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John Coates

John Coates was born in the third quarter of 1889 at Full Sutton and his birth registered at Pocklington. He was the sixth son of Thomas Coates. Thomas was the son of a reasonably prosperous farmer in Topcliffe, and by the age of 27 he describes his occupation as Manufacturer’s Clerk of Cloth. By then he was married to Emma and they had two children, though they were still living with his parents.  During the next few years they moved to Batley and then to Harrogate but by 1871, at the age of 37 he is already a “retired Woollen manufacturer,” they have moved to  Sutton Villa in Full Sutton and they have a further four children.  Emma died in 1875 at the age of 35 and Thomas married Ann Kirby in the first quarter of 1875 in the York area. In 1891 the family is all living at Sutton Villa and Ann has borne Thomas a further four children.

1891 Census – resident at Full Sutton, Fridaythorpe
COATES, Thomas, Head, Married, M, 57, Retired Woollen Manufacturer, Topcliffe Yorkshire,
COATES, Ann, Wife, Married, F, 41, , Skirpenbeck Yorkshire,
COATES, Emily, Daughter, Single, F, 28, , Batley Yorkshire,
COATES, Mary A, Daughter, Single, F, 22, , Harrogate Yorkshire,
COATES JUNR, Thomas, Son, Single, M, 19, Scholar At College, Full Sutton Yorkshire,
COATES, Ethel, Daughter, , F, 10, Scholar, Full Sutton Yorkshire,
COATES, Alfred, Son, , M, 8, Scholar, Full Sutton Yorkshire,
COATES, Maurice, Son, , M, 6, Scholar, Full Sutton Yorkshire,
COATES, John, Son, , M, 1, , Full Sutton Yorkshire,
CLARK, Sarah, Servant, , F, 22, Cook Domestic, Skirpenbeck Yorkshire,
THOMAS, Ellen, Servant, , F, 19, Nurse Domestic, Shipton Yorkshire Thorpe

By 1901 Thomas and Ann have moved to Harrogate and his son Thomas had married and become a prep. school teacher in Malvern. John was boarding with him – presumably attending the school. At this time his older brother Maurice was a pupil at Oundle School, and it is likely that John also was educated there.

1901 Census – resident at Cherborg, Great Malvern, Worcestershire
COATES, Thomas, Head, Married, M, 29, Preparatory Schoolmaster, Full Sutton Yorkshire,
COATES, Georgina L, Wife, Married, F, 30, , Bedford,
COATES, Ronald G, Son, Single, M, 3, , Malvern Worcestershire,
COATES, Donald J, Son, Single, M, 1, , Malvern Worcestershire,
COATES, Emily, Sister, Single, F, 38, , Harrogate Yorkshire,
ALISON, Archibald, Boarder, Single, M, 12, , West Indes Bermuda,
ALISON, George, Boarder, Single, M, 11, , West Indes Bermuda,
BREARLEY, Morris, Boarder, Single, M, 14, , Batley Yorkshire,
BREARLEY, Thomas, Boarder, Single, M, 12, , Batley Yorkshire,
CHURCHOUSE, King, Boarder, Single, M, 13, , Long Buckby Northamptonshire,
COATES, John, Boarder, Single, M, 11, , Full Sutton Yorkshire,

Ten years on, John had moved back to the East Riding and was boarding at 42 Langton Road, Norton. On the night of the census, Maurice was staying with him and they were both employed as bank clerks – John, at least, working for the Malton Branch of Barclay’s Bank.

1911 Census - resident at Elmdene, Wold Road, Norton (42 Langton Road)
COATES, John, Boarder, Single, M, 21, Banker's Clerk, Yorkshire Full Sutton,
COATES, Maurice, Visitor, Single, M, 26, Banker's Clerk, Yorkshire Full Sutton,
TINDALL, Emma, Head, Single, F, 56, Private Means, Yorkshire Knapton,
CUNDELL, Eliza, Boarder, Widow, F, 62, Private Means, Yorkshire Knapton,
SMITH, Edith, Servant, Single, F, 18, Domestic Servant, Yorkshire Norton,

If he was in the 1/1/ Yeomanry they embarked on 27th October 1915 for Salonika. En route the destination was altered and by the end of November the regiment had arrived at Cairo. They remained in Egypt/Palestine theatre until May 1918.  By this time they were trained as machine gunners and it was in this role that they landed at Marseilles for service in France, moving intially to Etaples. On the 17th August 1918 the unit was renamed 102 Battalion MGC.

However if John was in this unit it is surprising that the Malton Messenger made no mention of service in the middle East but implies that he went directly to France from England. If this is so, it may be that he was in 2/1st East Riding Yeomanry, which was formed in September 1914 as a "second line" (training, draft-supplying reserve) for the 1/1st . In July 1916 it was converted into a cyclist unit and in April 1918 the brigade moved to Ireland, with the regiment at Bandon and Fermoy to the end of the war.  This of course does not fit with his posting to France but the War diary of the 11th East Yorkshires contains a tantalising snippet in the commanding officers’ account of an action on 12th July 1918:

“So ended a very novel little battle; novel in its inception and in many of its incidents – chiefly perhaps in the youth of those who took part in it, most of whom were little more than boys, while again a detachment of a cyclist corps, who had been attached to me for training in the line, had a quite unexpected adventure, to which I may add the took like ducks to water”  It seems at least possible that it was in this context that John was attached to 11th East Yorkshires – the timing fits with the article in the Messenger.

In the second quarter of 1916 he married Margery Megginson in the Driffield area and on 1st August 1917 the London Gazette reported that he was promoted from Cadet to 2nd Lieutenant in the Yeomanry.


According to the Messenger he had been in the East Riding of Yorkshire Yeomanry for some time and rejoined at the outbreak of war. A keen athlete, he had for some years captained the Malton Hockey Club.

He was part of the “D” squadron of the yeomanry based at Driffield and so presumably was part of the 1/1 East Riding Yeomanry. Almost certainly he was among the men who left Malton in August 1914 for Driffield either by train or by motor cycle. “The men were under the command of 2nd Lieutenant H. Watson Pearson and appeared extremely enthusiastic and in the best of spirits” Certainly he is listed as among those who had already left Malton by 5th September.

However he may have got there we do know that by August 1918 he was attached to the 11th Battalion of the East Yorkshire regiment, near Le Grand Hasard.

“On the night 14/15th August “B” Company was relieved by “A” company and moved forwards ready for the minor operation which began 4.30 a.m. 15th in conjunction with the 10th E. Yorks R. on the left and 1 platoon of the KOYLI on our right. Patrols under 2/LT WRIGHT and 2/LT COATES crawled forward and took up positions… where they were held up by heavy machine gun fire. Both officers being killed and all the NCOs of 2/LT WRIGHT’s party being casualties, Pte POTTAGE took command of this latter and consolidated his position.” A small advance was made over the course of the day.

John’s body was recovered and he was buried in Le Grand Hasard Military cemetery in Morbeque. He is commemorated in St Michael’s church and on the Town Memorial.