The Hill & Pickersgill Brothers

Seacroft Mill.

The Hill & Pickersgill Brothers

9915 Private Arthur Hill, 1st Battalion, The West Yorkshire Regiment
64023 Gunner William Hill, Royal Garrison Artillery
203780 Private George Hill, 3/5th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
32368 Private Frank Pickersgill, 10th Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment

Kate Pickersgill and Benjamin Hill married in 1890 in Barwick. They lived at Pogson’s Cottages, off the York Road, close to Seacroft Mill. Benjamin Hill had a number of jobs, including labouring on farms and being a coal hewer in one of the local pits.

Kate Hill was employed in Scholes as a Washer Woman, and it is recorded that when she was ill, she would send her mother to do her work so as not to lose her job.

Their sons who served in the Army were:

9915 Private Arthur Hill, 1st Bn, West Yorkshire Regiment.

Arthur Hill was a Regular Soldier, serving with 1st Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment when it was mobilised at its barracks at Lichfield in Staffordshire. The battalion was first sent to Dunfermline in Fife, arriving by train on 9th August 1914. Having spent only four days in billets in Dunfermline, the battalion moved to Cambridge, where it camped at Midsummer Common, in the shadow of Jesus College, on the bank of the River Cam.
On 7th September 1914, the battalion, along with the rest of the 6th Division, left Cambridge for Southampton from where it sailed aboard SS Caudor Castle for St Nazaire in southern Brittany, arriving on 9th September. Ten days later, the battalion had taken up its place in the line at Bourg, whereupon it immediately came under shell fire from the Germans to their front. Over the 19th and 20th September, the pressure from the Germans intensified, with fire of all kinds increasing and causing many casualties in the battalion, and causing the commanding officer to order a retirement. At one stage during the afternoon, it was the 1st Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment that held the line in its Brigade sector, and this action brought the congratulations of the General Officer Commanding the 6th Division, but they were congratulations bought at great cost.
La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial

Of the 37 officers, and 959 men who had disembarked at St. Nazaire, during the battalion’s first encounter with the enemy it had sustained eight officers killed, with two wounded and seven missing. In the ranks the losses were enormous; 71 had been killed, 110 wounded and 436 were missing. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 93 men of the battalion died over the course of 19th & 20th September 1914. The battalion War Diary records one further incidence of the battalion suffering casualties, when on 25th September, nine men were killed by shell-fire, but during the course of the week following that first action, and as casualty figures began to be confirmed, a further 114 men are recorded of dying of their wounds. Only nine of the men have a known grave, and the remainder are now commemorated on the memorial to the missing at la Ferte-sous-Jouarre, close to the bridge over the River Aisne in the town.

Arthur Hill was captured by the Germans. Their records state that he was taken on 20th September 1914, and was not wounded. He was however, processed through the Döberitz camp, eight miles away from Berlin, and then sent to a POW hospital camp at Alexandrinenstrasse in Berlin, where he stayed until 10th May 1915 due to a jaw injury.

It is not known when Arthur Hill was repatriated from Germany, or when he was discharged from the Army, but he appears as a resident (not absent) on the Electoral Roll for 1919, along with his brothers.

By 1939, Arthur, and his wife, Margaret, were living in Porth Cottages, he was employed as a builder’s labourer.

Arthur Hill died in 1942, aged 50 years.

64023 Gunner William Hill, Royal Garrison Artillery

William Hill was born in 1896.
He volunteered for the Army, and joined the Royal Garrison Artillery at Dover in November 1915. After three months’ training, he was sent to France, where immediately caught influenza and was sent to the 2nd Canadian General Hospital at le Treport on the Normandy coast to recover. On his release from hospital, on 10th April 1916, he was sent back to the RGA Base where he should have been posted out to a Siege Battery, but on 20th April 1916, he was readmitted to hospital, again at le Treport. This time he was sent to No. 3 Convalescent Depot suffering from myalgia, possibly a legacy of his influenza. When he was well enough to leave the convalescent depot, on 3rd May 1916, he was sent back to the RGA Base to await a posting. This came on 9th May 1916, when he was posted to a howitzer battery, however the designation of it is illegible on his service record.
William Hill was, presumably serving with this battery when he received a gunshot wound to his left leg, in July 1916, and he was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital, at Netley, just outside Southampton, which means the wound was a serious one, but not dangerous enough to prevent him from being evacuated from France.
Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley

The poor condition of his service records mean that it has been impossible to learn how long he was in hospital for, but he never returned to operational service. Instead, he was kept at units in the UK unit his eventual discharge from the Army on 31st August 1918. He received, as well as his British War Medal and Victory Medal, a Silver War Badge and pension of 27 shillings and sixpence as a one off payment, then 11 shillings every four weeks, to be reviewed after 48 weeks.

The Silver War Badge was a circular silver badge designed to be worn on the lapel of civilian jackets as a visible marker that a man had given military service to the country. It is said that its introduction was partly influenced by the practice of men of military age, without any visible disability, and wearing civilian clothes being presented with white feathers as a mark of cowardice. A man could walk out wearing his Silver War Badge, and everyone who saw it would know that he had served, but was now discharged.

William Hill married Nellie Poole at St James’s Church in Seacroft in March 1925. Both were living in Whinmoor at the time.

