Aug 012017

See also: George Archer and the Bantams

My Grandad, George Archer, was a very short and slightly built man, only about 5 feet tall. When war broke out in 1914, he was 19 years old but he was too short to sign up for the army, being below 5 ft 3 inches in height. He continued in the woollen manufacturing industry in Dewsbury, which made cloth for the Army, including blankets. After huge losses on the Somme battlefield, the Government introduced “bantam battalions” for shorter men and Grandad was now to join up. He was enlisted in the Army in Leeds in January 1917 and was placed in the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own), 17th Service Battalion, 2nd Leeds (a Bantam Battalion See post George and the Bantams.), which was attached to the 106th Brigade, 35th Division. He was 21 years old and, after basic training in England, he was shipped out to France in June 1917, arriving just in time for the great offensive in Flanders, now called simply “Passchendaele”.

Grandad Archer

George Archer in West Yorkshire Uniform. He is shown carrying a short wooden stick. In the British Army, up to World War I, swagger sticks were carried by all ranks when off duty, as part of their walking out uniform. The stick was made from polished wood with a decorated metal head in the regimental pattern. The usual custom was for the private soldier or NCO to carry the stick tucked under his arm.

Grandad’s Brigade was placed in the 5th Army under General Sir Hubert Gough, an Irish-born Officer, Sandhurst trained. Gough had served in the 16th Lancers in the Boer War at the relief of Ladysmith and he still maintained an “over-confident belief in the value of cavalry attacks”. This was a modern war being fought with old-fashioned ideas.

The Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres) was fought between July 1917 and November 1917. The main stated aim was to break through Flanders to the coast, where German U-Boat pens were sited, so that they could be destroyed. Food supplies to Britain were continually being cut off by the U-Boats, who were attacking and sinking merchant shipping. Since Britain imported about two thirds of its food supplies, there was real concern that the Germans could starve them into submission if the war was extended another year.

Sir Douglas Haig, British Commander on the Western Front, also believed that German morale was low after their defeat at Messines and that advancing through Flanders would be a breeze, so he was very keen to go ahead, in spite of objection from Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

Spurred on by the success at Messines, Haig decided to press on to capture Passchendaele Ridge. The Russian regime was suffering instability and if the Russians left the war, that would free up German troops to re-inforce the Western Front, so Haig believed that time was short and he ordered the Third Battle of Ypres to begin with a major artillary bombardment, as was the norm. The bombardment naturally alerted the Germans to the forthcoming major offensive and they were ready! The British and French advance began on 31st July, along an eleven mile front, making only small gains over the first days in the face of stronger than expected defence by the enemy and progress was soon halted  by the German 4th and 5th Armies. Casualties were high.

The 106th Brigade of the West Yorkshires, in which my Grandad was serving as an infantryman were, at this time, fighting alongside the Lancashire Fusiliers, Sherwood Forresters, Gloucesters and Scottish troops. Typically a Brigade would be at the front for four days, then be relieved for four days, in rotation and this seems to have been the pattern of his life…four days of advancing and being under fire, followed by four days of rest, when the soldiers must have dreaded and anticipated the likelihood of suffering mutilation or death the next time they were moved up to the front.

At the beginning of August, the soldiers’ misery was added to by the onset of rain. The earth had already been churned up by the artillery bombardment and was full of shell holes. Now my Grandad experienced the worst rains in 30 years (more than he had experienced his lifetime), which effectively changed the already marshy land into a mud-bath filled with dangerously deep holes, which could not properly be seen, especially in darkness. Tanks became stuck in the thick mud.  The shell holes, in which soldiers would previously take cover, were filled with water and rendered useless for cover. The flatness of the plain made cover impossible to find and soldiers were more able to be picked off by snipers and injured by shrapnel. Rifles were clogged up and men and horses drowned. The noise of battle was deafening.

Meanwhile, Haig blamed the lack of progress on Gough, rather then the weather, and moved Gough north, replacing him with Plumer. Gough had favoured a fast sweeping advance, but Plumer changed tactics in favour of small advances to positions that could be permanently held. The Battle of Menin Road Bridge, the Battle of Polygon Wood and the Battle of Broodseinde were fought between September and October 1917, the Allies taking hold of territory, bridge by bridge, road by road and farm by farm. Between October 9th and 12th, two battles were fought at Poelcappel and Passchendaele. German soldiers had been transferred from the Eastern front to bolster the defence there and now they used mustard gas on the advancing Allied troops.

Grandad would have seen men fall, injured or dead, heard the screams of the severely wounded…seen things that no man should ever see. Even when on a rest period, living conditions were unbearable. Makeshift tents, erected each night, were just simple bivvies, created by stretching canvas sheets tightly over a pole and pegging the sheets down. Each bivvie slept eight men. In some cases, pumps were used to try to remove water from trenches and dugouts but never were the soldiers able to be comfortable.

Disease was another threat. Lice were prevalent and men caught disease from them, known as “trench fever”, causing headaches, muscle aching and  high temperatures. Rats fed on the bodies of the dead and invaded the sleeping areas, biting the living and spreading more disease. In the continual unhealthy wet conditions, trench foot was common, an infection caused by continual exposure to wet conditions. Affected feet became numb, turned red or blue as a result of poor blood supply, and feet may have begun to have a decaying smell due to the early stages of necrosis. As the condition worsened, feet may have swollen. Advanced trench foot often involved blisters and open sores, which led to fungal infections.  If left untreated, trench foot results in gangrene, which can lead to amputation.

Added to the sights and terrifying sounds of battle, there was the smell…of mud mixed with rotting corpses, gas, open latrines, unwashed bodies and infection, which would together have made an unbearable stench.

Grandad must have thought he was in Hell. I believe YES, he WAS in Hell. The ordinary soldier was struggling on in the most challenging and desperate of conditions and danger but they were still not making much forward progress. Many soldiers must have become accustomed to the idea that they would never return home.

In late October, three further attempts were made on Passchendael Ridge and the town was eventually taken on November 6th. In an advance of a very few miles and over three months, the Allies lost 325,000 men and the Germans 260,000…over half a million young men lost for a few miles of muddy earth.

I don’t know if my Grandad made it to the capture of the town on November 6th. I know that he was wounded at Passchendaele and would have been evacuated for treatment, but not on which day. The history of the 35th Division (by Lt Col H M Davson) describes a bombardment by the Germans on 20th October 1917, resulting in a high number of casualties in the 106th brigade, which lost about 25% of its men either killed, missing or wounded. It is possible that is when Grandad was wounded too, but I may never know for certain.

