William Henry Kitson enlisted in the West Yorkshire Regiment in 1899.
He was born in a very poor part of Sheffield. He was ‘a carter’ when he enlisted, according to his army records.
By 1913, after serving in South Africa and India, he was Company Sergeant Major.
He went with the West Yorkshire Regiment 1st Battalion to France on 08.09.1914 but was injured (at Aisne Heights?) and taken prisoner on 22.09.1914. He was shot in the neck.
His wife, Ellen, was informed he was missing, presumed dead. They had been married since February 1912 and had a 16-month old daughter.
William Kitson was a prisoner in a number of POW camps in Germany. He was in the camps for 3 years and 2 months.
He was brought to Switzerland by the Red Cross on 27.11.1917 and was there until 08.12.1918 when he returned to England and to a 5 year old child who didn’t know him – the way of many soldiers. At least he returned, thanks considerably to the Swiss Red Cross.
William went on to be RSM and claimed discharge from the army after 24 years’ service in 1923. He and Ellen had six children altogether.
He died in Sheffield in 1944 with another war on and all his children serving, except the youngest, Patricia (15 when he died).
Patricia (Pat) is my mother. She remembers her father showing her a book of pressed alpine flowers from Switzerland, when she felt poorly as a child. A small trophy – for coming ‘deuxieme’ in a sport tournament – and engraved as taking place at Chateau d’Oex in 1917 – is what first alerted me to my grandfather’s time in the Swiss Alps.
Copyright Frances Byrnes and other grandchildren. May 2016.