Day 39. LIEUTENANT RANDOLPH ALEX FLINTOFF.

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Born in 1883, Randolph was the fourth of nine children to Churchill and Susan Flintoff of Hill House, Alnwick, Northumberland.

Before the war he was highly respected in Hull commercial circles and had been manager of Russell & Sons Coal Merchants Exporters on Marlborough Street for six years. He was a popular member of Hull Exchange. On the outbreak of hostilities he was commissioned into the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

Randolph was killed in action on 25th June 1916 close to ‘Bess Street’ and ‘Warley Avenue’ trenches opposite Serre, when a bombardment disturbed buried gas cylinders and their deadly content was released into the lines. Perhaps ironically, Lieutenant Flintoff was the battalion Gas Officer and was renowned for taking great care to protect his men from gas. He is buried at Bertrancourt Military Cemetery; he was 33 years old.

His death compounded the family misery. Randolph’s brother, Arthur, had emigrated to Australia in 1909 and had enlisted to fight with the Imperial Force there. He served in Egypt before being sent as part of invasion fleet aiming to seize control of the Dardanelles and Gallipoli. He was killed in action on 1st May 1915.

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Day 38. PRIVATE ARTHUR HAROLD NORTH 10/366.

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Born in July 1889, Arthur was the fourth of five children to Richard and Charlotte North of 122 Adelaide Street, Hull. His father was a Railway Ferryboat Man, and before the war Arthur worked as a Dockside Labourer. When the call went out for men to fight for King and Country, Arthur was among the first to respond queuing outside Hull City Hall in the first week of September 1914 to join the fledgling 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

The battalion trained throughout 1915 and left Devonport bound for Alexandria, Egypt at the start of December. They served there in a garrison on high alert in case the Turks chose to attack the Suez Canal. After suffering the burning heat of day and crippling cold of the desert nights for ten weeks, the Pals left Port Said on February 29th 1916 bound for Marseilles and then the train north to the trenches of the Western Front.

On 25th June 1916 a fierce German barrage, itself a response to the British artillery’s onslaught in the days leading up to the 1st July attack on the Somme, completely obliterated the front-line trenches held by the 10th Battalion opposite Serre. During the bombardment, buried cannisters of poison gas ready to be used against the Germans were damaged and leaked into the firebays and dugouts where the men huddled against the storm.

Arthur died as a result of breathing in gas from his own battalion’s supply. He is buried at Bertrancourt Military Cemetery; he was 26 years old.

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Day 37. PRIVATE SAMUEL CALEY 10/1131.

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Born 24th November 1881, the second of four children, to George and Eliza Caley of 8 East Park Avenue, Hull. Samuel married Ada Tasker at St. James’ Parish Church in Sutton on 23rd December 1908 and the couple moved to 3 Ivy Villas, Middleburg Street where they had a son, Charles, in 1910.

A Merchant’s Clerk before the war, he enlisted at Hull City Hall joining the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

Having arrived in France via Egypt in March 1916 Samuel moved into the front line trenches opposite Serre with the 10th battalion on 24th June. They were to hold the line in the build-up to the impending attack on┬áthe Somme. In the days prior to the 1st July the British artillery pounded the German trenches with hundreds of thousands of shells, and the German’s responded in kind. The men who had endured the 4th June bombardment soon found themselves blasted by another. Samuel was killed by shellfire on 25th June 1916 and is buried at Bertrancourt Military Cemetery. His name appears on the Hull Stevedore’s Society Roll of Honour in Oddfellows Hall; he was 25 years old.

Ada Caley eventually remarried and died in 1982.

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Day 36. 2nd LIEUTENANT CECIL COOPER SPINK.

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Born in 1893, the eldest son of Frederick and Florence Spink of Bridlington. Cecil attended Bridlington Grammar School and went on to study at Cambridge achieving a BA and LL.B. He was employed as an Articled Solicitor in his father’s Law Practice before the war, but was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, ‘The Commercials’, 1st Hull Pals.

He was killed during the 4th June 1916 bombardment of the front line trenches east of Engelbelmer. Cecil is buried at Bertrancourt Military Cemetery, and his name appears on both the Bridlington War Memorial and the Priory Church Memorial. He was 24 years old.

Cecil was alongside Lieutenant Palmer (Day 35) and was killed by the same shell, but where Palmer was buried alive and suffocated to death, Cecil was killed instantly being blown to pieces in the small hours of an early summer morning.

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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.

Palmer

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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