TO mark 100 years since the First World War, the Gazette & Herald has joined forces with the Rotary Club of Malton and Norton to remember local people who died in the conflict. We will be publishing details of the local war victims to mark the 100th anniversary since their deaths.

George Henry Spencer

Remembered with Honour, Merville Communal Cemetery Extension, France. In memory of Private 203487, 1st/4th Bn, York and Lancaster Regiment, who died on May 14, 1917, aged 20, the son of Thomas Henry and Jane Ann Spencer, of Old Malton Gate, Malton.

The 4th (Hallamshire) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment was a Territorial unit based in Sheffield. They proceeded to France on April 13, 1915, to serve with the 148th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division. Their first action was at the Battle of Aubers Ridge in May 1915 before moving north into the Ypres Salient. In 1916 they were in action in the Battles of the Somme. In May 1917 the Hallamshires were back north in the Estaires area.

George is buried in the town of Merville (east of Lille) which was a rail-head and the site of a Casualty Clearing Station. It is likely George was mortally wounded and died sometime afterwards during his evacuation to hospital.

James William Harrison (brother of George and Robert)

Remembered with Honour Doiran Military Cemetery, Greece. In Memory of Private 24721, 1st Bn, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who died on May 17, 1917, aged 29. Son of Mr and Mrs T W Harrison, of 30 Wentworth St, Malton; husband of Mabel Harrison, of 119 Scarborough Road, Norton, Malton.

At the unveiling of the war memorial on March 13, 1921, a wreath was laid dedicated to James and his two brothers by Mr & Mrs T W Harrison.

The following information is supplied by Paul Schoon, great grandson of J W Harrison.

All of the war records were destroyed during the blitz so he has been trying to piece together the life of James William Harrison from war diaries, regimental histories and the little oral history that remains.

In the course of his research, he came across a war memorial in the interior of St Michael’s Church, Malton. This shows the three brothers and lists them all as choristers.

At the time of the 1891 census, James was living at 96 Market Place, Malton. Present in the house were Thomas W Harrison (head 28 years, b York, paperhanger and painter); Lydia Harrison (wife, 28 years, b Bulmer, Essex); James W Harrison (son, 4 years b Malton); Edgar J Harrison (son, 1 year b Malton).

At the time of the 1901 census James, Robert and George lived at 59 Market Place, Malton. Present at the location were Thomas William Harrison [head, married, 38 years, painter, b York]; Lydia [wife, 39 years, b Bulmer, Essex]; James William [son, 12 years, b Malton]; Edgar Thomas [son, 11 years, b Malton]; Robert [son, nine years, b Malton]; George Wilson [son, four years, b Malton]; Rose Annie [daughter, six years, b Malton]; Evelyn Helen [daughter, two years, b Malton] plus five boarders.

He couldn’t can find any trace of James William Harrison on the 1911 census, but at the time he was looking for work, and at the time of his marriage on 8 April, 1912, he was living in Doncaster and working as a grocer’s assistant. He moved again and when his three children were born, between 1913-1916, he was living in Sunderland, still working as a grocer’s assistant. He enlisted in Sunderland, though I am not sure of the date.

Interestingly, the First World War roll of honour has him being killed in action in France and Flanders and Paul’s grandmother lived all her life thinking that he was buried somewhere in that area. It was only through my research that I was able to correctly locate him as being killed in action in Doiran, Northern Greece on 17 May 1917.

At the outbreak of war the 1st Battalion KOYLI were stationed in Singapore and returned to England in December 1914, mobilising for war with the 83rd Brigade in the 28th Division. The battalion landed in France on 16th January 1915 and took part in 2nd Ypres and the Battle of Loos.

In October 1915 the 28th Division was ordered to the city of Salonika (now called Thessalonika) to help the Serbs in their fight against the Bulgarians. The expedition arrived too late and in insufficient numbers to prevent the fall of Serbia.

The Salonika force dug-in about eight miles north of the city until the summer of 1916, by which time the expedition had been joined by Serbian, Russian and Italian units. The Bulgarian attempt to invade Greece in July 1916 was repulsed near Lake Doiran on the Greek/Bulgarian border.

By 1917 the frontline stretched from the Albanian Adriatic coast eastwards along what is now the Macedonian border to the mouth of the River Struma River. A multinational Allied force under French General Maurice Sarrail numbering 500,000 troops faced the Bulgarian Army and German, Austro-Hungarian and Turkish units, totalling 300,000 men. The British Salonika Force (BSF) under General George Milne held 90 miles (144 km) of front, including the key strategic position at Doiran.

Living conditions for soldiers on both sides were harsh. Winter and summer brought extremes of climate and disease, especially malaria, caused many more casualties than fighting.

General Sarrail launched an offensive in April 1917, with French, Italian, Russian and Serbian troops. In support, the BSF attempted to capture Bulgarian positions around Doiran. When this offensive failed static trench warfare continued until autumn 1918.