Day 35. LIEUTENANT DEREK WILLIAM ONSLOW PALMER.

Loading a 15-inch howitzer at Englebelmer Wood on the Somme, 7 August 1916. World War One was an artillery war. Artillery dominated the battle field and inflicted more casualties than any other weapon. Heavy artillery was used to destroy entrenched positions and dug outs. Howitzers, which gave a steep angle of shell descent, were better suited than traditional field guns for this task. From an album of 22 official photographs. Photograph, World War One, Western Front (1914-1918), 1916.

Born 5th May 1894, the third of four children and only surviving son of Thomas and Edith Palmer of Brough, East Yorkshire. A Shipping Clerk by trade he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in January 1915 joining the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals where he soon became a firm favourite with his men.

Derek was crouched with Lieutenant Spink during the bombardment of the front line trenches at Englebelmer in the small hours of 4th June 1916. A shell exploded almost on top of them blowing Spink to pieces and burying Derek alive. He suffocated before anyone could dig him free. Terrifying to even contemplate let alone endure.

Derek W.O Palmer is buried in Bertrancourt Military Cemetery and commemorated on the Elloughton war memorial and brass tablet in the Parish Church; he was 22 years old.

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Day 34. PRIVATE REGINALD CONRAD NEILL 10/867.

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Born in April 1888, Reginald was the youngest of five children to Robert and Alice Neill of 37 Park Street, Hull. His father was a Master Mariner in the Merchant Navy and hailed from Ireland, his mother a native of Liverpool. Reginald married Alice McGhie in the summer of 1914 and the couple moved to 11 Stanmore Road, Tottenham though it was not long before war tore them apart for when King and Country called he headed back north to his hometown to enlist in the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

Training in barracks at Hornsea, Beverley and Ripon throughout 1915 the Pals left Devonport for Alexandria, Egypt three weeks before Christmas and served there until they left Port Said for Marseilles aboard HMT Tunisian at 6pm on 29th February 1916. They arrived on March 7th and caught the train north to Abbeville and the trenches of the Western Front.

Reginald was wounded during the 4th June bombardment and withdrawn to 2nd Stationary Hospital where he died on the 21st after three weeks of agony we can never imagine. He is buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery; he was 28 years old.

While Reginald writhed in agony his comrades set to work repairing trenches badly damaged by their twin nightmares- shellfire and rain. On 16th June they received the first in what would become regular reinforcements to build the battalion back up to strength. A fact which tells a story in itself.

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Day 33. PRIVATE CYRIL WINTERTON RILEY 10/520.

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Born in 1895, the only son of John and Sarah Riley. Cyril’s father died not long after, and at the time of the 1901 Census he and his mother were living with his maternal grandparents at 31 Francis Street West in Hull.

Working as a Clerk before the war, Cyril enlisted at City Hall in the first week of September 1914 queuing in the long uneven lines of late summer when the war was still a great adventure to young men sat in stuffy offices facing a life where the only peril was not emptying their in-tray by 5pm sharp. He joined the then fledgling 1st Hull Pals Battalion, ‘The Commercials’, 10th East Yorks.

After training at various Yorkshire barracks throughout 1915 the Pals left Devonport for Alexandria, Egypt three weeks before Christmas and served there until the following March when they left Port Said bound for Marseilles and the journey north to the trenches of the Western Front.

Cyril was seriously wounded during the 4th June 1916 bombardment and evacuated to the Base Hospital at Rouen where he died on 15th June. He is buried at St Sever Cemetery; he was 21 years old.

At the time of his death, Sarah Riley was 56 years old and had lost her husband and her only son. She died in March 1945 having lived another 29 years with her loss. Think on that a moment. It is truly heartbreaking.

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Day 32. SERGEANT THOMAS HUNTINGTON 10/717.