Each Division had three Field Ambulance Units – these were mobile medical units who provided stretcher bearers and field ambulance stations. Grandad would have been sent to a dressing station and returned to his unit when deemed fit enough to serve. If he had been seriously wounded he would have been evacuated to a base hospital in France or “back to Blighty” to one of the Military Hospitals at home. I know that Grandad was wounded twice before the end of the war and I remember that one of his hands had restricted movement, possibly due to a tendon injury from shrapnel. However, we don’t know the extent of his injuries or how he was treated. He simply didn’t talk about it.

After Passchendaele, the number of casualties led to a manpower crisis and some Brigades had to be amalgamated at the end of November 1917 and early 1918. Re-organisation caused the 17th Service Battalion of the West Yorkshires (2nd Leeds) (a Bantam Battalion) to be amalgamated with the 15th Service Battalion of the West Yorkshires (1st Leeds) (the Leeds Pals) to become the new 15th/17th Battalion. In 1918, the West Yorkshires took part in actions at the First Battle of Bapaume, the Battle of Ypres, the Battle of Courtrai and the action of Tieghem.

Grandad’s second wounding was said to be at Ypres, presumably at the 1918 battle. He continued to serve until he was finally discharged in April 1919. His war record is lost with the many records that were destroyed in a fire in the 1940s, but his medal sheet survived and is shown here.

George Archer Medal Sheet

This tells us quite a lot:

The medal sheet shows George Archer, West Yorkshire Regiment, Regimental No. 60431, Rank of Private. We can see that he was Enlisted 5th January 1917 and Discharged 2nd April 1919. The cause of Discharge was “Para 392/xvi/KR”…that is paragraph 392 in the King’s Regulations, which indicates by the code (xvi), that he was now “No longer fit for further war service”. Initially, I assumed that this was because of one of the injuries that he received in the war. However, the “S” written into this box indicates he was unsuitable for further army service because of sickness, as it would have been a “W” there if he was discharged because of his wounds.

The reasons for the designation (xvi) being used was one of the following:

  1. A soldier with physical infirmity caused by wounds (where a “W” would be written in the “cause of discharge” box)…or…
  2. A soldier found to be medically unfit due to physical illness (with “S” written in the “cause of discharge” box). I imaging that this might include the effects of gas or trench foot, for example…or…
  3. Any man discharged for “insanity” or other diagnosed mental illness, which mostly would be shell-shock, sometimes called battle fatigue, combat stress, or what we may now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (this would also have had an “S” in “cause of discharge”).

So, it would seem that Grandad was suffering from either physical or mental illness by the end of the war.

The designation AO 29/19 in the “Cause of Discharge” further indicates that Grandad was awarded the Silver War Badge, which was awarded to officers and men who were honourably discharged or retired from the military forces as a result of sickness or injury caused by their war service.

“List 0/3585/2″ is a reference to the roll on which his Silver War Badge award is listed. Around the rim of the badge was inscribed “For King and Empire; Services Rendered”. The Silver War Badge became known as the “Services Rendered Badge”. Each badge was also engraved with a unique number on the reverse, not related to the recipient’s Service Number. Grandad would have received a certificate with the badge. The badge was made of sterling silver and was intended to be worn on the right lapel of a recipient’s civilian clothing to denote that the wearer had been honourably discharged from the service. Over a million wounded and sick soldiers were awarded silver badges on discharge and many ex-soldiers sold them in times of hardship in later years because of the value of the silver content.


Silver War Badge, awarded for “Services Rendered” to officers and men who had been honourably discharged on account of being wounded or ill.

His medals awarded were: the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, shown below.


Victory Medal and British War Medal

I asked my father what his Dad had told him about Passchendaele, but he said that he had never talked about it. When asked, all he would say was that “it was too bad to talk about” but he once offered the opinion that he believed “it was even worse than the Somme”.

I have wondered how the war affected my Grandad long term. I know that his great fear of rats haunted him all his life. Those men who had resilience and were lucky enough not to be severely wounded, somehow managed to endure and he was one of those who endured for almost two years of the most terrible of wars. I wonder how many times bad dreams and flashbacks invaded his mind. The extreme stress of  battle could and still can break even strong individuals. What was the illness recorded at his discharge that made him unsuitable for further service? How much of a toll had his time in Flanders taken on him?

In spite of hardship, those men who endured “soldiered on” to victory. Propaganda and patriotism must have played their part…the soldiers were fighting for their loved ones, they were fighting for their homes and for their freedom and they were fighting for King and Empire. They were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for all of that…and for a dream that some day they could return to a normal life, in freedom and peace. Naive? or Stoical? Above all, Courageous. Most would have experienced intense fear when under fire and some would not cope. 80,000 British men were treated for shell shock after the war ended, but many more must have suffered in silence and it must have changed their lives.

So Grandad returned home in April of 1919 and on 10th January 1920 he married his sweetheart, Mary Ann Ellis, my Grandma.

Mary Ann Ellis, author’s grandmother, who married George on 10th January 1920.

He couldn’t have had a better wife…intelligent, practical and no nonsense, she would have been a great source of support. But trying to build a normal life could not have been easy. The birth of their first child, my Auntie Laura, in July 1920 must have also given him a sign that life could be positive and meaningful again. This little dainty, pretty blonde girl captured his heart. My Dad swears that he took many a punishment for Laura’s mischief when they were children. Well, of course he would!

Grandad was also pretty partial to his first grandchild! Below is Grandad with me at Blackpool in the 1950s. He always wore a buttonhole at weekends, which he made himself.

After the war, Grandad returned to work at Aldham’s Mill in Dewsbury, which continued to manufacture blankets. He remained there until his retirement at the age of 65. He died in Dewsbury, from pneumonia, aged 78, in January 1974, leaving a widow, five children, six grandchildren and one great-grand-child.

See also: George Archer and the Bantams

More reading at

© Christine Widdall

First published on 14th Feb 2014. Additional material added 1st Aug 2017.

Feb 212014

15th Scottish Infantry Division

The 15th Scottish Division saw action in WW1 and, with other kilted Scottish soldiers, notably the 51st Division, were dubbed by the Germans “The Ladies from Hell”.
The Division was re-formed in 1939 and performed the following duties:

May 1940-Feb.1941 Defence of coastline S.E Essex.
Feb.1941-Nov.1941 Defence of Coastline Suffolk.
Nov. 1941- Sept 1943 Training in Northumberland. Defence of the Northumberland Coastline.
Sept. 1943-April 1943 Training in West Yorkshire.
Sept.1943-June 1944 South Coast Embarkation Area.
June 1944-Mar 1946 France/Belgium/Holland/Germany/Advance to the Baltic.

Total Casualties June 1944 to May 1945  were 11,772

Harold Archer

Harold Archer was my Dad. He was born in 1923 in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, the eldest son of a mill-worker, George Archer, who had himself fought in and survived the great War of 1914-1918 (see articles George Archer and the Bantams and George Archer at Passchendaele.

