Captain George Clifford Whitaker
Born. Leeds, 20th January 1888.
George Clifford Whitaker was the youngest son of Matthew Whitaker, a stone mason and railway contractor of "The Prospect", Horsforth, Leeds. He was educated at Ilkley Grammar School and on leaving school chose engineering as his profession.
He also served for 2 years with the 5th Battalion (Territorial), The Kings Own Light Infantry. A fine athlete and standing 6ft 4ins in height, he played as a forward for Headingley (Leeds) Rugby Union Football Club.
When war broke out he enlisted into the "Pals" as a private soldier but because of his service with the "Terriers", was given a temporary commission as a Lieutenant with the battalion. He was promoted to Captain on 1st May 1915 and placed in command of the recruiting party. This included 2nd Lieutenant Major William Booth, Roy Kilner and Arthur Dolphin, three well known Yorkshire and England Cricketers.
THE RECRUITING PARTY JUNE 1915
Front row left to right, Private Kilner, Sergeant Booth, Captain Whitaker, Sergeant Jones, Private Dolphin.
He served with the "pals" at Colsterdale, Egypt and in France.
On the 5th May 1915, his cousin, Lieutenant Charles Frederick Whitaker was killed in action with the 3rd Battalion Duke of Wellingtons Regiment. He also had an older brother serving with the West Yorks Regiment.
On the 1st July 1916, Captain Whitaker, along with Lieutenant S.M. Bickersteth, 2nd in command of C Company, were killed in action along with so many young officers and men of the battalion.
A report on the 6th July 1916 by the Yorkshire Evening Post stated:
"He was engaged to Miss Mary Hamilton, youngest daughter of Mr J.B. Hamilton, the Leeds Tramways Manager. And was to be married on his next leave".
A letter to his parents from the Pals Chaplain contained the following:
"I have asked several about him and they all say how splendid he was, he led his company over the parapet and was soon hit, he got up and continued to lead his men until hit a second time. He has not been seen since and it is no doubt that he was killed……I sympathise with you deeply. He was a great leader of men, he died a hero and a true Englishman"
On the 28th February 1917, when the Germans abandoned Serre, the "Pals" took the opportunity to search the 1st of July battleground. Among the Officers they identified were Captain Whitaker and 2nd Lieutenant M W Booth.
Captain Whitaker was buried, along with a few of his comrades in Sailly Au Bois Military Cemetery, France.
In his memoirs, after the War Private Arthur V Pearson Wrote:
"Months afterwards, when he (the Germans) had abandoned Serre, a party of "Old Boys" were sent up to the old sector we had attacked over and we identified several bodies. One was our company commander (Captain Whitaker). We put what was left of him into a sandbag and carried him down to a cemetery. We had the Padre with us and he read the burial service as we buried him."