The Yeoman Rifles 1916

- Riflemen Edmund Daws
- Rifleman James Alfred Alcock
- Rifleman John Bedford Rowley
- Rifleman Harold Fowler
- Rifleman Horace Pugmire
- Sergeant Samuel Beecher Horsman
- Acting Corporal Harry Mitchell [Scalby]
- Sergeant Alfred Percival Sleightholme [Kirby Misperton]

A short distance to the North East of High Wood the objective had been the capture of the village of Flers, another of those seemingly insignificant Somme villages that had been turned into yet another fortress by the German Army from 1914 onwards. Held by the Fourth Bavarian Regiment in September 1916, it was one of four objectives allotted to the 15TH Corps of Fourth Army for Friday the Fifteenth of September. Two of those objectives have been the already mentioned, the ‘Switch Line’, and ‘Flers Trench’ which ran just in front of the village. The third had been the capture of the village itself and the fourth had been a trench known to the British as ‘Bulls Road’ which had ran across the northern end of Flers.

To the right of 47TH Division were the Kiwi’s of the New Zealand Division, seasoned veterans of the disastrous Gallipoli Campaign who had recently arrived on the Somme, they however play little part in my story except to say that they had the task of securing a spur of ground to the north west of Flers against counterattack. On their right were the 41ST Division directly in front of Delville Wood, who with two brigades of infantry, [the 122ND and 124TH] were to attack the village itself, and a series of three trench systems to the east. Like the Kiwi’s, Forty First Division were also new to the fighting on the Somme having arrived early in September from ‘Plug Street’ Wood in Flanders.

The 41ST Division had been formed in September 1915 in response to Kitchener’s appeal for yet more recruits for the last of the ‘New Army’ formations that were forming at the time. Kitchener’s 1915 appeal had encouraged the formation of units consisting of groups of friends associated with one locality, the ill fated ‘Pals’ Battalion’s. Apart from one Battalion, the 41ST had consisted of infantry recruited in the London area and the counties of Surrey, Hampshire, Essex, and Kent. There had been a Battalion of the Rifle Corps known as the ‘Arts and Crafts’, one from the Middlesex Regiment known as the ‘Footballers’ and one raised for the Royal Fusiliers, which had consisted of Bank Clerks, and Accountants from the City of London. The exception had been a Battalion raised in the North of England, East Anglia, and the Midlands. The 21St Battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps, soon to become more familiarly known as ‘The Yeoman Rifles’.

The only ‘Pals’ Battalion to be formed during the Great War from farmers, the Yeoman Rifles had apparently been created at the behest of the War Office in the Autumn of 1915, in consequence of the number of men of the farming and yeoman class who were believed to be holding back from enlisting. As an enticement to the ‘reticent farmers’ the War Office had stipulated that the recruits would be serving in a sort of exclusive club that would consist only of men of ‘equal stature’. The War Office had also made service with the new battalion doubly attractive by affiliating it with one of the more elite Regiments of the British Army, The Kings Royal Rifle Corps, one of the few Regiments in which the rank of private had been substituted with that of ‘Rifleman’. Command of the new Battalion had also gone to someone of the Yeoman class, the second Earl of Faversham, Charles William Reginald Duncombe.

Already the long serving Commanding Officer of the Yorkshire Hussars Yeomanry, the thick set, bristling moustached, thirty six year old Earl had landed in France with his regiment in April 1915, but it had subsequently been broken up into Divisional Cavalry,

It’s C.O. becoming surplus to requirements and when he had been offered command of the burgeoning battalion he had gladly accepted, making his headquarters and regimental depot at his ancestral home at Duncombe Park near the village of Helmsley in North Yorkshire.

Initially, the battalion had indeed recruited exclusively from the yeoman class, however by late 1915 so many young men of military age were already in the Army that although the most remote farms and villages were scoured and although there were accommodating Recruiting Sergeants willing to turn a blind eye to the farm lads who’s tender years had been belied by a hefty physique there had still not been enough ‘Yeomen’ to make up a full Battalion. Recruits [many from Scarborough] had arrived at Duncombe Park in drips and drabs but it was not until their numbers had been swelled by a draft of ‘less exclusive yeomen’ that the Battalion could begin training in earnest. [The Battalion had eventually consisted of four companies of Riflemen, ‘A’ was composed of men from the North and East Ridings, ‘B’ from the West Riding of Yorkshire, ‘C’ from Northumberland and Durham, and ‘D’ from Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk]. This is not to say that the battalion had lowered its standards. According to the war records of the unit; ‘The men accepted were of a very high standard physically educationally and socially the battalion priding itself on having less crime than any other in the service’. [1]

Much like all the ‘New Army’ Battalions forming at the time, life in the battalion to begin with had probably been Spartan. There had probably been a shortage in the supplies of uniforms, the recruits having to wear the clothes and boots that they had arrived at the Park in for all the inevitable marching and manoeuvring that all recruits to any Army have to endure. There had also most importantly been a shortage of weapons, broom handles, spades, and perhaps a few antique shotguns were not an uncommon sight in the hands of the newly fledged soldiers of the New Armies.

