Tattersfields in the Military

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction.
  2. Some Common TATTERSFIELD Careers in Peace-Time.
  3. List of TATTERSFIELDs Who Served in War.
  4. Some Short Military Biographies up to 1914.
  5. Some Short Military Biographies 1914 -1939.
  6. Some Short Military Biographies After 1939.
  7. Second Lieutenant Neville TATTERSFIELD. (7 Apr 1892-20 Nov 1918).His Involvement in the First Ever Tank Battle.
  8. Two TATTERSFIELD Brothers and a Cousin in York.
  9. Malcolm Bruce Paterson (1894-1 July 1916).The Battle of the Somme.


(This article was written by John Tattersfield, with inputs and information by John David Tattersfield, who is also the author of the paper, below, about Neville Tattersfield. For its World War 1 information, this article draws on David’s extensive researches for his book “A Village Goes to War”).

This paper seeks to list all Tattersfields, and their close relatives, who were involved in the armed forces in times of conflict. It is not complete, and readers are invited to send in details of other men and women who were engaged in warfare, and whose names are not mentioned. Also any corrections or addition of details, photographs, and memorabilia will be very welcome.

Apart from an overall list, in Section 3 below, the paper sets out, in Sections 4, 5 and 6, more details of a few individuals. It is hoped to increase the number of these as more information is gathered.

The earliest record of a Tattersfield in the army relates to Richard, who was a soldier from 1783 to 1811. In all, seven soldiers are known to have served between then and the Boer War. Three of these ended their military careers in the United States.

World War 1 saw many join the army, either as volunteers or conscripts. Many fought in foreign theatres of war, and not a few were killed or later died as a result of their wounds.

The USA entered the war in April 1917. Although many US citizens wished to volunteer, it was decided that men would be called up, instead of using a volunteering system.

About 1917 and 1918 a few Tattersfields registered in USA. The dates suggest it is unlikely any served abroad or, perhaps, even actually joined up. (The registrations of two Tatterfields are also shown, although their relationship to the Tattersfield family is still a matter of conjecture.)

There must have been a large number of Tattersfields involved in World War 2, but researches so far have brought only a few to light. It is very much hoped readers will send in names and details of their relatives.


The careers pursued by Tattersfield sons have, not surprisingly, been strongly influenced by where they were born.

By far the largest number came from the Dewsbury/Heckmondwike area, in the centre of the Yorkshire heavy woollen district. Many were weavers or clothiers in the early years of records, and the more successful became blanket manufacturers, employing significant work forces. Some had allied trades as fullers, tailors, dyers and warehousemen. There was a sprinkling of farmers and labourers too. Often the trades ran in families.

The early migrants to York (Chart 5), from about 1800, moved to a city sited on a main river, the Ouse. They were mostly watermen. After a couple of generations, this gave way to glass workers, bricklayers and labourers. In Hull (Chart 6) there was a family of butchers.

The earliest known Tattersfield in London (Chart 7) was a sail maker, around 1805-1808, but for the next three generations most of his descendants were fishmongers. One of them is said to have had the nickname “King of Billingsgate”

The first to move to Leeds (Chart 8) carried on as a clothier, but that was not to last. The Lancashire Tattersfields (Chart 9), though apparently started by a waterman, were predominantly tailors in the early years, much more so than their Yorkshire counterparts.

A few Tattersfields chose the army as their career, some ending up in the US Cavalry, as described under “Some Tattersfields who Emigrated from England”. Then came conscription in World War 1 and again in World War 2, with a vast expansion of the number of Tattersfields who became temporarily involved in warfare.


The link below may be followed to view a table that shows a few main details of all the Tattersfields known to have been in the armed forces in times of war. No attempt has been made to list the many who were called up for National Service in peace time. In some browsers, it may be necessary to zoom into the table for greater legibility. For ease of usage, the table should open in a new browser window.

Tattersfields: Table of Known Wartime Military Records


More details are given below of some of those in the above list.

4.1. Richard Tattersfield (c1747-after 1811)- 2nd and 10th Foot Regiments and 8th Royal Veteran Battalion.

The earliest Tattersfield known to have seen military service was Richard. His Discharge documents, held at the Public Records Office, covering his army career, give all the information presently known about him. He was born in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, but no record has been found of his birth, baptism, early life marriage or death.

Richard was a big man for those days, 5′ 10″ tall, with hazel eyes and a fresh complexion.

On Christmas Day, 1783, he enlisted with the 2nd Foot Regiment. He was already 36 years old, and a tailor by trade. He served in that Regiment, as a private soldier, for the next 13 years, after which he transferred to the 10th Foot Regiment in 1796. He continued to serve, as a private, for 11 years, which included 3 years in the West Indies. The latter period seems to have counted as 4 1/2 years in the assessment of his Total Service. Within that period, he re-enlisted on 8 Aug 1805.

On Christmas Day 1807 he transferred to the 8th Royal Veteran Battalion. This may have been a holding unit for time-expired soldiers. The Colonel, presumably honorary, was General John W.T. Watson. Richard served, still a private, for 3 years 122 days in Captain James Harvey’s Company.

Finally, on 23 April 1811, at Fort Cumberland, which guarded the naval base at Portsmouth, he was discharged from the army at the tender age of 63. He had served in the army for 27 years and four months.

To prevent any improper use of his Discharge document, if it fell into the wrong hands, his age, height, colour of eyes, complexion and trade were recorded on it, plus the fact that his hair was grey! It is recorded that he had been “Well conducted in this Battalion”. Evidently Richard could not write, as he signed with a X to acknowledge he had received “all my Clothing, Pay, Arrears of Pay, and all just Demands whatsoever……and 6 Days Pay and Marching Money from the Date hereof. Received no Clothing for the present year Shoes excepted”. His rate of pay seems to have been one shilling three and a half pence per day, or about 6 1/2p per day in modern money!

Presumably the 6 days marching money was to pay for the time it would take him to walk to Huddersfield from Fort Cumberland on the south coast. Would the army shoes issued to him have lasted the journey?

Why was Richard, now aged 63, discharged? The Surgeon to the 8th Royal Veteran Battalion, M. Balfour, signed the Discharge form to confirm that Richard Tattersfield “…is considered unfit for further Service….in consequence of being worn out”.

You had to be tough in those days!

4.2. Mark Tattersfield (Bef 26.7.1776-aft 1841)- 1st West York Regt. Chart 6- Hull.

A little is known about Mark from various church records, relating to him and to his family. No military records have been found.

It was Mark who, in his middle years, went to live in Hull, and started the Tattersfield family there, which exists to the present.

Mark’s parents, David Tattersfield and Martha, nee Hall, were married in Dewsbury Parish Church on 3rd Dec 1771, by Banns, both being “of Dewsbury”. Both signed with a X. In all, they had thirteen children, Mark being the third, all baptised or buried in Dewsbury. Five disappeared from the record after baptism, six died as young children, and only Mark and a sister appear to have married.

Mark was baptised on 26 July 1776, but his date of birth is not known. He married a girl called Hannah, but the record has not been found.

On 7 May 1807, Bishops’ Transcripts show that a daughter Jane was born to Mark Tattersfield and Hannah in Scarborough, on the east Yorkshire coast. Then, surprisingly, a boy David was baptised in Maker, Cornwall, on 19 Mar 1809, his father Mark “belonging to ye first West York Militia”, according to the Baptism register.

A third child Martha was born on 18 Mar 1811 and baptised on 23 Feb 1812 in Leeds Parish Church, the father being Mark Tattersfield of Bank. Martha was buried at St. Peter’s Parish Church, Leeds, on 21 Feb 1813, “daughter of Mark Tattersfield and Hannah of Bank”.

The fourth child, Joseph, was baptised on 2 July 1813 in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Dover, Kent. He was “of Dover Heights”. The father was Mark Tattersfield, a Private Soldier, 1st W. York Regt., as stated in the Register.

Next came Henry, baptised 1 Oct 1815 at St. Mary Lowgate, Hull, son of Mark and Hannah Tattersfield of Church Alleys, the father being a clothier. Henry was buried on 8 Feb 1919, when the family lived at Broadley Street, Hull.

Three more children Hannah, David and Jane Elizabeth, were all baptised in St. Mary, Lowgate, Hull, the father being a clothier.

It seems that Mark, born in Dewsbury, joined, first, the West York Militia, and was stationed at Scarborough, on the east coast of Yorkshire, and then at Maker, near the naval dockyard of Plymouth, in the south west. By 1813, in the 1st West York Regiment, he was in the important military centre of Dover, in the extreme south east.

From 1803 Britain had been at war with the France of Napoleon. No evidence has been found that Mark ever crossed the Channel to fight the French, but it is tempting to think he played his part in helping to prevent any invasion of England.

When Mark returned to the North, it is not known why he went to live in Hull. Perhaps his wife came from there? At all events, he set up as a clothier, a common trade in the Dewsbury area of his origin.

After 1824 nothing more is known of Mark, except that in the 1841 Census Mark Tattersfrield (sic) was in St. Swithin, Lincoln, about 35 miles south of Hull. He was aged 65 (or 68), staying with the family of a cooper called Hilton, and was not born in the County of Lincolnshire. No other detail is given.

Hannah, wife of Mark Tattersfield of Broadley Street, was buried in St. Mary, Lowgate, Hull on 18 Aug 1828, aged 46. No record has been found of Mark’s death.

The descendants of Mark and Hannah may be seen on Chart 6, under Tattersfield Trees.

4.3. John Tattersfield (c1828-aft1880); Thomas Tattersfield (c1850-26.1.1874); James Tattersfield (1850-1924)

The stories of these three early soldiers are given on this website under  “Some Tattersfields Who Emigrated from England”.

4.4. Thomas Tattersfield (c1850-aft. 1883). Royal Marines and Royal Regiment of Artillery.

(An account of what is known of this Thomas Tattersfield is given below in Article 8, entitled “Two TATTERSFIELD Brothers and a Cousin in York”)

4.5. John William Tattersfield (1880-1921)- Lancashire Fusiliers. Chart 9 – Lancashire.

John was unusual in that he took part in two different wars.

He was the seventh of nine children of William Tattersfield and Eliza Ann nee Saxon, who married at St. Luke’s Church, Heywood, Bury, Lancashire, on 4 Aug 1873. Of the nine children, the eldest died unmarried at 25, John William lived to be 41, his youngest sister was married at 22, and the other six all died before they were two years old. Such was life in those days.

