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Varty, I., Pte., 1917

Hooge Crater Cemetery: Pauline Priano

Hooge Crater Cemetery: Pauline Priano

In Hooge Crater Cemetery, Zillebeke, near Ypres, Belgium, is the Commonwealth War Grave of 28033 Private Isaac Varty serving with the 20th Battalion Durham Light Infantry who died 21/09/1917.

Pauline Priano has submitted the following:-

Isaac Varty, one of 6 children, all of whom survived, was the eldest of 3 sons and had 2 elder and 1 younger sister. His father John Varty was born 1864 at Allendale, Northumberland, and brought by his family to County Durham between 1871 and 1881. In 1881 they were living at 2, Logan Houses Kyo, John (16) and his father Isaac were employed as coal miners.

John Varty was still single and by 1891had moved with his family to 8, St James Street, Tanfield, all the male members of the family worked at the colliery. He met Barbara Reid, born September 28th 1867 at Lanchester, County Durham, they were married in Castle Ward, Morpeth in 1892, however, they settled at West Stanley and it was here their daughter Margaret was born, January 6th 1894, Isaac 1896, Elizabeth Annie 1899 and James Reid Varty February 7th 1901 were born at Tantobie. John supported his family employed as an engine driver at the colliery whilst they were living at Library Houses, Tantobie, and over the next 10 years his wife gave birth to a further 2 children, William, June 22nd 1903 and Barbara Mary, December 5th 1908. By 1911 they had moved into 3 rooms at 7, Allen Square, Tanfield Lea. Isaac although only 14 years of age had joined his father at the pit working as a miner assisting his father to support his mother and siblings.

War was declared with Germany in 1914, Isaac was 19 years and 6 months old when he enlisted for the duration of the war at Chester-le-Street, November 27th 1916, Attested as Private 28033 Durham Light Infantry he was transferred to the Reserve Services the following day free to return to his home at High Hill Pelton Colliery and his employment as a colliery labourer until his mobilisation, January 20th 1916 when he was posted to the 21st (Reserve) Battalion D.L.I. He departed with his regiment as part of the British Expeditionary Force from Southampton, May 4th 1916, landing at Le Havre, France, May 5th. At the Infantry Base Depot he was posted to the 20th Battalion, joining them in the field in Belgium where they remained until September 1916 when they moved south to the Somme as part of the 41st Division. They entered the fighting, September 14th 1916, at Flers- Courcelette sustaining losses over the next 2 days due to the heavy shell-fire and were withdrawn in reserve. During these rest periods the men spent time cleaning their weapons and re-equipping. October 1st 1916 they returned to the front line at Gueudecourt before being ordered back to Belgium.

The men spent the winter of 1916-1917 patrolling no-man’s land, repairing damaged and digging new trenches, still subjected to shell-fire, by January of 1917, their numbers were greatly reduced. Of the 1,000 men who had landed in France in May 1916 only 450 had survived. Despite their reduced numbers they fought in the trenches at Messines in June 1917 and July 31st during the opening day of the Third Battle of Ypres.

After a few weeks of rest and retraining the battalion participated during the Battle of Menin Road, September 20th-25th 1917 suffering more than 300 casualties. Private 28033 Isaac Varty Durham Light Infantry was reported as missing, regarded as killed in action or died of wounds on or since September 21st 1917. His next of kin were informed.

After the declaration of the Armistice, November 11th 1918, at the request of the French and Belgian Governments small concentrations of graves were brought into larger cemeteries as well as the clearing of the battlefields. At map reference J. 20. d. 5. 2. remains were found without a cross bearing details of recognition. Once exhumed by means of a wallet and photos they were identified as those of Private Varty. June 7th 1919, he, as well as soldier 203970 Abbott, Bedfordshire Regiment and 24 unidentified British soldiers found at various locations, were brought into Hooge Crater Cemetery, Zillebeke, near Ypres, Belgium, for re-burial with military honours by an Army chaplain. Private Varty is at rest grave VII. E. 11, at the time of his demise in 1917 he was 21 years of age and single.

John Varty received all monies due to his son, his wallet and photos also Isaac’s awards of the British War Medal and Victory Medal sent to hm at Pine Cottage, High Hold, Pelton, County Durham.

Three years after their son’s death and one year after the retrieval of his remains, his parents, due to the vast undertaking of releasing information, were still awaiting news of Isaac’s final resting place. His mother wrote a letter to the Records Office, November 24th 1920, in response to a letter received from them, it reads, “Dear Sirs, A few days ago we received a notification from you on form No. D.L.I. 8184 regarding the late Pte. Isaac Varty 28033, 20th Batt. D.L.I. Towards the end of this notification we were told a separate leaflet dealing with the object of the soldier’s burial would be found enclosed. This leaflet was not found to be enclosed and we would be very much obliged if you would forward the said leaflet in the short term. I am, Yours truly, B Reid Varty.”

Once details were obtained his mother commissioned at a cost of 6 shillings 8 pence an additional inscription to be added to his military headstone, it reads, ”He Giveth His Beloved Sleep.”

John Varty died aged 61 years in 1926, his widow Barbara Varty nee Reid in 1950 aged 82 years. Details of their surviving children; Elizabeth Annie Varty died at Gateshead in 1935 aged 36 years, Margaret Varty at Durham aged 77 years, William Varty aged 70 years in 1973 at Durham, James Reid Varty aged 74 years in 1975 at Chester-le-Street and Barbara Mary Hugill nee Varty, January 27th 1985 aged 77 years, at 8, Ataulfo de Paiva, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

In God’s safe keeping. Rest In Peace.

Isaac Varty is remembered at West Pelton on W112.01

He is also remembered in The DLI Book of Remembrance page 257 and in the Battalion History

The CWGC entry for Private Varty

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk