Commonwealth War Graves Commission

You may have noticed a new plaque on the Moor Lane gate to the Churchyard. We were approached late last year by the CWG with a request to suggest a suitable place for this, as buried in our Churchyard is a WW1 soldier. Geoffrey White. His grave is just along the path on the right hand side, a half column signifying dying in the prime of life.

The following is an extract from Neil Hardisty’s booklet on the men from the village who died in WW1, and commemorated on the War Memorial

“Geoffrey White was born in 1898, the youngest son of William White who was Headmaster of Ayton School. He enlisted on 5th May 1915 at the age of only 17, as Private No 19881 in the West Yorkshire Regiment. He did his training as a battalion signaller in Whitley Bay with the 3rd Battalion and went to France in March 1916 on his 18th birthday. He joined the 1st Battalion West Yorks who were with 18th Brigade, 6th Division in the Ypres area. In August 1916 the 6th Division moved south to the Somme and were located opposite Beaumont Hamel.

In early 1917 Geoffrey’s Division moved back north, this time to the Loos area. Although taking no part in the major offensives of 1917 (Arras and 3rd Ypres), they did take part in the Battle of Hill 70. However Geoffrey was home on leave in August 1917 so missed any involvement in that battle, but returned to his Division as they were preparing for their part in the Battle of Cambrai in November.

The Battle of Cambrai began at 6.20 am on 20th November 1917 and by the end of the month they had actually taken territory held by the allies before the battle. The German counter-attacks began in earnest on 30th November. On that day Geoffrey’s Division were located north of Marcoing and although under attack held their line.

This was to be Geoffrey’s last action with his regiment. Early in 1918 he contracted TB. In March he returned to England for the treatment he needed that was not available in France. In the coming months he spent his time in several different hospitals. Sadly as was often the case in those days the disease was terminal, and Geoffrey returned home to Ayton to spend his last days. He died on 23rd September 1918 aged just 20. He is buried in St John the Baptist churchyard here in East Ayton. How tragic to die like that after surviving the western front.”

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