Val Ellis-Beech tells the story of her father's war experiences

He lay injured for three days
in 'No Man's Land'

GANGRENE had set in so his right leg had to be amputated a few inches below the hip.  

My father, Eric Elsworth Winterburn, was born in 1894. Also known as Dick, he was the second son and third child of a family of 10 children. He was a bright, intelligent boy, and after some years at the village school, his prowess reached the ears of the village squire, who recommended Dick for a free place at the nearby Grammar School.

However, family finances would not stretch to accommodate this, so Dick left the village school on his 13th birthday and started work on the next day as a farm boy on the squire’s estate.

He was an athletic young man who, just prior to the outbreak of the war in 1914, had a trial for Yorkshire cricket team, thought he never played for the county. Instead, on 1 December 1914 , nine days after his 20th birthday, he enlisted and was enrolled into the Royal Marines.

He saw service with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, in the Dardanelles from July 1915 to January 1916 and in France from May 1916 to April 1917. 

While he was in France he contracted a fever and was for some time dangerously or seriously ill in hospital there. He recovered and returned to the front where, on February 17, 1917, he sustained serious injury, receiving shrapnel wounds to the right leg and right arm.   

Fighting was heavy and he lay in ‘No Man’s Land’ for three days and nights before he could be rescued. During that time gangrene set in and subsequently his right leg was amputated a few inches below the hip.  

This led to another spell in hospital when his condition varied from dangerously to seriously ill and his mother was granted permission to travel to France to see him. Unfortunately, she contracted 'flu which turned to pneumonia and was unable to take advantage of the offer, though the family believe his eldest sister did go to see him.  

During the whole time he was in hospital, his mother received regular telegrams and postcards from the staff telling her of changes in his condition.  

She had two other sons in the armed forces and it is easy to imagine her feelings as the telegram boy appeared day after day at her door. 

Dick was invalided out on 3 February 1918 and was given a travel warrant to get him home and the sum of 20 shillings (known as Marching Money). He was also offered a free ‘demob’ suit, or a further sum of 17s7d
(17shillings and 7 pence - about 75p in modern money) if he did not choose to accept the suit. Being Dick, he settled for the 17s7d!

Dick never spoke of his wartime experiences at home, but for many years afterwards suffered from nightmares when we children would hear him shouting in his sleep.

He died after living a full, active and interesting life at the age of 80.  

Although Dick did not live in the village, I have lived here for 25 years and think of myself as Monktonian. I acted as village reporter for the Ripon Gazette for many years, was Clerk to the Governors at the school, and have helped with the Over 55s Lunch Club ever since it began. I have also held all three top positions in the Bishop Monkton WI , having in my time been Treasurer, Secretary and President.
I love Bishop Monkton. It is my home.


ON FRIDAY we will relate the experiences of Rowland Simpson, a stretcher bearer in The Great War.