Training nonetheless had gone ahead. A popular story relating to the battalion’s formative days tells of one occasion when the Earl had the idea of practising the Battalion in the art of the ‘open order advance’ against a herd of deer which he had wished moved to another part of the estate. Sure enough, under their Colonels watchful eye a hundred or so Yeomen had advanced on the Deer, the animals who it would appear were not keen to be moved had stood their ground, and had turned on and eventually charged the men in a counterattack, so purposeful was their advance that there had been no question of a dignified ‘retirement’, it had been an ignominious rout, ---- any way the story goes that the episode had been good for a laugh long into the months ahead.

The Battalion had eventually left Duncombe Park on the twenty fourth of January 1916 to move to Salamanca Barracks in Aldershot where it had united with the 18TH Battalion of The Queens [Royal West Surrey Regiment], the 26TH Royal Fusiliers [composed of bank clerks and accountants from the City of London] and the 32ND Royal Fusiliers, to form the 124TH infantry Brigade of the 41ST Division. Here the Battalion had remained, engaged in divisional training, earning for itself an excellent name in both work and play until May when the Battalion had been inspected by King George the Fifth, shortly after which the men had been issued with live ammunition and their identity discs and orders to proceed abroad, the first yeomen setting foot on French soil at Le Havre on the fourth of May 1916.

The Battalion had subsequently moving to the Ypres sector and billets near the village of Ballieul for three weeks of training to familiarise them with the arts of trench warfare before they had going into the line for the first time as a fighting unit at Ploegsteert

[Known to the men as Plugstreet] where they had remained until their call to the Somme in the middle of August. They had begun their journey to the front first by train and then on foot over ground increasingly torn and shattered by war, and had passed through broken villages and places with names synonymous with death, Fricourt, Mametz, Montauban, and Caterpillar Valley. On the way they had passed weary stricken men marching raggedly in the opposite direction, men gaunt with fatigue, ashen in face and haggard eyes, men who had witnessed very violent death at very close quarters. Now their replacements were making their final approach;

‘Presently we dropped into a communication trench and then began that laborious serpentine crawl that seemed to have no end. At first it was not so bad; the companies behind kept touch and progress was steady, if slow. But messages began to pass along the line, from front to rear, from rear to front. We would come to a halt. ‘Pass the word back to close up’. The message would fade away to silence along the line, and then there would be a seemingly interminable delay until the reply would come from the rear. We would stagger forward again…just like a concertina opening and closing…Dimly we realised from the shattered stumps that we were in Delville Wood and those gifted with a sense of smell experienced the stench of that horrible place…We encountered dead bodies at more frequent intervals, gruesome stinking shapes. The colonel with his torch identified on some the black buttons of the Rifles [King’s Royal Rifle Corps]. Oh! That dreadful night during which we crawled like snails through the midst of horrors less darkly imagined than actually realised. Well was it called Devil’s Wood’. So had written Sergeant Norman Carmichael of ‘C’ Company.

Tasked with the capture of the three trench lines to the east of Flers the Yeoman Rifles and 10TH Queen’s of 124TH Brigade had assembled in the early hours of the fifteenth in ‘No Mans Land’ to wait for the whistle to announce Zero Hour [6-20 am]. At the appointed hour the two Battalions [with the Yeomen to the left and the Queen’s to the right] had advanced behind a ‘creeping barrage’ of ‘friendly’ artillery fire on their first objective, an enemy trench known as Tea Support’ which had ran along the top of a prominent embankment.

‘We were the first to go in ‘C’Company. I think our captain gave the order to advance a little bit before the time because we’d been trained that the closer you kept to the creeping barrage the safer you were. But we overdid it. We walked straight into it and it has to be said that there were many shorts. The artillery was good but they weren’t all that perfect and they couldn’t guarantee to put a curtain in a straight line that you could keep behind. I went down very early and I saw my officer going on just in front of me. He was brandishing his revolver and shouting,

‘Come on number ten! and he just went down. He got a machine gun bullet right through the head. The Germans had got up by then and my platoon was literally put out of action in a very short time. The last I saw of them were about a half a dozen going through the smoke climbing up this ridge to get into the German trenches, and I was left lying there’.

‘Tea Support’ had fallen by 6-45am and despite the severe losses incurred by the attackers to machine gun fire, soon afterwards so too had their second objective, ‘the switch Line’ and at 7-50 am ‘Flers Trench’ that had ran directly across the front of the village.

The attack of the 122ND Brigade however had faltered on the outskirts of Flers, perhaps due to many of the units involved in the attack being without their officers and senior NCO’s who had become casualties during the advance. Seizing the initiative, one of the ten tanks [D6, commanded by a Lieutenant Hastie] which had been allotted to the 41ST Division and left behind by the swiftness of the infantry advance had rumbled forward on its caterpillars, slewing round onto the line of the main road into Flers it had advanced, ‘fire spitting from its guns and smashing down walls’.