203780 Private George Hill,
3/5th Bn, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

George Hill was born in 1895.
He attested for the Army on 11th January 1916, and was posted to 3/5th Battalion, the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, based at Clipstone Camp, near Mansfield in north Nottinghamshire. He was medically assessed as being Category B1. This meant that he was not fit to be sent into the front line, but could have been used abroad on garrison duties. To get a classification of B1, he must have been able to march, see well enough to shoot, hear well and be robust enough to be able to stand active service conditions. Anyone below the A category – fit for general service – was referred to as a ‘Category Man’. Category Men were subject to periodic reassessments of their health to see if they were fit to transfer to fighting units, needed to stay where they were, or were deteriorating.
Flixton Hall in the centre of Flixton Park

On 1st September 1916, George Hill was posted to 2/4th Bn, KOYLI, at Flixton Park, which is just inside Suffolk, on the border with Norfolk. 2/4th KOYLI was a Second Line Territorial Force Battalion, which would embark for active service in France in January 1917. The men who served in the battalion had to be Category A men, fit for general service, so it appears as though some improvement in George Hill’s health and constitution had taken place. His time with that battalion was short-lived though, and on 9th January 1916, as 2/4th KOYLI was about to leave with the rest of 62nd (2nd/West Riding) Division for the war in France, George Hill was posted once again, this time to 12th Officer Cadet Battalion, at Newmarket. It would appear that there were lingering doubts about his fitness after all.
George Hill’s role at the Officer Cadet Battalion isn’t detailed in his service papers, although he was still ranked as a private, and not an Officer Cadet. Because of that, and due to the length of his posting there, which took him up to the end of the war; it is most likely that he was a member of the permanent staff. He served there for two years, and during that time, he met and married his wife, Agnes Louisa Gooby, at Exning, near Newmarket on 26th October 1918.
Manor Farm, near Scarcroft (National Library of Scotland)

With the German Army defeated, the fighting in the Great War ended with an armistice, and that was confirmed by the conclusion of the Treaty of Versailles, however the army still needed officers, and just as soldiers were still being conscripted, so officer cadets were still being selected and trained to lead men. No. 12 Officer Cadet Battalion was still a fully functioning training unit and it was from here that George Hill left to report to the KOYLI Depot for his discharge from the Army on 13th December 1919.
The Hill Family now consisted of George, Agnes and a baby boy called Billie George Hill who was born on 27th August 1919. They all moved to Seacroft, where George returned to farming.
In 1939, the family occupied Manor Farm Cottage, Carr Lane, Scarcroft, where George Hill was employed as a cowman.
Cover Sheet, Military Service Act 1916

32368 Private Frank Pickersgill,
10th Bn, York and Lancaster Regiment

Frank Pickersgill was conscripted into the Army on 1st August 1916. He was 30 years old at the time. Prior to his being taken into the Army, he had been employed as a farm labourer, and the value of his labour on the farm may have been a factor affecting when he joined the Army. Though farm work was not a starred occupation (sometimes erroneously referred to as a ‘reserved occupation’), farm workers, and their employers could apply to the local tribunals either for exemption from military service, or a deferment of call up once the Military Service Act came into being in 1916.
On joining the Army, Frank Pickersgill was sent to the Depot of the West Yorkshire Regiment at York, where he underwent three months of training before being sent to France. While he was in the West Yorkshire Regiment, he had the service number 36787. On his arrival in France, instead of journeying on to the 2nd Battalion of his regiment, to which he had been assigned, he was held at the Infantry Base Depot (IBD) to await a draft to the battalion. By this stage of the war, the IBDs were vast camps where tens of thousands of men would be held, undergoing training and waiting to be sent to their units in the fighting areas. Men, who had been evacuated to the UK, sick or wounded, would also be sent here for up to date training before being sent on to a unit.

Upon his arrival at the IBD, Frank Pickersgill was transferred out of the West Yorkshire Regiment and into the York and Lancaster Regiment. Thousands of soldiers underwent such transfers, and it was not unusual to see men from Kent transferred to Scottish Regiments or Scots into West Country battalions.

Frank Pickersgill was killed in action on the night of 10th October 1917. His battalion was part of 63rd Infantry Brigade, which had been ordered to relieve 112th Infantry Brigade in the line. It was a routine order which would have been carried out many times before, sometimes with little or no interference from the enemy, and sometimes with shelling and small arms fire from them. Though it was a routine thing to do, a relief of one set of troops by another was a dangerous and stressful time for all those involved. Any movement of troops and equipment in such close proximity to the enemy was bound to have been heard by them, and was often observed by them when conditions and terrain allowed.

The Brigade was in the Vierstraat – Wytschaete area, south of Ypres in Belgium, in an area that had been fought over almost continually since the war reached this part of Belgium. It was here that Frank Pickersgill was killed during the relief, when his battalion came under fire from enemy artillery. The battalion was relieving 11th Royal Warwickshire Regiment, which had been in reserve, but such was the ferocity of the enemy bombardment, that even a battalion in reserve, a little way behind the front line was also targeted.

Units in this area at the time were changing places in the line and going rearwards to camps to clean up and re-equip before their next rotation. Such was the nature of the war, that there was no possibility of the dead of 10th October 1917 to be retrieved by their own and given a decent burial. Frank Pickersgill’s body was not recovered at the time, and once the war was over, if it was discovered, it was impossible to identify, and his name now appears among those of his comrades who are also listed as missing, on the memorial which forms the upper boundary at Tyne Cot Cemetery at Zonnebeke on the slope leading up to Passchendaele village.