John William was born on 31 Jan 1880 in Heywood. He was with his parents in the Censuses of 1881 and 1891. In the latter , aged 11, he was already working as a “doffer(?) cotton”.

On 31 Jan 1900, his 20th birthday, he enlisted at Bury in The Lancashire Fusiliers. His grand daughter, Vera Lord, has kindly provided the photograph below, with John William in the centre in uniform. It is speculated the photograph might have been taken about 1900, soon after he enlisted. One of those with him might have been his brother Ellis, who died early in 1900.

JOHN WILLIAM signed the Attestation document on 31 Jan 1900 for a Short Service of “One Year with the Colours”.  He was aged 20, had a fresh complexion, brown eyes and light brown hair, height 5′ 3 1/2″, chest 34″/35″. He described himself as a farrier, religion was C.of E., weight 122 lbs., and he had “No Marks”. His Next of Kin was his Father, Wm. Tattersfield, of 20 Smith Street, Heywood.

Having “Attested” at Bury with the Lancashire Fusiliers on 31 Jan 1900, he was “Transferred” to A Reserve on 1 Feb 1900. After his year had expired he was “Recalled to Arms Service” with the Lancashire Fusiliers on 9 Feb 1901. He was posted to South Africa, to fight in the Boer War, on 16 March 1901. He was “Discharged on Termination of Engagement” on 30 Sept. 1902 and was paid a War Gratuity of £5 on 12 Nov 1902. His total service had lasted 2 years 243 days.

His original Regimental Number was 8857. He was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with the following clasps:- Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902.

After the Boer War he was discharged in South Africa, and apparently chose to remain there.

Despite his apparent decision to stay on in South Africa, he was back in England on 11 Jan 1903, when he married Sarah Ann Bridge in St. Mark’s Parish Church, Bury. They were to have five children between 1904 and 1917. His Marriage Certificate described him as a cloth finisher, and his wife a cotton operator.

Soon after the start of The Great War, John William enlisted again in The Lancashire Fusiliers on 4 Sept 1914, and was given number 200541. For a time he was a Sergeant, Number 2234.  It is unlikely that in 1914, 14 years after his first enlistment, he would have been on any reserve. It is likely that his joining up was voluntary, rather than from an obligation. He was later promoted to Colour Sergeant, and given Number 200541, and he seems to have been sent to Egypt. He was awarded the Victory and British (?) Medals, the 1915 Star and Silver War Badge (SWB), the last on 20 May 1920, when he had been in the Asylum some 6 weeks. Did he ever know he had received the medal?

John William’s precise involvement in the First World war is not known, but his 1/5 Battalion of Territorials were heavily engaged. He joined on 4th September 1914, when the Battalion were stationed at Castle Armoury, Bury. They moved to nearby Turton. They formed part of the 42nd East Lancashire Division, which was the first Territorial Force to move overseas. Almost immediately, on 9th September, they mobilised for war and embarked from Southampton. On 25th September they arrived at Alexandria, Egypt, to defend the Suez canal from Turkish forces which were massed in Palestine. Various units of the East Lancashire Division were engaged in defending against the Turk attack on 3rd February 1915.

On 5 May 1915 they landed at Cape Helles, Gallipoli, and the Division engaged in various actions, including the Battle of Krithia Vineyard. On 28 December 1915 they were evacuated to Mudros due to severe losses from combat, disease and harsh weather. The Division had lost two thirds of its normal establishment.

On 15 January 1916 they arrived once again in Alexandria, and engaged in the Battle of Romani, which helped to secure the safety of the Suez Canal.

In February 1917 the Battalion moved to France and landed at Marseilles. The Division engaged in various actions on the Western Front, including the third battle of Ypres (Passendale), which began on 31st July 1917.

In 1918 they took part in the Battles of Bapaume, First Battle of Arras, The Ancre, Albert, Second Battle of Bapaume, Canal du Nord, the pursuit to the Selle, and the battle of the Selle. On 11 November 1918, the Battalion ended its war at Hautmont near Mauberge.

The part John William played in the above remarkable list of actions is not known. What is known is that he received a gunshot wound in his right leg, which fractured the tibia, on 2nd May 1917. He was transferred out to the sick convoy five days later, on 7th May, on No 24 ambulance train.  He had, at that time, served in the Battalion for nearly three years, of which two years and seven months were with the field force. Whether he was sufficiently healed of his wound to enable him to return to the front line is not known.”

The reader who may be interested in some background about the kinds of experiences John William may have had in the 42nd division during the Great War, may like to read the material at http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/order-of-battle-of-divisions/42nd-east-lancashire-division/

At Christmas 1918, John William sent a Lancashire Fusiliers card, shown below, “To Pretty Jane from her Dad”, with the injunction “Keep this card as long as you live”. His daughter Jane would have been nearly nine at the time. She kept the card, and, on her death, it was found and kept by her daughter Vera Lord. The card was sent from 1/5 Lan Fus B.E.F. France, so John William must still have been somewhere with his Battalion in France.

John William was discharged from the army on 23 June 1919. His surviving pension record shows that on 6 February 1920 he was awarded a pension of seven shillings per week, backdated to 24 June 1919. It was paid until 21 December 1920. It indicates that he was “admitted to Asylum” on 2 April 1921.

Sadly, he was not to live long. On 13 Aug 1921, aged 41, he died in a mental hospital at Betchworth, near Reigate, Surrey. He had been admitted there from Ewell Neurological Hospital. He died from “General Paralysis of the Insane 6 months and Dysentery 4 days”. Was his “insanity” brought about by three years of intolerable danger, stress and privation?

John William died in Reigate and was buried in Bury Cemetery, Redvales, Lancashire. His Commonwealth War Graves Commission Stone, ref. E162.7552 is shown below. A sad end to a soldiering life.



5.1. Albert Roland Tattersfield. RAF. Chart 7 – London.

Albert Roland was born in Hackney on 18 July 1881, the third child of  Samuel Tattersfield, a London fish salesman, and Annie Lane, nee Hall, who married in Hackney in 1876. In the Census of 1901 he was a cork packer, aged 19.

He married Mary Anne Charlotte Dorey in Camberwell on 17 Sept 1911. She had a daughter Ann Charlotte, born in Camberwell on 24 May 1915, during the course of World War 1.

Albert Roland attested for the Royal Flying Corps on 10 Dec 1915 in Peckham, under the Derby Scheme. This scheme was proposed by Lord Derby to increase army recruitment, and avoid the need for conscription, by allowing men to attest voluntarily for service at a later date. Men attested under the Scheme were paid 1 day’s wage, and placed in the Class B army reserve. They remained in civilian life until needed for military service. The original deadline for the Scheme, 30 Nov 1915, was extended to midnight on 11th December. Between 10 and 13 December, 1,070,478 men attested  under the Derby Scheme, being 48% of the total who had attested to date.

Military records show that Albert Roland was given number 3833. He was 34 years 6 months when he enlisted. His height was 5 ft 5 ins, weight 156 lbs, chest 38 ins and chest expansion 2 ins.

The National Roll of the Great War describes his military career in the following terms :- “Tattersfield A.R., Air Mechanic, RAF. He joined in July 1916, and after completing his training was engaged at various stations on important duties which demanded a high degree of technical skill. He rendered valuable services, but was not successful in obtaining his transfer overseas before the cessation of hostilities. He was demobilised in March 1919. 19, Matham Road, E. Dulwich, S.E.22.”

He died in Roehampton on 19 Oct, 1971.

5.2. Frank Alexander Tattersfield. 25th London Regiment (Cyclist). Chart 7- London.

Frank Alexander was the younger brother of Albert Roland Tattersfield. His mother was Annie Lane Tattersfield, nee Hall.

Quoting again from The National Roll of the Great War:- “Tattersfield, F.A., Pte., 25th London Rgt. (Cyclist). Joining in March 1916, he was transferred to the 17th London Regt. (Rifles), and drafted to France in the following October. He was employed on special duties at Le Havre for a time, but afterwards joined his unit in the Ypres salient, and was present at the Messines engagement. Later he was gassed while serving at Bourlon Wood. Subsequently transferred to the M.G.C. he was in action in the Retreat and afterwards in the Advance at Cambrai. He holds the General Service and Victory Medals, and was demobilised in January 1919. 19, Matham Grove, East Dulwich, S.E.22.”

Frank Alexander died on holiday, at Alacio, Italy, at an unknown date.

5.3. Mary Jane Tattersfield ( 16 May 1885- c May 1957) – Nursing Sister in Salonika and Serbia. Chart 2,3 Heckmondwike.

Mary was born in Batley, Yorkshire, on 16 May 1885, the 8th of 10 children. Her parents were Joseph and Betsy, nee Pickering. Her grandfather was George Tattersfield (1822-1887), about whom a separate article is shown on this Website. Mary was a younger sister of my grandfather Charles Pickering Tattersfield.

Little is known of her early life. She had major surgery as a girl, which might have interfered with her schooling. She was with her parents and siblings in Ravensthorpe in the 1891 Census, and in Thornhill in 1901, when, aged 16, she was doing household duties. She was never to marry.

No details have been found about her schooling. It is believed she did her nursing training at a northern hospital.

Records show that in October 1914 she joined the British Expeditionary Force, and disembarked in Europe in November. Knowledge of her early war is sketchy. She was a Nursing Sister in the British Red Cross Society, employed in the United Allies Wounded Nursing Area. In this role she was awarded the British Medal and the Victory Medal.

At an unknown date she was transferred to the French Red Cross (FRX), and worked in Salonika and Serbia, under the Serbian Relief Committee.

An undated letter written by Mary to her older sister Mrs. Nellie Himsworth, was published in a Dewsbury newspaper. It describes her as a Red Cross Nurse, who went to France soon after the outbreak of war, under the auspices of the Ebenezer Church, Dewsbury. She was now doing Red Cross work in Salonika (today Thessaloniki in northern Greece). The letter is chatty and informal, talking about the delayed arrival of letters, the glorious scenery with snow-capped mountains, the anticipation of receiving a food parcel, a dance held in the mess room over Christmas, and whether she might get some local leave. She was working with a Serbian doctor, a British relief worker, six Serbian RAMC orderlies, and a number of Bulgarian prisoners who helped. She said she had to speak “Macedonski, Serbski, French and English”! She added “…..for the civil population I have two Scottish lady doctors, so there’s lots to do, and I like it.” Mary wrote the letter in her kitchen, which was “just a little over two yards wide and three or four long-nothing on the floor except earth”.

