When I researched the men on the War Memorial of Batley St Mary’s, one thing I quickly realised was that the names there represented but a fraction of those parishioners serving in the military.
British Army statistics alone illustrate this. Roughly 8.7m men served in it at one point or another during the war. This includes Empire and Indian Army contingents. Of these about 5.7m were from the British Isles (including Ireland). From this 8.7m total, approximately 957,000 lost there lives (of which Royal Navy and RFC/RAF casualties were 39,527), and about 705,000 of these were from the British Isles. So between 11-12% of those in the British Army died, depending on whether you look at the total or narrow it to British Isles only.
Whilst research often concentrates on those that died, one of the things I wanted to do was find about all those who served, whether or not they made the ultimate sacrifice. Many of the survivors were physically wounded and mentally scarred, some to a life-changing extent. I have a couple of great-uncles in those categories. Again, looking at the British Army statistics almost 2,273,000 were wounded (although this figure has an element of double-counting, in that if you were wounded twice you appeared twice in the numbers). Of those wounded 18% returned to duty but in modified roles, for example garrison or sedentary work. And 8% were invalided out altogether, no longer fit for military service. Families and communities were affected forever.
For me Remembrance Sunday includes all those who served; all those affected be it killed, wounded physically or mentally, and those who returned home with no obvious lasting ill-effects but had given up part of their lives to serve.
Sadly very few local memorials or records give these full community details. Locally one such record which stands out as doing this is that of Soothill. More information on this here.
I would love to try to find out about all those from the broader Batley area, to complement this Soothill treasure. But doing this alone is impracticable. Time and record survival are the major stumbling blocks. Key to providing addresses are service records. But about two thirds of soldiers’ service records were totally lost or irretrievably damaged during WW2 1940 bombing. Those that have survived are in the National Archives WO 363 “burnt records” series. And, as mentioned, this is the overwhelmingly predominant service.
My other option was to trawl through the two Batley newspapers from the time, “The Batley News” and “The Batley Reporter & Guardian,” making a note of all mention of those from the Batley area serving in the Armed Services. I’ve made no secret about wanting to do this. It would be a fantastic local resource. But unless I had years to spare concentrating on it, I couldn’t do it alone. The same considerations applied to Batley St Mary’s, with the added factor of connecting random names and addresses in Batley with a specific Catholic Parish.
So I’m going to attempt a compromise, and focus on one area of Batley: Healey. It doesn’t have a Batley St Mary’s WW1 connection, but it’s the area I grew up in. And it’s the one where I still live. It is also more manageable size-wise. However the deciding factor in my choice is one soldier in particular, whose record I accidentally stumbled upon. But more of that in another post.
A couple of maps from 1905 and 1931 below pinpoint the area.
Initially I’ve used three sources:
- CWGC information of the dead, where next of kin addresses mention addresses from the Healey, Batley area;
- WO 363 “Burnt Records” which include a Healey, Batley address via Ancestry.co.uk; and
- WO 364 records of those discharged for medical reasons (illness or wounds) during the First World War
I also intend going through at least one of the newspapers to identify other Healey men. Although doing this will probably extend the length of time for the project. A case of playing it by ear.
If anyone has any information about Healey men in WW1, it would be most welcome. It would also be lovely to extend this beyond Healey in WW1, to do a similar project for Healey in WW2. With the current centenary commemorations it is all too easy to overlook the sacrifices made by a more recent generation. So again names and information to kick-start this would be very much appreciated.
I know I’m setting myself another potentially big but interesting task. Something a bit broader than War Memorial research, recognising the part the men across a community played.