Galley, Ralph Rowlands
TNA Reference: WO 339/111910 Documents relating to his service and death.
Second Lieutenant Ralph Rowlands Galley, from Monkwearmouth, was killed in action 22 March 1918, aged 27, and buried Eppeville Old Churchyard.
Galley volunteered in London on 25 August 1914 as a Private in the Hussars. Of fresh complexion, he had blue eyes and light brown hair with scars on the centre of his left thigh and on his left forearm. He professed Church of England. He was in good physical shape, standing 5ft 8ins, with a chest expanding from 35½ to 37½ inches, and weighing 122 lbs. He was aged 24, born in Monkwearmouth and worked as a clerk. His mother was Mary Rowlands Galley and their address was 40 Gomm Road, Rotherhithe, London SE.
By 26 August he was in Bristol at the Southern Cavalry Depot. and stayed with the cavalry until 14 June 1915. While with the 14th Regiment of Reserve Cavalry stationed at Longmoor he was charged with absence from the CO’s parade and given 7 days confinement to barracks on 24 April 1915. He had previously been injured on 10 March 1915 when he was kicked by a horse, causing synovitis of the knee.
On 16 June 1915 he was transferred to 3rd Reserve Battalion, Durham Light Infantry at South Shields, but was moved on to the 10th Battalion on 11 August 1915. He arrived in France on 12 August and reached his unit on the 13th. He was treated for scabies on 26 August but sent back to his unit the following day. On 26 September 1915 he was promoted to paid Lance Corporal, receiving a further promotion to Corporal on 21 September 1916, confirmed on 18 October. On 2 March 1917 he was recommended for a commission and sent back to the Depot in England on 4 March. On 25 September 1917 he was given a temporary commission and posted to 11 DLI, embarking 6 December 1917, reaching his unit on 9 December.
It was a short career as he was reported missing presumed killed on 22 March 1918 in the first days of the German Offensive near St Quentin. According to the war diary Galley was with A Company. Along with B Company they had been pushed forward to plus a gap between 60 and 61 brigades at Tugny-L’Avesne. Captain Endean led A Company in a spirited defence of the front line until the battalion as a whole was ordered to retire through Ham to the bridgehead at Offoy. Although surrounded, Endean and two other officers with forty men fought their way through. It was probably during these actions that Galley was killed.
The subsequent correspondence indicated a degree of bureaucratic bungling. It took some hasty correspondence between departments to establish that Mrs M R Galley of Essex Lodge, Ravensbourne Park, Catford, London SE, was his mother and not his wife. There was an inordinate amount of dithering before Galley was finally confirmed as dead, and some emotional correspondence.
A note of 11 September 1918 stated that a disc had been received from SI (Central Office of Effects) without further details on 15 May 1918 and saying ‘it is doubtful whether the owner is dead’. The disc had been transmitted from an Ambulance Corps. On 12 July 1919 Mrs Galley wrote: “I could not accept his death after the message’ Doubtful whether the owner is dead’ until I found out all I could. Whoever took the effects from his pockets could surely have sent a more definite message and I think it was up to the Authorities to make FULL enquiries and report the results to the next of kin, instead of leaving sorrowing mothers, wives &c to find out for themselves what had happended to their Dear ones.”
Finally a letter from the War Office on 23 December 1919 reluctantly was prepared to presume Galley’s death even though they were ‘still not in a position to issue a formal certificate of death’.
Galley had written a will dated 18 January 1917 at Arras, leaving things to his mother. This amounted a gratuity of £60.4s.7d plus £19 for his service in the ranks.
Galley’s body was recovered, notwithstanding all the bungling, and is buried in the north part of Eppeville Old Churchyard, south west of Ham. This suggests that he was brought back across the Somme Crossings to one of the Field Ambulance units where he died and was buried. Why no information about this reached the authorities seems odd in one sense, but given the bedlam of the situation in the early days of the offensive it is not entirely surprising.
Sergeant 3/11590 William Gardener went out with the battalion on 20 July 1915 and later rose to the rank of WO Class II. He was awarded the Italian Bronze Medal for Valour. He survived the war and was discharged Class Z reserve.
Private 14931 Peter Garrity, from County Mayo, was a platelayer’s labourer in Jarrow when he enlisted on 12 August 1914. He was wounded on 30 April 1917, from which he was disabled, and discharged 29 June 1918. He survived the war.
What we know about Garrity derives from materials deposited at Durham County Record Office.
D/DLI/ 7/245/1 The Small Book of Peter Garrity [Army Form B50]
This tells us that he had the regimental number 14931, enlisted Wallsend 12 August 1914 age 34 and was allocated to 11 Battalion DLI for 3 years. Garrity was born in the parish of West Port, County Mayo, Ireland. At the time of enlistment he was a plater’s helper [probably on a colliery railway], resident Jarrow. He was tall at 5 feet 11 inches with a fair complexion, blue eyes, brown hair and a scar on his right eyebrow. He was a Roman Catholic. Next of kin was given as his brother Thomas Garrity of 46 Queen Street, Govan, Glasgow. The book was signed 17 February 1915, but the will form was not completed.
