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In Memoriam: Edmund Yerbury Priestman

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Edmund Yerbury Priestman, Second Lieutenant, 6th York and Lancaster Regiment, fell in action in Gallipoli, November 19th 1915. He was born in Sheffield in 1890 and came to Bootham between 1903 and 1906.

Below is an extract (published in Bootham magazine December 1915 as part of an obituary) from “Night in No Man’s Land” by Edmund Y. Priestman, which gives a picture of his life in the Gallipoli Peninsula

“If No Man’s Land is unpromising by day, when it echoes to the rattle of the rifle, it is possibly oven more sinister when, after nightfall, it becomes a silent and menacing sea of shadows, the haunt of the nightbird, seeking who knows what?—and filled with vague rustlings, now and then dispelled by the sharp roar of a chance shot, which rattles and dies away among the echoes of the hills, to leave the land to sombre silence again.

Out into this eerie tract of lurking horrors it has been the lot of six, under the alleged “leadership” of the writer of these chronicles, to creep for the purpose of laying barbed wire entanglements to hinder the progress of the agile Turk, should he be tempted to pay calls. Lifting each foot carefully like a stalking burglar, the little party advanced with the stealth of Red Indians, making if anything slightly less noise than a herd of camels, and convinced that every step as it crashed and echoed into the night could be heard in every corner of the Peninsula.

A stray shot from the Turkish trench rang out. Private Smith dropped the coil of wire he was carrying with a deafening rattle, and the party stood still and thought of their individual misdeeds, and the new lives they would lead, if by some miracle the Turks omitted to turn all their machine guns on them. Moment succeeded breathless moment, and no devastating blast of fire swept them to sudden doom. The officer, whose duty may be summed up as being to fortify the men by feigning valour he didn’t possess, gulped once, and by some superhuman agency got his rigid muscles into working order again. . . . But when, the wiring party had been collected once more and complete, the explorers returned to the shelter of the friendly parapet, each of them swelled with a manly pride in dangerous work well done, and felt richer in confidence in his own nerves under new stresses. In short, all felt themselves not a little heroic, and it was not until daylight brought with it obvious considerations that the danger was really slight and that the work done was less than that carried through daily and nightly by a thousand of our fellow men, that we came down to earth again, and seeing things in their right proportion, vowed to continue our work next night with less melodrama, and to be quite frank in writing home upon what might have become a very richly coloured topic.”

He is buried at Hill 10 Cemetery, Turkey.

In Memoriam: Ellis Reginald Midgley

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Ellis Reginald Midgley (Bootham 1905-08). Killed in action, November 16th 1915. Second Lieut. Born in Leeds, 1891.

From Bootham magazine, December 1915:

He had joined the Leeds “Pals” Battalion on its formation and received a commission in the 2/5th Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry six months before his death. Soon after leaving school he became an enthusiastic member of the Leeds Boys’ Rifle Brigade, and in more recent times he was a keen worker for the Y.M.C.A. His “Bene Decessit” speaks of him as archaeologist and football player. He kept both characteristics to the end. His last letter to the Headmaster was from the Colsterdale Camp on some archaeological point; he was secretary of the Northern Foxes F.C., and was no infrequent visitor playing against the School. He left Leeds on October 16th, having married a few weeks earlier.

He sent letters to “various members of the family almost daily, all bright and cheery, making light of the hardships and never a gloomy word.” In his first letter from the front he wrote:

We left Southampton Tuesday morning, October 19th, at 6.30, reached Havre (our base) at 1.30, left Havre 4 p.m. Wednesday, and had about 24 hours in the train. Thursday night we slept at the farm where our transports are, away behind the line 5 or 6 miles. It was there where I first heard the guns. Friday morning we reported, and I was sent out to “C” along a communication trench about a mile long, called “Halifax Road.” The firing line is about three-quarters of a mile in front of us. There was a very furious artillery duel on when I arrived which lasted till dusk; shells of all kinds and sires were dropping around, but none fell really near. The shells did very little damage. Bullets from rifles and machine guns are pretty plentiful, but do very little harm. I have a champion little dug-out, but we are not allowed any kit here, only what we wear and one blanket, so it was jolly cold last night . . . I cannot say where we are, but it is “somewhere in Belgium”.. . I passed through a fair-sized town coming here yesterday, and I don’t think there was one undamaged house; the churches, etc., were in ruins. . . . It is not so bad out here; it is cold at nights and very uncivilised, and after a bit I should think the strain will be a bit of a nuisance, but taking things all round it might be heaps worse.