Harold was born in Dewsbury in 1923. He passed the entrance examination for the Dewsbury Grammar School, but was unable to take up the offer, because his family could not afford the books and uniform, and so he attended the Eastborough School, where he became Head Boy, before leaving to get his first job at the age of 14. He first worked in a pawn shop but ws fired from that job for taking Saturday off without permission to see a Huddersfield Town FC home game. He then joined his father at Aldam’s woollen mill, as a spinner. At the age of 18, Harold was called to report for Military Service. He became a driver in the 15th Scottish Division, 284 Company Royal Army Service Corps, from 1942 and later served as head clerk in the Military Government in Germany at the end of the war until discharged in 1947. Harold died in November 2014 at the grand old age of 91, after a short illness, before which he was frail in body but with his memory intact. 

What follows is Harold’s war service diary in his own words, given to me in about 2000:

by Harold Archer


284 Company RASC in Trittau

14 May 1942
Joined 6th Training Battalion, R.A.S.C. Bluecoats School, Sheffield. Was assigned to Sgt. Parker’s Platoon and became T/10703568 Driver H. Archer, 284 Company Royal Army Service Corps.

The first 3 days were taken up with Dentistry, and Injections; Small Pox, Typhus, Typhoid, Tetanus etc – the left arm was pretty sore. The next full week was spent learning how to march and how to salute, then we were allowed to go on leave for 48 hours, to take our civvy clothes home. From then, for about a month, it was Marching and Rifle Drill, day in and day out until “Parker” was satisfied.

Next we were taught how to fire a rifle, spent many hours at Totley range and I enjoyed this very much. Now it was time to learn to drive – would I be travel sick? 15 half hour lessons in Sheffield; how I hated those trams, but I passed my test and knew I was going to like driving. Three months military training ended in August with the passing out parade. We were given the “Best Platoon” award, only to be told, when we boasted, that it was Sgt. Parker’s turn.

Aug. 1942
We were then posted to the 15th Scottish Infantry Division and thought we were going to Bridlington, but it turned out to be Bedlington in Northumberland, where we got a wonderful welcome from the local people; none of us would ever forget their kindness and hospitality. Our job here was to train, fit in to our new Division, and defend the Northumbrian coast. I managed to get home a couple of times from here, and also attend a Poison Gas Course, and a Water Purification Course at Aldershot Barracks, and a Motorcycle Course at Catterick Garrison. I passed all three courses, but I think learning to ride a motorcycle could have been the most lethal for me.

Sept. 1943
Said a sad farewell to Northumberland and moved to Leeds, where we took over Leeds United’s car park for our vehicles. I could not believe my luck, just six miles from home, but I didn’t get home as often as I expected. Our training continued, the most important aspect being learning how to waterproof our vehicles, to enable us to drive through water up to six feet deep. I discovered why on 9 June 1944, when it turned out to be Sea Water. We did this training at the School of Military Engineering at Ripon and tested our efforts at Harrogate.

April 1944
We were given embarkation leave, then moved down to the South coast. I was at Cowfold, a few miles from Brighton. We were never told very much, only that we should not expect any more leave for a long time. Dates and Divisional Events from this point are taken from Divisional Records.

6th June 1944
Called on parade to be told that during the early hours, an invasion force had landed on the beaches of Normandy, and that Transport Companies and advance parties of the Division were to be prepared to embark as soon as possible, and later in the afternoon, vehicles loaded with food, petrol and ammunition, we set off for Tilbury docks, and on this day I got my “Return Ticket”.

Driving through London to cheering crowds, who had heard the news of the invasion, the convoy came to a halt and a London Transport Conductress came to my cab door to wish us luck, I said “Return Please” and was immediately issued with a low value return ticket with the words “Don’t worry luv, you‘ ll come back.”
We arrived at Tilbury Docks early evening and for the next few hours, we were loaded onto ships, slings were put under the vehicles and we were lifted by crane onto the decks, and made secure, my sea sickness started at this moment and continued for 3 more days.

We moved up the Thames and waited for the rest of our convoy and on the night of 8 June we set sail…these were the worst days I can ever remember.

9 June 1944
Out at seal was so ill that when the Sgt. Major suggested? I go on deck for fresh air and exercise, I told him where to go! My mates half carried me up the iron steps to the deck so that I could see the vast armada of ships, but at that moment in time I couldn’t care less. Later the ship anchored and we were hoisted from the deck and lowered onto American Tank Landing Craft to be taken into more shallow water. The vehicles were two abreast on the LCT. I was on the front row right…one of my best mates Alec was on my left, when the ramp went down, Alec said “who’s going first? to which I replied “you, I can’t swim”. Lucky me! Alec drove down into the sea, so far down, he disappeared, vehicle and all and I thought I had lost a good mate. However ,soon he was standing on top of his cab still up to his waist in water and, in his Scots accent, was telling the American officer what he thought of the Yanks. The ramp was pulled up and we were taken a little further, when the ramp went down again, about 400 yds from the beach, it was my tum and I had only two things to worry about, how deep was the water this time, and how good a job had I done waterproofing my vehicle. Anyway I was ordered to go, so into first gear, foot down to the floor boards and moved down into the water levelling out with water at chest level. My Return Ticket was working.

Landed on the beach and moved off to a place called Bayeux where I was greeted by my first French person, We set up base here until the rest of the Division arrived, the infantry, the real soldiers.

25 June 1944 to 3 July
Division enters its first battle, Battle of the Odon (Bridge),fighting against 21st Panzer Div. and 12th SS Panzer Div. (Hitler Youth Div,) who murdered Canadian Prisoners during the first week of the invasion. Heavy casualties 2720

3 July 1944/12 July
Advanced to Evrecy against 9th and 10th Panzer Divisions

15 July 1944/19th July
Battle of Gavrus with casualties of 964

30 July 1944/5 Aug
Battle for Caumont , first time 1 had come under fire and had our first Company casualty. We were shelled just as we arrived at a new location, whilst we were still digging our slit trenches O.Cs batman wounded.My Retum Ticket 1 Total casualties 602

6 Aug 1944/10 Aug
Battle for Estrey our second time under fire and our second casualty one of our drivers wounded. Heavy casualties 1028

11 Aug 1944/29 Aug
Advance through Falaise – Trun – Louviers and Rouen to crossing River Seine on 28 August.

30 Aug 1944/5 Sept.
Advance through Amiens towards Lille.

6 Sept 1944
Today I made a large blunder. At daybreak, along with two other vehicles, we accidentally drove into a town which turned out to be Lille, which should have been in enemy hands. We were about to get out quickly when a young lady came out of a Cafe in her nightdress waving and shouting “Tommy”. She told us the German troops had left during the night. We were soon meeting other members of her fami1y and drinking awful French coffee, but didn’t stay long. My first stupid mistake…Military Police must have slept in.

