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Robert Yule (1873-1916)

Bandmaster at Earl’s House Industrial School who served in the DLI

Robert Yule was born in Neville’s Cross in 1873. His father was John Yule, a general labourer, originally from Scotland. Robert was the oldest of three children listed on the 1881 census along with one sister and one brother. In 1881 the family were living at Stephenson Street in Tynemouth. Robert’s father is listed as unemployed at this time.

Robert married Elizabeth Davidson from Berwick-Upon Tweed on 24 August 1899. By the time of the 1901 census he and his wife were living at Sniperley Farm in Witton Gilbert. Robert was employed as the bandmaster at Earl’s House Industrial School, a job he held from 1898. Earl’s House Industrial school took boys which had been sent there by a magistrate for either committing petty crimes, truancy or from being from ‘unsuitable’ home environments. The school taught them trades to help them find employment when they left the school at 16. Music was heavily encouraged at the school, with band membership seen as an occupation with many boys joining army bands after leaving school.

Newspaper articles from the time suggest Robert was a gifted band leader, receiving several pay rises during his time at the school. By 1907 he was receiving almost £100 a year. He stayed at the school for 17 years until he enlisted into the army. The school band played at many events in the Durham area.

Robert and Elizabeth had two daughters; Elizabeth Davidson Yule, born on 9 September 1900 and Annie Yule born on 26 January 1906. By the time of the 1911 census the family had moved closer to the centre of Durham, living at Hawthorn Terrace. It seems the family were doing well, living in a house with seven rooms.

On 10 May 1915, at the age of 41, Robert enlisted into the 19th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI). His army records show that previous to enlistment, he had served for five years in the Tynemouth Artillery Volunteers. Robert enlisted at Hartlepool and after only five days in the battalion was promoted to sergeant, with the service number 19/1005. He joined the battalion in France as part of the British Expeditionary Force on 31 January 1916. Robert was in charge of the battalion’s stretcher-bearers.

Robert died from wounds on 17 July 1916. Service records state he died in the 28th Field Ambulance. He is buried at Peronne Road Cemetery, Picardie, France and is remembered on many memorials locally. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his service which were sent to his widow Elizabeth.

He is remembered on the Earl’s House Industrial School Memorial Plaque, now situated in Lanchester Road Hospital, Durham. More information about this plaque can be found at and by clicking of the related stories.

Links to sources about the plaque and the school compiled by Tees, Esk and Weardale Valley NHS trust can be found at the supporting materials link at the bottom of this page.

John Sheen’s book ‘Durham Pals. 18th, 19th & 22nd Battalions of The Durham Light Infantry in the Great War’ [p106-107] gives information about conditions in the trenches at the time of Robert’s death. It tells of a close friendship between Robert and the Battalion Medical Officer, Doctor Barss. There is a letter written by Doctor Barss to Robert’s widow Elizabeth which includes the following extract concerning Robert’s death: “Then as he thought of you and his girls he kept repeating ‘God bless them all’. Afterwards he said, ‘Oh I feel so much easier.’ These were the last words I heard him speak. I placed him on a transport wagon and told the driver to get him to an ambulance at once, but he died in a few minutes.” The book also features a photo of Robert.

Civil Parish: Durham Crossgate

Birth date: 1873

Death date: 17-Jul-1916

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: 176A Stephenson Street, Tynemouth (1881 census)
Sniperley Farm, Witton Gilbert (1901 census)
Ferndale, Hawthorn Terrace, Durham (1911 census, Service Records)

Religion: Baptist

Employment: Band Sergeant – Wellesley Training Ship (Newspaper Article July 1916)
Bandmaster (Earl’s House Industrial School)

Family: Parents: John Yule, Eliza Yule
Siblings: Annie Yule, William Yule
Wife: Elizabeth Ann Yule, nee Davidson
Children: Elizabeth Davidson Yule (b 1900), Margaret Annie Yule (b 1906)

Military service:

Tynemouth Artillery Volunteer
Enlisted 10 May 1916
Promoted to Sergeant 15 May 1916
19th Battalion DLI
Service Number 19/1005

Medal(s): British War Medal
Victory Medal

Memorial(s): Plaque 1914-1918 Earl’s House School, Lanchester Road Hospital
Plaque 1914-1919 1939-1945 Town Hall, Durham
Roll of Honour 19th DLI, Durham Cathedral
Plaque 1914-1918 1939-1945 Jubilee Methodist, North Road Methodist Church, Durham
Cross 1914-1918 1939-1945 Witton Dene, Witton Gilbert
ROH 1914-1918 St Micheal’s and all Angels, Witton Gilbert

Gender: Male

Contributed by Fiona Johnson - Durham