The horrors of her situation were passed over lightly in this description: “Every two or three days we have visitors in the sky, and if one wishes to see star-shells, etc., well, we only have to wander a few yards behind our huts and you get as many fireworks as you want. It is an interesting change from doing base-work. If any soldiers or civilians are taken ill or wounded it is one of my duties to do the first dressing and then send them along to hospital for the military part of the programme………Have come across all nationalities fighting in this wretched war, so wonder when it will be over………My tent is built on a battlefield of a year ago, and there are many relics, though much too big for me to carry, am sorry to say.”

Mary Tattersfield (left), nursing sister in or near Serbia in WW1

Towards the end of the war, and after it was over, there are references to Mary in Reports by a Mr. R.C.Grey to the Committee of the Serbian Relief Fund, Salonika, kept in the Imperial War Museum, London. On 3 Dec 1917 he reported “It has been arranged that Miss Tattersfield should go up country for a time at least, as there was no prospect of utilising her services in Salonika for the present, nor was there anywhere for her to live.” Presumably she had just arrived, and “up country” was a reference to the battle zone in Macedonia or Serbia.

In a report on 5 Mar 1918, Mr. Grey stated “….at Skochivir Sister Tattersfield and Miss Middlemore are on the best of terms with the villagers and the children, which is more than half the battle”. (Skochivir is in the south of Macedonia, until recently in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia).

On 14 January 1919, Mary herself wrote a private report for the Committee of the Serbian Relief Fund, written from Kumanavo, in northern Macedonia, near the Serbian Border. It is quoted in full below:-

“Private- for the Committee only.
From Sister Tattersfield.


14th January 1919.

Work was begun by myself and Miss Middlemore in Kavardar on October 12th 1918, when a dispensary was opened for the civilian population, however as there was no doctor there, military patients were also treated by us.

There was a great deal of sickness in the town, there being a population of approximately 5,000 people, who had received very little treatment during the time of enemy occupation- a period of about three years – hence there was a good deal of medical work to be done, both in the Dispensary and in the homes of the people.

During our nine weeks’ stay there were no less than 3,296 patients treated, most of them being Malarial, Dysentery, Influenza and wounded, many of the latter having come down to us from the frontier villages, almost a day’s journey in many instances. Clothing, etc. was also distributed, both in the town itself and surrounding villages, many families being entirely without; their gratitude being unspeakable for anything that was done for them. There were also patients that were retained by us, most of them severely wounded, whom it was impossible to nurse or attend to in any other way, the condition in the town being much too bad, also there was no food of any description to be bought, sanitary conditions were nil; therefore it was thought best to keep these patients until some means of transport, etc, could be found.

The outpost was closed on December 9th, the Serbian doctor arriving the following day.”

Perhaps the most telling account of Mary’s WW1 record is given in a note, added to the above report, by Dr. Chenow as follows:-

Note from Dr. Chenow.

“This report really gives no idea of the fine work done by Sister Tattersfield and Miss Middlemore, under exceedingly trying conditions. Moreover both suffered from illness during that time, Sister Tattersfield from a severe attack of gripps, and Miss Middlemore from recurrent attacks of malaria yet this was not allowed to interfere in any way with their work. I regard them both as among the very best and most valuable of our workers.

Miss Tattersfield and Miss Middlemore are now at Kumanova, where I have no doubt they will do an equally fine work.”

It is believed that Mary was decorated by the French and Serbian Governments, as well as the British, but details have not been found. Sadly, her decorations were later stolen.

Mary’s niece Dorothy Tattersfield (later Cooke) wearing Serbian dress brought home by Mary

After the war it is known that Mary spent some time in the Dewsbury area as a private nurse to a Lady Oldroyd. She also ran a clinic at Bourneville. She also worked for a time in Birmingham and may have become head of public health for the City.

In 1946, after she retired, Mary went to live with her brother James Percival for a year, when his wife Annie was in hospital, incapacitated by a stroke. Later, when her elder, unmarried, sister Edith Hannah had a heart condition, Mary went to look after her in Bradford. Edith Hannah was secretary to Tattersfield and Co. in Bradford. Mary died there about May 1957, and Edith some three months later.


6.1. John Watson Tattersfield (4 Sept 1916-4 Sept 1993). Royal New Zealand Naval  Volunteer Reserve. Chart 2,3.

(The Recommendation mentioned in this Article, was kindly provided by Cunitia Evelyn Wilkinson, a niece in New Zealand of John Watson Tattersfield, and author of the paper on this Website titled “Some Tattersfield Families who Emigrated from England—The Tattersfield Family of Auckland, New Zealand.”)

James Walker Tattersfield and his wife Evelyn Sophie, nee Abbott, emigrated to New Zealand, and were married in Auckland on 5th December 1904. The story of them and their descendants is told in the series “Some Tattersfield Families who Emigrated from England” on this Website.

James and Evelyn had six sons. In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, the two youngest sons, who were unmarried, Felix Maxwell and John Watson, went to England and enlisted in the Royal Navy. Three of their older brothers remained in Auckland, helping to run the family mattress business, Tattersfield Limited.

Felix was to die on 6th October 1942, when a motor torpedo boat he was in was attacked by a German ship.

John went on to survive the War, and in 1943 was mentioned in Despatches.

The whole course of John’s war is not known, but in September 1943 he was a Temporary Sub Lieutenant, Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve, aboard H.M.S. Valiant, a Queen Elizabeth class British battleship, built at Gowan in 1913-14.

During the First World War, H.M.S. Valiant had served in the Grand Fleet, and took part in the Battle of Jutland.

In 1941 she was transferred from the Home Fleet to the Mediterranean, and based in Alexandria. During March 1941 she was in the Battle of Cape Matapan. She suffered bomb damage off Crete in May 1941.

On 18th December 1941 H.M.S. Valiant was attacked and severely damaged in her base in Alexandria. An Italian submarine, the Scire, managed to send divers into Alexandria Harbour. They planted charges and sank the battleships Valiant and Queen Elizabeth, and two other ships.The Valiant was recovered and repaired over the next 16 months.

It is not known when John joined H.M.S. Valiant, or how much of the above action he took part in. However, a “Recommendation for Decoration or Mention in Despatches” dated 23 September 1943, names John Watson Tattersfield, Temporary Sub Lieutenant. The Recommendation was first submitted to the Honours Committee, and was signed on 11 Oct 1943 by Vice Admiral Algernon Usborne Willis, Flag Officer Commanding Force “H”.

The “Action or Operation” is described as follows:- “For two days, 15th and 16th September, 1943, H.M.S. “Valiant” operated one mile from shore in close support of our Land Forces, during the landing operations in the vicinity of Salerno. By day, the Ship carried out successful bombardment of enemy positions, and there were frequent air attacks. At sea, off the assault area, by night, the ship was the target for repeated air attacks on two nights. These were successfully repelled.”

The “Specific act or service for which Officer or Rating is recommended” read “For skill, devotion to duty and untiring energy as Fighter Direction and Air Plotting Officer. This Officer’s skilful filtering of air reports enabled the armament to be used with maximum effectiveness, on threatening enemy aircraft. His coolness and efficiency were an example and an inspiration”.

In giving his decision on 31 Oct 1943, Admiral John H.D.Cunningham, Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, added the single word “Concur”, and signed his name.

6.2. David Crossley Tattersfield (c May 1926-7 Jan 1949)- RAF. Chart 1. An International Incident.

David Crossley Tattersfield’s family had moved away from West Yorkshire. His grandfather Crossley Tattersfield was born in Ravensthorpe in 1864, married a York girl, and moved to Knaresborough between 1881 and 1891, where he ran the Union Inn.

One of his sons, Edwin Crossley (Teddy) Tattersfield, married Olive May Willetts from Birmingham, where their only child David Crossley was born on 28 May 1926. Teddy had fought in World War 1, and is listed in the table in Section 3 above.

On 21 April 1947 David was awarded a Certificate as a Cadet Pilot, taken on a DH82A at 15 E.F.T.S.

David joined the RAF about the end of World War 2, and was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in February 1948. A few months later he was sent to the Middle East, at a time of hostilities between Egypt and the Israelis. The declaration of the new state of Israel was to be signed soon afterwards, on 14 May 1948.

On the morning of 7 Jan 1949, an RAF tactical reconnaissance was being flown near the Egyptian/Palestinian border, with orders not to cross from Egyptian into Palestinian air space. Close to the border town of Rafiah one of the aircraft, a Spitfire, was hit by ground fire, and the pilot baled out. While the other three pilots in the formation were preoccupied in watching to see where their comrade would land, they were attacked by Israeli fighters, also Spitfires, and all three were shot down. Two pilots baled out, and one was killed. Of the three pilots who baled out, one was picked up by Bedouin in Egypt, and returned to base. The other two were captured by the Israelis.

The same afternoon the RAF mounted another tactical reconnaissance. The aircraft were attacked by Israeli fighters and returned fire. One RAF Tempest was shot down, and its pilot killed. He was Pilot Officer David Crossley Tattersfield, aged 22.

Four days later, on 11 Jan., three United Nations military observers from Tel Aviv went to the French Hospital in Jaffa. They escorted the body, together with an Israeli Liaison Officer and a guard of honour composed of Israeli Military Police, to the British Military Cemetery in Ramleh. The burial service was conducted by Rev. Roger Allison, and attended by Mr. Marriott, British Consul in Haifa.

The news of David’s death in England was carried in many newspaper articles, such as those below which include columns from the local Droitwich & Redditch Weekly.

David Crossley Tattersfield in the Garden

David’s parents sent a card to their many sympathisers.

In Loving Memory
our Dearly Beloved only Child
Pilot Officer
David Crossley Tattersfield,
Aged 22 years.
Killed on Reconnaisance Flight in Egypt
January 7th 1949.
David’s Mother and Father
do earnestly thank you for
your kind letter of sympathy
which has been a great comfort
to them in their tragic loss.
31 Mill Lane,
Birmingham 31.

