GEORGE HENRY TOWNEND

Private 5954, 1st/4th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment)

Killed in Action 15th August 1916 aged 20

No Known Grave Commemorated Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Son of Joss and Alice Townend

Lived 11, Bottoms, Heckmondwike


Joss Townend was 27 and Alice Exley 23 when they were married on 14th June 1879 in the Parish Church.  They were both from Heckmondwike.  Two years later Joss, Alice and their one year old son George were living at Barbers Fold, Heckmondwike.  Three members of the Exley family lived there with them including Alice’s father, Mark.  By 1891 the Townend family were still at Barbers Fold, but now with sons Fred, aged 10; Ernest, born 19th July 1883 and daughter Sarah aged 3.  George Henry was born in 1896 and in 1901 the family were at 44, Brighton Street, Heckmondwike with eldest son George; Ernest; Sarah; George Henry; Harriet aged 2 and Edith aged 1.  The 1911 census saw further changes, with four of the eight surviving children at 4, Park Street, Heckmondwike.

George Henry enlisted in Halifax on 6th February 1915, originally with the Yorkshire Regiment.  He described his occupation as Willeyer and was aged 19.  At some point he transferred to the 1st/4th West Riding Regiment and arrived in France on 15th June 1916.  In early August 1916 the Battalion was in the trenches in the Somme area near Thiepval and it was here that George Henry was killed on 15th August 1916.  The War Diary gives little detail for that period other than to say that the Battalion provided carrying parties.   One of the other sons, Fred, lived in Dodworth near Barnsley and had enlisted as Private 1220 in the York and Lancaster Regiment 13th (1st  Barnsley) Battalion at the age of 34.  His Battalion was in the Mailly Maillot area when he was killed on 17th June 1916, just two days after his brother George Henry had arrived in France.  The places where the two brothers were killed are around 4 miles apart.  A third brother, Ernest, was one of the 1500 1st Royal Naval Brigade who crossed the border into Holland to avoid capture after their defence of Antwerp in October 1914.

In accordance with neutrality laws they were interned at Groningen in a camp which became known as ‘HMS Timberland’.  Records suggest Ernest was back at his home in Dodworth no later than early 1919.

Mother Alice Townend was named as next of kin for her son George Henry and her son’s effects were sent to her in January 1917.  These personal effects included his disc; postcards; photos; a purse and two wallets.  His outstanding pay of £3 9s 2d was sent to Mrs Townend at the same time.  The £3 War Gratuity was sent in September 1919; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal in 1921. On 26th April 1919 Alice Townend completed a form on which she listed some of people related to her son George Henry.  Those names are included here to help any reader who is trying to find a family link to the Townend brothers.  The names were: brothers and sisters George aged 39, living at Milton Square Heckmondwike; Ernest, 35, in Dodworth; Arthur, 15, in Park Street Heckmondwike; Sarah Emma Firth, 30, in Brighton Street Heckmondwike; Harriet Alice Townend, 20 and Edith, 19, both in Park Street.  Nephews and nieces:  Florence aged 15; Doris, 4; Fred, 14; Wilmot, 8; Ethel, 14; May, 9 and Percy, 8, all in New Street Dodworth.  Uncles and aunts:  Edith Littlewood, 67, in Jeremy Lane Heckmondwike; Eva Fox, 54, in Staincliffe Road, Dewsbury and James Townend, 57, in Union Road, Heckmondwike. Though recorded initially on the returns for the Mill Road Cemetery near Thiepval, George Henry is now commemorated, like his brother Fred, on the Thiepval Memorial
Pier and Face 6A and 6B.
{AG-130}

Thank you to the Dodworth War Memorial Group of Barnsley U3A for their support in putting together this summary.

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