The tanks action had spurred the dumbfounded British infantry into action, running into the road they had raced after the machine cheering all the way, searching out any remaining defenders, most of whom had already ‘hot footed’ it to the nearby village of Guedencourt. The pile of bricks known as Flers had fallen by 10am. Shortly afterwards however the Germans had as usual retaliated with a violent artillery bombardment the British coming within a hares breath of being shelled out of the place, but somehow they had managed to hold on.

In the afternoon two officers had been sent round the village to collect stragglers from 122ND Brigade to enable the advance to move on to the third objective, a trench known as ‘Bulls Road’. This had been achieved and in addition a troublesome double redoubt known as ‘Box and Cox’ had been taken, this action linking the 41ST to the unit on their left, the New Zealanders.

To the east of the village the 124TH Brigade had become pinned down in the waste land of the shell blasted ‘No Mans Land’ by a terrific German artillery fire, losing valuable men all the while. At around 3-20PM the Earl of Feversham, with Lieutenant Colonel Oakley of the 10TH Queens had collected as many survivors as they could [about two hundred men] and had pushed on to the western end of ‘Bulls Road’ which they had held for a time despite numerous German counterattacks, eventually, however the men had been forced to evacuate the position the survivors forced to retire back the way they had gone.

The Yeoman Rifles had fought itself almost to a standstill on the fifteenth of September 1916 and would never be the same again. Relieved from the line in the early hours of the following day by the 11THQueen’s, the survivors had trudged out to ‘rest.

The remains of the Battalion had been paraded at some point on the sixteenth where a roll call had been taken, it was found that three officers [including the Earl of Feversham] had been killed, another ten were wounded. Of the Non Commissioned Officers and men, fifty-four had been killed, two hundred and fifty six were wounded a further seventy were ‘missing’. Amongst them; C/12526 Rifleman Edmund Daws.

Attached to ‘A’ Company, ‘Ted’ had been born at Scarborough at No 3 Albert Houses [now New Queen Street] in 1887,had been the sixth of seven children and the second son born to Sarah Jane and Samuel James Daws, who’s occupation is listed in the ‘Kelly’s Directories’ of 1879 to 1890 as a ‘Boarding House Proprietor’ at the above address. However at the time of the 1901 census of Scarborough’s population the fourteen-year-old Ted had been living with his widowed mother and four sisters at No10 Albion Road, where his mother had been carrying on the business of Lodging House Keeper.

A former pupil at St Martins Grammar School in Ramshill Road, Ted had eventually taken up an apprenticeship as a ladies hairdresser in the town. Married on Thursday the 18TH of November 1915 at St Mary’s Parish Church to Scarborough born [in 1886] Annie Eliza Schofield, the only daughter of Thomas Hawley and Ann Schofield, the couple had subsequently lived at No 17 Oxford Street with the Schofields.

Employed as a ladies hairdresser by the outbreak of war, Ted Daws had enlisted into the Yeoman Rifles at Scarborough on the 25TH of November 1915. Aged twenty eight years and ten months at the time, Ted had eventually joined the battalion at Helmsley on the 29TH of November and like so many of the ‘Old Martinians’ once he had landed in France he had kept in touch with his old school with letters from the front which had eventually appeared in various copies of ‘The Martinian’, the school magazine of St Martins Grammar School, illustrating various exploits in the army, an excerpt of one having appeared in the edition for 1916, which had been written on June 24th 1916 when the Yeoman Rifles had been in the Ypres Sector;

‘We have a dance of our own here — the duckboard crawl. The accompaniment to the dance is Fritz and his machine gun. We flop at express speed--doesn’t matter if your nose is in a bed of thistles -- you like it. It’s surprising how little damage is done, - though they say two tons of explosives for each man injured’

Initially informed that her husband was ‘missing’, at the start of 1917 Annie Daws had written to the military authorities asking for information about Edmund. In a letter dated January 3RD 1917 Annie asks;

Dear Sir.
‘Can you give me any news of my husband Rifleman E. Daws, C/12526—who was posted as missing on September 15TH. I had a returned letter from France last Friday with Hospital written across it—can you give me any clue as to the hospital, or if he has been in hospital at any time? The anxiety is getting terrible. Thanking you in anticipation’…

There had been no further news and Edmund Daws had officially been listed as having ‘died of wounds’ on the fifteenth of September 1916. Ted’s name had eventually been included in the ‘Scarboro Casualties’ listing in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday September 29TH 1916, in this he is listed as ‘missing’. Edmund Daws was aged twenty-nine years. His body was never found and has ‘No Known Grave’.

Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in France, Edmund Daws is commemorated in Scarborough on the War Memorial outside St Martins Church on South Cliff, and also on a headstone in Dean Road Cemetery [B/16/14] which remembers his parents; Samuel James [Born at Bath, Somerset in 1854], who had died at Scarborough on August 20th 1897 at the age of 43 years] and Sarah Jane [Born at Duffield in Derbyshire in 1852], who had also died in the town, on February 19th 1902 at the age of 50 years. He is also honoured in Manor Road Cemetery [K/9/31] on a headstone commemorating his father and mother in law; Tom Hawley [born at Manchester in 1858] who had died at Scarborough on June 27th 1916 at the age of 58 years, and Annie Elizabeth Schofield [Born at Driffield in 1859] who had passed away on October 25th 1919 at the age of fifty years.

