1914, 12 December – Batley News

Here is another round-up of pieces from the Batley News relating to the parishioners of St Mary’s during the Great War. As before, I have put in bold the names of those connected to the parish who served with the military. Spellings and punctuation are as per the newspaper.

A contingent of the local KOYLI Territorials were now deployed at North Somercotes Camp, close to the Lincolnshire coast. The detachment included at least one St Mary’s man, Willie Barber. Information about their routine came from Fred Ramsden. Although not a parishioner, I have included the information he provided to illustrate the activities undertaken.

Healthy Work on the Coast.

Private Fred Ramsden, Bromley Street, Hanging Heaton, now serving with a Batley detachment of the 4th K.O.Y.L.I. on the East Coast, sends home a diary of his doings for ten days, relating amongst other doings what healthy exercise they are getting on the sands – exercises of practical military value:-

Thursday, Nov. 19. – Breakfast, bacon and bread at 8 a.m. After a five miles’ march, we turned back for bad weather, and had two hours drill under cover. Stew for dinner.

Friday, Nov. 20. – Up at 6, and bacon for breakfast at 10; stew for dinner; company drill two to four; tea at five; loading waggons 6 to 7.

Saturday, Nov. 21. – After breakfast at 9.30 we went by train to —, and marched six miles back to camp; tea at 5, and then went for a walk.

Sunday, Nov. 22. – Up at 4 a.m., bread and cheese breakfast at 7, and off for a march at 8. After four miles, it transpired that we had gone about two miles the wrong way, so we turned back, and after a lot of trouble managed to find the coast. We began to dig trenches in the sands and broke off for diner at two, and then resumed digging in cold and windy weather. We gave up at dusk, having dug 135 yards of trenches. Tea at 6, and then we had finished for the day.

Monday. – Up at 4, breakfast at 6.45; and then we set off at eight for the trenches, digging till dinner-time, and again after dinner till dark.

Tuesday. – Same as Monday.

Wednesday. – We were up by 4 a.m. again, and went for a four-miles route march before breakfast. This was served at 7.45, and again we made for the trenches. People at the billets we were in at Gainsborough sent us some cooked sausages.

Thursday. – More sausages arrived for breakfast, and we had stew at noon. First of all, we were up at 4 a.m., and had a five mile march, without a halt, before “breaker.” We spent the day on the coast, and got back to the billets about 5.15.

Friday. – Up to [sic] 4 a.m., we marched to the sea, and back again for breakfast at 8, then to the shore once more, returning for dinner at 2 p.m. I went to a farmhouse for it, and we got a second dinner – it was supplied to us instead of tea when we got back to our billets.

Saturday. – I had sent my boots to be repaired on Friday night, so I did not do anything till 9 a.m., when the footgear came back, the cobbler having been up during the night mending them. We were in the trenches at 9, and had dinner at 1.30; stew for tea at 5; and pay at 5.30.

News of leisure time in the North Somercotes camp also reached the paper, as follows:

RECREATIONS IN CAMP. – Private W. Barber, 4th Company, 4th Battalion, K.O.Y.L.I., in a letter we have received this morning from North Somercotes Camp, near Louth, says: – I am in the best of health. As I am writing this letter they are rehearsing a very fine sketch, “The Executioner’s Daughter.” Also we have some boxing gloves to keep us in training. It is rumoured that we are going to Gainsboro’ the week before Christmas, which I hope will come true. We don’t know whether they will grant us any leave at Christmas or not, but we are hoping they will. The Engineers have removed from Somercotes to their own home at Barnby Don. Since I wrote you last we have been removed to another barn a little higher up the road, which we reach by climbing up a ladder. I think if we are needed for the Front or foreign service we are ready enough for any inconvenience that we may be put to. I think the Germans won’t try to land on this coast if they know the Batley Terriers are waiting for them! It is a very trying experience for the men who are on guard in the trenches at night, but they don’t think anything about that, for they are ready to do more than that abroad. We have no time for football here. The Batley lads are glad to hear that the Gallant Youths beat Halifax at Halifax last Saturday. “God Save the King.”

There was also news that another St Mary’s man had won one of the half-sovereign prizes, awarded for providing an exclusive war-linked story for the paper. There was a weekly prize, and a monthly one. Walter Hughes was named as one of the joint winners for the monthly prize. Although there is no clue given as to the story, given the timing it will be the one which featured in the 21 November issue.

Reflecting the season, a snippet of news appeared from Michael Phillips as follows:

Gunner Phillips, writing to his wife in Dark Lane, says he is in good health, and hopes all at home will have a Happy Christmas.

In charitable giving news the Belgian Fund, supporting Belgian refugees locally, received a 6th donation from St Mary’s RC Church, amounting to a further £4 5d.

