1340 GNR. E. YATES. R.F.A.
Ezra Yates was born on 4 January 1896 and baptised at St Saviour’s on 9 February. His father was Ernest Yates, b. 1871 in Bamber Bridge, a joiner by trade. His mother was Martha Ellen Prescott, b. 1873 in Cuerden. Ernest and Martha Ellen were married in 1893 at St Saviour’s and they had 10 children, all of whom survived infancy: Maud (b. 1895, then Ezra, then the younger siblings Gilbert (b. 1897), Amy (b. 1899), Ellen (b. 1901), Alice (b. 1903), Eric (b. 1905), Jane (b. 1908), Martha (b. 1910) and Ernest (b. 1911). They lived at 3 Church Road, Bamber Bridge.
Ezra signed his attestation form at Bamber Bridge on 8 December 1913. At the time he was living with his parents and he gives his occupation as a weaver. He was 5’ 7” tall and had a 34” chest. He enlisted with 11th Battery, 1/2nd (West Lancashire) Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery, which was based in Bamber Bridge. On 17 October 1914, while the battery was in training near Edinburgh, Ezra signed the army form E.624 indicating that he was willing to serve outside the UK in case of national emergency. According to his military record, Ezra’s ‘embodied service’ began on 5 August 1914 and he was killed exactly two years later.
His battery landed in France on 29 September 1915. From 14-24 December, Ezra was in hospital, in the field, suffering from scabies. He rejoined his battery on Christmas Eve. He was posted to D/276 on 8 April 1916 and then to B/278 on 23 May, and killed in action on 5 August 1916. (278 Brigade was the Howitzer Brigade of 55th Division).
It was while 2nd West Lancs Brigade were at training near Arras in May 1916 that the artillery brigades were reorganised and renumbered. The old 1/1st West Lancs Brigade became 275 Brigade and Ezra’s 1/2nd Brigade became 276 Brigade. 55th Division had participated in the bombardment prior to the opening attack of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st, but they moved south between 25-30 July to take their place in the line opposite Guillemont. An attack on the village was to take place at 4.20 in the morning of 8 August and throughout the previous day and night a continuous bombardment was kept up on Guillemont village, which was known to be strongly fortified. “This bombardment was almost awe-inspiring in its intensity and it might have been, with good reason, thought that nothing could live through it. When the attack began, the artillery was to give support by means of a ‘creeping barrage’. Guillemont was part of a string of fortified villages and farms, including Delville Wood and High Wood, where the Germans mounted their sternest defences against the British and French attacks. The Allies would not make significant progress here for another month. Ezra was killed on 5 August and was the only man from his battery/brigade to be killed that day. He was 20 years old.
Ezra’s effects, including money to the value of £6 7s 6d, were returned to his father, who after the War also received a War Gratuity of £9 10s.
Service No: 1340
Date of Death: 05/08/1916
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, "B" Bty. 278th Bde.
Grave Reference: I. B. 8.
Cemetery: QUARRY CEMETERY, MONTAUBAN
Ezra’s brother Gilbert enlisted in the RFA with the other Briggers on 19 May 1915 and proceeded to training but was discharged as no longer physically fit for active service (KR392(xvi)) on 19 December 1916. After signing up in 1915 he was assigned to light duties as he had a heart condition following rheumatic fever in 1912. He also had a gammy leg following an accident in civil life. A further medical examination in 1920 revealed that the heart condition had cleared. From this point he was no longer eligible for an army pension as his disability was judged not caused by military service. Gilbert died in 1954.