Gnr. H. Bothan

Gnr. H. Bothan

300881 Gunner Henry Botham,
4th Highland (Mountain) Brigade, Royal Garrison Artillery, Territorial Force

Southburn, near Driffield (National Library of Scotland)

Henry Botham was a 30-year-old farmer when he attested for the Army on 9th December 1915. He had spent his whole life on farms and in farming. His father George was a farm foreman at the time of the 1891 census and the family of George and Elizabeth Botham were living in the farming country of East Yorkshire in a village called Southburn close to Driffield. Aged 5, Henry is described as a scholar. He was the eldest of three sons, Fred and William being older and younger than Laura their sister. Ten years later when the 1901 census was taken, Henry had left home and gone into service on a farm in Kirkburn which is a short distance from Southburn. As a young man of 16 years, he was now described as a horseman on the farm. Like the Johnson family from Lower Barnbow Farm who were also from Driffield, Henry Botham came to the Scholes area to work on the land. By the time of his enlistment, Henry Botham was a farm hand in Whinmoor.

Group System Recruiting Poster (© IWM Art.IWM PST 11983)

Henry Botham joined the Army under the ‘Derby Scheme’ which was introduced as a means of countering the receding rates of voluntary enlistment and attempting to eradicate under-age enlistment. Under the Derby Scheme, a man could attest for the Army and have a general choice of which regiment or corps he would go to when mobilised or called up. It was a steppingstone move from the wholly voluntary enlistment system which had been employed prior to the war up until late 1915 and compulsory conscription. In the era of the white feather Derby Scheme recruits were issued with a grey armband bearing a red crown to signify that although the man was not yet in uniform, he had made the choice to serve.

A RGA Gun position on the Somme in 1916 © IWM Q 7822

When Henry Botham was called up in June 1916, he had to travel to Great Yarmouth to join his depot which was No. 4 Depot, Royal Garrison Artillery. The Royal Garrison Artillery operated the heaviest of the guns that were used during the war. They were because of their size, less mobile than their Field Artillery counterparts. It is not clear from his record when Gunner Botham was sent out to a theatre of war, but his medal index card shows that he had an entitlement of the British War Medal and Victory Medal pair. He was transferred to Class ‘Z’ or the Army Reserve at Dover on 21st November 1919.