7 Sept 1944/9 Sept
Battle for Coutrai with casualties of 118

10 Sept 1944/19 Sept
Battle for Gheel with heavy casualties of 914

20 Sept 1944
Crossed the Meuse – Escaut canal.

21 Sept 1944
Entered Eindhoven, which had been liberated by U.S Airbome Division.

22 Sept 1944/2 OctBattle for Best. Heavy casualties 925

18 Oct 1944/27 Oct
Advance on and battle for Tilburg – liberated on 27 October. Casualties 163

29 Oct 1944/15 Nov
Battle for Meijel – casualties 758

16 Nov 1944/30 Nov
In small parties the Division had short leave in Brussels, staying with Belgium families who treated us wonderfully well.

1 Dec 1944/29 Jan 1945
Winter watch on the Maas, everything was frozen up, very very cold. During this period the Germans launched a counter offensive against the Americans and our troops were ordered to hold the northern flank. We were located in a small Belgium village and I spent Christmas sleeping in the back of my vehicle in the school yard on top of three tons of petrol.The only good thing at this time was a boy soprano, who sang Ave Maria and Christmas Carols every night in the local village café. I felt very home sick and thought a lot about family and friends back home.

On New Years morning, a few of us were sent to the railhead just outside Eindhoven. Shortly after we arrived the Luftwaffe arrived in force (4 planes) dropped a few bombs on the town, and then proceeded to machine gun the railhead. We were all hopping around pretty lively—the RAF, who must have had a hangover, finally drove them off.No human casualties. Return Ticket still valid. During this period we gradually moved north through Holland.

8 Feb 1945
Crossed into Germany at Nijmegan.

9 Feb 1945/25 Feb.
Battle of the Seigfreid Line. We were about to witness the greatest artillery barrage in the history of warfare. 1334 guns of the Royal Artillery firing continuously for a total of eleven hours, raising their sights 300 yards every twelve minutes to facilitate the advance of the Infantry.

Total casualties were 1529

26 Feb 1945/24 Mar.
Advance to and battle of the River Rhine, thought about the Infantry who would be crossing in boats under heavy fire to make a bridgehead, glad I was a driver in the RASC. When daylight came we cheered like schoolboys as the Airborne Troops in the planes and gliders passed overhead.
Casualties were heavy again 914

26 Mar 1945
Crossed the Issell.

27 March 1945/28 April
Advance to the Elbe.

Our casualties were 543

During this advance we liberated Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp (12 April) to which we supplied the things that were needed. The local people said they never knew about the camp, hard to believe with the dreadful smell of decaying bodies everywhere. It must have been a terrible ordeal for the unit which discovered the camp. I think it was the Ox and Bucks Regiment. Our commanders rounded up the locals and made them clear up some of the mess, and provide fresh linen etc.

Cpt T J Stokes of the 181st Field Regiment wrote:

While at Lundersburg, we sent all water trucks which could be spared, to the Belsen Concentration camp. The drivers had heart-rending stories to tell of the horrible conditions there. An armed guard watched each truck as it entered the camp, to prevent hundreds of starving inmates from clambering on, to get any drops of water they could. The people were dying as you looked at them. The German guards were made to dig the graves and accompany the loads of dead bodies to the burial ground.

(Harold was driving one of those trucks.)

29 Apr 1945/3 May

Battle of the River Elbe Crossing, we had our third casualty, one of our drivers was killed.
Total casualties 325

4 May 1945/6 May
Dash to Lubeck on the Baltic coast where we met the Russians and held a common front with them until the Division was disbanded. I didn’t trust them and was happy to move next day. But we couldn’t have won the war without them.

7 May 1945
284 Company RASC took up residence in a lovely tiny village called Trittau about 20 miles east of Hamburg, and soon our enemies were friends.

9 May 1945
On my first duty out, Alec and I came upon a group of German Soldiers, didn’t know what to expect, but all was well and I ended up being the proud owner of my second Luger Pistol and a German Army Watch, a Jungham’s and we proudly took our “prisoners” back to HQ. Today a strange thing happened, captured units of the German army were re-armed and ordered by our Divisional Commander to clear up one SS Unit in the forest of Segeberg, which had refused to surrender.

11 May 1945
On my Birthday I was promoted to the dizzy heights of Lance Corporal and moved to HQ Platoon, where I went into the office as Company Pay Clerk and a few weeks later I got very DRUNK. I drank most of a bottle of Martell Brandy on top of a half mug of whisky containing a table spoon of sugar. I ended up in the Rest Camp in a very bad state, but after that it was very quiet and restful for the rest of my stay in Trittau.

March 1946
Left Trittau for leave in England, the sea crossing was the worst. Cuxhaven to Harwich, in a force eight gale. I was again very sick, but I guess it was worth it just to see my Mum jump for joy when I walked in and little brother Raymond had been standing outside on the pavement for two or three hours looking down the road. Thought Mum was never going to let go of me.

On my return to Germany, I was told at Cuxhaven that my unit was being disbanded and I was to report to 15th Tank Transporter Company, Hamburg where two days later I was promoted to Corporal. A week or two later, I was posted to Finance Branch , 609 Military Government, Hamburg where I met up again with one of my RASC friends and became Chief Clerk in September and stayed for the rest of my Army service.

17 Jan.1947
Arrived home, a good piece of my youth lost, but my Return Ticket still OK.

15th Scottish Infantry Division Summary.

6th June 1944 –7th May 1945Individual Awards
41 French Croix de Guerres.
32 Belgium Awards.
3 U.S.A. Awards.
1238 British Awards.

Transport Companies.
Total Miles Driven 5,781,200
Shells Carried 825,680
Petrol Carried 3,500,000 Gallons.
Food Rations 8,050,000
Small Arms Ammo. Not Known.