Questions about David’s death were raised in the House of Commons on 19 January 1949, as recorded in Hansard. Mr. Blackburn asked the Secretary of State for Air, Mr. A Henderson, “as to the circumstances in which the Press were notified by the R.A.F. authorities of the death of 3051236 Pilot Officer David Crossley Tattersfield before his parents had been informed”. Mr Henderson replied: “A telegram informing Pilot Officer Tattersfield’s parents that their son was missing and believed killed was despatched at 11.49 a.m. and delivered at 4.15 p.m. on Sunday, 9th January. No such information was given by my department to the Press until 5.37 p.m. I am advised that Mr. and Mrs. Tattersfield’s address, which enabled the Press to approach them, was probably obtained from a message which originated with an Israeli spokesman in Tel Aviv and was received by the Press at 1.49 p.m. on the Sunday.   I am sure the House will join me in sympathy with Mr. and Mrs. Tattersfield in the loss of their son and in the regrettable circumstances in which it was made known to them.”

A Court of Inquiry was held into the loss of five RAF fighters on the same day. Attention focussed on whether the aircraft had crossed the Palestinian border, as the Israelis claimed. The Court found that they had not, although David Tattersfield’s plane crashed and burned out on the Palestinian side of the border. There were suggestions that the Israelis had tried to cover up the locations of the wreckage of some of the aircraft. This version of events was contradicted in an Israeli statement to the United Nations in New York, which argued that the morning and afternoon flights had been thought to be hostile, the latter even carrying bombs.

The shooting down of five RAF aircraft was a matter of serious international importance. There are numerous de-classified records of it in the National Archives, some originally Secret or Top Secret. It also led to multi-party criticism of the British Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, as reported on 16 Jan. 1949 in the Sunday Times-Signal of Zanesville, Ohio.

Among the records in the National Archives is the following remarkable letter, written to David’s father Teddy, but without the name of the author.

On 9 Feb. Teddy wrote to the Foreign Secretary asking whether the British Government would press for compensation from the Israelis for the loss of lives and aircraft. The draft reply indicates that the matter had been raised with Dr. Ralph Bunche, the former U.N. Acting Mediator in Palestine. After giving it the most careful consideration, he did not intend to make a report to the Security Council.

Teddy wrote again, asking for a photograph of David’s grave. The International War Graves Commission Custodian for Ramleh placed a wooden cross on the grave and arranged for a local photographer to visit. The cost was £1-12-0. IWG funds could not meet the cost, so a request for payment was sent from the British Legation in tel Aviv to the Eastern Department of the Foreign Office in London, asking them to send the photographs to Teddy, and to request that he pay the bill!

Teddy wrote again, requesting that David’s grave should have the normal military headstone. The draft reply, on behalf of the Foreign Secretary, said that there was no provision for the erection of such headstones in peacetime. He would ask the Air Ministry whether an exception could be made. Available correspondence does not show whether this modest request was ever met. Nor does it show whether Teddy ever paid the bill!

(The photographs and news cuttings in the above Article were kindly provided by Mrs. Edith Mary Andrews, nee Tattersfield).

Some photographs of the headstone and general surroundings of the grave of David Crossley Tattersfield have been obtained.  These photographs were taken by Mr Morey Altman, a genealogist who lives near the Ramleh Military Cemetary.  They are published here with Morey Altman’s kind permission.

tattersfield2Tattersfield3aramle military cemetery2


6.3. Philip Walter Gascoyne Tattersfield (5 June 1917-30 June 2008). Chart 7.

The fascinating war record of the late PHILIP is described in his own words in his brief autobiography in the Section “Some Tattersfield Families Who Emigrated From England.”

6.4. Jack Coatsworth Tattersfield (27 Sept 1920-12 Dec 1941). Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve. Chart 2,3.

Much of the information in this Article, and all the photographs except one, were researched and collated by a nephew of Jack, the late Peter Nicholas James (8 May 1946-18 May 2008). They have been kindly made available by his wife Veronica James.

Jack Coatsworth Tattersfield was born on 27th Sept 1920 in Carlton, Nottinghamshire, into “The Leicestershire Tattersfields”, described on this Website in the Article by Jane Elizabeth Weyer, a niece of Jack. He was the youngest of six children, and the only son, born to Herbert Tattersfield and Lilian, nee Coatsworth. Herbert was the grandson of George (1822-1887), and the brother of Mary Jane (1885-1957), about each of whom there is also  an Article on this Website.

Jack attended the Alderman Newton Grammar School in Leicester. He studied at the Art and Music Department of the Leicester College of Art and Technology. His hobbies were rugby football and golf. He played rugby for Old Newtonians.

Jack (right) with his Father Herbert and Sisters Kathleen (left) and Edith, Apparently on Holiday.

After completing his schooling he became articled to a local architect. His family still have on display a number of his architectural drawings.

Jack joined the Royal Navy on 22nd July 1940. His period of engagement was until the end of the current emergency, and his Official Service Number was FX 80495.

Jack’s military career of some seventeen months included numerous postings and training courses. In the first seven weeks, to 5th September, he undertook basic training at HMS St. Vincent as a Naval Airman 2nd Class, earning fourteen shillings per week. An undated letter from St. Vincent survives, in which he referred to colleagues and friends by name. At the end of the period, he would have been given an interview and a medical check-up to confirm his suitability to fly.

He was transferred to RAF  Elmden, No 14 Elementary Flying Training School, until 8th November. In the eight weeks of training he would have spent fifty to sixty hours in the air, including flying solo on Tiger Moths. Pay was now 6s 6d per day, including 3s 6d “danger money” for flying.

As Acting Leading Airman he went to RAF Netheravon until 16th April 1941. Training there would have included formation flying, dive-bombing, navigation, instrument flying and shooting at towed targets. Some letters exist, sent from Netheravon, talking about leave to visit Marlborough, and the progress of various friends. Jack wrote that he had witnessed the fatal accident of his friend Jake Kendall, which occurred due to bad weather.

Short training periods were attended at RAF Stormy, again at Netheravon, HMS Jackdaw, HMS Condor, HMS Daedalus (twice), and RAF South Cerney. At HMS  Jackdaw, Jack’s career seems to have moved towards a Fleet Requirement Unit in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve.

Two letters exist, written by Jack in July 1941, from Royal Naval Air Station, Arbroath, Angus. They were sent to his elder sister Kathleen, who was married to Arthur Reginald Frederick Hurst on 26 July 1941, in Leicester. Jack had applied for leave to enable him to attend their wedding, but this was refused.

Three photographs below show Jack at various stages of his training.

Jack Tattersfield is second from left on back row

Jack Coatsworth Tattersfield

Jack in Front of Tiger Moth During Training

On 26th September 1941 Jack was posted to HMS Sparrowhawk in Orkney, to join 771 Squadron, based at Hatston, as Acting Sub Lieutenant Pilot. Duties included exercises with Navy ships, and target towing for Naval Gunnery Training. The Squadron’s main claim to fame was the discovery that the Bismarck had left its base in a Norwegian fiord on 22nd May 1941.

Jack’s final and fatal flight took place on 12th December. It is described authoritatively, if succinctly, on the Roll of Honour: “J.C. TATTERSFIELD; Temp ACTING SUB LIEUTENANT (A) RNVR; 771 Squadron; BLACKBURN ROC L 3186 – HMS Sparrowhawk (Hatston); died 12 December 1941; missing believed drowned; height finding exercise. Death on war service presumed.”

In the Blackburn Roc with Jack was Gunner G.H. Hall (Wee Geordie), from Denton Burn, near Newcastle, who died of his injuries the day after the plane went down.

Two telegrams to Jack’s parents still exist, the first, dated 13th December 1941, to say he was missing, presumed killed, and the second, dated dated 15th December, confirming his death. These were received by his parents at 43 Western Park Road, Leicester. A letter was also received from Lt. Commander Goddard, Jack’s C.O., dated 16th December, and another from the padre. A letter of condolence to the parents survives from his old friend Cliff Leeson.

Jack’s personal possessions, presumably including his flight log, were dispatched home, but never arrived.

Jack’s name appears on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission Memorial at Lee-on-Solent, on Bay 4, Panel 7. The Memorial bears the inscription “These Officers and Men of the Fleet Air Arm Died in the Service of their Country and have No Grave but the Sea. 1939-1945”.

Mr William Shearer, of Victoria Street, Kirkwall, is a member of the Aviation Research Group Orkney and Shetland (ARGOS), which carries out research into aircraft which crashed in the area. He kindly contacted the Author in December 2011, and has given a  brief account of the final flight of Blackburn Roc L 3186, and its two occupants, Jack and Wee Geordie.

Seventy years to the day after the plane disappeared, Mr. Shearer bought on e-bay the photograph below. It shows the same aircraft L3186, when it was new. It was commissioned on 24th October 1940. We are grateful for his permission to show it. It is not known who the pilot in the photo was.

Mk 1 Blackburn roc, Serial No L3186. Kindly supplied by Mr William Shearer (ARGOS).

7. Second Lieutenant Neville TATTERSFIELD.

7 April 1892 – 20 November 1918

His Involvement in the First Ever Tank Battle

This article was written by David John Tattersfield. The article relates to Neville, whose descent was Joseph | Moses | John | Moses Lister, and who also appears in Chart 1. David is second cousin twice removed to his subject. David researched the World War I history of Neville in the course of writing his book ‘A Village Goes To War’.

My interest in the First World War started in 1990 when I read a book entitled First Day on the Somme by Martin Middlebrook. I was so impressed with the book that the following year my brother and I went to France to visit the battlefields of the Great War. Upon returning home I took a close look at the war memorial in our Parish Church, St. Saviour’s in Ravensthorpe. Despite being a (relatively) regular attendee, I was surprised to discover the name of Neville Tattersfield on the memorial. This discovery prompted me to research the names of all the men on the memorial. After many years’ research, I produced a book A Village Goes to War, which details the lives of all of the men named on the memorial. Although space restrictions stopped me telling all of it, Neville’s story is just one of those in the book. I am pleased that this can now be told in full via the Tattersfield Family Web Site.

