Remembering the First World War fallen - George Bellas & Jasper Snowden
Two young men from Embsay died 100 years ago in the Great War – one a working class man, 24 years old, with a wife and 2 young children; the other a public school boy, just 20 , fresh from the Officer Cadet Corps.
George Schorah Bellas
Originally From Luddenfoot, Halifax, the son of George & Lydia (nee Schorah) Bellas.
His father, George Alderson Bellas, appears to have been a restless chap, starting life as a farm labourer, before becoming a railway labourer. He briefly joined the police force in the early 1890s, but resigned after 3 years, and returned to the railway. His job meant he was moved from one place to another, so the family was uprooted several times - from Luddenfoot near Halifax, to Mallerstang in Westmorland, and to Huddersfield. George was still only 6 years old when they came to live at The Fold on Pasture Road, in Embsay. The following year the family, including young George’s elder sister Gwendoline, and younger siblings, Ethel & Edgar, moved into a cottage at Centenary Place, but then moved again in 1908 to Main Street, before moving on again the following year to Station Cottages at Bolton Abbey. By 1911 however, George junior was living back in Embsay. He had been taken on as an apprentice by the Skipton grocer John Davy, and was boarding with two other grocer’s assistants at Bessie Mitton’s house at Cross End, just around the corner from Davy’s warehouse at the bottom of Kirk Lane.
George Scorah Bellas was just 20 when he married in St Mary’s Church, Embsay, in December 1913, to local girl, 22 year old Edith Wroe, a carter’s daughter. The wedding was just in time to make a respectable girl of Edith - their daughter Amy Ethel was born in August 1914.
George was a member of the Skipton Working Men’s Club, and the Skipton Branch of the Shop Assistants’ Union, but left the grocery business to work for the American Oil Company (the predecessor of Esso) in Skipton. Soon after, George and Edith moved to Settle, where George continued to work as a Tank Wagon Driver for the same company. But he couldn’t resist the call to arms, and on 2nd December 1915 he went to Keighley to enlist as a private into the West Riding Regimentt, 2nd Battalion, despite the fact that his wife was pregnant with her second child, George William, who was born the following August.
By the outbreak of the War his parents had moved to Skipton, and although they had several addresses over the next few decades, that’s where they settled down permanently. Soon after George enlisted, George’s wife left Settle, living in Skipton with her two little children.
George was wounded several times with gunshot wounds while serving in France, but his luck ran out when his unit were sent to relieve the 2nd Essex Regiment on the 9th February. On the evening before the 2nd Essex were due to return, and relieve the West Riding - 13th February 1917 - the British bombarded the German trenches. George was one of two men killed by the return of German artillery fire
He died having never seen his baby son. His young widow received a widow’s pension of 22s 11d per week. He is remembered on the Settle Cenotaph, the memorial at the Church of Holy Ascension in Settle, and on plaques in the Skipton Working Men’s Club, and in France on the Thiepval Memorial
George was 24 years old.
Jasper Whitfield Snowden
Born in 1896 in Heaton, Bradford, Jasper was from a very different background from George Bellas.
He was the son of Edward and Ellen Snowden, and the grandson of the Reverend John Snowdon, vicar of Ilkley. Jasper’s father was the manager of a silk factory, and being for a short period at Rock View Terrace, then lived with his wife Ellen at The Garth in Embsay, with Jasper and his 3 sisters.
After briefly attending Bradford Grammar School, Jasper was sent in 1909 to public school at Rossall near Fleetwood, Lancashire, considered to be one of the best academic schools in England. Jasper enjoyed sport, photography and natural history, winning prizes from the RSPB for his essays on birdlife. The school had a strong interest in military training, and ran a very large and active Officer Training Corps. Jasper was to become one of 297 old boys from the Rossall OTC who died in World War One, many of whom, like Jasper, were barely out of school when they joined up. Indeed, Jasper was with his cadet corps at Tidworth, a military training camp, when the war broke out. He wasted no time enlisting in the Worcestershire Regiment, which was stationed at Tidworth at that time.
His wartime experience was very varied, and he would have been in fierce fighting under a range of harsh conditions, from the Flanders mud to the unique hell of Gallipoli, and the deserts of the Middle East. In February 1915 he went to France and was wounded the neck and forehead by sniper fire in May.
The following September he was sent to the Dardenelles, where he was hospitalised with dysentery. Re-joining his battalion in Egypt, and later in Mesopotamia (roughly equivalent to modern-day Iraq), he was wounded again in April 1916 during the attempted relief of General Townsend (the British made several disastrous attempts to rescue the British & Indian troops held under siege since December 1915 by the Turks at Kut – General Townsend eventually had to surrender on 29 April 1916). Jasper spent several months convalescing in India, and gained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant before returning to fight in the battle of the Tigris against the Turks, in January 1917. There he was killed in action on Feb 25th, just a month before the British finally secured Baghdad.
Despite his youth, he had the foresight to draw up a will – the 20 year old bequeathed an estate of just over £93 to his father, who continued to live at The Garth until his death in 1926.
The Basra Memorial in Iraq, where Jasper was commemorated, is now in the middle of the Middle Eastern war zone, and was destroyed in the fighting there during 2013. At home he is commemorated on Embsay War memorial, on the brass plaque in St Mary’s Church, and by a brass plaque in Ilkley parish church, placed there in 1925 by his parents on the anniversary of his death.
Jane Lunnon (Embsay Research Group)