Bayeux. St. Gabriel. Cheux. Evrecy, Caumont. Estgg. Falaise. Trun. Louviers. Rouen. Lille. Roubaix. Brussels. Eindhoven. Courtrai. Gheel. Best. Tilburg. Meijel. Blerick. Brussels. Nijmegan. Cleeve. Goch. Dinjen. Osnabruck. Neustadt. Celle. Bergan Belsen. Luneburg. Artlenburg. Ahrensburg. Lubeck. Trittau. Hamburg. Plus Hanover, Cologne & Berlin.
© Harold Archer.
February 2014


Major General G.H.A. Macmillan. June 1944-3 August 1944.
Major General C.M.Barber 3 August 1944 – March 1946

R.A.S.C. Lieutenant Colonel K.M. Whitworth. June 1944-August 1946

Infantry HQ
44th Lowland Brigade
8th Bat. Royal Scots Reg.
6th Bat.Royal Scots Fusiliers
6th Bat. Kings Own Scottish Borderers

HQ 27th Highland Brigade.
10th Bat. Highland Light Infantry
2nd Bat.Gordon Highlanders
2nd.Bat. Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

HQ 46th Highland Brigade.
9th Bat. Cameronians
2nd Bat. Glasgow Highlanders
7th Bat. Seaforth Highlanders
lst Middlesex Machine Gun Battalion

Royal Engineers
20 Field Company
278 Field Company
279 Field Company
624 Field Park Company

15th Scottish Recon. Regiment
15th Scottish Royal Signals Regiment
15th Ordnance Field Park Reg.
305th ML & BU
39th F.S Section

H.Q. Company R.A.S.C
62 Company R A S C
283 Company R A S C
284 Company R A S C
399 Company R A S C

Royal Artillery
131 Field Regiment
181 Field Regiment
190 Field Regiment
97 Anti-Tank Regiment
119 Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment

Medical Corps
153 Company Field Ambulance
193 Company Field Ambulance
194 Company Field Ambulance
40 Field Hygienic Section
22 Field Dressing Station
23 Field Dressing Station

R E M E Workshops
44 Brigade Workshops
46 Brigade Workshops
227th Brigade Workshops
15th Divisional Troops Workshops

15th Scottish R C M P

Feb 172014

Thomas Sheard of Ovenden, Halifax, is my ancestor and is the ancestor of many if not most of the Sheards in the Dewsbury, Batley, Mirfield and Kirkheaton areas. I must therefore have a great number of Kirklees Cousins named Sheard! But Sheard is not one of the oldest names in the area. In fact it probably came into the Calderdale area in the 16th Century, possibly with Richard Sherd, who may have been Thomas’s father, from where it spread to Mirfield and on to other parts of Kirklees through Thomas’s sons. Thomas Sheard of Ovenden is regarded as the key person in the ancestry of many if not most of the Mirfield, Batley and Kirkeaton Sheard families. The featured image is a Wool merchant’s sign c1500s.

The Sheard name

From the Huddersfield Examiner:

“In 2009, a rose bowl was presented to the Huddersfield and District Bowling veterans by local businessman Ian Armitage, accompanied by the association’s president, Frank Lockwood. The bowlers in the picture had the surnames of Bray, Crowther, Firth, Haigh, Hoyle, Pogson, Sheard and Sykes. All 10 names can be found in local parish registers from 1538. Nine of the names had their origins within six miles of Huddersfield, taking their history back to the 13th and 14th centuries. Sheard was the ‘new boy’; his family had moved into the Calder Valley by 1538…”

In “Surnames, DNA and Family History” co-written by George Redmonds of Lepton, West Yorkshire, geneticist Turi King and local history specialist David Hey of Sheffield University, a number of British surnames are traced to their origins in different parts of the UK and Europe. Dr George Redmonds an expert on the origins of surnames, speaking about the Sheard Family History, said:

“The surname Sherd is derived from a small locality in Cheshire and means a cleft or gap. It gave rise to a family name over 600 years ago and one of the first bearers of the name was Hugo del Sherd in 1354. Like many other families, the Sherds or Sheards were attracted before long to the commercial centres of the West Riding and in 1440 the surname appeared in Sheffield in the south and in 1455 in Ripon in the north. The next 100 years saw the rapid rise to prosperity of Halifax and not surprisingly by the 1530s a Richard Sherd was living in the Ovenden area. He was probably the father of Thomas Sheard of Ovenden who died in 1565 and whose will provides one of the main links in the family history (in Kirklees).”

Thomas Sheard of Ovenden

Thomas Sheard of Ovenden was a “woolman” who was born about 1515 in Ovenden (Halifax). Prior to his marriage, he had two illegitimate children, a boy and a girl, by Agnete Davey. Thomas married Margaret Holdesworth on 10th March 1550 in Halifax. The Holdesworth family ancestry in Halifax dates back to some of the earliest records in the area and they were an illustrious and influential family, but so far I have been unable to find exactly where Margaret links into them (see below).

Michael Sheard’s book “The History of Batley” gives a brief summary of the family of Thomas Sheard and includes a transcript of his will, signed in 1565. Thomas mentioned his illegitimate children in his will in addition to his five children, four sons and a daughter, from his ten year marriage to Margaret, whilst they were living in Ovenden.

  • Michael Sheard born 1551.
  • Martin Sheard born 1553.
  • Sybill Sheard born 1554.
  • Matthew Sheard, born 1559
  • Luke Sheard born 1561.

Thomas Sheard’s Will

The last will and testament of Thomas Sheard of Ovenden in Halifax Parish in 1565 reads:

“In the name of God, amen, the 12th September, 1565, I, Thomas Sheard of Ovenden, in the prsh of Halifax, within the co. of York, wolman, of whole myne and pfete remembrance but………………………and troubled with seckness, and therefore fearinge and mistrusting the uncertantie of this miserable and wretched world, do ordayne and make this my last will and testament in manner and forme as hereafter ensuythe ffirst and principallie I do giue and bequeathe my soule unto God almyghtie Or heavenie father, surlie Trustynge and stedfastlie belevenge to have full remisscon of all my synes in the bold shedding of his most dearlie beloved sone Or Savor Jesu Christ, and in the meritte of his blessed passion, and my bodie to be buried in the churche or churche garthe of Halifax, emongst the bodies of the other faith full people of God, and one mortuatie to the Vicar of the same church, according to the Raite of the late prince of most famous memory King Henrye the eigth statutes for that purpose established and pvided, ffirst, it is my will that I be decentlie brought further of all my goods according to my vocacon and whereas before the daite here of my deed bearing Date the seavent of June, in this instant seaventhe year of the reign of Or soveryne ladie queene that now is, I have gyven and delivered by good will and concent of Margaret Sheard, my wife, to Mychaell, Martin, Mathew and Luke Sheard, my sones and Sibell Sheard my Doughter, the full some of one hundrethe pounds of good and lawful English money, as by the said deide bearing date as it more plainlie it appeareth, the said whiche gyfte I will shall be and remayne fyrme and stable, and irremovable, in althings, and contente according to the proportine and terme of the same deide, ther my last will, or any other thinge or content to the contarie not withe standing, also, I do gyve and bequithe to the saide Margaret, my wife, the full third part of the Residue of all my goods, cattells, detts, and implements, where with she the said being prst at the making and reading hereof for the naturall faver and goodwill she hath and bearithe to her said children is agred and fulie contented, also I gyve to John Davye  my bastard sone 40shillings, also I gyve and bequithe to …….. Davye my bastard daughter 40shillings. I do gyve also and bequeathe to Thomas byshoppe of Surrobie, in Lincolnshire, 10shillings. I do gyve and bequithe to everyone of my godchildren 12 pence. I do gyve also and bequithe to Grace Dean 6s 8d. I do gyve and bequeathe to Eliz. Barwike, my sister, 3s 4d. I do gyve also and bequeithe to Edward Haldesworthe, my wyfes brother, two stone of shorte wolle, to make his children clothes to array them withal. The other two ptes and residue of all my goods, chattels and implements besides the said hundred pounds given by deede is paid, the said thirde pte appointed to the said Margaret Sheard, my wyfe, my detts, legaces and funeral expences deducted and discharged, I gyve and bequethe to the said Mychaell, Martin, Mathew, Luke and Sibell Sheard, my children, who with the said Margaret Sheard, my wyf, I do ordyne and make my lawful Executors of this my last will and testament, also, I have desired my verye faithful frends Mr John Waterhouse of Schypden, Gentleman, as principall, Robert Sheard, my brother, John Craven, John Whitley, Thomas Wilkinson, and William Otte (Oats), to be supervisors of this my said last will and Testament, unto whom I gyve authoritie and power to ovrsee, correct, and assyste my said Executores in all thing fur about, and concerning the true executing and performance of this my last will and testament according to the terms of the same. The which said supervisors shall shall have there costes and charges fullie borne of my said goods.

