"To Keep in Memory"

Gunner Henry Botham, Royal Garrison Artillery

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Henry Botham was a 30 years old farmer when he attested for the Army on 9th December 1915. He had spent his whole life on farms and in farming. His father George was a farm foreman at the time of the 1891 census and the family of George and Elizabeth Botham were living in the farming country of East Yorkshire in a village called Southburn close to Driffield. Aged 5, Henry is described as a scholar. He was the eldest of three sons, Fred and William being older and younger than Laura their sister. Ten years later when the 1901 census was taken, Henry had left home and gone into service on a farm in Kirkburn which is a short distance from Southburn. As a young man of 16 years, he was now described as a horseman on the farm. Like the Johnson family from Lower Barnbow Farm who were also from Driffield, Henry Botham came to the Scholes area to work on the land. By the time of his enlistment, Henry Botham was a farmer in his own right at Whinmoor.

 

The marriage of Elizabeth Ellen Thompson and Henry Botham took place in late 1913 in Hunslet in south Leeds. Elizabeth was the daughter of John and Clara Thompson who had lived in Tadcaster when their children were born. John Thompson’s occupation is given on the census for 1901, however it is unclear, but given their address at Mill House it is likely to be connected to the mill.

 

Henry Botham joined the Army under the ‘Derby Scheme’ which was introduced as a means of countering the receding rates of voluntary enlistment and attempting to eradicate under-age enlistment. Under the Derby Scheme, a man could attest for the Army and have a general choice of which regiment or corps he would go to when mobilised or called up. It was a stepping stone move from the wholly voluntary enlistment system which had been employed prior to the war up until late 1915 and compulsory conscription. In the era of the white feather Derby Scheme recruits were issued with a grey armband bearing a red crown to signify that although the man was not yet in uniform, he had made the choice to serve.

 

When Henry Botham was called up in June 1916 he had to travel to Great Yarmouth to join his depot which was No. 4 Depot, Royal Garrison Artillery. The Royal Garrison Artillery operated the heaviest of the guns that were used during the war. They were because of their size, less mobile than their Field Artillery counterparts. It is not clear from his record when Gunner Botham was sent out to a theatre of war, but his medal index card shows that he had an entitlement of the British War Medal and Victory Medal pair. He was transferred to Class ‘Z’ or the Army Reserve at Dover on 21st November 1919. 

Remembering the Fallen of Two Villages on the Eastern Fringes of Leeds.

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