Figure 1: Neville’s Medals: the Victory Medal and the British War Medal

Neville’s story is one of the more detailed ones to emerge from my research into the War Memorial. There are two reasons for this: first of all, because he was an officer there are detailed records surviving at The National Archives in London. He was in fact the only officer named on the memorial. This in itself is remarkable, statistically, for on a memorial containing 114 names there should have been more than one officer. Secondly, I was able to make contact with Neville’s nephew, Maurice Tattersfield, who provided reminiscences of his uncle. Sadly Maurice died in March 1998.

Neville Tattersfield was born on 7 April 1892 to Moses and Louisa Tattersfield. Neville was the youngest of seven sons (although three died in infancy) and lived with the family at ‘West Royd’, Brunswick Street, Dewsbury. After attending Heckmondwike Grammar School, he joined his eldest brother, John, working in the dyeing laboratory at Jas Smith and Sons in Ravensthorpe. Tragedy was to strike the family twice in quick succession; on 12 December 1914 Louisa died, and less than a year later in August 1915, Harold, Neville’s brother also died.

The Great War began in August 1914, and there was an initial flood of volunteers  after all it was widely believed that the war would be over by Christmas. By spring 1915 the flow of recruits was dwindling; it had become clear that voluntary recruitment was not going to provide the numbers of men required. The government passed the National Registration Act on 15 July 1915 as an attempt at stimulating recruitment. The attempt was largely unsuccessful; however, it did result in Neville volunteering, although this may have been a reaction to the death of his older brother.

Early in the war it was decided to add motor machine gun batteries to the British Expeditionary Force. Many of this unit’s recruits were volunteers, or specially enlisted by being known to be actively interested in motorcycles (such as motorcycle club members).

On 18 August 1915, at the age of 23, Neville joined the army as a gunner in the Motor Machine Gun Service; as he owned a motorcycle it is likely he was attracted to the idea of joining a part of the army where there was a use for his hobby. This is speculation on my behalf. Maurice Tattersfield, Neville’s nephew, suggested in a letter, that working as a Laboratory assistant, Neville “hoped to get a nice cushy job with the medical corps”. Perhaps this is true, but being a volunteer it is likely that had he wanted to join the Royal Army Medical Corps he may have had his wishes met.

The forms completed on his enlistment record his height as 5′ 4½”, with a maximum chest expansion of 35″. He weighed just less than ten stones.

Figure 2: Neville (on left) with unknown passenger in the side-car

On 1 January 1916 he was posted to the 27th Battery of the M.M.G.S., but on 1 April was transferred to the Armoured Car Section. This Armoured Car Section seems not to have lasted a long time as within five weeks, on 4 May, he was posted to the Heavy Section, Machine Gun Corps; this was the name under which what was to become the Tank Corps first operated. Neville therefore found himself at the cutting edge of the new military technology of the day: Tanks!

On 6 June Neville attended a Tank course and on 21 July went on a course to Whale Island at Portsmouth in order to learn how to use the six-pounder guns that armed some of the tanks. Neville was sent to France with the first draft of officers and men on 16 August 1916, arriving at Le Havre on 17 August; the first of the tanks arrived on 21 August.

Training was undertaken in France for several weeks: two companies of the Heavy Section, Machine Gun Corps were being trained for the very first tank action, which was to take place on 15 September 1916, during the Battle of the Somme. Unfortunately the War Diary of Neville’s unit, ‘C’ Company, is less detailed than the other tank unit that was involved (‘D’ Company), and it is therefore not possible to say with any certainty which tank Neville was with on 15 September. A letter from Neville published in the Dewsbury Reporter on 7 October describes how he had only “one wash in a week and not even a shave…“; he goes on, “…our ‘bus’ has been stuck; unfortunately our steering was wrong before we went into action but we went in and returned safely.

Figure 3: Number 2300, Gunner Neville Tattersfield, Motor Machine Gun Service

Of all the tanks in ‘C’ Company that Neville could have been in, it is the tank of Second Lieutenant Ambrose that is the most likely candidate. This tank broke down on the start line with tail problems and engine trouble; however, it seems that repairs were carried out and the tank resumed its journey only to break down again. It is of course possible that Neville was in another tank of ‘C’ Company, but we cannot now be totally sure of Neville’s exact involvement.

Figure 4: A watercolour painting by Jean Berne-Bellecour (1874-1939) courtesy of the David Cohen Fine Art Collection: Sir John Dashwood s tank C13 lying in Angle Wood Valley. The painting represents one of the tanks that went into action on 15 September 1916. Although not the tank in which Neville went into action, it illustrates the conditions under which he fought. Whatever his exact involvement, it is without doubt that Neville has a place in history due to being involved with the first ever usage of tanks in action.

Figure 5: A poem, written by Neville. Was the ‘broken down individual’ Neville, as he saw himself in forty years’ time?
Please click here to see a full transcript of the poem.

Tanks were used again the following day, on 16 September and again at the end of the month. Some other operations were carried out in October but it is their use on 15 September that will be remembered.

Figure 6: Cards such as these were often embroidered by injured soldiers whilst they were in hospital. There is no evidence that Neville was in hospital in 1916, so it is likely that this was purchased as a gift for his nephew, Maurice.

After taking part in the operations on the Somme, Neville was granted leave in England in April 1917. Returning to his unit on Good Friday (6 April), he was immediately returned to England as his application for a commission had been accepted. Within days of returning home, he was to lose his father who died on 19 April.

Neville was ordered to join the Machine Gun Corps, Officer Cadet Battalion, at Grantham on 4 May; this was the Cadet School Preliminary. From 2 July until October he attended the Pirbright Cadet School, being appointed a temporary commission for the duration of the war on 4 November 1917. In December 1917 he was sent on a further course at Wareham. It was not until 13 March 1918 that he returned to France, arriving in Boulogne. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Tank Corps, and joined his unit on 21 March 1918, which turned out to be one of the most important days in the First World War.

It had been nearly a year since Neville was last in France. During that time, the course of the war had changed. Due to being posted home in early April 1917, Neville had fortunately just missed out in the Battle of Arras. Later that year saw the Third Battle of Ypres (commonly known as the Battle of Passchendaele) and the Battle of Cambrai. It is more than likely Neville’s good fortune at missing these battles may in part be put down to political interference: Lloyd George, concerned at the losses amongst the British Army, by the end of 1917 wanted to try to stop what he saw as the needless slaughter on the Western Front. Not having the political will to dismiss the Commander in Chief, Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, instead he deliberately kept the BEF short of troops. This, amongst other factors led to the Germans launching a highly successful offensive on 21 March 1918.

Although the details of his actual involvement are not known, it seems that Neville may have been involved in the counter-attack by the 2nd Battalion of the Tank Corps against this German offensive. This small counter attack took place at Beugny, a village four miles east of Bapaume on 22 March. This counter-attack came at a crucial stage in the attempt to stem the German tide; it was made without infantry support and with minimal assistance from the artillery. Although many casualties were incurred in the 2nd Battalion, Neville came through this unscathed. The counter-attack was successful as it stopped the German advance here for twenty-four hours.

The German offensive was stopped, and by the summer of 1918 the Allies, led by the British, were ready to attack the Germans. The opening day of the next phase of the war was scheduled to be 8 August. It would become known as the Battle of Amiens. This was the start of the campaign known as ‘The Hundred Days’ which would end with the Armistice on 11 November.

On the evening of 4 August the three companies (each comprising twelve tanks) of Neville’s 2nd Battalion set off from Querrieu on the Amiens to Albert road in order to get to the assembly position at Fouilloy. The roads were packed with heavy artillery, ammunition lorries, battalions of infantry and numerous other units needed to support a major offensive; as a result the tanks were able to make only slow progress. At a point approximately mid-way between Querrieu and Fouilloy is the village of Daours. This proved to be a severe bottleneck and the tanks had great difficulty in negotiating the two bridges and two right-angled corners. Despite these difficulties, the tanks were successfully hidden before daybreak on the 5 August, and remained out of sight from German aerial observation until the evening of the 7 August. At midnight on 7/8 August they completed the penultimate leg of their journeys and switched off their engines near Villers-Bretonneux.

One hour before ‘Zero’ the tanks of ‘B’ and ‘C’ Companies moved the last ¾ mile to a point in front of the waiting infantry.

‘B’ Company was to lead the 5th Australian Brigade and ‘C’ Company was to lead the 7th Australian Brigade; both of these infantry brigades being part of the 2nd Australian Division. The objectives of the Australians were the villages of Warfusse and the ground to the south of the village, and the village of Bayonvillers. ‘A’ Company, meanwhile, moved into position. They were to lead the 5th Australian Division on to the second phase objective of Harbonnieres. It was planned that the tanks would rally at Harbonnieres. In the event only five of the 48 tanks reached the village.

The successful attack of the 8 August was not as a result solely of the Tank Corps’ part in the action, nor of any other single factor. Each part of the army (and R.A.F.) contributed to the most successful day of the war so far for the British: it was the successful integration of all arms that ensured the victory. Nearly 400 guns were captured from the German artillery in this advance together with 18,500 prisoners. In addition the Germans lost 9,000 men killed or wounded. The Allied losses (killed and wounded) were also in the region of 9,000 men. The German high command described 8 August as “The Black Day of the German Army.”

We do not know if Second Lieutenant Neville Tattersfield took part in the first day of the battle, but we are certain of his involvement on the second day.

Notwithstanding the arrival of German reinforcements and the exhaustion of the Allied troops the attack was resumed on 9 August. Despite having advanced beyond the range of the artillery and without telephone links to headquarters in the rear, there was still an average advance of three miles. This was with only about half the number of tanks that had been available on the first day.

On 9 August, the 2nd Battalion Tank Corps – which was down to about seventeen tanks – mustered south of Bayonvillers. At 1pm the battalion moved off in support of the attack by the 2nd Australian Division. Despite the German infantry surrendering in large numbers, there was a great deal of hostile shell-fire which hit three tanks as they approached the railway station at Rosières. Further artillery fire was directed from German batteries on high ground at Lihons which knocked out a further five tanks.

The tanks were unable to advance in the face of this hostile shelling; the infantry, too, were held up. Eventually Australian artillery was brought up and managed to silence one of the German batteries, allowing the objectives to be reached. The remaining tanks withdrew. It was during the course of this day’s fighting that Neville was injured.

A brief report in the Dewsbury Reporter stated that Neville had been wounded when a shell burst near him when he was attempting to unditch his tank whilst under heavy machine gun and shell-fire. Maurice – Neville’s nephew – stated that Neville “could have been killed but for a spirit flask, which my mother gave him, stopped one of the bullets”. His sergeant and two gunners were, according to the report, wounded at the same time. His medical records indicate that he incurred gun-shot wounds in a buttock and upper left arm.