Born at Skelton, North Yorkshire in 1885, C/12307 Rifleman James Alfred Alcock had been the eldest of two sons of Mary Ann and ‘labourer’ William Alcock, who were living at No 62 Nelson Street at the time of their son’s death, also on Friday the fifteenth of September 1916. Married in Scarborough on the 19TH of Decemebr1906 to Miss Florence Watson, the couple had subsequently resided in the town at No 52 Murchison Street, where their only child Percy William had been born on the 19TH of October 1907. Although a qualified plumber, before the war Alcock had been an agent for the Star Assurance Agency until his enlistment into the Yeoman Rifles at Scarborough on the 15TH of November 1915.

Aged thirty one years at the time of his death, James Alcock is officially listed as having been killed in action on the seventeenth of September 1916 [I believe the date is wrong as the Battalion had been relieved on the sixteenth]; his name had appeared in the ‘Scarboro Casualties’ of Friday the sixth of October in which he is listed as being wounded. I am assuming that at the time he was missing in action as his name had subsequently reappeared in the newspaper of many months later on Friday the 26TH of January 1917 informing:

‘Private J.A. Alcock, K.R.R. 52, Murchison Street, was reported missing many weeks ago. His Wife has now been informed that he was killed on September 15TH last year. Prior to the war he was an Insurance Agent’…

The body of James Alcock was also never recovered from the battlefield of the Somme, and is also without a known grave. During the post war years Florence Alcock had continued to live in Scarborough with son Percy at ‘Fulford Cottages’, No.1 Fulford Road, where she had received a pitiful pension in recompense for her lost husband

In addition to Scarborough’s Oliver’s Mount War Memorial, Rifleman Alcock’s name [incorrectly inscribed as ‘Alfred James Alcock’] is remembered in Manor Road Cemetery [Plot L, Row 8, Grave 12] on a headstone commemorating his mother; Mary Ann Alcock, who had died on May 26TH 1917 at the age of 65 years [Jim’s father is also buried in the grave without an inscription, he had died in January 1924 at the age of 75 years].

[A Private [Regimental Number 9768] in the Yorkshire Regiment throughout the war, Jim’s younger brother, Frank Alcock, had, nevertheless, survived to tell the tale].

C/12497 Rifleman John Bedford Rowley. Born at Doncaster during 1884, John had reportedly been killed in action on the 15TH of September 1916 and had been the son of Annie and the late John Rowley. John’s widowed mother is listed in the 1902 Scarborough Directory as a ‘Boarding House Keeper’, of No 6 Belmont Terrace; in the 1911edition she is listed as living at No 36 Grange Avenue, where she had remained until after the war when she had lived at No19 Highfield. Aged 36 years at the time of his death John Rowley also has no known grave and is commemorated with his two fellow Yeomen on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme [their names are commemorated on Pier and Face 13A and 13B].

The Yeoman Rifles had been allowed to rest until the second of October and the beginning of the battle of the Transloy Ridges, [7TH--20TH October] when the Battalion, un-reinforced and with only twelve officers and three hundred and fifty other ranks had taken over a portion of Flers Trench with a view to supporting an attack planned to begin on the fourth by the 26TH and 32nd Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers [also of 124TH Brigade] on a position known as ‘Bayonet Trench’ and the village of Ligny Thilley. The attack was eventually postponed due to wet weather until Saturday the seventh of October.

Throughout this period the Yeomen had had been subjected to heavy shellfire, which had caused them severe casualties. The attack had eventually been launched at 2pm in the afternoon of the seventh, the two Fusiliers Battalions advancing towards Bayonet Trench, and the Yeomen following to carry out their task in the operation, that of building and holding two strong points in ‘No Mans Land. The attack was a failure, due to heavy machine gun and artillery fire the attackers had never reached their objectives, even burning oil had been used to force a way forwards, to no avail. The Yeoman Rifles under extreme artillery bombardment had grimly held on to their positions throughout the day and night of the seventh suffering appalling losses, they had eventually been relieved during the evening of the following day, the subsequent roll call revealing that the Battalion had lost six officers, and a hundred and eighty other ranks killed, wounded, and missing.

Amongst the men who had not answered to their names; C/12203 Rifleman Harold Fowler.

Born at Falsgrave in 1896 at No 7 Park Road, ‘Harry’ was the fourth of six sons and two daughters of Pricilla and ‘Joiner/Builder’ Leonard Fowler who were by 1916 living at ‘Ferndale House’, No 69 Wykeham Street [At the time of the 1901 census of Scarborough’s population the family were living at the above address and Harold is listed as being aged four years and the youngest of six children, four boys, Stanley aged nineteen years, Robert aged seventeen, both employed as joiners apprentices, Ernest aged eight years and Harold, and two girls, Edith aged fifteen, and Maud aged ten years].