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Born in 1892, the second child of John & Emily Huntington of Ousedene. His grandfather had started a successful Drapers on Boothferry Road, Goole, in 1849 and his father had extended the business quickly establishing himself a pillar of the community. By 1892, around the time of Thomas’s birth, he had been selected as a member of the Goole Board of Guardians and in 1906 became a Justice of The Peace. Thomas Jnr led a comfortable life and was set to take over the family business when his father retired. Coming from such a background he could have been commissioned, like his younger brother John W, but instead enlisted as a private soldier on September 4th 1914 having queued outside Hull City Hall to join the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

Thomas was promoted to Sergeant before the battalion sailed for Egypt in late 1915 and arrived in France durinf early March 1916 to take up positions in the trenches near Beaumont Hamel. Fatally wounded during the small hours of 4th June 1916 as the Pals cowered beneath the full force of a German bombardment that flattened their positions beyond all recognition, he was shipped to the Base Hospital at Rouen where he succumbed to his wounds on June 11th. Thomas is buried at St. Sever Cemetery; he was 24 years old.

His brother survived the war and went on to marry Yvonne Sawyer in London in June 1920. He had not returned to Goole to take up his birthright. Another family scattered to the wind.

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Day 31. PRIVATE JOHN BELL ATKINSON 10/1230.

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Born in 1894 in Thurstonfield, Cumberland John was the son of John and Mary Atkinson of 34 Washington Street, Hull. A Ship’s Cook before the war he enlisted in March 1915 joining the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

After their posting to Egypt over the winter of 1915-16 the Pals arrived at Marseilles in early March and were sent north to the trenches of the Western Front. For all the privations and discomforts of the desert, what awaited them was far worse. After a spell of good fortune when the battalion earned the nickname ‘The Lucky Tenth’ for coming through a few bombardments completely unscathed, their fortunes changed in the small hours of 4th June 1916 when a pinpoint German barrage completely flattened the front line and took the lives of 20 men in just over an hour. John was fatally wounded here and died in 2nd Stationary Hospital on the 7th. He is buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery; he was 22 years old.

One of the lucky ones described their escape that night:

“I believe my rescue was completed by Joe Allen, who got my head free, which was all that could then be done….By this time the front of the trench was gone altogether and I was out in the open, pinioned from the shoulders downwards and unable to move until the shelling ceased, when someone freed my arms and gave me an entrenching tool to dig the rest of myself out. I suppose I must have been somewhat lightheaded, for I remember singing and telling my leg I could not possibly go without it, until a young newly-joined officer, who was doing heroic work digging others out, bid me shut up for fear the Germans heard me and came across”11951155_10153572240319805_4045130585748972129_n

Day 30. PRIVATE FRANK KELLETT WOODCOCK 10/774.

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Born in 1895 to Samuel Francis and Ada Woodcock of 15 Bournville, Goole, the youngest of their five children. His father was a seaman from Lowestoft. A Telegraph Messenger before the war he travelled to Hull to enlist joining the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Ccommercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

Following a stint in Egypt protecting Suez from potential attack by the Turks, the Pals landed in Marseilles on March 8th 1916 and headed north to the trenches of the Western Front.

Frank died on 7th June 1916 from wounds sustained during the bombardment on the 4th, and is buried at Abbeville Communal Cemetery. He spent 3 days lying mortally wounded in 2nd Stationary Hospital, and what agonies he must have endured we can never begin to imagine. He was just 21 years old.

For all the suffering though, there were still moments of humanity. On the morning of the 4th one of his comrades, missing from the night’s endeavours in No Man’s Land, was spotted just outside the defensive coils of barbed wire in clear view of the German trenches. At first it was thought he was dead, but a slight movement indicated otherwise. One chap said: “I’m going out for him”.

Private Aust recorded the story:

“Our Corporal refused to allow this. The man turned and left our bay and the next minute had clambered out of the trench and was picking his way through the wire to his pal. Two of our stretcher bearers were quickly on the scene and after a struggle got the wounded man in. All this was done in full view of the enemy…..As they regained our trench a sniper fired a single shot over our bay in apparent admiration and salute for a very brave though foolhardy exploit”.

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Day 29. L/CPL WILLIAM ARTHUR MACPHERSON 10/827.