Neville was taken first of all to the 15th Australian Field Ambulance, from where he was sent the following day (10 August) to the 20th General Hospital, where he was operated on for the removal of shrapnel. Eleven days later, on 21 August, Neville was evacuated to England to recuperate.

Figure 7: Neville is on the right of the group. This was probably taken in the late summer of 1918 whilst Neville was recovering from his injuries sustained on 9 August.

Following his injuries at the Battle of Amiens in August 1918 and his subsequent convalescence, Neville stopped with his brother, John, and his sister-in-law, with their 8 year old son, Maurice, at 64 North Road, Ravensthorpe in order to complete his recovery. It was probably about this time that John borrowed Neville’s ‘Wolf’ motorbike and crashed it coming down the steep Shillbank Lane in Mirfield; Neville, it seems was none too pleased.

Although engaged to a local girl called Elsie Fawcett, Neville, upon recovering from his injuries, decided to visit a cousin (another girlfriend according to Maurice!) in Scotland. Neville, at this time had a heavy cold, and his sister-in-law tried to dissuade him from making the journey. Against this advice Neville went up to Scotland. Upon returning home his cold was much worse but he was now due to return to the Tank Corps depot in Dorset. He insisted on making the journey, and reported to Swanage on 3 November. Within a week he had contracted influenza.

In 1918 a much greater threat to the worldwide population than the Great War occurred, when the Spanish ‘flu epidemic broke out. This was to sweep round the world from 1918 to 1919 killing many times more people than had been killed in the conflict; estimates range from 21 to 40 million people worldwide succumbing to the illness. Many of these deaths were of soldiers who had survived the war and, weakened by their injuries, were more vulnerable to the effects of the disease. Neville was admitted to a military hospital in Wareham on Monday 11 November, ironically the day the Armistice was signed. His brothers John and Clifford went down to Wareham to visit him on Saturday 16 November, after which they returned home.

A telegram was received in Ravensthorpe on Monday 18 November to say Neville’s condition had deteriorated and so they set about the long journey back to Wareham.

Neville died aged 26, on Wednesday 20 November, with his brothers present. He was buried two days later in the churchyard at Wareham Parish Church. Wareham Cemetery contains 49 First World War burials, including ,  just behind Neville’s grave,  a number of Australian soldiers.

Figure 8: Neville’s obituary, taken from the Dewsbury Reporter

Post Script

For many years, the original headstone, erected by the family, stood on Neville’s grave. Unfortunately, by the 1990’s the inscription was all but unreadable. Whilst military graves in France and Flanders are cared for by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, there is less certainty about the care of these graves in the UK. Concerned that the gravestone would one day be lost forever, I contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission who agreed to replace Neville’s headstone with a standard pattern one. This has ensured that in accordance with the Commission’s mandate, Neville’s grave will be cared for “in perpetuity”.

Figure 9: Neville’s grave (original headstone-before deterioration) , and recent standard-pattern replacement

Links to spreadsheets of other WWI fatalities

For further information, please follow the two links shown below:

Commonwealth War Graves Commision : Wareham Cemetary Photographs

Commonwealth War Graves Commision : Debt of Honour Register


John (1834-1905), Thomas (c1850-aft 1883) and Thomas Wilkinson VC (c Dec 1831-22 Sept 1887).

8.1 Introduction

Richard Tattersfield (1806-1876) was a bricklayer in York. His first wife died young, and he married Margaret Littlewood in St. Mary, Castlegate,York on 29 May 1831. The couple had nine children. Richard had no business to give employment to his sons, and it is noteworthy that the first child, John, and the sixth, Thomas, both joined the army, though on different dates and in different regiments. Their careers are summarised below.

It will be seen that neither brother had a noteworthy military career. In the case of John, indiscipline seems to have played a part in preventing his advancement in the service. Both served in India, where they suffered serious ill health, leading to their premature discharge from the army.

Their careers contrast sharply with that of their first cousin on their mother’s side, Thomas Wilkinson, who was awarded the VC at Sevastopol in the Crimean War. His medals are on display in the Royal Marines Museum, Eastney, Southsea, Hants, and a small remembrance service is held every June at his grave side. His brief biography is presented below.

8.2  John Tattersfield (8 May 1834-16 Aug 1905). Royal Horse Artillery.

John was born 0n 8 May 1834 in St. Olave, York. He was recorded with his parents in the Censuses of 1841 and 1851, aged 7 and 17 respectively. On 10 Dec 1847, aged 13, he was indentured for 7 years to James Knowles of York, plumber, glazier and painter. He appears not to have completed the apprenticeship, as, in the 1851 Census, he was described as a “confectioner”, still living with his parents.

On his 24th birthday, 8 May 1858, he enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery. His trade was recorded as “groom”, and he joined as a “driver”, with army number 1682.

On 15 Dec 1858, after some 7 months, John was promoted to Bombardier. However, from 24-29 Apr 1860, he went absent. For this he was tried, and reduced to the ranks. Thereafter he would never again rise above the rank of “driver”. After a mere 3 weeks, from 22-28 May, he went absent again. It would be interesting to know why he was so determined to abscond. This time he was imprisoned from 29 May to 24 June.

John was transferred to India on 27 July 1860, where he served for 8 years and 5 months.  Little is known of his posting in India. He transferred to F Bn, Royal Horse Artillery on 1 Dec 1861.  As 145 Driver JOHN TATTERSFIELD, A/5 RHA,  he was awarded the India Medal with North West Frontier clasp “for operations against the Mohmands” between 5.12.1863 and 2.1.1864. The record indicates that he served on the North West Frontier, but not at Umbeyla. He came under the Presidency of Bengal at the time, and was “re-engaged”, still as a driver, on 2 Nov 1867. For some reason his award was only made in 1884. At that time, being no longer in the Army, JOHN was referred to as “Mr. Tattersfield Jno.”

On 1 Dec 1868, seven years after his first transfer, he transferred to Depot RHA, and on 6 Jan 1869 his overseas service ended, presumably on his arrival back in England. Ill health seems to have caused his return. A medical report was prepared on 20 June 1869 at Woolwich. Even in those days the hand-writing of doctors was difficult to decipher, but the following account of his disabilities can be made out:- “Health quite broken down from Syphilis & liver Complaint. Is anaemic with constant pains of limbs and back, aggravated at night. He suffers much from Ague. Disability due partly to Syphilis, partly to Climate. For a long time at least will be but little able to contribute to his livelihood.”  It was confirmed that his disability did not exist before his Enlistment, and that he could not be “repassed into the service.”

On 20 July 1869, John was discharged from the army, by the Regimental Board, “being found unfit for further service”.

We do not have a description of John when he joined the army. However, on his discharge from Woolwich, he was “aged 35 years 2 months, Height 5 feet 4 ½ inches, Complexion Fresh, Eyes Grey, Hair Brown, Trade Groom.” The record of marks on his face and body is tantalisingly unintelligible.

How did the army treat John on his discharge? He signed his discharge papers with a neat signature. They recorded that “…. his conduct has been good. He is in possession of two Good Conduct Badges. There are three entries against him in the Regimental Defaulter Book including two Courts Martial” – a factual, but hardly a glowing testimonial on his 10 ½ years service, including about 8 ½ years in the heat of India.

The discharge papers contained a note that he should apply for a deferred pension on 8 May 1884, his 50th birthday. Notes about his application in 1884 seem to suggest that he did apply. His intended place of residence after discharge was 1 Albion Row, Tannery Moat,York. This was either where his parents then lived, or very close to it.

John never married. In 1871 he lived in York with his parents, and was a boiler maker’s labourer. Ten years later he lived with his widowed mother, as a labourer in iron works. He is not found in the 1891 Census, but in the 1901 Census John now lived with his younger brother, Richard, and his family. Richard was a Railway Engine Boiler Maker, and John a Railway Boiler Maker’s Labourer. Did they perhaps work together?

John died of apoplexy on 16 Aug 1905 in York, aged 71. He was buried in a public grave in York Cemetery.

8.3 Thomas Tattersfield (c1844-aft.1883). Royal Marines and Royal Regiment of Artillery.

Thomas was born in St. Cuthbert’s Parish, York. His identity is not easy to establish. Throughout his military life he gave his age on a number of documents. These ages are not consistent with each other, nor do they lead to a date of birth corresponding to any in the official record of births registrations.

However, it seems almost certain he was born on 5 Nov 1844 in Redeness Street, St. Cuthbert’s Parish, as the sixth child of Richard Tattersfield and his second wife Margaret née Littlewood. The child was named Thomas Littlewood Tattersfield on his Birth Certificate. The second name Littlewood does not, however, appear in any later records.

The Census of 1851 shows Richard, Margaret and five children, including “Tom”, said to be aged 4. This age is almost certainly in error, as his next younger sister, born about Nov 1846, was also recorded, correctly, as being 4. In the Census of 1861, Thomas was an errand boy, aged 16, leading to a birth year of about 1845.

Thomas began his military career by volunteering for the East & North York Arty Regiment of Militia, as No 605 Thomas Tattersfield. He was engaged by the Militia on 13 Nov 1865. No records have been seen of his service with the Militia, except that he applied to be discharged in order to enlist for “Her Majesty’s Regular Forces”. A discharge was granted by the Adjutant on 22 May 1866, conditional upon Thomas joining the army within 14 days from then. The expenses of his Enrolment of 18/6d were recovered from Thomas.

On the same day, 22 May 1866, he was enlisted by “48 Coy George Parker Corpl of Royal Marines Lt Infantry”. He was described as Thomas Tattersfields of the Parish of St. Cuthberts, and declared he was “eighteen years of age”, indicating a birth year of about 1848. His previous period with East & North York Artillery of Militia was declared. He enlisted for 12 years, and signed the Attestation very neatly as Thomas Tattersfields.

On 25 May he swore the Attestation Oath in Wakefield. He was passed as medically fit the next day in Woolwich, and formally added to the Divisional Register by the Officer Commanding, Woolwich.

