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William Sunley was born on 10th January 1880 in Malton according to his attestation papers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force and his sister K. Jamieson was living in Coxhoe, County Durham. He signed up on 23rd August 1914 at Regina, Saskatchewan. He was 5’ 9”” tall with brown hair and blue eyes and had an Orange emblem tattooed on his chest.
K. Jamieson is actually Catherine (Kate) Jemmeson and was married to George Francis Jemmeson iin 1901 , the brother of Aaron Jemmeson (qv). In the 1901 Census, shortly after her marriage she is staying with her widowed mother, Jane at 69 Town Street. Living with them is William Dobson born in Scarborough and Jane’s grandson who is the same age as our William.
1901 census – resident at 69 Town Street, Malton
SUNLEY, Jane, Head, Widow, F, 71, , Malton, Yorkshire,
DOBSON, William, Grand Son, Single, M, 21, Boot & Shoemaker, Scarborough, Yorkshire,
JEMMESON, Kate, Daughter, Married, F, 30, , Malton, Yorkshire,
William had been living with his grandparents at 69 Town Street since 1881
1881 census – resident at Town Street, Old Malton
SUNLEY, John, Head, Married, M, 45, Painter (Journeyman), New Malton, Yorkshire,
SUNLEY, Jane, Wife, Married, F, 48, , Old Malton, Yorkshire,
SUNLEY, Mary, Daughter, Single, F, 16, Dressmaker, Old Malton, Yorkshire,
SUNLEY, Catherine, Daughter, Single, F, 12, Scholar, Old Malton, Yorkshire,
DOBSON, William, Grand Son, Single, M, 1, , Scarbro, Yorkshire,
1891 census – resident at Town Street, Old Malton
SUNLEY, John, Head, Married, M, 55, Painter, New Malton, Yorkshire,
SUNLEY, Jane, Wife, Married, F, 60, , Old Malton, Yorkshire,
DOBSON, William, Grandson, , M, 11, Scholar, Scarborough, Yorkshire,
In the 1871 Census we find Fanny Dobson, an elder daughter of John and Jane but born before their marriage, who is presumably William’s mother. It is tempting to suspect that William Sunley is the same person as William Dobson and the illegitimate son of Fanny Dobson , herself the illegitimate daughter of John and Jane Sunley, and that after his grandparents’ death he adopted their surname.
His death was reported in Malton Messenger, as Sgt W. Sunley, Old Malton, killed in action. “The deceased was formerly employed by Messrs Leatham’s, Malton and subsequently went to Canada. On the outbreak of war he gave up his farm and went to France with the Canadian soldiers”. He enlisted in No. 7 Platoon, "B" Coy., 28th Btn Canadian Infantry.
The 28th (North-
The days of early September were ones of feverish preparation, when so much had to be learned in a minimum space of time, when the men seized eagerly every opportunity of acquainting themselves with the many details of a big offensive. It was a new feature to explain minutely the exact meaning of plans and objectives to every man-
Within a few days of arriving in the Somme valley, the 2nd Canadian Division was called upon to move up to the battle-
The main objective of the Canadian infantry was to be the village of Courcelette, a heap of ruins, but a dominant factor in the German defence line and the key to the strong hostile positions beyond it. The capture of the village was to be accomplished in two swift, bold strokes. The first of these embraced the heavily manned approaches to Courcelette -
The date selected for the attack was September 15th -
The Battalion War Diary does not record any action on 14th September and they had actually only seen their first hostilities after a period of training near Omer the day before when the War diary records enemy shelling of the transport lines with no casualties .