D/ DLI/ 7/245/2
Decorative discharge scroll serial number 1594, which refers to 3rd Battalion DLI, issued 29 June 1918 from Infantry Records office York and states: served with Honour and was disabled in the Great War, 30 April 1917′.
On 30 April 1917, the battalion was based at Montauban and were engaged in driving in pickets along the reserve trench line and constructing wire emplacements in front. The work was carried out at night and was always prone to attack from sporadic artillery and machine gun fire. This was probably how Garrity was wounded.
Gedney, George Highslip
Lance Corporal 53298 George Highslip Woods Gedney, died aged 23 at Cottingham Hospital near Hull on 3 July 1919. He was buried at Hull Western Cemetery.
Gedney had been transferred to Cottingham from Grove Military Hospital, Tooting, SW London. The cause of death was registered as ‘Tuberculosis of the Lungs and Peritoneum said to be 2 years’. One wonders how he could have been serving as a soldier since at least 1917 and this problem not having been discovered.
The death was registered by his sister, Mrs V. M. Hoe of 2 Perth Villas, Perth Street, Hull.
Private 17503 Alfred Gibson, from South Moor, Stanley, died 16 April 1918, and is buried at Foreste Communal Cemetery, Aisne.
Gibson’s service records have not survived, but his medal index card indicates that he served with 11 DLI from the outset, going out to France with them on 20 July 1915.
The date of his death is unusual, as is the place of burial. At that time, 11 DLI was out of the line undergoing re-building after the devastating effects of the March Retreat. It is entirely possible, given the date and place, that Gibson had been transferred to another unit serving near Soissons, further to the south. It is also possible that he had been taken prisoner during the March Retreat and died in captivity as a prisoner of war.
Gowans, George Alexander
Private 16257 George Alexander Gowans, was killed in action, aged 28, on 12 November 1915, and is buried at Rue-du-Bacquerot No. 1 Military Cemetery. Apart from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, all records relating to Gowans are under the name George Scott, the alias under which he served.
Gowans enlisted as George Scott in Gateshead on 28 August 1914, aged 26 yrs 3 months, 5ft 2 ¾ in, 135 lbs and with a 37 in chest. He was assigned to 11 DLI and seems to have had trouble adapting to army discipline. At Woking on 18 October 1914, he overstayed his pass for 24 hours, lost a day’s pay and was given 3 days CB. At Pirbright on 2 January 1915 he overstayed his pass from 12 midnight through to 9 pm on 7 January, lost five days’ pay and was given 7 days CB. On 10 January he was fighting in his barracks around 10 pm and got a further 7 days CB. On 23 January he went absent until 1.30 am on 27 January, lost five days pay and got 7 days CB. He was absent from tattoo at Pirbright again on 6 February and got 2 days CB. At North Chapel he was given 15 days detention for refusing an order. At Lark Hill in April he was absent until 15 April, lost 14 days pays and got 14 days FP No 2. On 27 April 1915 he was absent from base and parade at Lark Hill until 27 April, following which he appeared before a Regimental Court Martial, and was given 35 days detention. His comrades in C Company must have been heartily sick of his behaviour. There appear to have been no further offences before he went overseas with the battalion on 20 July 1915. He did not survive long.
On 12 November 1915, 11 DLI were working in the front line trenches making repairs. Gowans could have been killed by shell or other fire doing this work, or he could have been one of the seven wounded on 10 November 1915 when the billets at Épinette received a direct attack, dying later.
The service papers, with the War Office trying to establish his correct details, provide a clue to how and why he served under an alias. Although he had apparently made arrangements to pay his wife a separation allowance of 10s per week, he had deserted her and his two children some nine years previously. The information came from a letter by a Mr P Grant of 2 Lacy Street, Paisley, confirming that Gowans was the correct surname and the problematic relationship.
His wife Annie Gowans lived at 21 (later 18) Laura Street, Paisley with their two children, Thomas (b 11 Nov 1904) and George (b 26 March 1906). He was the son of Thomas Gowans and Janet Scott, though whether the latter was a maiden name or Gowans was actually illegitimate is not clear from the fragmentary records. Annie was awarded a pension of 8s 6d as guardian of the children – which suggests that she was co-habiting and not entitled to a widow’s pension in her own right.
Private 14851 John Graham, from Dunnington near York, was killed in action 15 April 1917, aged 23, and is buried at Lebucqiere Communal Cemetery. His service records have not survived, but his medal index card indicates that he served with 11 DLI from the beginning and went out to France with them on 20 July 1915. He was the nephew of Margaret Gillis of Prestwick, Ponteland.
