The appeal for information relating to the inscription ‘George Webster MM’ on the churchyard war memorial was widely advertised locally. The objective was to apply for grant aid to help pay for repair and restoration works to the memorial.
Information relating to acts of valour or outstanding bravery could advance the prospects of funding for such works.
Then Secretary of the British Legion, Kevin Toft placed requests for information in the Livewire magazine, the Rothwell Advertiser, the internet and British Legion channels initially without success and the scheme appeared to be in abeyance.
Kevin maintained a consuming interesting in the search and after contact with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission he was informed that George Webster served with Hood Battalion of the Royal Naval Division.
The Commission advised Kevin that George Webster was killed in action on 17th February 1917 aged 33 and that his name is commemorated at the Thiepval Memorial, Somme in France. (One of 72,000 names carved on that memorial designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens).
The CWGC were unable to provide any information relating to the award or information relating to his family. However, reference to the RND gave Kevin the opening he needed for further enquiry at the Fleet Air Arm Museum which is a holding centre for records relating to the Fleet Air Arm and other naval records.
So, not only was Kevin able to obtain copies of George Webster’s enrolment details, he also succeeded in getting a copy of his service history. From this information, our budding detective was able locate details of the battle of Miraumont (part of the Somme Offensive) on the date that George Webster gave his life – 17th February, 1917.
Now Kevin had all the information about the man and the circumstances relating to his award and he wanted to pass them on to, hopefully a member of the family.
Once again he had to make enquiries within the village and at an Archive Group Meeting June Panton, formerly June Green of the Albert Place overhearing the request was able to tell them that the Purcell family (George’s youngest daughter) had lived in Clayton’s Yard. Efforts were then successfully made to contact members of the family and the service records and other information were passed onto Mrs Marlene Cranswick of Castleford, a grandaughter of George Webster.
Enrolment Details – George Webster Born Altofts 14th July 1883 of Claytons Yard,
Methley. Collier with Briggs & Sons. Wife Eva Webster.
George Webster volunteered 2nd September, 1914 into the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
Service Details – 2.9.14 KOYLI
8.9.14 Transferred to RNVR (RN Division) Collingwood Btn.
8.6.15 Trans to Hood Battalion (RND) Gallipoli.
27.2.16 Promoted to PO
3.5.16 Trans to Anson Battalion
20.5.16 Awarded DSM published in London Gazette
17.2.17 Killed in Action
On New Years Day 1917 not many months after being awarded the DSM, George Webster found himself in the cooler on a charge of prejudice of good order and military discipline. He was reduced to LS and forfeited 15 days pay – it looks to me like he had been letting the New Year in. On his death the army recorded that the above information should be treated as confidential and retained on file.
The Royal Naval Division was conceived and founded by Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty in August 1914. The battalions were recruited from other army units and selected more mature volunteers especially from the coal mining areas. Their speciality – trenching and tunnelling.