1914, 26 September – Batley News

This week’s Batley News had a varied content in relation to St Mary’s – a mix of both good and sad news. It includes those living within the parish, as well as those parishioners serving in the military. The latter names are in bold. As ever, spellings and punctuation are as per the newspaper.

The first piece of news concerned the capture of German liners, with HMS Berwick’s involvement highlighted. She captured the SS Spreewald on 10 September 1914 in the South Atlantic. The Batley News reported it as follows:


The British cruiser Berwick (Captain Lewis Clinton Baker) has captured the German Hamburg-American liner Spreewald, which, fitted as an armed merchant cruiser, has been prowling in the North Atlantic with a view of picking up isolated British merchant vessels. Presumably she was coaling when discovered by the Berwick, for the British cruiser captured, at the same time, two colliers with 6,000 tons of coal, and 180 tons of provisions, intended for the Spreewald and any other German cruisers operating in Atlantic waters…

And on board the Berwick was a St Mary’s parishioner, as indicated in the piece below:

Three on the Mighty Berwick.
Big Cruise Liner Captured.

The following local sailors belong to the cruiser Berwick, whose fine exploit in capturing the Hamburg-American liner Spreewald is reported in another column:-

• Petty Officer Chas. Holt, Batley Carr.
• Able Seaman Farrar [Hill], Brown Street, Soothill.
Able Seaman Cecil Manning, Carlinghow.

The Berwick has a displacement of 9,800 tons, and is of 22,000 horse power. She carries 14 6-in., 8 12-pounder, and 3 3-pounder guns. She was recommissioned in Portsmouth in March, 1913.

The Spreewald, built in 1908 by Messrs. Furness, Withy, and Co., West Hartlepool, has a speed of 12 knots, a gross tonnage of 3,899, and in normal times accommodation for 31 first-class and 608 fourth-class passengers.

Turning to sadder news from home, the paper had three St Mary’s deaths amongst those listed in its Death Notices column. These were:

  • Lyons: 17 September, aged 9 months, Mary daughter of Simon Lyons of 2, Villiers Street;
  • Foley: 23 September, aged 26, James Foley of New Street; and
  • Gannon (in the newspaper report the name was written as Garmon): on 24 September, aged 11 months, Winifred, daughter of John W. Gannon of 7 Spa Street.

One of these deaths was the subject of an inquest, which was covered in more detail. It was that of James Foley, the younger brother of Private Thomas Foley. The report into James’ death read as follows:

Strong Young Man’s Death Under Chloroform

Coroner P. P. Maitland held an inquest at Batley and District Hospital yesterday on James Foley (26), miner, 86, New Street, Batley, who died whilst chloroform was being administered to him before the proposed performance of an operation for removing a dislocated cartilage of the right knee joint.

Mr. G. E. B. Blakeley (Dewsbury) appeared for Soothill Wood Colliery, where deceased had been employed.

John Foley (father of the deceased), who was deeply distressed, said his son was a strong, healthy young man, but had been troubled with his right knee for five or six weeks. Last Friday he went to Dr. Eley, who gave him a note for an operation at the Hospital. He went to the Hospital on Monday afternoon, and when witness visited him on Tuesday he was in good cheer. Witness learnt of his son’s death on Wednesday afternoon.

The Coroner expressed sympathy with witness; and Mr. Blakeley said that deceased’s employers desired him to tender their sympathy.

Miss Cann (Hospital Matron) said deceased was quite well until the operation, and took his meals regularly.

Dr. W. A. Ogilvy (Birstall) explained that he first saw the patient on Tuesday afternoon, and arranged for an operation to be performed the following day for the removal of a loose cartilage in the right knee joint.

Replying to the Coroner, witness said the dislocation of the cartilage might have been caused by a slight slip or twist as the man was walking. He simply told witness he had twisted his leg, but he did not say whether it was at work or not. A slip on the pavement might cause such a condition. The dislocation would be a constant source of annoyance. In fact, it would make work impossible, frequent rests being necessary. If an operation were successful, the trouble would be removed altogether.

Deceased was willing to have the operation performed, and five medical men were present when it was being prepared about 1.30 on Wednesday afternoon. The patient was thoroughly examined, and his heart was found to be quite sound. Witness was preparing to perform the operation whilst Dr. Russell was administering the anaesthetic (chloroform). The patient was not sufficiently under the influence of the chloroform for the operation to be performed when Dr. Russell called witness’s attention to him. The heart’s action was ceasing, and the pulse was very weak. They administered oxygen, injected strychnine, massaged the heart, and tried artificial respiration for 20 minutes, but the patient did not come round at all.

The Coroner: He really died very suddenly?

Witness: That is so.

Dr. James Russell said he administered about a teaspoonful of chloroform. The patient had not actually gone to sleep, but sat up and began struggling. He then laid down and died.

The Coroner: How long had you been administering when he died?

Witness: Under five minutes.

Witness said that he made a post-mortem examination. The cause of death was sudden stoppage of the heart’s action whilst deceased was in the excitement stage of having the anaesthetic administered.

The Coroner: You were satisfied that an operation was advisable?

Witness: Quite.

And you have considerable experience of administering anaesthetics? – Twenty-five years.

The percentage of deaths that occur in this way is very small? – Very rare indeed. It is my first time in all those years.

He would not have been able to follow up his work in the condition he was in without an operation? – No.

Deceased’s father having expressed a desire to know who the other doctors present at the operation were, Dr. Russell replied they were Drs. Keighley, Bennett, and Broughton.

The Coroner described the case as an exceptionally sad one on account of the youth and evident strength and health of deceased. He realised that the operation was necessary, and everything was done by the doctors to ensure that he could stand an anaesthetic and that the operation would be a success. Dr. Russell was administering the anaesthetic when deceased sat up and began struggling, as people did during the excitement stages of the process until they went right off and his heart suddenly failed. If the jury were satisfied that the proceedings were conducted carefully he should advise them to return a verdict in accordance with Dr. Russell’s opinion. It was a case that could not be foreseen and where they could not do with an anaesthetic.

The jury returned a verdict in accordance with the medical evidence.

Within months of James’ death the Foley family were to suffer another blow – the loss of Thomas Foley whilst on active service.

The final piece of news this week is a letter from John Thomas Lynch to his wife. The paper covered this as follows:

Local Man in Cornwall.

Corporal J. T. Lynch of the West Yorkshire Regiment, stationed at Camborne (Cornwall) says in a letter to his wife:-

At last I am able to find time to drop you a line. I am just finding my feet. During the first week I was stationed at Hayle – a fine little place about five miles from here.

Camborne is about the size of Dewsbury. We are guarding some gunpowder works and tin mines. We are allowed 2s. a day for grub – 14s. a week – and we get it from a big farm near by. We are living on the best that money can buy, and get all the best cooks in the place… We cannot go out without people coming and speaking to us. We are treated very well. I am a police corporal, and get into town a good deal.