By 4:20 in the morning of the 15th the attacking units of the 6th Brigade, 27th on the right, 28th on the left, were ready for action. On the left of them were the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles, attacking on the 3rd Division front. On both flanks again, Canadian units linked up with British regiments co-
The bombardment which paved the way for the assaulting waves of Canadians was a triumph for the British artillery and the 28th and their companion units began to move forward. By 7:40 a.m., every objective had been gained-
Advanced posts were pushed out towards, and even into, the village of Courcelette, and the enemy's reserve strength was gauged by skilful and daring reconnaissance by battalion and company scouts. Meanwhile, the 4th Infantry Brigade, on the right, had also gained their objectives with comparative ease, overrunning the Sugar Refinery south-
The battalion was relieved on the night of the 15th, and marched towards Albert and rest billets for a period of recuperation. A private in the 10th Platoon wrote to a friend who was a Prisoner of War already “Well, we went into reserves and for a couple of days we did nothing but lounge around. We took a walk through Albert to see the statue of the Madonna and the infant Jesus. It hung right over the road, and it is marvellous how long it stayed there without being hit. The French people used to say that when it fell the war would end, but it has been down some time and the war is not over yet. They put us on fatigues and working parties for a few days and then we were moved up to the supports.
We were told that we were going over the top early next morning assisted by tanks. Now, tanks had not been used up to this time and they were the surprise of the war. We hadn't heard one word about them and we were crazy to know what they were like, so our officer told us where we would find one, and away we went to see it. When we got there it was covered with a tarpaulin, but the officer in charge took the sheet off and let us have a good look at it and such a queer looking monster as it was! It looked like a cross between an elephant (without his baggage) and a mud turtle. We bombarded the officer with questions, but he wouldn't answer many of them; only he said that nothing but a direct hit with a six-
Well, we went in on the night of the 14th of September, 1916, and as I had been wounded in the knee the day before I was limping along with the other boys when, whiz-
By this time all the Germans in sight had either been killed or taken prisoners, and a whole bunch were being herded back to our lines. The German guns were dropping heavies on the ground we had left, and as the prisoners went back they were caught in their own shell fire and a lot were killed.
From the start the tanks had been doing great work, walking over machine guns and killing hundreds with their own machine gun fire. The Germans were scared stiff and absolutely demoralized. One band, with more courage than the rest, gathered round a tank and tried to bomb it with hand grenades, but they met with no success, for the bombs either bounded off or exploded harmlessly against the steel sides. Finding their efforts useless they surrendered to the tank crew. While all this was going on, I was busy carrying messages between the gun crews and Headquarters. I was on the go all day and though the German shell fire was heavy, my luck was with me, and I didn't get hit once. Bink was dispatch runner for his company, and I passed him several times and he told me about the boys, as he was with them more than I. The last time I met him, he said, "Bob, Tommy's killed." "Tommy!" said I, almost too stunned to speak. "Yes," said he, "I was passing along the trench and had just jumped over a body when I thought the clothes looked familiar and I turned the body over, and there was poor Tommy; he had been shot through the chest by a sniper. I took charge of his things, and I'll send them to his people when I get out again." After Bink left me, I tried to realize that Tommy was gone, but I couldn't believe that my chum and bedfellow was really dead. It seemed so hard when he had only been back from hospital a few days. Well, I had no time to sit down and think, things were getting too warm.
At six o'clock that evening General Byng decided to throw in the third division, who had been held in reserve. I watched them as they came over, and it was a great sight. The 42nd Highlanders were in the lead, and they came in long lines with their bayonets fixed. The Germans spotted them as soon as they came over the ridge and immediately turned their guns on them, but they came on steadily in spite of their losses, over the top of us, and into the Hun lines. They cleaned up what was left of the Germans and established themselves firmly in Courcelette. The French Canadians had been holding Courcelette all day, but had lost heavily.
Well, that night we went back in reserve; we were all in, and we staggered along till we got to the brick fields at Albert. There we had our bivouacs and we turned in. Next morning I went over to see Bink, and we felt pretty blue. Tommy, Flare-
It is tempting to wonder whether “Flare-
William died on 14th September 1916 and has no marked grave. He is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial, the official memorial to all Canadian soldiers who lost their lives in the First World War.