On his Enlistment Paper, Thomas stated he was 18 years 1 month, was a Labourer and unmarried. He enlisted for a Bounty of “One pound and a free kit.” He was 5 feet 6 1/2 inches tall, complexion fair, eyes blue, hair light brown, and had no distinctive marks. He was “Church of England”.

The Bounty of one pound was paid on 26 May 1866, and the receipt signed by Thomas in his neat hand.

The records of Thomas’s service in the Royal Marines are probably incomplete, rather difficult to piece together, and certainly inglorious. His “Record of Service” in 8 Coy states he was a “Private from 25 May 66 to 8 Mar 69”. These dates are followed by hand-written entries—“In Military Prison in Aldershot.
Imprisonment expired 31 Mar 1870.
Never Embarked.
Service forfeited for ? Service       342 days.
Service forfeited up to 8 Mar 69    361 days.
DP to Ports (Portsmouth?)          8 Mar 69.”

Later, a Descriptive Return describes how Thomas was apprehended on 17 Sept 1870 by Police Constable Henry Grant, and confined at Fenton Barracks, Gosport. He was said to be 21, indicating birth in 1849. The evidence brought against Thomas reads verbatim: “Police Constable Henry Grant being duly sworn-states-I saw the Prisoner at Horndean on Saturday evening 17th Inst. At 6 oclock P.M. I asked him if he had a pass. He said No-I told him I should take him into custody- he then said he was a discharged man and had lost the lot-will that do for you. I said it would not and took him into custody”.

Thomas told the Magistrate he was not a deserter. The length of sentence is not stated.

Another hand-written paper reads “8 Coy Thomas Tattersfields Private.
Date of Attestation 25 May 1866.
Service allowed to reckon 2 yrs 174 days—16 May 71.
Age 23  1/12 years.
Is the Prisoner in possession of any decorations, or
other honorary awards – Nil
Former Convictions   Two- 1 General 1/4/68-
1 Garr?  24/11/70.
Character Indis?   (Indisciplined?)
Not under sentence.
D 1874 with Ignominy.”

Across the top of Thomas’s Attestation is written “D 9/5/74. With Ignominy”.

It is not known what Thomas did immediately after his ignominious discharge. However, his next application to the army described him as a “Waterman”.

The next record of Thomas is an application to join the Royal Regiment of Artillery. He signed Proceedings of Attestation in Scarborough, Yorkshire, on 4 June 1877, and joined the Royal regiment of Artillery at Woolwich on 13 June 1877 for twelve years. He declared himself to be aged 25 years and zero months, and born in the Parish of St. Cuthberts, York. In reality it seems his age was just over 33 years, showing a discrepancy of nearly 8 years.

Thomas’s next of kin was named as his brother John in York. This is consistent with him being Thomas Littlewood Tattersfield, whose father Richard had died in 1876, and whose eldest brother was called John. He was a Waterman by trade, and unmarried. His height was 68 inches, weight 140 lbs, chest 37 inches. His “Physical Development” was good, and he may have had smallpox marks on the face.

To the question “Have you ever served in the Army, Marines, Ordnance, Militia or Navy…?” he replied “Yes, in the East & North York Artillery Regiment of Militia.” No mention was made of his time with the Marines! The terms were no Bounty and a free kit. Again he signed his name very neatly.

Thomas was assigned initially to 2 Brigade, called Depot Brigade, but transferred at the end of June 1877 to 5 Brigade, where he stayed until 1 Jan 1882, when he went back to 2 Brigade. On 8 Nov 1882 he was placed in 1st Brigade, Cinque Ports.

He served two periods in India, as a Gunner, the first just over 2 years, and the second 343 days.

All was not well with Thomas. On 2 Oct 1877, four months after enlisting, he spent 18 days in hospital at Woolwich with orchitis. Not long after, on 29 Dec 1877, he was transferred to India, and arrived at Fyzabad (probably today’s Faizabad) on 13 Feb 1878. There he contracted conjunctivitis, particularly in the right eye, and spent periods of 26, 74 and 37 days in hospital.

On 21 Mar 1880 he was sent back to England, and went straight into Woolwich Hospital for 3 days, where it was concluded that he had “No appreciable disease”.

On 4 June 1880 he transferred to Weedon Barracks in Northamptonshire. Five periods in hospital were to follow, the longest being for 51 days, resulting from conjunctivitis, bronchial catarrh and primary syphilis. He left Weedon on 14 Nov 1881. During the Census of April 1881, Thomas was recorded at Weedon Barracks. Strangely the Census calls him Henry Tattersfield. How can we know it was the same man? The Census states that he was “Handicapped. Blind in One Eye”.

Twelve days after his last release from hospital, he was shipped back to India, arriving at Allmuck(?) on 2 Feb 1882. A month later he spent 42 days in hospital with ague, brought on by the “severe climate”. Four more periods in hospital followed, from debility and ague, after which, on 12 Oct 1882, he was “Recommended for a change to England” by the Surgeon Major.

On 22 May 1882, Thomas had gained a Certificate of Education, 4th Class.

On 14 Dec 1882 a Medical Board at Herbert Hospital, Woolwich, decided that he be “recommended for discharge-disease-‘General Debility’”. He was finally discharged from the Regiment on 30 Jan 1883. He stated that he was going to Mr. J. Stevenson, Piccadilly,York.

Of 5 years and 240 days in the Royal Artillery, Thomas had spent 386 days in various hospitals. Despite this, his conduct at different dates with the Regiment was recorded as “Habits Regular- temperate-conduct very good”. He clearly did not repeat his behaviour in the Marines!

After his discharge, no further reference has been found of Thomas in censuses, marriage or death records. Where do people disappear to?

The wretched career in the Artillery is a salutary reminder that soldiers in times past were as much in danger from disease as from any military enemy.

And what should we make of all the inconsistencies in Thomas’s age and date of birth? During his time in the Royal Marines, his age was understated by about 3-5 years. Was there an earlier period in his life he was trying to conceal? In the later Royal Artillery records his age was understated by about 7 1/2 years. We know that, by then, he had more to hide!


8.4 Thomas WILKINSON, (c Dec 1831-22 Sept 1887), Royal Marine Artillery. Awarded VC in the Crimean War, and Legion of’ Honour.

This brief biography of Thomas Wilkinson has been kindly contributed by Mr. Trevor James, who lived in York for almost 30 years, and recently moved to Scotland. Nearly 20 years ago, Trevor was asked to locate the house where Thomas had lived, in order to have a commemorative “Blue Plaque” put up. Additionally Trevor was asked to find any living descendants of Thomas, so they could attend a re-dedication of his gravesite in York Cemetery. Trevor has been studying the life and family of Thomas ever since, and continues to do so.

Thomas was born in early November, 1831, in Marygate, York, the second son and second child of John and Ann (LITTLEWOOD) WILKINSON. Ann Littlewood was the sister of Margaret Littlewood, the second wife of Richard TATTERSFIELD. Thomas was baptised on 4th December, 1831 at St. Olave’s church, Marygate, York. Thomas Wilkinson was thus first cousin to the brothers JOHN and THOMAS TATTERSFIELD, whose military careers are briefly described above. They lived nearby in York, and they would all certainly have known each other. However, the contrast between their military careers is stark–Thomas Wilkinson winning the VC at Sevastopol, and his cousins both leaving their military service prematurely on account of severe medical problems.

In November, 1850 Thomas, as a labourer, signed up to serve for 12 years in the Royal Marines, and in February, 1851, he was assigned as Gunner in the Royal Marine Artillery (RMA). He was then posted to HMS Britannia, in which he served until October 1854, when he was landed at Balaklava, to participate in the Crimean War.

Thomas was at the siege of Sevastopol on 7th June, 1855. His gun battery had been protected by ’embrasures’ (wicker baskets filled with stones and earth, and sandbags). These had received a direct hit, exposing his gun to artillery and rifle fire. His citation reads,

Wilkinson attracted the attention of the officer commanding the Artillery in the right attack by his gallantry in repairing the parapet with sand bags under a galling fire.

Other sources say that he continued this work for half an hour. There is no mention of his being wounded during this or any other time in the Crimea.

Thomas sailed from Balaklava in October, 1855, disembarking at Portsmouth on 5th December. He was immediately promoted to Bombardier and his VC citation appeared, mentioned in the ‘London Gazette’ in February, 1856. He received his VC in June 1856, along with its pension of ten pounds per year, payable quarterly.

Thomas Wilkinson VC (1856-59). Photo by Mr. Grey, Bembridge View, Southsea.

On 14th August, 1859, in Portsmouth, he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Charles HOLMES, a horse dealer of Itchen Abbas, near Winchester. At around the same time, Thomas injured his leg. According to his service records, the injury was “occasioned in, but not by, the service.”  The injury cannot have healed satisfactorily as on 12th October, 1859 he was invalided out of the RMA.

He returned to York with his wife at once, as he had stated he wished to join the 2nd West York Militia, as a Private. By joining directly from the Marines, he was allowed to retain his RMA uniform.

His wife died on 9 June 1860, a victim of pulmonary tuberculosis (‘phthisis’). Not surprisingly, there were no children of this marriage. He remarried on 15 Aug 1868 to Mary Ann LOLLEY, daughter of John & Ann. There were no children born of this marriage either.

After working as a labourer since his first wife’s death, he moved to a sandyard on North St, York, on the bank of the River Ouse. and soon became foreman/manager in the business, a position he held through a number of changes of ownership.

His mother, Ann (LITTLEWOOD) WILKINSON died 19 August 1879, just after the marriage of Thomas’s sister, Ann, leaving Thomas, his wife Mary Ann, and his elder, unmarried brother John in the house. Thomas’s VC pension would have just about covered their rent. His brother, John, died on 29 Nov 1881.

Ann WILKINSON had had an illegitimate child, Charles, in 1852 but he had died of smallpox on 17 May 1872. Ann’s marriage, at 46 years old, to William MELLOR, produced no children, unsurprisingly. Ann died, separated from William, in Hunslet, Leeds, on 11 March 1900. With her death, this WILKINSON family died out.

Thomas WILKINSON died on 22 September 1887; cause of death “Enlarged spleen, diarrhoea and exhaustion”. After a funeral attended by full military honours, with the cortege preceded by a Military Band, he was buried in a public grave in York Cemetery. “Thousands lined the streets”, reported a local newspaper. Sometime between his death and 1892, the officers of the RMA arranged for a very substantial and ornate gravestone to be erected to his honour.

