the following September was promoted to Lance Corporal. His career in the British Army wasn't to last long and in April 1901, after one year and 284 days, he was discharged having been found medically unfit for further service.

After the death of his wife, widower John Summerscales had moved to 6, Chapel Street, Ossett and it was here that Percy returned to upon his discharge. He returned to the pit, alongside his brother Law, whilst his sister Faith looked after the family home.

In 1902 Percy Summerscales married Emma Jackson. but she died in 1905. In April 1906 Percy married Frances Metcalf at Christ Church, South Ossett. Sadly history was to repeat itself when Frances also died just three years later. By 1911 Percy had left his father's home and moved in with his married sister Florence and her husband John (Jack) Smith at 62 Veto Buildings, Manor Road. 

It's difficult to comprehend the heartache that Percy must have suffered over the years, but it's not difficult to imagine that this sad turn of events of losing two wives may have been the cause of him leaving the country for a new life in Australia. Percy arrived in Australia on October 31st 1911 on board the SS Pakeha. 

Percy Summerscales enlisted in the Australian Expeditionary Force on August 11th 1914 when the government opened recruiting offices at army barracks around the country. Thousands of men tried to enlist in the forces. The Australian Imperial Force had strict enlistment standards and only the fittest and most suitable men were selected. Percy Summerscales was determined to be one of them. 

The First World War Embarkation Roll records Percy's address at the time of enlisting as: Mrs Hawkes, Dudley. Dudley is a southern coastal suburb of Newcastle, New South Wales. Summerscales gave his trade a miner and his next of kin, his father John Summerscales of South Parade, Ossett.

The 3rd Battalion was among the first infantry units raised for the AIF during the First World War. Like the 1st, 2nd and 4th Battalions it was recruited from New South Wales and, together with these battalions, formed the 1st Brigade.

Eight days after he enlisted, Percy Summerscales embarked from Sydney for training on Palm Island, Queensland, then as Private 890 of the 1st Infantry Battalion, Naval and Military Forces - Special Tropical Corps. These men captured and occupied German New Guinea and Nauru in September 1914.


Some time between August 7th and 12th 1915, Private Percy Summerscales, aged 34 years was killed in action at Lone Pine on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. He is buried at Shrapnel Valley Cemetery, Gallipoli, Çanakkale, Turkey. His name is located at panel 38 in the Commemorative Area at the Australian War Memorial.

Lone Pine, Gallipoli

At 5.30pm on the 6th August 1915, the NSW-raised 1st Brigade charged across the 400 Plateau towards the Turkish trenches at Lone Pine. Through the bloody fighting, the men eventually succeeded in penetrating the enemy’s heavily fortified trenches. By nightfall, the Turkish frontline was in Australian hands.

At once, the Turks launched a fierce counterattack.

For almost four days men threw grenades and shot each other at close range. Both sides were reinforced. Eventually, the Australians held the positions they had captured.


The Battle of Lone Pine, the diversionary attack that launched the allied August Offensive at Gallipoli was a costly one. With more than 2,000 men dead or wounded, the battle produced some of the highest casualties of the Gallipoli campaign.


My thanks to Anne-Marie Fawcett for her work researching the life and military service of Percy Summerscales.

Private Percy Summerscales lived and was married in Ossett. He is one of eight not yet remembered on the Ossett War Memorial.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site