14 January 1917: 2nd Lieut. George Allan Exley

George Exley was born Leeds, 2 July 1893

Location of Leeds in the north of England (cc OpenStreetMap)

He was the only son of John Exley of Farr Road, a pharmaceutical chemist, and his wife Mary Elizabeth.

George was living on Cemetery Road, Holbeck (1901 Census) and then at the 1911 Census, on Farr Royd, Burley-in-Wharfedale.

Ilkley Grammar School

George went to Ilkley Grammar School, and was a student at the London College of Pharmacy, Clapham at the outbreak of the war. He had planned to join his father’s pharmaceutical firm, Messrs G. Exley & Son, Hunslet Lane, Leeds. 

Royal Engineers Despatch Rider. From a collection of 18 photograph postcards collected by 316956 Sapper Harold Wilbert, Royal Engineers Despatch Rider, 1917-1919 NAM. 1991-02-138-16 © National Army Museum (2022)

George joined the Royal Engineers as a despatch rider in May 1915. He obtained a commission August 1915 in the 5th Bn Kings's Own Royal Light Infantry, then in December 1915 transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as an observer and served with the BEF in France and Flanders from January 1916. He flew often and had frequent contact with enemy planes recording two enemy planes shot down.

George was on leave in the autumn of 1916 and qualified for his pilot’s certificate that September and took further advanced flying courses. 

George returned to France 30 December 1916 and joined 29th Squadron. He was killed near Arras 14 January 1917 when his plane was lost in fog, came too close to the ground and hit a tree. Men rushed from a nearby aerodrome but he was found to be dead. 

Habarcq Communal Cemetery Extension (c) CWGC 2022

He is buried in Habarcq Communal Cemetery Extension

His death was reported in the Leeds Mercury 23 January.

14 January 1917: 2nd Lieut. George Allan Exley, 3/5th (Reserve) Bn. The King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry. Attd RFC.

14 January 1917

Research by Jonathan Vernon.

Sources: England Census 1901, 1911, De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, CWGC, British Newspaper Archive, Leeds Mercury.