George Frederick Priday, maternal relative: First Phosgene Attack, Dec 1915

George Frederick Priday was my first cousin once removed of my second great grand uncle and he died from injuries sustained in the first phosgene gas attack made by the Germans on the British Army in December 1915.

George Frederick was born during July 1894 in Walton, Yorkshire, England and died at a Military Hospital near the town of Etaples about 16 miles south of Boulogne, France on the 31st December 1915 when he was just 21 years old.

George Frederick's actual lineage to me was as follows:

  • George Frederick Priday (1894 - 1915) - my first cousin once removed of my second great grand uncle
  • David Priday (1857 - 1919) - father of George Frederick Priday
  • Joseph Priday (1806 - 1883) - father of David Priday
  • Sarah Fords (1753 - 1838) - mother of Joseph Priday
  • Nathaniel Priday (1794 - 1886) - son of Sarah Fords
  • Joseph Priday (1832 - 1896) - son of Nathaniel Priday
  • Nathaniel Priday (1794 - 1870) - father of Joseph Priday
  • Nathaniel Priday (1830 - 1900) - son of Nathaniel Priday
  • Joseph Priday (1853 - 1933) - son of Nathaniel Priday
  • Joseph Priday (1888 - 1954) - son of Joseph Priday - my maternal grandfather
  • Alice May Priday (1917 - 2009) - daughter of Joseph Priday - my mother
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

George Frederick's father, David Priday (1857-1919) was born at 3 Somerfield Cottages, Hempstead, Gloucestershire, England and was a Road labourer (as his father, Joseph, was). By 1881 David had become a Railway Porter and was working for the Midland Railway Company. He had moved (with the job) to Royston and Notton railway station, Barnsley, Yorkshire. David was soon promoted to Railway Sugnalman and by 1881 was at Darfield, Barnsley, Yorkshire.

David Priday married Frances (Fanny) Amelia Phillips (1853–1932) in October 1879 at Gloucester, Gloucestershire. They set up home at Station Houses, Darfield, Barnsley, Yorkshire, where they set about having a family, which eventually included 6 children:

  • Arthur Priday (1881–)
  • Rose Priday (1884–)
  • Violet Priday (1887–)
  • Daisy Priday (1890–)
  • Percy Priday (1891–1891)
  • George Frederick Priday (1894–1915)

In 1890 David & Frances and the young family moved to Greenside, Walton, Normanton, West Yorkshire where they remained until 1901 when they had moved into the Victoria Inn, Walton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire whilst awaiting their new home to be readied. By 1905 they were living at 6 Victoria Terrace, Walton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire and remained there until David's death at 62 in 1919.

David joined the railway company because his prospects would have been so much better than if he had remained working on the land, like so many of his Priday relatives did. Jobs on the railways were well paid and offered free or discounted travel plus other perks.

George Frederick Priday was born at Greenside, Walton, Normanton, West Yorkshire in 1894 and remained living at home right up until he enlisted for the Army in 1914.

In 1911 he was living at the family home at 6 Victoria Terrace, Walton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire and was working as a machinist.

His Regiment

When war was declared, David enlisted in the local Territoral Force, the 1st/4th Battalion, The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry as a private with regiment number 3573.

The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry officially existed from 1881 to 1968, but its predecessors go back to 1755. The regiment's traditions and history are now maintained by The Rifles.

The 53rd Regiment of Foot was raised in Leeds in 1755 and renumbered the 51st in January 1757. In 1782, in common with other regiments of the line, the 51st was given a "county" designation, becoming the 51st (2nd Yorkshire, West Riding) Regiment of Foot. The title of Light Infantry was given in honour of its former commander General Sir John Moore in 1809, and in 1821 the regiment was given royal status when King's Own was added to its title, becoming the 51st (2nd Yorkshire, West Riding, The King's Own Light Infantry) Regiment.

In 1881 after major Army reforms, regimental numbers were abolished. The 51st King's Own Light Infantry became the 1st Battalion, The King's Own Light Infantry (South Yorkshire Regiment) and the 105th became its 2nd Battalion. The Childers reforms also combined militia and rifle volunteer units into the regiments formed in 1881. Accordingly the 1st West Yorks Rifles Miltia became the 3rd Militia Battalion, while the 3rd Administrative Battalion West Riding of Yorkshire Rifle Volunteer Corps became the 1st Volunteer Battalion. In 1897 the regimental title was changed to The King's Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry), and in 1921 to The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

With the creation of the Territorial Force in 1908, the 1st Volunteer Battalion was reorganised as the 4th and 5th Battalions (TF), while the 3rd Battalion was transferred to the Special Reserve. The regiment was raised to thirteen battalions during World War I, and nine during World War II, including not only infantry but anti-aircraft and armoured units as well. During World War II the battalions served in all three fronts (Europe, North Africa and Asia-Pacific).