Educated initially at Gladstone Road Infant and Junior School, Harold Fowler had obviously been a bright pupil, for at the age of fourteen [1910] he had gone on to further education at St Martins Grammar School in Ramshill Road where he had remained until 1913. Upon leaving the School he had secured a job with Drapers W.S. Rowntree in Westborough and had worked with this company as a ‘furniture salesman’ until his enlistment in Scarborough on the 11TH of November 1915.

Another ‘Martinian’ who had kept in touch with his old school, Harry Fowler had unfortunately appeared in the school’s magazine ‘In Memoriam section of the 1916 edition, The dedication had reiterated much of what has already been said about him but the last couple of lines shed some light on the circumstances in which he may have died;

---‘He enlisted in the 21ST Kings Royal Rifles, and in June 1916, proceeded to the front. On October 7TH he volunteered to bring in a wounded comrade. He went out and was never seen again’

Killed in action at the age of nineteen years, at the time that the above had been written Harry’s body had not been found on the battlefield, if indeed there had been a chance to search for it. His remains had however eventually been located, and buried by the Army in a burial ground known to the soldiers as ‘Factory Corner’ the location of the Yeoman Rifles Headquarters in October 1916. At the war’s end he had been re-interred by the then Imperial War Graves Commission when they had concentrated the smaller Cemeteries into one large area, in Harry’s case the nearby A.I.F. [Australian Imperial Forces] Burial Ground, two kilometres north of Flers, where a white Portland Headstone bearing the young soldier’s name can be found amongst nearly 3,500 identical monuments in Section Four, Row F, Grave 6.

Commemorated on Scarborough’s Oliver’s Mount War Memorial, elsewhere in the town Rifleman Harold Fowler is also commemorated in Manor Road Cemetery [Plot K, Row 11, Grave 25] on a monument which takes the form of an open book at the foot of a cross, on the base of which are inscribed the names of his parents, his mother having died in May 1936 at the age of 75 years, whilst his father had passed away in January 1944 at the age of 86 years. Also included on the monument are the names of two of Harold’s younger brothers. Norman who had died on July the third nineteen sixteen at the age of fifteen years, and Herbert the husband of Edith Fowler and father of Allan Leonard and Joan, who had died on December 30TH 1970 at the age of 67 years.

[Another of the Fowler family had died on French soil on June the third 1967, when Harold’s nephew Allan had been killed in an air accident at the age of 30 years. His cremated remains were also subsequently placed in the grave, as were his mother’s, Edith Fowler, when she had died in May 1983 at the age of 86 years].

A former pupil of Scarborough’s Gladstone Road School, Harold Fowler’s name is also included on the School ‘Roll of Honour’. Consisting of a large brass plate, this fine memorial had been unveiled by Fowler’s former Headmaster, Mr William Robert Drummond, on the 14TH of December 1927 and contains the names of seventy-three former pupils [including two female nurses] that had lost their lives whilst on active service during the ‘Great War’ of 1914-1919.

Also a former pupil of Gladstone Road School, amongst the ‘Yeoman Rifles’ that had been killed in action on Tuesday the tenth of October 1916 had been; C/12678 Rifleman Horace Pugmire.

Born at Scarborough in 1898, at No 27 Candler Street, Horace [he is recorded by the C.W.G.C. under the name of ‘Hughes’ Pugmire] had been the eldest son of Margaret and Henry Pugmire, a Joiner, who in 1916 had been living at No 18 Gladstone Street, he had however at the time had an elder sister Mabel aged five years, and a younger sister Evelyn, she had been aged two years. [A younger brother, Harry had lived with their widowed father in Gladstone Street post war until 1929, they are not registered as living at this address after this date].

Horace had been admitted into Gladstone Road’s Infant Department in January 1902. A hard worker throughout his time at ‘Glaggo’ Road, he had eventually won a place at the Municipal School, [which was situated in Westwood, for a while the old school had been the Stephen Joseph Theatre] in the examinations of June 1908. Pugmire had remained at the ‘Muni’ until 1914 where he had again excelled in his studies and gained a County Major Scholarship to Leeds University to study for a B.Sc. degree, and in the autumn of that year he had gone on to study in Leeds.

Like the majority of his Scarborough born comrades Pugmire had also enlisted into the Yeoman Rifles at Scarborough during November 1915, and had gone abroad with his comrades in May 1916. ‘Missing, believed killed in action’, Horace Pugmire’s body had also never been recovered from the Somme battlefield, and he too is commemorated on Pier and Face 13A and 13B of the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, he had not yet reached the age of twenty years.

Horace Pugmire is also commemorated in his old School in Gladstone Road, where his name can also be found inscribed on the brass plaque that can be found in the hall of the present day Junior School.

