Whiteley, George

Hull Pals Memorial Post. PRIVATE GEORGE WHITELEY 22356. Born in October 1896, George was one of ten children to Walter and Elizabeth Whiteley of 6 Richmond Terrace, Harrow Street, Hessle Road, Hull. A Rullyman by trade, he enlisted at Hull City Hall on 9th December 1915, just days before the passing of the dreaded Conscription Act meaning he joined the army a volunteer and not a conscript, who were considered lowest of the low. Mobilised on 20th January 1916 he joined the 14th Battalion (Reserve) East Yorkshire Regiment, though he was transferred to the 11th Battalion on his arrival in France on 4th May. He served on the Somme and at Oppy Wood and appears to have made it through both unscathed. George Whiteley was listed as ‘missing, and later ‘missing presumed dead’ following trench raids on German positions at Fresnoy on 8th November 1917; his body was never recovered and his name is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the missing; he was 21 years old. Thankfully for Walter and Elizabeth Whiteley, seven of their children were daughters and George’s brothers were far too young to follow him. He was probably always their hero.

The attack on Oppy Wood, part of the Battle of Arras, was a significant battle for the East Yorkshire Regiment and particularly for the city of Hull.  All four Hull Pals battalions were involved on 3 May and all suffered heavy casualties, with 40% of those present killed or injured. 2nd Lieutenant Jack Harrison, a local teacher and rugby player with Hull FC, won a posthumous Victoria Cross for his bravery in rushing a machine gun position to protect his platoon. His body was never found.
The village of Oppy in France had been in German hands since October 1914 and was part of a formidable defensive system including trenches, dug-outs and thick barbed wire defences. During the Battle of Arras, which began in April 1917, the British tried to take Oppy. The first attack was a failure. A second attack was partially successful. The third attack on 3 May, known officially as the Third Battle of the Scarpe, was again unsuccessful with significant loss of life. The troops were ordered to attack at 3.45am, rather than at dawn, and the defending Germans could easily see the line of British soldiers clearly lit by the full moon. The British continued to attack Oppy and were finally successful the following year. The City of Hull Memorial at Oppy was unveiled in 1927 and commemorates the men of the Hull Pals who were killed on 3 and 4 May 1917.

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Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France