Private William Gawthorpe, 13143, 34th Battalion, Machine Gun Corps
William Gawthorpe was born in Ossett in early 1895 to Ossett-born Paul Gawthorpe and his wife Ada (nee Saxton) who had married at Dewsbury All Saints on the 22nd January 1882. Ada Saxton was the daughter of William Saxton of the Bulls Head Beerhouse which once stood on Bank Street Ossett.
In 1891 Paul and Ada were living in a 2 roomed house on Green Road, Ossett. Paul was a labourer and father of four children, Fred (1881), Annie (born 1882), George (born 1886) and Guy (born 1889). Fred and Annie were baptised at South Ossett Christ Church on the 18th of February 1892. Another sister, Gertrude was born in Ossett in 1891.
By 1911, the Gawthorpe family are living at 1, New Street, Ossett. Paul Gawthorpe is working as a labourer at the Gas Depot in Healey Road, Ossett, with his wife Ada at home. George is working as a dyer’s labourer. Guy is a labourer at the Ossett G.N.R. Goods Station and William is a cloth finisher. The Census indicates that Paul and Ada Gawthorpe have had six children but only five have survived to 1911. Sadly Gertrude Gawthorpe died aged 14 in 1905.
William Gawthorpe enlisted in the British Army in 1915 and went on to serve first with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry as Private 25613, before transferring to the 34th Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps. His service record has not survived and his medal card records only his MGC Regimental no. 13143, his KOYLI Regiment no 25613 and that he was awarded the British and Victory medals.
The "Ossett Observer" 1 in 1918 had this report about William Gawthorpe and also his brother George Gawthorpe, who was serving with the 1/5th Battalion, West Riding Regiment and who also was reported as missing:
"Of the three soldier sons of Mr. Paul Gawthorpe of New Street, Ossett, two, Private George Gawthorpe (31), West Yorkshire Regiment and Private William Gawthorpe (21), Machine Gun Corps have been officially reported by the Army authorities to be missing from their regiments. George, who used to work as a dyer's labourer at Messrs. R.F. Jagger's mill, Townend, joined the army over two years ago is now presumed by the authorities to have lost his life in early October last year. William, who has been in the army nearly three years, two of which have been spent on the Western Front, in civilian life was employed at Messrs. Archer, Ritchie and Co.'s Millfield Mill at Horbury Junction. He has been missing since March last."
A third brother, Guy Gawthorpe also served in WW1, but survived. Guy was born in Ossett on the 9th of May 1888 and was baptised at South Ossett Church on the 19 May 1892 along with his sister Gertrude who was born on 6 May 1891.
On 15 June 1913, aged 25, Guy Gawthorpe married Annie Firth, aged 20, at Ossett Holy Trinity Church when his address was given as 1, New Street, Ossett and his occupation was given as "goods super". Guy Gawthorpe's service record has not survived but his medal card reveals that he served in the West Yorks Regiment as Private, 29940, and also in the Labour Corps, 10935. Like his brothers Guy was awarded the British and Victory medals but not the 1915 Star indicating that none of the brothers served abroad before the 31st December 1915.
Private William Gawthorpe was killed in action, aged 23 years, on the 21st March 1918 during the first day of the 1918 German counter-offensive, known as 'Operation Michael', the so-called 'Kaiser's Battle' which was launched along a 50-mile front at dawn on the 21st March. A massive preliminary bombardment (from 05:05 hours in the northern sector and 04:40 hours elsewhere) preceded the onslaught on Allied positions by German storm troops, many of whom being battle-hardened veterans fresh from the Eastern Front. Sadly, George Gawthorpe's body was never recovered and he was at first posted as missing, presumed dead. He was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals.
Immediately left of 59th Division, Croisilles and the River Sensée was to mark the northern limit of the main German attack. This sector was held by 34th Division; in line on the right was 102nd Brigade, consisting of 22nd, 23rd and 25th Northumberland Fusiliers - originally Tyneside Scottish and Tyneside Irish battalions of the New Army. Distributed around the sector, in strong-points or 'keeps', were heavy weapons: trench mortars, and the Vickers guns of the divisional battalion of the Machine Gun Corps. In one of these gun teams was Pte. 13143 William Gawthorpe of Ossett (formerly Pte. 25613, KOYLI). 2
Above: The defensive position of the Allied 34 Division on the 21st March 1918 , which included Private William Gawthorpe of the 34th Company, Machine Gun Corps.
Private William Gawthorpe is remembered at the Arras Memorial 3, Pas de Calais, France at Bay 10. The Arras Memorial is in the Faubourg-d'Amiens Cemetery, which is in the Boulevard du General de Gaulle in the western part of the town of Arras. The cemetery is near the Citadel, approximately 2 kms due west of the railway station.
The adjacent Arras Memorial commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, the eve of the Advance to Victory, and have no known grave. The most conspicuous events of this period were the Arras offensive of April-May 1917, and the German attack in the spring of 1918. Canadian and Australian servicemen killed in these operations are commemorated by memorials at Vimy and Villers-Bretonneux. A separate memorial remembers those killed in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917.
Above: The WW1 medals awarded to Private William Gawthorpe that were recently available on eBay from a dealer in Huddersfield. Thanks to Andrea Hartley for bringing the sale of the medals to our attention.
1. "Ossett Observer", 20th April 1918