In 1948, 1 KOYLI was disbanded and 2 KOYLI was renamed 1 KOYLI. In 1968, 1 KOYLI became the 2nd Battalion of The Light Infantry (2LI). In 2007 the LI merged with the Royal Green Jackets to form a new regiment, The Rifles. The former 1 KOYLI battalion (now 1LI) became '5 Rifles'.

1/4th Battalion (TF), The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in WW1

August 1914: in Wakefield. Part of 3rd West Riding Brigade, West Riding Division. Moved on mobilisation to Doncaster and in November 1914 to Gainsborough. Moved on to York in February 1915.

12 April 1915: landed at Boulogne.

15 May 1915: formation became 148th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division

The 49th (West Riding) Division in 1914-1915

The West Riding Division was a formation of the Territorial Force. It was formed as a result of the reforms of the army carried out in 1908 under the Secretary of State for War, Richard Burdon Haldane and was one of 14 Divisions of the peacetime TF.

1914: The units of the Division had just departed for annual summer camp when emergency orders recalled them to the home base. All units were mobilised for full time war service on 5 August 1914 and moved to concentrate in the South Yorkshire / Lincolnshire area by mid August 1914.

1915: On 31 March the Division was warned that it would go on overseas service and entrainment began on 12 April. Divisional infantry went via Folkestone to Boulogne, France while all other units went from Southampton to Le Havre, France. By 19 April the Division had concentrated in the area of Estaires - Merville - Neuf Berquin. The Division then remained in France and Flanders and took part in the following engagements:

  • The Battle of Aubers Ridge (9 May)
  • The defence against the first Phosgene attack (19 December)

The defence against the first Phosgene attack (19 December)

VI Corps was organised within Sir Herbert Plumer's Second Army of the British Expeditionary Force on 1 June 1915. It was placed under the command of Lt-Gen Sir John Lindesay Keir, promoted from command of 6th Division. Initially it comprised 4th Division from V Corps and 6th Division from III Corps, and it took over the left of the British line at Ypres.

VI Corps cooperated with the attack by its neighbour V Corps on Bellewaarde Ridge on 16 June 1915 with rifle and artillery fire, and in July and August 1915 it was engaged in trench fighting round Hooge Chateau. The corps was first seriously engaged in the Second Battle of Bellewaarde, a subsidiary attack to assist First Army's attack at Loos on 18 September 1915.

Before dawn on 19 December 1915 VI Corps was the victim of the first German attack with phosgene gas. It had 6th Division and 49th Division holding the line and 14th (Light) Division in reserve. The attack was made by the German XXVI Reserve Corps between the Roulers and Staden railways, NW of Ypres. The attack was designed to test new weapons (the gas released was an 80:20 mixture of chlorine and phosgene) and to inflict casualties. There was some shelling, but apart from sending out infantry and air patrols to gauge the effectiveness of the gas cloud, the Germans made no attempt to advance. VI Corps' anti-gas measures were reasonably effective, and a pre-arranged counter-barrage of shrapnel shells discouraged the enemy patrols. The British reserves stood to, but were not required. A total of 1069 gas casualties (120 fatal) were suffered, three-quarters by 49th Division.

One of those casualtiesd was George Frederick Priday, who later died from his wounds on 31st December 1915.


george-f-pridayGeorge Frederick Priday has a grave (VI. B. 18A) at the Etaples Military Cemetery.

Etaples is a town about 16 miles south of Boulogne, France. The Military Cemetery is to the north of the town, on the west side of the road to Boulogne.

During the First World War, the area around Etaples was the scene of immense concentrations of Commonwealth reinforcement camps and hospitals. It was remote from attack, except from aircraft, and accessible by railway from both the northern or the southern battlefields. In 1917, 100,000 troops were camped among the sand dunes and the hospitals, which included eleven general, one stationary, four Red Cross hospitals and a convalescent depot, could deal with 22,000 wounded or sick. In September 1919, ten months after the Armistice, three hospitals and the Q.M.A.A.C. convalescent depot remained.

The cemetery contains 10,771 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, the earliest dating from May 1915. 35 of these burials are unidentified.

Hospitals were again stationed at Etaples during the Second World War and the cemetery was used for burials from January 1940 until the evacuation at the end of May 1940. After the war, a number of graves were brought into the cemetery from other French burial grounds. Of the 119 Second World War burials, 38 are unidentified.

Etaples Military Cemetery also contains 662 Non Commonwealth burials, mainly German, including 6 unidentifed. There are also now 5 Non World War service burials there.

The cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in France, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.