His last letter, dated November 13th, written to a younger brother:

The front line is in an awful state for water, well over knee deep; we all have to wear long rubber boots like fishermen’s waders, right to the top of your legs, to get along at all. Supplies, etc., have to come over the open, bullet-swept ground by night, as the communication trench is waist deep in water and liquid mud, and is impassable except for very small parties without any load. We had no rations sent up for two days; the first day we had breakfast, dinner and tea of bread and butter, tea and jam. We knocked off dinner at night! . . . We never move without our smoke helmets in case of gas, and are never supposed to move singly, always at least two. You might have an extra bath for me; we can’t even get a wash, shave or anything here; it means going about like tramps all the time you are in the front line. I haven’t washed for four days, and have quite a beard now! It is fearfully funny. I must look a sight judging from the others; but we have not a looking-glass fortunately! . . . . We simply yell with laughter when we look at each other.

 

In Memoriam: Owen Frederic Goodbody

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Owen Frederic Goodbody (Bootham 1903-8), Second Lieutenant, Royal Engineers, contracted enteric fever in the Dardanelles and died at Alexandria, October 20th 1915. He was born in Blackrock in 1890.

A correspondent sent the following for the obituary in Bootham magazine (December 1915), which includes notes from O. F. Goodbody’s diary: ‘After leaving school Owen entered Trinity College and took the Aits and Engineering Degrees of Dublin University. He then joined the Engineering Staff of the Great Southern and Western Railway, and was with them for two years, his industry and skill being much appreciated by his fellow-engineers. When the War broke out he realised the nature of the struggle, that his country was fighting not only for its honourable obligation towards Belgium, but for its own existence as a nation and for those ideals of liberty and justice he had learned at school. In no spirit of adventure, therefore, but from a firm conviction that it was the right thing to do, he put himself and his engineering knowledge at the service of his country by asking for and obtaining a commission in the Royal Engineers.

After some months’ training at Chatham and other places in England he was appointed Second Lieutenant in the 72nd Field Company, R.E., attached to the 13th Division, which was ordered to the Dardanelles in June 1915 – After calling at Alexandria the 13th Division went to Lemnos, and here the Engineers stayed for two or three weeks improving the water supply and building piers at Mudros to facilitate landing and embarking of troops and stores.

On the morning of August 5th they left Lemnos for Gallipoli and arrived off Anzac about g.30 p.m., and came under fire immediately on landing. They were guided to their “rest ” camp, and when, they got there lay down where they were and tried to go to sleep. As O.F.G. says in his diary, “to how many this was possible I do not know, as there were bullets flying over our heads with a horrible whistling noise, and the unfamiliar sound of musketry was not a good narcotic. . . . Daylight brought a fusillade of rifle fire and the roar of deep-throated guns, and for us the chance to examine our position. It ‘ seemed’ safe, as everything went over our heads; however, we were enlightened as we sat down to breakfast (tinned sausages); a shell burst over us: one poor fellow went to his Maker and two others were wounded. The tinned sausages were rather like medicine after that.”

Owen seems to have liked his brother officers, all of whom with one exception were Irishmen; so that it was a disappointment to find the company was to be split up. The 1st and 2nd Sections joined the 40th Brigade, and the 3rd and 4th, under Major Wolff and Lieutenants Bradstreet and Goodbody, the 39th Brigade, to form a Corps Reserve.