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Born in 1889, William was the eldest of four children to James and Fanny MacPherson of 35 Middleburgh Street, Hull. A Clerk before the war, he enlisted on 7th September 1914 joining the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals joining the fight for King and Country.

The Pals shipped for Egypt in December 1915 having been posted to defend the Suez Canal from potential attack by the Turks. Strategically vital to the war effort, Suez had to be protected at all costs, but the attack never came and the boys had more to fear from the heat of the desert days and the crippling cold of the nights. In February their war took a turn for the worse and they left Port Said bound for Marseilles and the journey north to the trenches of the Western Front.

Following a mauling in the front line in the small hours of June 4th the Pals were relieved by the 17th West Yorks and retired to billets at Bus-Les-Artois. William however had been wounded in the arm that night and taken to 2nd Stationary Hospital at Abbeville where his wound went gangrenous and killed him just 24 hours later.

William is buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery; he was 26 years old.

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Day 28. PRIVATE BENJAMIN IRELAND 10/261.

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Born 9th September 1894, Benjamin was the youngest of seven children to Charles and Ellen Ireland of Ellesmere, North Ferriby, Hull. An Architect’s Assistant before the war he enlisted at City Hall on 2nd September 1914 joining the fledgling 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

After training and their stint defending Suez from the Turks over the winter of 1915-16, the Pals arrived in Marseilles early in March and headed north to the trenches of the Western Front. They swapped a sea of sand for an ocean of mud.

Following the bombardment of 4th June 1916 which claimed the lives of so many of his comrades, the battalion was relieved by the 17th West Yorkshire Regiment and came out of the line to billets at Bus-Les-Artois. Benjamin was not with them. He had been severely wounded in the back and withdrawn to the hospitals of Abbeville where he died in agonies we can never imagine a day later. He is buried in Abbeville Communal Cemetery; a young man of 21.

Perhaps Private Graystone best described the leaving of those positions. He had the unenviable task of being in the working party charged with making what had been just a few hours before a sturdy front line position safe after it had been all but flattened by enemy shells.

“(I wish we had) “left the trench as it was, safe or not, for the stench coming out of the soil is horrible. It is discoloured with decomposed blood.”

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Day 27. PRIVATE LEONARD WEBSTER 10/346.

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Born on 10th October 1895, Leonard was the seventh of ten children to Charles and Emma May Webster of Cottingham, Hull. A Butcher before the war, he queued to enlist on 1st September 1914 joining the fledgling 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

After serving in Egypt over the winter of 1915-16 the battalion landed in Marseilles early in March and headed north to the trenches of the Western Front. Leonard was killed in action during the bombardment of 4th June 1916 an his name is commemorated on the Special Memorial at Sucrerie Military Cemetery.

The battalion left the front line that night and had to march past their dead comrades who were left lying at Sackville Street Dump awaiting the stretcher parties who would take them to Sucrerie for burial. Leonard was not among the living or the dead. His body was blown into so many pieces, or buried so deeply in the mud, that it was never found.

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Day 26. PRIVATE SAMUEL CONYERS 10/787.

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Born in April 1890, Samuel was the eldest of seven children to Samuel and Phoebe Conyers of 41 Richmond Terrace, Liddell Street, Hull. A Clerk by trade he enlisted at City Hall in the first week of September 1914 joining the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

Samuel served in Egypt over the winter of 1915-16 before leaving Port Said bound for Marseilles the following March and from there the slow journey north to the trenches of the Western Front. He was killed in action during the bombardment of 4th June 1916 and there is a brief mention of him the recollections of the unnamed comrade who attempted to save Tich West (Day 24). Tich was buried in earth from a collapsed parados after a shell exploded behind him:

“One forgets time in such circumstances, and how long I was so fixed I do not know. However, Sam Conyers came from the next bay to pull away the bags and was killed in the act”.

Sam laid down his life in a bid to help his stricken comrades. He is buried in Sucrerie Military Cemetery; he was 26 years old.

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