Witnes, Robt Bryghouse, Henrie Ryshworthe, John Spensor, Thomas Gledhill, William Burton, Gylberte Haldesworthe, John Ledgyerde

Will Proved 7 November 1565.”

(Note, we do not know what relationship Gylberte Haldesworthe had to the family but it is possible he was Margaret’s father. It is less likely he was her brother as he might, in that case, have been mentioned in Thomas’s will, as her brother Edward was).

Wool in 16th Century Halifax

Ancient Guilds predated the Norman Conquest and those such as Woolmen’s Guilds became regulated by King Henry II in the 12th Century. One of these, the Worshipful Company of Woolmen is one of the oldest of the Livery Companies of the City of London.  It was the body that oversaw wool merchants to ensure consistent standards throughout the wool industry. When wool prospered, so did the country, and  Queen Elizabeth I (1533– 1603) was so concerned about the fate of the wool trade that she decreed that all Englishmen except nobles had to wear a woollen cap to church on Sundays, to support the wool industry. In her reign, wool prospered and so did woolmen.  Even now, the seat of the Lord High Chancellor in the House of Lords is a large bag of wool called the ‘woolsack’, a reminder of the principal source of English wealth in the Middle Ages and beyond.

In the 16th Century, many Yorkshire towns began to grow along with the wool industry, the wealth becoming concentrated in the West Riding. The towns of Leeds, Wakefield and Halifax prospered because of the cloth trade and, during the 1500s, Halifax led the West Riding of Yorkshire towards becoming one of England’s most prosperous textile manufacturing districts. Wool became the driving force of the English economy and it was in great demand by the weavers of Bruges, Ghent and Ypres in Flanders and further afield in Genoa, Italy. In Yorkshire, wool merchants established a “putting-out” system, the merchants paying artisans by the piece to work on cloth owned by them. The finished cloths were then collected and over 100,000 cloths were exported annually. Independent clothiers with small farms were to be found all over the West Riding, but were especially concentrated in the Halifax area. Some workers bought their own wool at market and took it home to spin and weave and sell on. The following quotations from the 16th and 17th century confirm the rise of Halifax:

The “Halifax” Act, 1555:

“Forasmuche as the Paryshe of Halyfaxe beying planted in the Grete Waste and Moores, where the fertilite of the gronde ys not apte to bring forthe any Corne nor Goode Grasse, only by exceedinge and greate industrye of the inhabitants. The same altogether doo lyve by cloth making. The greate part of them hathe to repair to the Towne of Halyfax and ther bye wooll upon the woolldriver, some a stone, some three or four according to thyre habilitie. And to carry the same to theire houses, some iii, iiii, v and vi myles of, upon theire Headdes and Backs and so to make and convert the same eyther into Yarne or Clothe, and to sell the same and so to bye more woolle. By means of which industrye the Gronde in those parts be nowe much inhabited and above Fyve Hundrethe householders there newly increased within theis Fourtye Years past”.

From James Ryder’s “Commendations of Yorkshire” 1588:

“They excel the rest in policy and industrie, for the use of their trade and groundes, and after the rude and arrogant manner of their wilde country they surpass the rest in wisdom and wealth… so that the rest of the county woulde in this followe them but afar off, the force and wealth of Yorkshire would soon be doubled.”

So it continued and in 1686, William Camden wrote:

“There is nothing so admirable in this town of Halifax as the industrie of the inhabitants who, not withstanding an unprofitable and barraine soil, have so flourished by the cloth trade that they greatly enrich their own estates and winne praise from all their neighbours”.

The new yeomanry around the townships of Halifax used their wealth to build large houses and the number of such fine houses outstripped other areas. The Calderdale local government website tells us that:

“The earliest of these houses have a characteristically uniform plan with a housebody open from ground to roof and aisles providing extra width. Aisles are functional and reveal their builders source of wealth rather than their search for greater comfort. Aisles create a lower room giving additional space in a working household where a clothier might set up looms or store wool and pieces ready for market.

We do not know if Thomas owned such a fine house as described above but judging from his wealth, that may have been the case. Thomas Sheard’s putative father, Richard, had moved to Ovenden,  a township in the parish and union of Halifax, by the 1530s, probably attracted by the new growth in textiles in the area. Maybe he was a woolman too. Thomas Sheard, conducted his own wool business in mid 16th Century Halifax. Just as the West Riding wool trade prospered there, so did he.

The value of Thomas’s estate

In 2006 I attempted to value Thomas’s estate at the value of the day. Using sources from the House of Commons Library, I estimated that the value of Thomas’s bequest to his children of  £100 amounted to some £80,000 at 2006 value.

The two stones of wool that Thomas left to Edward Haldesworth, his brother-in-law, was also valued at 2006 prices. To value the bequest of wool, I consulted “The Enclosures in England, an Economic Reconstruction, Harriett Bradley 1918, House of Commons Library, Kitchener 2001”. This publication lists the price of wool for ten year periods from 1261 to 1582. From 1561-1570, the price of a tod of wool (a tod is 28lbs or 2 stones) was 16 shillings. Thomas left that amount to Edward Holdesworthe, his brother-in -law. Using the same method of calculating, that would amount to £675 worth of goods at 2006 prices.

The remaining two thirds of his property and goods were left to his wife and children and we do not know exactly how much that was, but clearly he was quite a wealthy man, perhaps not a millionaire by our standards, but certainly “middle-class” and comfortably off.

