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Clarence Norton

Private Clarence Norton, 20986, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 2nd Battalion

Clarence Norton was born in Leeds in late 1885, the son of Edwin Norton and his wife, Rebecca (nee Fawbert), who married in Leeds in late 1878. In 1891 Edwin and Rebecca were living in Burley, Leeds with six children who were all under the age of 11 and still at school. By 1901, the Norton family had moved to Ryecroft Street, Ossett and Clarence, then aged 15 years was working as a coal miner. His elder brother, James Norton was a soldier in 1901, but he was back working and married in Leeds by 1911.

Clarence Norton was 25 years of age when he married 23 year-old spinster Ellen Maud Rhodes at Ossett Holy Trinity Church on the 8th October 1910. Clarence was living at Ryecroft Street and Ellen was living at Naylor Street, Street Side, Ossett. By 1911 Leeds-born coal miner Clarence Norton was living at Naylor Street, Ossett with his wife, Ellen Maud and their son Fred born in Ossett in February 1911. The couple had two more children: Harry Norton born in 1912 and Annie Norton born in 1914. Clarence's parents, Edwin and Rebecca Norton continued to live at Ryecroft Street, Ossett.

Clarence Norton’s army service record has not survived, but it is known that he enlisted at Dewsbury and subsequently joined the 2nd Battalion of KOYLI with service number 20986. He embarked for France on the 28th April 1915 and was killed in action nine days later on the 7th May 1915.

Private Clarence Norton was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals and also the 1914/15 Star to acknowledge his service overseas prior to 31st December 1915.

Clarence’s father, Edwin died in early 1917, aged 64 years. In late 1920, Clarence Norton's widow Ellen Maud, a mother of three young children, remarried Willie Day in the Dewsbury Registration District. A daughter, Ruth Day, was born in early 1921.

The 2nd Battalion, The King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry were in Dublin with 13th Brigade, 5th Division when war broke out in August 1914. They proceeded to France with the BEF and landed at Le Havre on the 16th of August 1914. They were in action in The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, The Battle of Le Cateau, The Battle of the Marne, The Battle of the Aisne, The Battles of La Bassee and Messines and The First Battle of Ypres.

In 1915 they were in action at The Second Battle of Ypres and the Capture of Hill 60. In autumn 1915, the Battalion was one of the units of 5th Division which were exchanged with units from the newly arrived volunteer 32nd Division, to stiffen the inexperienced Division with regular army troops, on the 28th of December 1915 they transferred to 97th Brigade in 32nd Division.

In 1916 they were in action during the Battles of the Somme 1916, In 1917 they were involved in Operations on the Ancre and the pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line. In 1918 they were in action on the Somme and in the Battles of the Hindenburg Line and the Final Advance in Picardy.

The 2nd Battalion of KOYLI was involved in the Battle of St Julien between the 24th April and 5th May 1915, when Private Norton was most likely wounded or possibly gassed and he died a few days later on the 7th May 195, just nine days after arriving in France.

St. Julien during WW1

Above: The road from St. Julien to Ypres during the WW1.

Private Clarence Norton, aged 29 years, son of Edwin and Rebecca Norton, of Ryecroft Street, Ossett; husband of Ellen Maud Day (formerly Norton), of 30, Victoria Rd., Dewsbury, died on the 7th May 1915. He is remembered on Panel 47 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, 1 Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Ypres (now Ieper) is a town in the Province of West Flanders. The Memorial is situated at the eastern side of the town on the road to Menin (Menen) and Courtrai (Kortrijk).

The Menin Gate is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.

The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.

There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele.

The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September. The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates casualties from the forces of Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and United Kingdom who died in the Salient. In the case of United Kingdom casualties, only those prior 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. New Zealand casualties that died prior to 16 August 1917 are commemorated on memorials at Buttes New British Cemetery and Messines Ridge British Cemetery.

The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial now bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site