Of the 27 names on Scalby’s war memorial of those men who fell during the First World War, four died at the Somme (with thanks to Lesley Newton, Denise Howell and Robin Boddy for research):
Lieut Col Charles Sillery
Commanding 20th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (1st Tyneside Scottish)
Charles Cecil Archibald Sillery had three sisters and two brothers, one of whom, Major John Jocelyn Doyne Sillery of 11th Bn Manchester Regiment, died at Gallipoli on 7 August 1915. The brothers are remembered in a memorial window in St Laurence’s Church.
He was Commandant of the Chindit Hills Battalion, Burma Military Police. He retired from the Indian Army in March 1907 and in 1908 his novel, ‘A Curtain of Cloud’, set on the Burmese frontier, was published.
The family later relocated to Scalby since his wife Edith’s father was William Tingle Brown, of Yew Court. At the time of Charles’ death Edith was living at The Croft, on Scalby High Street.
Her stepmother Clara later gave this to the church in memory of her mother and it is now the Vicarage. Edith later moved into The Grange, opposite The Croft and to Ash Lea, next door.
Charles Sillery was one of several senior retired army officers brought out of retirement to lead the volunteers of Kitchener’s New Army. On 3 June his 20th (Tyneside Scottish) Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers went into the line in front of Albert.
The enemy had been relentlessly pounded by the British guns and on 1 July two large mines were exploded either side of the Roman road.
Despite this, when they attacked up Mash Valley in an assault on the village of la Boiselle they came under heavy enfilading machine gun fire from Ovillers. Lt Col Sillery, aged 53, was one of 317 in his battalion to die. A further 267 were wounded.
Charles Sillery is buried in Bapaume Post Military Cemetery, Albert, besides Lt Col W Lyle, commander of 23 Bn Northumberland Fusiliers who also died on 1 July.
Lance Corporal Arnold W Coultas
9th Battalion Yorkshire
Regiment (Green Howards)
Arnold was the son of George Coultas, a Scalby postman, and Lucy Watson, who married in Scalby in 1889. Grandfather William had been Postmaster, living in Scalby Post Office on South Street, next to the Nag’s Head.
Arnold had two brothers; Reginald, killed in action on 9 October 1917 at Passchendaele and Ronald, who enlisted into the York and Lancaster Regiment and landed in France two days after him.
They also had a sister, Joan, who died in Scarborough in 1993 aged 86. In the 1911 Census Arnold is described as ‘A Draper’s Apprentice’. Arnold’s Medal Index Card reveals that he entered France as part of the British Expeditionary Force on 26 August 1915.
At 4am on 5 July 1916 bombers of 9th Green Howards, who were to the right of where Lt. Col. Charles Sillery and many of his men of the Tyneside Scottish had fallen four days earlier, attacked towards Contalmaison. At 6pm 9th Green Howards, together with 10th Duke of Wellington’s, cleared both Horseshoe Trench and the west end of Lincoln Redoubt in an attack over the open. It was some time during this attack that Arnold Coultas lost his life and was buried near to where he fell. He was 22 years old.
Arnold’s body now lies at Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, the largest British cemetery on the Somme battlefield.
The Scarborough Mercury of Friday 14 July 1916 reports the loss of both Lt Col. Charles Sillery and L/Cpl Arnold Coutlas: “Scalby Losses. Arnold Coultas, son of the late Mr Geo Coultas, formerly postmaster at Scalby, has been killed. He enlisted along with his two brothers. The news was received on Tuesday in a letter from a companion. Prior to enlistment he was in the employment of Messrs. W. M. Wright and Son, Newborough, Scarborough. He was killed in action. It is only about three weeks ago since he was home in Scalby on short leave. On the same day tidings were received that Ronald Coultas, a brother of the above, was at the base hospital suffering from shell shock.” Happily Ronald was to survive the war.
Captain George Brown Bird, MC and Bar
10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regt.
George was the son of George Bird, a joiner, and Emma Righton who was born in Newby and was a servant in Scalby prior to her marriage. George joined the army on 17 March 1900, aged 15. He was only 5ft 4inches tall. He became a Trumpeter and Bandsman and in 1914 The Scarborough Pictorial published a photo of him in his Bandsman’s uniform under the banner ‘Our Heroes Gallery’.
In May 1916 the battalion moved to the Somme and Lt George Bird was awarded the Military Cross in the King’s Birthday Honours. On Sunday 2 July they took over the front line from Keats Redan to Argyll Street, the same trenches from which Lt Col Charles Sillery and his men had left to meet their fate at 7.30am the previous morning.
On 3 July they attacked the Germans in the village of La Boiselle, under intense shell fire, and their CO, Lt Col R Heath was injured. In the confusion George Bird took command and organised the defence of the line, for which he was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross. He died on 30 July, leading his company in an attack at Bazentin le Petit under fierce shelling and machine gun fire.
The Scarborough Mercury of 18 August reports a letter was received by George’s sister, Mrs Harrison, from his Commanding Officer, telling her he was shot through the heart some yards from the trench. “He was worshipped by his men who would do anything for him. Their perfect trust in him was a tribute to his character – and Tommy is no mean judge of character,” it read.
His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. His only link with Scalby appears to be through his mother, but when the war memorial was erected someone with influence must have remembered her, perhaps when she was servant to farmer John Stonehouse in the early 1970s, and felt it appropriate to include her brave son’s name. George’s name also appears on the memorial in Albemarle Baptist Church, Scarborough.
Private George Henry
15th Lancashire Fusiliers
Born in Burniston, George Henry Bowman was the eldest of eight surviving children according to the 1911 Census, where it is noted that four others had died.
The family lived in Cumboots Lane and then Newby, and in 1911 George, aged 16, was a grocer (assistant salesman). George enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiliers in Manchester in late 1915.
On 3 September 1916 a large scale attack was made in support of 4th Australian Division which was assaulting Mouquet Farm, a heavily fortified position in the German’s second line of defence which ran from Pozieres to Grandcourt, known to the British as ‘Mucky Farm’.
The 25th Division attacked at 5.10am; all managed to enter the German line but were unable to consolidate and were forced to withdraw. The Division was relieved on 11 September. On 3 September 1916 thirty-seven fatal casualties were recorded by the 9th Loyal North Lancs, which included George Bowman.
His headstone in Pozieres British Cemetery, Ovillers-la-Boiselle, records the Lancashire Fusiliers as his regiment, although he had been attached to 9th Loyal North Lancs. The Yorkshire Post reported: “Pte George Bowman, Loyal North Lancashires, of Redleigh, Newby, Scalby, Scarborough, was killed by a shell along with three other men.”
In 1919 his body was exhumed and reburied in Pozieres British Cemetery.
His mother Ellen, who in 1939 was living at 421 Scalby Road, and father Bell, who died in 1933, are both buried in the churchyard at St Laurence’s, as is his youngest sister, Edith Minnie, and her husband Fred Hovington, who fought with the Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards) and survived the war.