Thomas’s widow, Margaret Sheard (born Holdesworth)

Margaret, Thomas’s widow may have been born 1528-1532 in Southowram. The Latter Day Saints records give her parents as Richard Holdesworth and Margaret Waterhouse of Ashday, Southowram. However, it appears from the research of Deb Walker in Mirfield that Margaret, daughter of Richard Holdsworth, who died in 1543, did not have a brother called Edward. A transcript of Richard Holdsworth’s will clearly mentions his children; Robert, John, William, Christopher, Margaret and Anne.  He doesn’t mention a son called Edward and we know that “our” Margaret Holdsworth had a brother called Edward, because her husband Thomas Sheard mentions him in his will c.f. “Edward Haldesworthe, my wife’s brother”. Deb feels sure that, when Richard Holdsworth died in 1543, he would have mentioned Edward if he had been his son, especially since we know that Edward was still alive 22 years later in 1565 and had children of his own, which may suggest he was still in his minority in 1543, in which case his father would certainly want to provide for him in his will in some way. Our Margaret was almost certainly related to the influential Holdsworths of Astey/Ashday, just not this particular couple, but we can’t exactly place her position in the family. It is possible that her father was Gylberte Haldesworthe (Holdesworth), who witnessed her husband’s will.

Looking at the burials in Halifax, I found no certain burial for Margaret Sheard. Deb says “Unless she was the “Uxor Thomas Sheard de Ovenden xviii Feb 1576”, but of course she should have been “vidua” not “uxor”. Maybe it would have been a simple mistake for a clerk to write “uxor” rather than “vidua”. Mistakes in Parish records may not be common, but they did occur. However, if we assume that Margaret was younger than Thomas and our birthdate for her is correct, she may only have been in her mid 30s when he died and so remarriage is possible and probably likely. There is a marriage entry at Halifax between a William Wadsworth and a Margaret Sheard in February 1571. William Wadsworth was an Ovenden man and he and his new wife had two daughters, Grace and Margaret, baptised in 1572 and 1575 respectively. There is a burial entry for ‘the wife’ of William Wadsworth of Warley in May 1577 and there are a number of possible re-marriages for this William. But if this Margaret was born as early as 1528, that would make her 49 at the birth of the last child and that would have been quite rare in those days. If she was born as late as 1532, it would still make her 45 at the birth of the last child, which is possible (just). I lean to the idea that it was the Margaret who died in 1576 who was his widow.

Thomas’s legacy in the Kirklees area

Of Thomas’s children, Martin Sheard married and settled in Batley parish. Many of the Batley Sheards are descended from him. Michael, Matthew, and Luke settled in Mirfield parish. Luke appears to have moved to Kirkeaton, as there are a number of records in Kirkheaton referring to him and so the Kirkheaton Sheards in my family are possibly descended from Luke. The vast majority of my Sheard ancestors Have been found to be descended from Thomas Sheard’s eldest son, Michael. So far I have documented 1,824 of his descendants related in some way to me and I have many more still to add to the family tree. Both of my parents are descended from Thomas’s eldest son and are related to each other many times over. What we can say with certainty is that Thomas Sheard started a dynasty in the Kirklees area. If you are a Sheard whose ancestors are from Mirfield or Kirkheaton, I am probably also related to you!

1881 Census returns on the name “Sheard”

The Census of 1881 shows how concentrated the name of “Sheard” still was in the West Riding after the passage of more than 300 years. There were hardly any Sheards outside Yorkshire, the second highest concentration being in Lancashire.

Top Counties

County Total Frequency Index
Yorkshire 2189 0.0756 8.2552
Isle of Man 39 0.0719 7.8487
Berkshire 48 0.0219 2.3898
Oxfordshire 19 0.0105 1.1498
Nottinghamshire 31 0.0079 0.8595
Lancashire 222 0.0064 0.6992
Cheshire 34 0.0053 0.5756
Cardiganshire / Ceredigion 3 0.0042 0.4596
Bedfordshire 6 0.004 0.4331
Derbyshire 16 0.0035 0.3819
Denbighshire / Sir Ddinbych 2 0.0018 0.1979
Warwickshire 13 0.0018 0.1926
Kent 17 0.0017 0.1862
London 42 0.0014 0.157
Somerset 6 0.0013 0.1393
Surrey 18 0.0013 0.1381
Staffordshire 11 0.0011 0.1218
Hampshire 6 0.001 0.1094
County Durham 7 0.0008 0.0879
Shropshire 2 0.0008 0.0865
Gloucestershire 4 0.0007 0.0762
Sussex 3 0.0006 0.0665
Lincolnshire 2 0.0004 0.0467
Devon 2 0.0003 0.0359
Essex 1 0.0002 0.0189


Top Parishes

In 1881, most of the Yorkshire Sheards in the UK were still concentrated around the parishes close to and including Mirfield and batley, where Thomas Sheard’s sons settled in the second half of the 16th Century.

Census District County Total Frequency Index
Hartshead Yorkshire 32 2.4672 269.3603
Mirfield Yorkshire 313 1.9693 215.0021
Liversedge Yorkshire 137 1.0631 116.0624
Thornhill Yorkshire 69 0.8169 89.1819
Batley Yorkshire 213 0.7742 84.5272
Kirkheaton Yorkshire 34 0.7242 79.0698
Lindley Cum Quarmby Yorkshire 46 0.63 68.7799
Heckmondwike Yorkshire 49 0.5263 57.4578
Dalton In Huddersfield Yorkshire 28 0.4318 47.138
Warley Yorkshire 34 0.4064 44.3633
Dewsbury Yorkshire 114 0.384 41.921
Southowram Yorkshire 32 0.3622 39.5403
Gomersal Yorkshire 46 0.3404 37.1687
Soothill Yorkshire 31 0.2965 32.3658
Almondbury Yorkshire 40 0.2858 31.1988
Ovenden Yorkshire 35 0.2717 29.6585
Huddersfield Yorkshire 79 0.1873 20.451
Hunslet Yorkshire 59 0.1307 14.2698
Halifax Yorkshire 28 0.0659 7.193
Leeds Yorkshire 78 0.0477 5.209
Feb 132014
Cap badge

See also: George Archer at Passchendaele

A whole generation of young men experienced the war that ‘would be over by Christmas’ but which “dragged on for four long years of bloody stalemate, death, mutilation and destruction”.

My grandfather, George Archer, was born 1895 and brought up at 14 Lacy Street, Dewsbury.

A bright child, he nevertheless had to leave school at the age of 12 and began his work in the woollen blanket industry. George was a very short and slightly built man, only about 5 feet tall. When war broke out in 1914, he was 19 years old but he was too short to sign up for the army, being less than 5 ft 3 inches in height. He continued in the blanket manufacturing industry in Dewsbury.

