Remembering Pte William Thomas ‘Tot’ Dinsdale

‘Granddad was never the same man again. He was gassed [mustard gas] towards the end of the war. When the Armistice came he was in a hospital somewhere in the Midlands. He was there for a long time. He just got out before the hospital was decimated by Spanish Flue,’ said John Dinsdale of Hawthorn Farm, Thornton Rust. (John is the chairman of Aysgarth and District Parish Council). He continued:

‘Granddad went back to farming at Sedbusk but he was never a fit man. He was always short of breath. If he did anything strenuous he was jiggered. When the lads [his sons] got to be 12 or 13 they did most of the work.

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Above: Tot and Charlotte Anne Dinsdale with their children l-r Thomas (John’s father and also known as ‘Tot’), Alice, Jim, Dorothy, Jack and Margaret.

Below: The kettle presented to Tot Dinsdale by High Abbotside Parish Council in recognition of his service during WW1

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Pte Dinsdale fought with the 1/4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment throughout most of the war apart from when he was recovering from being wounded, John said.

‘He joined up at Hawes when they first started recruiting – I think there were 15 or 16 of them from the Upper Dale and then they all marched to Leyburn with the rest from the Dale. He thought it was the right thing to do. He was 19 or 20.’

The 4th Yorkshires first experience of trench warfare was during the Battle of Ypres from April to June 1915. The front line battles the battalion was involved with included Armentieres from August to December 1915, the Somme from August to November 1916, Ypres October 1917 (Tot returned to the battalion in time for Passchendaele) to February 1918, and Aisne in May 1918.

At Aisne on May 27 1918 the battalion and others fighting alongside it was decimated by a massive German attack. That was the end of the 4th Yorkshires as a fighting unit during WW1. (from 4thYorkshires.com).

Like many others who returned home after the war Tot found it difficult to talk to anyone about it other than those who had also fought in the trenches. The two he turned to were Anthony and Jack Fawcett, his brothers-in-law, from High Abbotside.

John said: ‘They would go into the far room and shut the door. I’m pretty certain they were talking about the war but as soon as anyone went in they shu7t up. They never talked to us about it. But granddad did talk to my Uncle Ernie – his son-in-law.’ (Ernest Metcalfe)

Anthony ‘Ant’ Fawcett was given a small book of Common Prayer and Hymns Ancient and Modern by his sister Annie (later Mrs Pratt) in February 1914 and he carried that with him throughout the war. From the state of the pages it is obvious that he read some of the hymns a lot such as No230. (See Penny Barker’s address in Remembrance Service at Aysgarth Church)

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Family photo courtesy John Dinsdale. Other photos by Pip Pointon.

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