We are fortunate to have extensive reports of Willie Yates’s war, possibly because his brother Ernest was a journalist before the war, so the pair would have been well-known to the paperPte William Yates, son of Mr David Yates, has spent the Easter Holidays at home.Pte Yates is a member of what, when formed, was styled the 21st Service Battalion, Public School Corps, but which is now known as the 21st Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers.Pink of conditionWhat a fine set of fellows the battalion consists of may be gathered from the fact that Pte Yates, who is almost six feet in height and proportionally built, is the least man in his platoon.At present the men are camping on the racecourse at Epsom and although they are living in what he
considers “a very rough life,” they enjoy the pleasure which comes from the feeling that they are in the pink of condition.They were reviewed last Friday by the Chief Inspector of Forces, Sir Archibald Murray, who found them so fit that he has transferred them to the First Army Corps and they may now have to leave for the front at any moment.“We are going to have a chance of saying a word in the argument with the Germans,” he said to a friend as he was leaving the village. “And I think you may rely upon us saying it strongly too.”Willie used to be well known as a ‘dashing forward’ in the Idle Wesleyan hockey team and he is now anxious to make himself a good example to other young men of military age by becoming a ‘dashing forward’ in the only game worth playing at the present time..Shipley Times & Express 9 April 1915
On 23 April 1916 there was a brief note to the effect that he was seriously ill in hospital but on the mend. That was followed by this report two months later:Cpl W P Yates, elder son of Mr David Yates, has received his discharge from the army after having done his “bit” for King and Country.Willie was not by any means soldier brained but like other patriotic Britons he realised that his services were needed and volunteered.Judging from his personal appearance, he has, to use a colloquialism, had “to go through the small sieve.” He may not be enjoying the robust health which he did before going into the firing line but he has the satisfaction of knowing that he has done his best to keep the flag of justice and freedom floating in the breeze.Shipley Times & Express 16 June 1916
A year later this extensive piece appeared.Mr Willie P Yates, elder son of Mr David Yates of 70 Bradford Road, Idle, passed away on Friday, death being due to his experiences whilst serving with the forces in France.Although, as was pointed out in an address at the funeral by the Rev W Hemingway Shaw, the deceased “hated war with a bitter hatred,” he realised his responsibility to the country of which he was so proud and immediately after the outbreak of hostilities joined the Public Schools’ Battalion, transferring to the Royal Engineers because of his thorough knowledge of chemistry.GasLater he transferred to the Trench Mortar Battery and with that he remained until he was sent to hospital suffering from diabetes, caused by exposure, and the effects of gas poisoning.For some time he was in a critical condition. It is now about a year since he was discharged on medical grounds and he had made what appeared to be a permanent recovery.He took up an appointment with the Sandos Chemical Co Ltd, Bradford, sole consignees for the Sandos Chemical Works, Basle, Switzerland, and he was able to get about until the early part of last week, following his business as usual.In fact he got up on the Tuesday morning intending to go to business but was unable to do so.His death came as a great shock to his many friends and deep sympathy is extended to his father and brother, Sgt Ernest Yates.The deceased was educated at the Woodhouse Grove Grammar School and at the Bradford Technical College, specialising in colour chemistry.United StatesAfter having occupied a post in England for a few years, he fulfilled an engagement in the United States where he remained about three years and was afterwards with the firm of Read, Holliday & Co.He was actively associated with the Idle Wesleyan Church and Sunday School in connection with which his father has been a prominent worker for over half a century.For about ten years he was a member of the choir and if he had
taken the advice of those capable of judging in such matters, he would have developed into one of the finest vocalists in the district.A sportsman of the best type, he was an enthusiastic player of tennis and hockey and he was particularly smart as an exponent of both games.HockeyIn hockey he always preferred being in the front line, attack being most suitable to his temperament. But in whatever game he took part he was popular with fellow players and opponents alike and those who had learnt to regard him as a real gentleman in sport will deeply lament his demise.His brother, Sgt Ernest Yates, another true patriot, heard the country’s call for help when he was in Canada and notwithstanding that it would have paid him better to have donned khaki out there, he hurried to the mother country to give what assistance he could in her hour of need.Like Willie, he saw his duty clear and did not hesitate to respond to the call.
There were many signs of affectionate regard at the funeral which took place at the Wesleyan Cemetery, Idle, on Monday afternoon.A service was held in the Chapel and the officiating ministers were the Rev W Hemingway Shaw, circuit minister, the Rev Levi James, of Bingley and formerly of Idle, and the Rev Edward Rees, Woodhouse GroveMr James H Hill played ‘O rest in the Lord’ on the organ and the hymns sung were ‘Brief life is here our portion’ and ‘There is a land of pure delight.’Finest and fairestIn the course of an address, the Rev W H Shaw said that one of the most terrible features of the war was the awful toll which it took of our finest and fairest manhood,Some fell on the battlefield and were buried amid the clamour of war. Their departed friend actually fell on the field in the grim conflict but he came home to be with them up to the last.But though they had the privilege of laying his last remains in God’s acre at home, he had died as the result of his faithful soldiership.Hating war with a bitter hatred, he did not hesitate when the call of duty came. Mr Shaw believed the deceased was the first amongst them to volunteer.After having received his training he went to the front and fulfilled his various duties in such a way that he won the respect and esteem of those with whom he served shoulder to shoulder.Those who watched him work and realised his fidelity and his unswerving devotion to duty were, no doubt, those who respected him most.He came of a noble ancestry in the best sense of the term, noble because of its fine character, its unsullied purity and goodness.He was brought up amongst them and his comrades were there that afternoon to pay a last
tribute to his memory.He had devoted to that church the gift of song with which he had been endowed and the gift of manipulating a musical instrument and he found joy in the service of God.On his discharge from the Army he had secured a position and the prospect which opened out before him was one which gladdened his friends.OpportunityHis opportunity had come and he was prepared for it and would, doubtless, have risen to honour in the commercial world.The feature of the deceased which struck Mr Shaw most was his winsomeness. He was a loveable personality and he made bright the homes into which he was accustomed to go.His love for little children was a beautiful trait in his character. He had given the strongest possible evidence of a real love for his fellows, for our Lord had said, “Greater love hath no man than that he should lay down his life for his friends.”There was never a greater need for fellowship, for winsomeness, for sympathy, for love than at present when we were constantly having to mourn with those who mourned because their dear ones too had laid down their lives for their fellows. Might they learn the lesson of the experience through which they were now passing.On behalf of the Church, congregation and Sunday School and of all represented at that service, Mr Shaw expressed heartfelt sympathy with Mr David Yates, his son, Miss Clark and all the relatives who were passing through an experience of sorrow on the death of their dear one, Willie Yates.Shipley Times & Express 15 June 1917