The Dewsbury blanket industry was important to support troops at the front, as most army blankets were made in the Heavy Woollen District of Yorkshire, in Batley and Dewsbury. The blankets were usually shades of grey to grey-blue as they were not dyed, but spun from reclaimed woollens (Shoddy and Mungo), which was the local process. (George’s Great-Great-Grandfather has been credited as the person who introduced Shoddy Woollen manufacturing to the USA and the Archer family were prominent in the design of textile machinery in that industry).  All the army blankets were woven with red or black stripes to identify them as War Office supply. These blankets left the mills for storage, until they were needed, at the Army’s main textile storage depot, which was also in Dewsbury.

When it was realised that more men were required to go to the front line,, the Member of Parliament for Birkenhead, Alfred Bigland, asked the War Office for permission to form a battalion of men who were under regulation size but otherwise fit for service. These so-called Bantam units were drawn from industrial and coal mining areas where short stature was no sign of weakness and men were used to hard physical labour and the height of the men had to be a minimum of 5 feet. The name derives from the town of Bantam in Indonesia, where a small breed of domestic hens were bred and the name was also given to a type of boxer “bantamweight”.  Soon, 3,000 men had volunteered, many of whom had previously been rejected as being too short. The original men were formed into the 1st and 2nd Birkenhead Battalions of the Cheshire regiment. Other regiments soon began to recruit: the Lancashire Fusiliers, West Yorkshires, Royal Scots, and Highland Light Infantry. Many of the recruits were miners and factory workers and eventually these units were formed into the 35th Division.

Cap badge

Cap badge of the West Yorkshire’s, showing the white horse of Hanover above a scroll.

Formation of the 35th Division

After initial training without equipment or uniform, at billets close to home, the Division was formed up in Yorkshire with HQ at Masham, in June 1915. The 17th West Yorkshires  were billeted at Ilkley from January to May 1915 according to Brig E A James. He wrote/compiled the definitive book on British battalion locations during WW1, an essential reference work.

In August, the troops moved to Salisbury Plain. In late 1915, orders were received to prepare to move to Egypt, but this was soon countermanded (see notes below) and they were sent to France instead in late January and early February 1916. It remained on the Western Front for the remainder of the war and took part in the following battles:

  • Battle of Albert. 1-13 Jul 1916, including the capture of Montauban, Mametz, Fricourt, Contalmaison and La Boisselle.
  • German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. 14 Mar 1917 to 5 Apr 1917.

George signed up into a Bantam Battalion at Leeds in January 1917 and was placed in the The West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) 17th Service Battalion (2nd Leeds), which was attached to the 106th Brigade, 35th Division. His army uniform shows the West Yorkshire Cap badge. He was 21 years old. He would have gone to France in the summer of 1917 and he served to the end of the war, including actions at:

  • The Second Battle of Passchendaele. 26 Oct-10 Nov 1917.
  • The First Battle of Bapaume. 24-25 Mar 1918.
  • Battle of Ypres. 28 Sep-2 Oct 1918.
  • Battle of Courtrai. 14-19 Oct 1918.
  • Actions of Tieghem. 31 Oct 1918.

On 9 November 1918, the advanced units of the Division had made a foothold on the far bank of the River Schelde near Berchem. They advanced and had captured Grammont, reaching the River Dendre when the armistice halted the fighting at 11am on 11 November 1918.

The Division was withdrawn towards Ypres and by 2 December 1918 was near St-Omer. Here it began to demobilise. In January 1919, the Division was called upon to control rioting in the camps at Calais. The 35th Division was disbanded at the end of April 1919, having suffered casualties (killed, wounded and missing) of 23,915 during the war.

Notes from the Naval and Military Press:

The History of the 35th Division in the Great War
For the first two years of its existence this was a ‘Bantam’ division. It fought on the Western Front from March 1916, but by early 1917, with the lack of suitable men of the qualifying bantam physique and reinforcements coming from disbanded yeomanry regiments the 35th division could no longer be deemed a Bantam division.

…The last division of Kitchener’s Fourth New Army, the 35th was initially formed in December 1914 as the 42nd Division, but was renumbered when the original Fourth New Army was broken up in April 1915. All the infantry battalions were ‘Bantams’ (height 5ft – 5ft 3 ins) but not the divisional troops (artillery, engineers etc) nor the pioneers. In December 1915 the division was warned for Mesopotamia and tropical clothing and pith helmets were issued and when they paraded on Salisbury Plain wearing their helmets the ‘Bantams’ were said to look like overgrown mushrooms. A month later the destination was changed to the Western Front where the division arrived in February 1916. When it took over the line in March each man took two sandbags so that when filled and placed on the firestep the men could see over the parapet. With replacement problems (weeding out inspections in December resulted in 2,784 men being rejected) and new drafts consisting principally of men from disbanded yeomanry units the division was no longer a bantam formation by the beginning of 1917 and its sign was changed from the Bantam Cock to a circular emblem of seven 5s.

George was wounded twice. He returned home after the war to work in the mill, where he remained until retirement. After his marriage in 1920, he lived at “Percy Villa”, 89 Wakefield Rd, Dewsbury until abt 1967, when he and his wife Mary Ann moved to a house below Crackenedge.

In later life, George didn’t talk much about his experiences of the war.  He retained a horror of rats, because of memories of rats running over him in the night in his tent in the war.

When I (his grand-daughter) visited Northern France for the first time at the age of 14, I visited the battlefields and told him about it on my return. It brought him to tears.

George died at home from pneumonia in 1974, aged 78.

See also: George Archer at Passchendaele

Feb 122014


Origin of the Name

There are a number of theories on the origin of the name “Dewsbury”.

They are:

  • An Anglo-Saxon name referring to a watery “burgh”, or fortified manor.
  • A Mercian name, after the founder of a fortified settlement in the area, named Dui, Dew or Deus – “beria” meaning strongold.
  • “God’s Hill”, from the old British word “Duw”, meaning God, and “burg”, meaning a hill.
  • “Tiu’s Hill”, as above, but derived from the Norse and Germanic god Tiu.

Domesday Book

The Domesday book of 1086 records the name of the town as Deusberia. Here is a summary of the Domesday entry:

  • Manor of Wakefield.
  • Taxable value 3 geld units.
  • Value to lord in 1066 £0.5. Value to lord in 1086 £0.5.
  • Households…6 villagers. 2 smallholders. 1 priest.
  • Ploughland…2 ploughlands and 4 men’s plough teams.
  • 1 church.
  • Lord in 1066 King Edward (Wessex)
  • Lord in 1086 King William (Norman)
  • Tenant-in-chief in 1086 William (of Normandy)
  • Hundred: Morley
  • County of York
  • Population: 9 households
  • Total tax assessed: 3 geld units