There was also sad news from the Home Front for a St Mary’s family, in the newspaper death notices:

DEATHS: MUNNS. – On 8th inst., aged 11 weeks, John, son of James P. Munns, 24, Jacob Street.

And Mrs Ann Delaney of Taylor Street, mother of James Delaney, had a visit from another of her nephews:

Batley Corporal’s Thrilling Adventures.
Fetched a German Aviator Down.
Terrible Time in a Trench.
Button Shot off his Tunic, and Horse fell on him.

Corporal Delaney, R.H.A., now recovering from wounds in the back and an injured arm, after visiting his aunt, Mrs. Delaney, Taylor Street, Batley, had returned to Woolwich. He has had an exciting career during 13 years in the Army, nearly eight of which have been spent in India. He has during this time become an expert gunner, wireless operator, and rough-rider, and has also served in the aircraft section, making an ascent in an aeroplane.

He has seen service on two occasions before – in 1902 and in 1908, the latter occasion being on the Indian Frontier, under General Wilcox. He had been on the reserve a short time before the outbreak of war, but immediately hostilities were declared he was recalled to the School of Gunnery at Sheerness. In September he was transferred to the Aircraft Section; later went to Winchester for 20 days, and then early in November, about midnight, his battery was ordered to get ready to entrain for Southampton. They were soon crossing the Channel, for Havre, and after a short rest proceeded straight to the Front.

In fact, about 14 hours from landing, they were in their first fight with the Germans, at La Bassee, about six miles from Lille. He was attached to the Aircraft Section – i.e., working a gun used against the enemy’s aeroplanes.

Corporal Delaney described the cunning success with which the guns of the R.H.A. were protected when firing. His section had many times to travel as many as 20 or 30 miles a day to keep in touch with aeroplane bases.

On the second day out, Corporal Delaney’s gun brought down a German aeroplane, from which the Corporal obtained some mementoes in the shape of a fine silver German compass, and a knife and fork from one of the men.

Delaney was later sent on observation duty, and he gave an interesting account of the work, on which he accompanied an officer. They went into a dug-out in front of the infantry trenches, and about 200 yards from the German trenches. The dug-out comprised a hole covered with, first, an old barn door, over which were placed some sand-bags and over that some bushes, in the hope of making it impossible for the Germans to recognise it. One day, however, the enemy found it, and constantly shelled it, the two tenants having to exist for five days on two tins of bully beef and a jar of water.

“Many times, while we were sitting in the trench, I would be dozing off, dreaming of a table full of luxuries and making a snatch for the good things, when I woke up to the cold reality,” Delaney remarked. As the result of five days in the wet trench, Delaney is now feeling the effect in the shape of rheumatism in his ankles. By the Commander’s orders, the officer and Delaney left the trench one night and came across the Devons, who gave them a cup of meat extract each, which revived them. Then they were given horses, and set on their way towards their battery.

The road was considered safe, but as they were galloping along a shell burst right over them, killing Delaney’s companion and the two horses, wounding Delaney in two places in the back, and throwing him into a trench with his horse on top of him. He could not extricate himself and dare not shout for fear of attracting the Germans, who, he says, would have bayonetted [sic] him.

He had to lie in the trench all day, and it was not until 7 p.m. that he was rescued by a sergeant of the Manchesters, who himself was wounded in carrying out the rescue work. Corporal Delaney remembered little of the affair, what with the hunger and the shortage of food for five days. In fact, he has not accurate knowledge of anything that happened to him for three days after, when he found himself in hospital at Boulogne.

Later, at Nottingham hospital, the staff and the townspeople themselves could not do enough for the wounded warriors, loading them with gifts of good things and taking them for drives round the district in motor cars.

Delaney spoke with great admiration of our troops, telling of one charge of the Irish Brigade, in which they went right through the Germans, back again, and through them once more.

He told some typical stories of the Indians and their weapons – the Ghurkas [sic] with their khukri [sic], and the Sikhs with a weapon somewhat like a quoit, but with a razor edge. The Sikhs spin this on their finger until it acquires a high velocity, and then it flies straight to its billet, cutting through anything that it meets.

Many times when our soldiers lost their bayonets they used the butt-ends of their rifles, and even their fists.

Delaney spoke with admiration of both the Belgian soldiers and the women, the latter often helping in Red Cross work. “I never saw anything to beat the Belgian Army,” he remarked, “either for skill or bravery.” To the French artillery he ascribed high praise. As to the Germans, they seemed to be running short of ammunition, especially for their larger guns.

Delaney had a very close shave from a German sniper dressed in British khaki, one of the Corporal’s buttons being shot off his tunic, and he saw six other men shot one morning. Germans in making a charge advanced seven deep, with officers forcing them on with loaded revolvers.

Corporal Delaney remarked that the stories of German atrocities were quite true. The worst job he had to do was bury the dead. He concluded with the remark that more Britishers ought to go out, in order to ensure success.