It had also been on the tenth of October that the missing Earl of Feversham’s body had been found. He had apparently gone forward from ‘Bulls Road’ on the fifteenth of September at the head of a reconnoitring party to take a look at the ground ahead of the Battalion and had never been seen alive again. He had finally been found, shot in the head, amongst uncut corn on a forward slope of a lip in the ground. A young officer serving with the 21ST, Lieutenant Anthony Eden [a future Prime Minister] had supervised the burial of the Earl, which had been carried out in a meadow near a position known as ‘Factory Corner’. After the war a sign had been placed at the side of the road near where he had been buried which stated; ‘This way to Lord Fevershams Grave’. The site was about a quarter of a mile through a field where a lynch gate built over an inscribed flagstone was to be found, on the stone had been chiselled:

‘Charles William Reginald, 2ND Earl of Feversham, Lt Col. Commanding 21ST KRRC, killed in action on this spot, September 15TH 1916’.

[Following the Second World War the Earl’s remains had been transferred to the nearby A.I.F. Burial Ground, where his grave can be found in Plot 3, Row L, Grave 29 along with many of the men he had brought to France from the distant North Yorkshire village of Helmsley, and had ultimately died leading].

After the battle of Flers the Yeoman Rifles had lost the identity that it had gone into battle with on the fifteenth of September, the replacements for the men lost in the action coming predominately from the London area. Despite its change in character the Yeoman Rifles had soldiered on, and during 1917 had taken part in the Third Battle of Ypres. Perhaps better known simply as ‘Passchendaele’, ‘Third Wipers’ had opened on Tuesday the 31ST of July 1917 with the so called Battle of Pilckem Ridge, however, during these operations the Yeoman Rifles had played little part, nevertheless, by Saturday the 4TH of August the Battalion had been stationed in trenches near to the village of Hollebeke, where during that day the Germans had mounted a ferocious counterattack which, despite suffering heavy casualties, the Yeoman Rifles had managed to beat off. During the following day the Germans had continued their assault a by mounting another two counterattacks which had also been driven out. However, severely weakened by this time, the Yeoman Rifle had been unable to stem a third assault which had eventually seen the Germans getting a foothold in the by then shattered village of Hollebeke.

During these attacks the Yeoman Rifles had suffered many casualties including a Scarborough born ‘Yeoman’ who had been hit in the face by a splinter of enemy shell. This deadly piece of shrapnel had lodged in the soldier’s brain, and despite being evacuated to a Base Hospital at Boulogne the Scarborian had succumbed to his wounds on Tuesday the 7TH of August 1917.

Born in Falsgrave during 1887 at No.50 West Bank; C/12137 Sergeant Samuel Beecher Horsman had been the sixth of seven children of Sarah [formally Bilham] and ‘clerk’ Enos Horsman. A pupil of Falsgrave’s Council School, during 1901 the outstandingly bright Samuel Horsman had graduated to Scarborough’s prestigious Municipal School and had remained at ‘The Muni’ until 1905. Having chosen to lead a career in teaching, Horsman had subsequently become an assistant teacher at Scarborough’s Central School for boys. Located in Trafalgar Street West, Horsman had remained at the Central between 1906 and 1907, when he had duly left town to undergo teacher training at York’s St. John’s College. Graduating as a fully-fledged teacher during 1909, Horsman had returned to Scarborough to teach at his old Falsgrave School, where he had reportedly especially excelled as a teacher in sports activities.

Along with elder brother Enos, Sam Horsman had also built an enviable reputation as a player with Scarborough’s football team before the war, during the season of 1911-12 Samuel had appeared on forty occasions for the club, thus scoring the highest attendance record of any ‘Boro’ player that year. However, with the coming of hostilities sport had been put aside and the two Horsman brothers had prepared for war. [2]

At the outbreak of war Samuel Horsman had been residing with his widowed mother in ‘The Garlands’, a house located in Seamer Road. Enlisting into the Yeoman Rifles at Scarborough on the 4TH of November 1915, Horsman had duly joined the Battalion at Duncombe Park, Helmsley, five days later. With his advanced education it had been obvious that Horsman had been Non Commissioned Officer, if not Officer material, and had soon been promoted to the rank of Corporal and shortly to that of Sergeant.

Taken ill with ‘trench fever’ shortly after the Battle of Flers, Sam Horsman had eventually been evacuated to ‘Blighty’ for treatment and had thus had the fortune to miss most of the horrors that had been experienced by the remainder of the Yeoman Rifles during the winter of 1916/17. However, pronounced fit for duty by May 1917, Horsman had duly returned to war and had rejoined the battalion in Flanders, where the unit had shortly [June 1917] taken part in the Battle of Messines and eventually the start of ‘Third Wipers’.

Following the demise of one of Scarborough Football Club’s most respected players at No.13 General Hospital, the remains of Sergeant Horsman had been interred in a large civilian burial ground located in Boulogne’s ‘St. Martin Boulogne’ district just beyond the eastern [Chateau] corner of the Citadel [Haute Ville] known as ‘Boulogne Eastern Cemetery’. Amongst over five thousand casualties that had been interred in this Cemetery during the Great War, the former school teacher’s final resting place is located in Section 4, Row A, Grave 57.

