This week’s Batley News contained information about a number of St Mary’s men serving with the military. I have put their names in bold. It also includes a piece about a St Mary’s family whose relatives lived in France. They provided an eye-witness account of the havoc being wreaked on their lives and their community by the war. As ever, spellings and punctuation are as per the newspaper.
There was no direct news from the St Mary’s men in the 4th KOYLI, but other letters reached home from Batleyites serving with the battalion at Sandbeck Park. They sent their thanks for the gifts sent to them from Batley – socks, shoes, woollen shirts etc. The most popular gift received was the housewife and tidies – a miniature sewing kit for sock darning and running clothing repairs. There was also a mention of the lack of military supplied clothing and equipment. And holding true to the saying that an army marches on its stomach, their meals merited special attention. Bacon, ham, eggs, sausage, etc for breakfast was cited in one letter home. But whilst one man described the meals as “very satisfactory” another wrote with rather less enthusiasm “…we get enough, and only just (like the Scotsman with his change), but I am sure there is no occasion for grumbling.”
Richard Carroll Walsh (I’ve used the St Mary’s War Memorial spelling, although there are a variety of versions of the name including the newspaper report below) wrote home to his mother informing her he was on the move to an undisclosed place. It later transpired he was heading for Antwerp.
Mr. Carrol Walsh (Brownhill road), of the Royal Marines, writes to his mother:- “I am on my way to ——-. When I get there I will send my address. I am as cheerful as the rest, so don’t be downhearted.
Walter Hughes received a series of letters from his uncle, who lived in Senlis, France. They explained the impact of war on him and his community. The town, just over 30 miles from Paris, was entered by the Germans at the beginning of September 1914 and its residents fled, events described in the letters. What is not mentioned here are the executions of eight inhabitants on 2 September by German firing squads. The Mayor, Eugène Odent, was accused of orchestrating ‘terrorist’ civilian resistance, and he too was executed later that day.
“IT IS FRIGHTFUL.”
Beet Land Covered with Dead Germans and Horses.
Vivid Letter to Carlinghow Man.
Mr. Walter Hughes, Coalpit Lane, Carlinghow (son of a soldier now at Jarrow) has received some vivid letters from his uncle, Mr. James Kearney, who for many years has resided in Senlis, a town of 7,000 inhabitants and very popular with English people who settle in France. It has (or had till the Germans arrived) an exquisite old cathedral, and outside the town magnificent woods with good roads stretch for miles, whilst the wild boar and deer provide great sport. At Chantilly, only eight miles from Senlis, are the wonderful racing stables of Baron de Rothschild and the chief race-course of France.
The famous chateau of the Duc d’Aumale, near Chantilly, with exquisite furniture, tapestries, pictures and books, has been occupied by ruthless Germans.
After referring in one letter (during August) to the anxiety of being shut up in Senlis, Mr Kearney wrote:- “Pray for our dear France and the poor fellows who have gone to defend their country.” Later, he said:- “We must not complain considering the state of affairs. The war started so quickly that people had no time to take their money out of the banks, so it makes it hard for those who have none. My three nephews have gone to the front, and we have got that great man General French going to the front to fight for us. I am sure he will do his duty.’
A letter, dated in September, said, – “British troops passed through here (Senlis) and seemed cheerful and full of confidence,’ whilst a fourth (written after Mr. Hughes [sic – should be Kearney] had been forced to leave home owing to the advance of the Germans) was sent from Calvados, in south-west France, as follows:-
“We are upside down. We had to run away last Monday, and leave everything behind us, as the Germans were not far from Senlis. It is awful to see the people running away. We had a lot of English soldiers at my place for two days; 700 waggons of food passed by on Saturday and Sunday. Thanks for the papers, but I had no time to read them, having to leave them behind.”
The latest letter says:-
We are safe up to now. I went home to Senlis last week to see if my house were still there. I found it all right. The Germans had been in, but done little damage, though half of Senlis is burned down – it is awful to see. The church was knocked about a lot, for everywhere the Germans have passed they have done damage.
Behind my house, a flat piece of ground used for the cultivation of beetroot, is full of dead horses and German soldiers. It is all frightful to see, and awful to smell. I do not mean to go home just yet, as the firing line is not far from Senlis. I could hear the cannon last week, when I was down there. We are so upset we don’t know what to say or do. I hope things will have a turn for the better; if so, we shall go home.
From the above it appears that Walter’s father, James, a former soldier who had served with the 14th Foot, later known as The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment), had re-joined the Colours.
Meanwhile St Mary’s school teacher Robert Randerson, now an officer with the 6th Yorkshire Regiment, was finalising arrangements for what would be his final match for Batley rugby league club.
BATLEY FOOTBALLER AND PATRIOT
Second Lieut. Randerson’s Last Match During War
Wants to See a Crowd To-morrow
Second-Lieutenant Robert Randerson, of Batley F.C., now with the 6th Yorkshire Regiment at Belton Park, Grantham, sends the following letter to Mr. Kershaw Newsome, the club secretary:-
I was extremely sorry to know that the club had struck a bad patch, and shall be delighted to give a hand and foot to try and turn the tide. Yet it must be a sort of consolation to know that your loss arises purely from the patriotism of your players, for quite a number have enlisted I hear. I am eager to have another turn out with the Gallant Youths but I am afraid it must be my last until peace is signed.
I have sixty men under me and am responsible for them, and will have to lead them in war. To make them and myself efficient requires all my time and energy, and I do not think it would be right to risk laying myself up with an injury. Another consideration is that, as a rule, after our marching, drilling, and lectures, besides special studies as officer on top of our ordinary duties, I am about played out by the week-end.
A route march or two, and a few night operations a week are not light work. However, I am in for a game on Saturday, and I shall do my best to make it a rattling good one. I have not played this season, but we took risks at Halifax last year. There is difficulty about getting to Batley. I find a train arriving at Wakefield 2.41, but cannot fix one up from there. If you can arrange the journey for me I will come, and hope to see many of my old friends around the railings as a sort of good-bye until we get the serious business through; and when honour and justice are satisfied I trust to have many a jolly game on the hill.
Arrangements have been made for Randerson to complete the journey from Wakefield by motor.
To finish this week’s parish round-up from the papers, one death notice was for 48-year-old Bridget Morley, wife of Thomas, of 15, East Street, who died on 2 October.