Thomas Wilkinson VC in Later Life.

The gravestone of Thomas, shown above, is itself remarkable. The design is such that, if looked at upside down, it closely resembles the VC, hanging on its ribbon. It must surely be unique that such a fine headstone, following a funeral with band, escort and full military honours, adorns a public, or “pauper’s” grave.

Mary Ann WILKINSON died, of an alcohol-related incident, on 23 April 1888. He had bequeathed everything, including his medals (Victoria Cross, Legion of Honour, 5th Class, British Crimean Medal, Turkish Crimean Medal) to his wife but his Will had not been proved when she died, so all went ultimately to Mary Ann’s sister, Elizabeth (LOLLEY) HARTLEY, wife of William.

There are no descendants today of Thomas or his two siblings.Eventually, his medals were bought at auction in 1918 by the officers of the RMA and they can now be viewed in the Medal Room at the Royal Marines Museum, Eastney, Southsea, Hants., together with the VC’s of the other nine Royal Marine awardees.

A small remembrance service is held at his graveside annually, in June.

Standard on Parade at Remembrance Service for Bombadier Wilkinson VC at York Cemetery on 20th June 2010

9. Malcolm Bruce Paterson (1894-1 July 1916). Chart 2,3. The First Day of the Battle of the Somme.

This Article was written by David John Tattersfield.

The first day of July, 1916 was a day like no other in the history of the British Army, with 60,000 casualties being incurred on this day; of these 20,000 were fatal. Whilst no-one with the surname  Tattersfield was killed on this day, the family did not escape unscathed.

Malcolm Bruce Paterson was the son of Malcolm McCulloch Paterson and Constance Paterson (nee Tattersfield). Constance Tattersfield was born 16 Oct 1853, the third child of George Tattersfield, blanket manufacturer of Ravensthorpe, and Hannah nee Walker. An account of George’s life is given in the Section “Tattersfield Families in England” on this Website.

Malcolm was the youngest of four, and was born in Shipley (or North Bierley), near Bradford in the third quarter of 1893. It is likely that the family were well-off; from the 1901 Census it is recorded that they had a housemaid, and an Irish cook. The father, Malcolm McCulloch Paterson was about 13 years older than the mother Constance (nee Tattersfield). He was a civil engineer, and one of Malcolm’s older brothers was a mechanical engineer apprentice.

Unfortunately, we  know little of Malcolm’s early life. In the Census of 1901 he was a 7-year old with his parents at West Point, Shipley, Bradford. In the 1911 Census he was a Farm Pupil, boarding with a farmer, Christopher Leadley, near Scarborough, on the east coast of Yorkshire. In 1914 he was an agricultural student. We can surmise that, like many others of his generation, he was highly patriotic.

At the outbreak of the Great War, in August 1914, it was confidently announced that it would be a short war – in fact it would be all over by Christmas. Not many people thought otherwise.

Thankfully, one very important individual had the foresight to perceive that the war was likely to become a much longer struggle. Field Marshal Lord Kitchener was Britain’s most famous soldier, and upon war being declared was appointed Secretary of State for War. Despite the county’s long history of avoiding committing armies to fight enemies on the European mainland, the Government decided that this time, it would be different. Kitchener therefore set about expanding the tiny, but professional and highly trained pre-war army, and creating a vast army that would be able to match that of Germany, and our ally, France.

Many well meaning leaders, such as Mayors and Members of Parliament, took it upon themselves to help the recruiting effort. There had already been a massive response to Kitchener’s appeal, and not all the volunteers could be accommodated in the army. Because of this, an arrangement was made whereby the government allowed the creation of  locally raised units, and undertook to reimburse the cost of feeding and billeting the men until such time as the army was able to take over responsibility for them. Many of these locally raised units – better known as Pals Battalions – were raised up and down the country, but this was overwhelmingly a northern phenomenon, with many units being raised in Yorkshire and Lancashire.

One of the Pals battalions was raised in Bradford by a leading citizen, Sir W.E.B. Priestly. After permission was granted by the War Office, recruiting for the battalion started in earnest in September 1914.

Possibly swept up in the excitement of the moment, Malcolm responded to Kitchener’s appeal and joined up. As mentioned above, we can surmise that Malcolm was patriotic, as he was an early volunteer, for the Bradford Pals – we know he was one of the first to volunteer because he was given a low regimental number, being 687. On Friday the 6th November, 1914, the Bradford Daily Telegraph, as part of its “War Relief Fund” campaign, listed the first 1000 men to enlist (along with their trades and professions). Malcolm was one of those listed.

With its Headquarters at the skating rink on Manningham Lane, the battalion’s recruits were drilled in local parks, such as the nearby Lister Park. The recruits were allowed home every evening to sleep, for which the family received an allowance of 21 shillings a week. On top of this each private received pay of seven shillings a week. Due to a lack of uniforms, the men initially wore their own (civilian) clothes, but with Bradford being a major centre of the woollen trade, it was not long before some uniforms – albeit blue not khaki – were made available. Having some (obsolete) rifles and a uniform would have enabled further recruits to be tempted to join up, as described by George Morgan …

Play Clip
George Morgan became a Sergeant in ‘B’ Company, of the Bradford Pals. This audio clip is extracted from an interview with Malcolm Brown in 1976 and is courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service [clip 3] – see web site: http://www.bradlibs.com/bradfordpals/index.htm Despite their being the “dandies” it was not long before army discipline started to be felt by the raw recruits, as training was commenced. Play ClipThis recording was made in the 1980s by the Bradford Heritage Recording Unit (BHRU) and is again reproduced by courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service [clip10]

The Bradford Pals formed part of the 31st Division, which was made up of ‘pals’ battalions from the north of England, the vast majority being battalions from Yorkshire. As well as Malcolm’s battalion of Bradford Pals, there was a second battalion raised in that city, as well as battalions from Leeds, Sheffield, Barnsley (two battalions), Durham, Accrington and Hull (four battalions). There was even a battalion of miners raised by the West Yorkshire Coal Owners Association. Training continued, but after a few months, much to everyone’s surprise, rather than being sent to France, Malcolm’s battalion, along with others in the 31st Division, was sent to Egypt.

Play Clip
This recording was made in the 1980s by the Bradford Heritage Recording Unit (BHRU) and is again reproduced by courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service [clip13] The Bradford Pals, with the rest of the 31st Division, was in Egypt from Christmas 1915 until the end of February 1916, when they were ordered to France – little did they know that they were destined to take part in “The Big Push”, as the anticipated battle was called. After disembarking at Marseilles, the various units were loaded on to trains, the men being crammed into cattle trucks, as described in this next clip… Play ClipThis recording was made in the 1980s by the Bradford Heritage Recording Unit (BHRU) and is again reproduced by courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service [clip18]

The Bradford Pals were introduced to the trenches for training purposes, but inevitably started incurring casualties, as described in this next clip…

Play Clip
This recording was made in the 1980s by the Bradford Heritage Recording Unit (BHRU) and is again reproduced by courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service [clip20] By mid-June, battle training was undertaken a few miles to the rear at the town of Doullens. George Morgan describes this period… Play ClipThis audio clip is extracted from an interview with Malcolm Brown in 1976 and is courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service

For seven days before the assault, the British artillery bombarded the German trenches in the expectation that this would totally destroy all German opposition when it was time to go ‘over the top’. The barrage is described by this Bradford Pal…

Play Clip
This recording was made in the 1980s by the Bradford Heritage Recording Unit (BHRU) and is again reproduced by courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service [clip19] The attack was to be made on 1 July 1916. Rather than attacking at dawn, the assault was made at 7.30am, well after the sun had risen. This was not the only problem faced by the British Infantry. Because it was fully expected that the Germans would launch counter attacks, and because of the difficulty in re-supplying troops, the men in the first waves would have to carry all they needed with then. Again George Morgan describes this “kit” issue, as well as the time of the attack… Play ClipThis audio clip is extracted from an interview with Malcolm Brown in 1976 and is courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service

As the hours and then minutes elapsed before the attack went in, men had time for their thoughts.  George Morgan describes the thoughts that were going through his mind…

Play Clip
This audio clip is extracted from an interview with Malcolm Brown in 1976 and is courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service Despite his fears, George was determined to do his best when the moment came… Play ClipThis audio clip is extracted from an interview with Malcolm Brown in 1976 and is courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service

At 7.30 the attack was launched, and all along the line men clambered up ladders, out of the trenches and into No Man’s Land

Play Clip
This audio clip is extracted from an interview with Malcolm Brown in 1976 and is courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service The British barrage unfortunately failed to destroy the German artillery, which fell on the men as they made the attack. The German barrage was not the only problem; German machine gunners came out of their deep dugouts – these dugouts were deep enough to be secure against everything other than a direct hit by the heaviest artillery shell. As soon as the machine guns were set up in the remains of the German trenches, they started shooting down the lines of British Infantry as they crossed No Man’s Land. The following clip describes the attack… Play ClipThis recording was made in the 1980s by the Bradford Heritage Recording Unit (BHRU) and is again reproduced by courtesy of Bradford Libraries, Archives & Information Service [clip25]

Despite an extensive search in the Bradford Newspapers, no obituary notice has been found relating to Malcolm Paterson. Even if such an article turned up, it is highly unlikely this would contain accurate information about Malcolm’s last moment. It is by no means certain, but on the balance of probabilities, he would have been killed in No Man’s Land. On the day of his death, Malcolm was just short of 23 years old.

The attack by the 31st Division on the village of Serre was a total failure and casualties were very heavy. The two battalions of Bradford Pals were hit very hard, 1bttn 140; 2nd 93 fatalities.

The Battle of the Somme still attracts a great deal of public interest. Ninety years on from the battle, the BBC’s ran a story about the Bradford Pals attack on 1 July 1916 on their web-site.


Malcolm Paterson lies buried in grave B.16 of the Railway Hollow Cemetery, Hebuterne, a photograph of which is shown below. He is one of just 65 identified casualties at this site.

Initials: M B
Nationality: United Kingdom
Rank: Private
Regiment/Service: West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own)
Unit Text: 16th Bn.
Age: 23
Date of Death: 01/07/1916
Service No: 16/687
Additional information: Son of Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Paterson, of West Point, Shipley, Yorks.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: B. 16.

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