Alderson J M

Private 18212 John Myres Alderson, 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment


Killed in Action 20th October, 1915

John Myers (or Myres) Alderson was born at Busby in Stokesley Registration district in 1896.  He was the youngest son of William Alderson and his second wife Elizabeth Ann Robinson who were married in Bransby cum Stearsby near Easingwold in 1878.  

The couple settled in Easingwold where William worked as a farm bailiff, and their first two children were born there.  William was the son of a farmer of over 100 acres in Appleton le Wiske, and already had a daughter (Anne Dorothy)1 by his first wife, Mary Wells, who had died in 1876.
William and Elizabeth and their family moved from Easingwold to Busby, where the 1891 census recorded William simply as a farm labourer.  The Aldersons apparently lived close to Busby Hall, so probably that was where William worked.  William and Elizabeth now had three children in their household: Harry (7), James (6) and Margaret (1), but according to an Alderson family tree they had two older children, Harriet (born 1879) and Annie Elizabeth (born 1881). These first two children were not with them, however.

In 1901, William and his second wife Elizabeth were living on High Green Stokesley and again had three children in their household.  Harry and James were not with them, but Margaret (11) had two younger brothers, Tom (9) and the new addition, John Myers (5).

It is tempting to assume that the four children who had ‘disappeared’ from the family had died, but according to their mother, that was not so.  It was Elizabeth who completed and signed the census form for the family in 1911, and on it she recorded that she had been married to William for 23 years and that they had produced 7 children of whom 6 were still living.  She and William were living on College Square, but none of their children were living in the house with them.

We know that John Myers Alderson had been a scholar at the Preston Grammar School, which was virtually on his doorstep, and that he was confirmed in St Peter and St Paul’s Church in 1910,  but by 1911 at 15 years of age he had left home as well as school and had moved to Ingleby Greenhow, where he was apprenticed to Frederick William Armstrong, the butcher. John was living with Frederick and his wife and daughter.

When war came, John enlisted in Stokesley as Private 18212 in the 6th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, (not 1st Battalion as recorded in the Book of Remembrance).  6th Battalion was formed in Richmond on 25th August, 1914 and was attached to the 32nd Brigade of the 11th (Northern) Division.  For a time, they remained on home soil, moving to Belton Park near Grantham and then on to Willey Camp, near Godalming in Surrey.  The first drafts of the 32nd Brigade left Liverpool in July 1915, bound for the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign.  This was part of a plan to knock Germany’s ally Turkey out of the war, but it resulted in a slaughter of the allied forces.  The original landings at Suvla Bay on 6th and 7th August were fiercely contested. The defenders, occupying a ridge of high ground overlooking the beaches below where the allies were trying to disembark, were expecting an attack, being warned by British Navy activity in the lead-up to the assault. The attackers came under fire even before their boats reached the shore, and the beaches became a killing ground. Even after establishing a beach-head, the Allied troops (this was the theatre of war in which the ANZAC forces were thrown) found that it was almost impossible to create a really effective trench system on the unsuitable soil and in a position overlooked by enemy forces.

A further draft of 788 men and 11 officers was sent out in August 1915 to replace those killed in the landings and in heroic but ultimately futile attacks on heavily defended enemy positions, such as ‘Hill W’ where the Yorkshires were heavily involved; the second draft was necessary as the Battalion’s original strength of 900 had been reduced to 285 officers and men.  The Book of Remembrance tells us that Private Myers was sent to Gallipoli in September 1915, via Egypt, and official documents confirm that he arrived in that ‘theatre of war’ on 8th of that month. The Battalion war diary records on 1st October that they were actually in reserve on the beach north east of Kerakol Dagh, and the fighting was apparently sporadic.

Over the next fortnight, 2 men were wounded by stray bullets and three by a shell. On several of these days the diary had "Nothing to report". However, on 19th October, the unit moved into the Reserve Dugouts at Kerakol Gap. Later that same day, around midnight, Private Alderson was a member of a detail assigned to repair the barbed wire defending their position.  

In the course of carrying his duties he was wounded and was carried back to the British lines by his comrades.  Here, a Stokesley friend Tom Farnaby (see Farnaby T.) was on hand to speak with him and to take a message from him for his family.  Private Alderson also asked that his Bible be taken home to his mother.  He died an hour later, early in the morning of 20th October, 1915. He had been at the front for about six weeks. The war diary of his Battalion recorded his death in a brief note:

"20-10-15 Supplied working parties on Support and Communications trenches. One man killed by sniper."

Private Alderson was only 19 years old when he fell.  He was awarded the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1915 Star.  He lies in Plot I F 24 of the Azmac Cemetery, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli.  

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