During April 1917, 11 DLI were following the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. They were regularly called upon to go forward to create ‘new lines of resistance’ as the retreat progressed. From 13 April they were clearing roads of debris, getting rid of booby traps, filling in craters and shell holes, clearing villages and, where necessary, constructing new temporary roads to allow traffic to move forward to supply the advancing troops. They were working in the Ruyaulcourt, Fins, Neuville sector of the Somme battlefield.
Private 53226 Cameron Grant, aged 41, died of wounds 24 September 1917, and is buried at Dozinghem Military Cemetery. He had been born in Liverpool, but enlisted in Leeds where he was living at the time.
His service records have not survived, but his medal index card indicates that he did not serve overseas before 1916. It is probable that he was either a conscript or enlisted as an older, family man, as part of the Derby Scheme introduced in 1915 to encourage more volunteers. Those who enlisted in the latter part of 1915 were not called up until part way through 1916. He initially served as 72082, West Yorkshire Regiment. He was the son of Mrs Annie Grant of 25 Luxor Street, Harehills Road, Leeds.
On 20 November 1917, 11 DLI were serving on the Ypres Front. They had already been involved in the actions leading to the capture of Pilckem Ridge and Langemarck, crossing the Steenbeek in the process. They were now involved in the capture of German trench systems to the east of Langemarck, particularly Eagle Trench. Having successfully achieved their objective, 11 DLI were involved in subsequent nights in consolidating the new ground, under continual shelling both in the lines and along their communications route across the Steenbeek. It would have been during this work that Grant was wounded. Such was the bravery of the men in these circumstances that several were mentioned in despatches and Captain Sear, in charge, was awarded the first of his Military Crosses.
Private 20993 Ralph Gray, killed in action, 5 September 1916, is buried at Bernafay Wood British Cemetery. The surviving service papers are badly damaged, but are sufficient for some basic information.
He enlisted at Burnopfield on 26 October 1914. He was a miner, born West Pelton, 23 yrs 3 months, 126lbs, 34½in chest, 5ft 7in, sallow complexion, brown eyes, medium brown hair, Church of England. He was not married and lived with his father at Bute Arms, High Spen, Rowlands Gill. His father was Robert Gray, his mother Annie Gray and there were 3 brothers and 2 sisters.
Gray overstayed his pass at Lark Hill on 14/6/1915 from midnight until 2 am 17/6/1915 for which he was awarded 7 days FP No2.
He was killed in action 4 September 1916, while serving with A Company. This was the second day of the successful attack on Guillemont by 20th Division, in which 11 DLI played a prominent part. Both A and D Company were involved in the courageous first day attack on 3 September.
His father wrote to the War Office in a letter dated 12 December 1916:
‘I have had one of his companions here and he told me that he had been at headquarters in France and was told that all the above soldiers’ belongings had been sent to me but I have not received anything if they have come to head quarters you might let me know and oblige, Yours truly, R Gray’.
There is no record in the papers to the effect than any personal items were eventually received.
Private 77089 Alfred Greensmith served with 11 DLI in between two assignments as Sapper 183161 Royal Engineers. He did not serve overseas before 1916. Nothing further known.
Sergeant 25199 John Griffin, from South Bank, Middlesbrough, was killed in action, aged 31, on 5 October 1916, and is buried at Bancourt British Cemetery. His service records have not survived and his medal index card indicates that he did not serve overseas before 1916. It is possible that he rose through the ranks to Sergeant while serving in the UK as part of the reserve battalions, 16 or 17 DLI.
He was the son of Catherine Griffin of Middlesbrough and husband of Mary Emma Griffin of 19 Dundas Mews, Middlesbrough.
Private 18686 Frederick Grimshaw was killed in action, aged 28, on 13 December 1916 and is buried at the Guards Cemetery, Lesboeufs.
Born Lumley near Chester le Street, Grimshaw enlisted at Birtley 12 September 1914, aged 26 yrs 155 days, a miner, and was sent to 11 DLI. He was 5ft 6 ¾ in tall, 143lbs, 36½ in chest, had fair complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair. He was Church of England.
Not married, his father was William Garibaldi Grimshaw and his mother Jane Grimshaw of 4 Grove Cottages, Birtley (previously 4 Hawkhill Terrace) he had a brother Thomas aged 21 and sister Alice aged 26.
He overstayed a pass at Lark Hill on 14 June 1915 and received 7 days CB and lost a day’s pay
He was wounded in the left leg on 2 September 1916 and admitted to 14 CCS before going to 3 General Hospital for treatment at Étaples. He rejoined his unit on 4 October 1916 and was killed in action serving with D Company on 13 December 1916.
The personal effects returned were sparse: photo, comb, wallet, book. His body was exhumed from the initial burial place and reinterred ‘for proper burial’ at the Guards Cemetery, Lesboeufs on 20 January 1920.