In addition to being commemorated on Scarborough’s Oliver’s Mount War Memorial, elsewhere in the town Samuel Horsman’s name can be found in Falsgrave’s St James Church on a magnificently carved ‘Rood Screen’ memorial which bears the names of fifty former members of the church who had gave their lives during the First World War [including three civilians that had lost their lives during the Bombardment of Scarborough during December 11914]. In addition, Sergeant Horsman, a former pupil of Scarborough’s Municipal School had also been remembered on that School’s ‘Roll of Honour’ that lists the names of over sixty ‘old boys’ who had lost their lives whilst on active service between 1914 and 1918. Originally erected by ‘The Old Scholars Club’, this large memorial is located in the present day Graham School, located in Scarborough’s Woodlands Drive.

The database of ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ lists the names of over thirty Non Commissioned Officers and men of the Yeoman Rifles that had lost their lives during the month of August 1917. The majority of those men had been non-Yorkshiremen. However, in addition to that of Sergeant Horsman, the Database includes the names of;

R/19404 Acting Lance Corporal Harry Mitchell. Born at Scalby during 1892, Harry had been the son of Mary Alice [formally Geldard] and ‘farm labourer’ George Mitchell. Unfortunately little other information is known of Harry’s life before the outbreak of war, however it is known that he had enlisted into the army at Sheffield during 1916 and had subsequently joined the Yeoman Rifles amongst the large drafts men that had been posted to the unit as replacements for the battalion’s many casualties that had been suffered during the Somme Offensive.

[According to ‘Soldiers Died’ between the 1ST of July and the 30TH of November 1916 the Yeoman Rifles had lost over four hundred men that had either been killed in action or had died of wounds, whilst many others, not included on the database, had been ‘non fatally’ wounded].

Killed in action at the age of twenty five years on Sunday the 5TH of August 1917, no identifiable remains of Harry Mitchell had even been recovered from the mud of Flanders and his name had eventually been included amongst those of over fifty four thousand officers and men who had lost their lives in Flanders between 1914 and the 16TH of August 1917 who posses no known graves that are commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres. Harry’s name can be found amongst those of the men of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps that are included on Panels 51 and 53. [3]

Although Harry’s name is not included on Scarborough’s Oliver’s Mount War Memorial, it can bee found on the War memorial located in Scalby’s St. Laurence’s Churchyard that also includes the name of another twenty seven men of Scalby, Newby, and Throxenby that had fallen whilst on a active service during the Great War of 1914-1918.

[This memorial also bears the names of a further fifteen men of the three villages that had lost their lives during the Second World War].

The name of the ‘dearly loved and sadly missed’ Harry Mitchell can also be found on a gravestone in St. Laurence’s churchyard. This memorial also bears the names of William Boddy who had died on the 17TH of January 1893 at the age of 72 years, Mary Boddy [widow of William] who0 had passed away in her eightieth year on the 19TH of January 1900, and Mary Ann Boddy [daughter of William and Ann] who had died on the 28TH of December 1932 at the age of eighty four years

Unfortunately no information regarding the demise of Harry Mitchell is not included in any of the surviving local newspapers of 1914-1918. However, ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 17TH of August 1917 had reported the death of another locally born ‘Yeoman Rifleman’;

‘Sherburn Sergeant killed - The sad news has just reached Mr. and Mrs. G.H. Sleightholme, now of Wold Newton, on the death of their son George Alfred Sleightholme, in France. Sergt. Sleightholme was seriously wounded in action on August 1ST and died whilst being conveyed to a Dressing Station. Only a few weeks ago he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field. He joined the King’s Royal Rifles during the first year of the war, and quickly gained promotion. He went out to France with Lord Helmsley’s Battalion, and was wounded during September 1916, after which he was in England some months, returning to the front on his recovery. Previous to joining the forces he was with Messrs. Fitch and Co. Malton. He was only 21 years of age, and was the eighth son of Mr. and Mrs. Sleightholme, with whom much sympathy is felt. They have three other sons serving with the forces, one having come over with the Australian Contingent, and one with the New Zealanders’ [4]

Although born in the North Yorkshire village of Kirby Misperton [during 1896]; Acting Sergeant Alfred Percival Sleightholme had lived for many years in the village of Seamer and had been the tenth of eleven children of Isabel and ‘tenant farmer’ William Henry Sleightholme, who had been residing at ‘Westfield House’, Wold Newton at the time of their son’s death, which is officially recorded as the 5TH of August 1917. Although not a native of Scarborough Alfred had, nevertheless, also enlisted into the Yeoman Rifles at Scarborough during November 1915. Like so many of his comrades, no identifiable remains of Alfred Sleightholme had ever been recovered from the Flanders field of battle, and, therefore, his name is commemorated on Panels 51 and 53 of the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres.

