Joseph and Sarah Yates spent the first 19 years of their married life living in Marple and their first seven children were born there. They had moved to Stockport by 1892 when Norman was born and lived at 20 Yates Street, Portwood for many years. The family worshipped at the nearby St Paul’s Church and Norman had attended its school.
Norman’s original service number, 602, suggests he might have been a prewar member of an artillery Territorial unit who was later transferred to the 29th Division whilst serving overseas. This was probably the Ammunition Column of the 53rd Division which was a Territorial unit and which joined 29th Division when many of that Division’s Column were lost when their troopship was sunk.
As the name might suggest an Ammunition Column delivered ammunition and other supplies to the artillery emplacements in the reserve areas. Norman will have been one of about 300 soldiers in the Column with responsibility for driving one of the horse drawn wagons. Although it was never as dangerous as being an infantryman in the trenches, it was not without risk as the enemy artillery would regularly target the supply roads in the hope of catching stores being moved.
The Third Battle of Ypres had started on 31 July and would continue well into the autumn. After the first day, the rest of the Battle would be characterised by a number of smaller “bite and hold” advances. One of these took place in the period 16 – 18 August and was known as the Battle of Langemarck. 29th Division was part of the first day’s attack and, no doubt, the supporting artillery will have continued to fire on enemy targets for the remainder of the engagement and Norman and his comrades will have been very busy ensuring the guns were constantly resupplied. There are no details of exactly what happened to Norman but his Lieutenant wrote to Mr & Mrs Platt. “I regret to have to tell you that your son was killed in action August 19th. I am sincerely sorry to lose him as he was a really good soldier always cheery and worked well while in my section. Please accept my most sincere sympathies.”
Shortly afterward, the local newspapers published an “In Memoriam” notice from his “sweetheart”, Nellie who lived at 1 Florist Street, Shaw Heath:-
“He answered the call of duty
Bravely he fought and fell
But the sorrows of those who mourn him
Only an aching heart can tell”