An attack on the Turkish position was begun the same afternoon, when the gully (Rest Gully), as Owen says in his diary, “became a place which was very much better to be out of, but we had to remain seven hours there. At last our turn came to form up; we were to be the last to leave the gully, and my place was to be at the rear of the column. What hitch occurred I do not know; but, instead of passing a certain point at 11.30 p.m., we could not pass till 2 a.m. next day. I must admit that the delay made me uneasy, as to move in daylight meant that we should be seen and perhaps mowed down by machine-gun fire. However, we got a move on at last and started moving in short spurts of about 200 yards, when there would be more delay; we were moving along the beach. At each stop every man, already dog tired, immediately lay down and was asleep before he was properly stretched on the ground. This was a great trial to me, who was responsible that there was not a gap in our part of the column or any straggling. I used to go to the head of our lot, and as soon as the column in front started to move would run back and waken the sleepers. I was in great fear of sleeping myself also, and of letting them, or those who were not asleep, go off without me. As we were moving along the beach going north from Anzac two destroyers were shelling the Turkish positions, so that the Turkish fire might not interfere with the general British advance. It was still dark, but dawn was imminent, and we were still very much exposed. Some stray bullets came over just to remind us where we were. One of them went through the sleeve of my tunic, but did no harm. I am very glad no men were hit.

“Daylight was now on us, and we were lucky to have got under cover in a dried-up water-course, up which we proceeded about half a mile inland, where we were ordered to dig in and await orders. We took the opportunity to get a little food, biscuits and bully beef, but must not drink. No source of water was known yet, and all the water the men had was in their water bottles.

“.. . September 1st, on.—Life at Gazi Baba might have been very pleasant, but there were many things which often made me wish to be back in the Agyle Dere. Water was very scarce; half a gallon a day was often our ration, in fact nearly always. The place was very much crowded and dirty, and the Turks shelled us without fail twice per day, sometimes three times. . . . Shrapnel once burst over us while making troughs, every man diving for what cover he could get underneath the troughs, the bullets dropping within a few feet of us and burying themselves in the timber. Another unpleasant encounter with a shell was when a bullet (shrapnel) came through an unfinished part of the roof of our dug-out while we were at dinner, smashed an officer’s plate and cup, and buried itself in the ‘table.’ … .

“We began engineering work in real earnest under the Assistant Director of Works, Major Jellicoe. The company were in charge also of the water supply, which made many problems for us, especially the watering of 2,000 odd horses and mules. We built a number of long wooden troughs ; these were adequate enough, but it was quite impossible to get sufficient pumps to keep them filled, as the animals drank a great deal faster than our small pumps were able to deliver. All the water in the first place had to be pumped into tanks out of a tankship ; we also had road making, and the making of a small narrow gauge trolley to supervise.’

“What further problems arose over the water supply, etc., I do not know, as September 8th saw me on board a hospital ship.”

O. F. Goodbody had enteric fever, and was brought to Lemnos, and then changed to another hospital ship for Alexandria, where he was taken to the 21st General Hospital. The disease seemed to run its course normally; the patient appeared to be getting better, even to be convalescent, and was hoping to be allowed home soon for a change, when complications set in which necessitated an operation. The fever, unfortunately, had left him too weak to stand the operation, and he passed quietly away on October 20th, aged nearly 25 years. He played a man’s part; he showed us an example of loyalty to the right and devotion to duty, for which he was willing to give his life. He will be remembered as a gallant Irish gentleman, beloved by everyone who knew him.

In Memoriam: Austen Campbell Dent

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Austen C. Dent of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Lance Sergeant, was mortally wounded on his 23rd birthday, July 19th 1915, and died the next day. He was laid to rest in the Military Cemetery, Lancashire Landing, Gallipoli.

He was born in 1892 and attended Bootham between 1907 and 1910.

Roderic Clark (B.1897-1900) wrote an obituary in Bootham magazine. Here is the first paragraph:

“Before me as I write lie two postcards. One of the well known Army brand, with its alternative inscriptions all crossed out save only “I am quite well. I have received your p.c. (our Whitsun greeting). Austen C. Dent, Sergt. July 3rd, 1915.” The other a camp group, with good wishes from nineteen of his friends at Matlock I. this year, which had been posted in the camp letterbox, but not collected before the sad news came, for Austen, or “Mole”, as many readers will still think of him, made many friends, and the frank sincerity of his exuberant boyishness awakened a response in many hearts.”