Soon after the death of Alfred Percival, Isabel and George Sleightholme had been dismayed to receive word that another son; 1441A Private Robert Sleightholme had been reported as missing in action. Also born at Kirby Misperton, during 1888, Robert had been attached to the 35TH Battalion of Australian Infantry and had been killed in action, also during the Third Battle of Ypres, on the 12TH of October 1917. A farmer before the war, Sleightholme had lived for a number of years in New South Wales in the town of Kelvin, where he had enlisted into the A.I.F. on the 10TH of May 1916. Initially reported as missing in action, no identifiable remains of Robert Sleightholme had ever been recovered from the fields of Flanders and like his younger brother his name is also commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, amongst the thousands of names of Australian servicemen that are included on Panels 7-17-23-25-27-29-31.

[Both of the Sleightholme brothers are also commemorated on a magnificent ‘Roll of Honour’ War Memorial located within the porch of Wold Newton’s 11TH Century All Saints Church [this memorial also contains the name of the Sleightholme’s second son. Born at Kirby Misperton during 1890 George Henry Sleightholme had served with the New Zealand armed forces during the war, unlike his siblings, he had survived]. In addition, a gravestone containing the names of George Henry and Isabel Sleightholme located in the churchyard also bears the names of their two soldier sons].

In November 1917 the Yeoman Rifles had gone to the Italian Front with 41ST division had by the end of the month taken over a section of the front line behind the Piave River relieving the Italian 1ST Division. Four months later the Battalion were back in France where it had been disbanded on the sixteenth of March 1918, the ‘Yeomen’ being transferred to other units of 41ST Division.

Although their beloved battalion had been disbanded long before, the surviving members of the Yeoman Rifles had been re-united for a Memorial Service that had taken place in York Minster during Saturday the 20TH of February 1920.

Conducted by the Archbishop of York, over three hundred men of the Battalion, including a contingent from Scarborough consisting of Mr. J. Stone, J Duggleby, J. Scaife, B. Morley, S. Morris, G. Proctor, A. Clarke, J. Thompson, F. Wilcox, C. Petch, S. Dale, and S. Curry

[of Sherburn], the memorial service had begun with an organ rendition of Chopin’s ‘Funeral March. This had been followed by a bugler sounding the regimental call and ‘Reveille’. The gathered crowd of Yeomen had then sung ‘Alleluya, Alleyluya’ which had been followed by an address by the Archbishop. The Bishop of Hull had then led the congregation in prayer and the closing hymn ‘For all the Saints who from their labours rest’. The proceeding had inevitably ended with the bugle call ‘Last Post’. A reunion dinner had followed. Taking place in York’s ‘Windmill Hotel’ the Battalion’s Quartermaster Sergeant Cowling had submitted the toast to ‘The Regiment’, and had said ‘the saddest day of his life was the one when the old Battalion had been disbanded’.

Former Rifleman G. Armitage had responded and had said ‘the late Earl of Feversham was a born leader of men and always put his country before anything else’. According to a report of the event, that had been included in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 27TH of September 1920, ‘the rest of the evening was spent in harmony’…

Today very little remains to commemorate the magnificent battalion of Yeoman Riflemen that had been raised at Helmsley all those years ago. I had expected to find a memorial at Duncombe House commemorating the Earl of Feversham and his band of Yeoman Rifles, alas, there is at the house but a solitary portrait of the Earl, and a fading photograph hanging in the kitchen area of a Company of the Yeomen posing for the camera with their Colonel and Lady Feversham. In Helmsley itself, however, on the wall of the old friends meeting house, overlooking the market square is located a plaque bearing the inscription;

‘1914 --- 1919’
‘To the glorious memory of our comrades of the 21ST[S] Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps’
[Yeoman Rifles]
‘Who gave their lives in the Great War’…
‘This Tablet is erected by the surviving members of the Battalion’…

[1] I am indebted to Major [Retd] R. Gray, the Curator of the Royal Green Jackets Museum at Winchester for the excerpts of the war record of the Yeoman Rifles extracted from ‘The Kings Royal Rifle Corps Chronicles’ and also from Volume five of ‘The Annals of the K.R.R.C.’ by Stuart Hare, without which my story of the Battalion would be incomplete.

[2] Born in Scarborough during 1884, Enos Thompson Horsman had formally been employed in Scarborough’s Labour Exchange, and at the outset of war had enlisted into the Territorial Force 1ST/14TH [County of London] [London Scottish] Battalion of the London Regiment, and despite being incorrectly reported as killed in action during the summer of 1916, and being wounded on several subsequent occasions, Enos had survived to marry Miss Eleanor Mary Smith in Scarborough shortly after his demobilisation in late 1918.

[3] There appears to be some discrepancies regarding the date that Harry Mitchell had died. The records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission report he had died on the 12TH of June 1917, whilst ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War record’s his date of death as the 5TH of August. The controversy is exacerbated by an inscription on gravestone in Scalby’s St Laurence’s Churchyard that states he had been ‘killed in action in Flanders’ on the 3RD of August 1917. I have elected to use the information supplied by ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’.

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