1914, 29 August – Batley News

This edition of the Batley News brought word which hit home in the parish of St Mary of the Angels: News of their first military death – that of Private Austin Nolan on 22 August.

As before, the transcripts are exact, with the original spelling and punctuation retained. The only changes I have made is to put in bold the names those from St Mary’s. I have also included an advert from the paper to give an indication of life on the Home Front.

“A Courageous and Willing Lad.”
Knocked Down by Train in Fog at Newark.
His Mother’s Support.

A further sad call since war began was exacted from Batley on Saturday, when Private Austin Nolan (20), of 39, Talbot Street – described by Captain Critchley as a courageous and willing lad – was killed whilst going on guard in the early morning at the Steel Tubular Bridge over the Trent on the Great Northern main line at Newark.

Nolan was a member of the Batley Detachment of the 4th Battalion K.O.Y.L.I., and he was one of a squad, under Lieutenant Baines (Morley), who were told off to guard the bridge at Newark. He was walking along the bridge in foggy weather when he was knocked down by an engine. He was in the four-foot way at the time, and a warning shout by a comrade was evidently not heard by him, as a goods train was coming along the other line.

The jury, in returning a verdict of “accidental death,” later in the day expressed the opinion that the men in being taken to their posts on the bridge should not walk in the four-foot way. They recorded their sympathy with the relatives, and Lieutenant Baines assured the Coroner that everything possible would be done for Nolan’s mother.

News of the sad occurrence was received by Nolan’s mother about nine o’clock on Saturday morning, and she was overwhelmed by grief. A brief telegram from the commanding officer of the K.O.Y.L.I. at Doncaster conveyed the distressing news, which created a painful sensation in the town. Large numbers of neighbours proceeded to Mrs. Nolan’s house to express their sympathy. Only a fortnight previously young Nolan had paid a flying visit home from the Doncaster encampment.

“He had received some money from the authorities,” Mrs. Nolan explained, “and he brought a big share of it home. He had always been good to me,” she added, “and was my chief support.”

Mrs. Nolan’s husband died ten years ago, and she was to a large extent dependent on her son’s earnings. He was employed at nights at Messrs. Stubley’s, and Mrs. Nolan told how he regularly brought home his wages for the support of the home.

The dead soldier joined the Batley Territorials four years ago, and he was popular with his comrades. He was in camp at Whitby when the detachment was recalled to Batley prior to being removed to Doncaster. Mrs. Nolan said that he spoke highly of his experiences at the latter town, and she had arranged for her younger daughter to visit him last week-end.

The body of Private Nolan was brought home from Doncaster on Monday, reaching Batley G.N. Station at 11.30 a.m. A military escort comprising Sergt. Hodgson and Privates Goodall and Cooper carried the coffin to the hearse, which then proceeded to Talbot Street with its military escort, a great number of people paying respect to the dead soldier.

Amidst pathetic scenes the funeral took place at Batley Cemetery on Tuesday afternoon. All along the route from the house to the cemetery townspeople gathered and respectfully allowed their friendship and admiration and patriotism. At the cemetery Father Lee officiated.

The family mourners were:- Mrs. Nolan (mother), Miss A. Nolan and Miss C. Nolan (sisters), and Master T. Nolan (brother).

Amongst many others who attended were the Mayor of Batley (Councillor Ben Turner, J.P.), and 18 members of the Batley Detachment of the National Reserves under the charge of Colour-Sergt. C. H. Talbot, Sergt. Swift, and Lance-Corporal Briggs.

Floral tributes were placed on the grave from:- The family, Mrs. Hargreaves, Mrs. Heeson and daughter, “His little friend, Jack Turner,” “From his friends at the Borough Arms,” and Batley National Reservists.

The Inquest

Coroner F. B. Foottit conducted the inquest at Newark Hospital on Saturday afternoon.

Detective W. Harvey, Doncaster, represented the railway company.

The first witness was Lieutenant Arthur Richard Baines, Southfield, Morley (of the 4th Battalion K.O.Y.L.I.), who explained that the battalion was stationed at Doncaster, and part of their duty was to guard the tubular bridge at Newark. A squad of men was under his and a sergeant’s charge. Deceased was one of the squad, and they were twice warned of the danger of passing trains. Witness was within 20 yards of the scene of the accident, which occurred at 6.a.m. on Saturday. Deceased was just being taken to duty by the sergeant, and a private came to say that Nolan had been injured. Witness went and found him on the “four-foot.” Nolan gasped twice. His injuries were on the right side of his neck with a deep cut on the jaw. The weather was extremely foggy at the time. They paced the distance and could see 20 yards.

Sergeant Arthur Hodgson, 4, Ealand Street, Carlinghow (of the K.O.Y.L.I.) said he was relieving guard at 6 a.m. Four men went on duty at a time, but he had only one man to relieve. Witness went with Nolan to the bridge, where deceased had never done sentry duty before. They were walking up the “four-foot” of the bridge, and Nolan was about 4 paces behind him. They got 60 paces across the bridge when he saw an engine approaching from London. Witness jumped out of the way to the left and fell down against the lattice-work of the bridge and shouted to Nolan to jump. Witness did not think he heard, as there was a goods train on the other line which made a big noise.

As soon as the engine had passed witness jumped up to see what Nolan was doing, and he was just falling down. He did not speak a word, and witness drew him off the metals to the lattice-work. Deceased was bleeding from a small punctured wound on the jaw. Witness shouted the guard up, with the Lieutenant, and Nolan was taken to the Newark Hospital. He breathed about four times and gasped his last.


Witness added that the reason they walked inside the metals was because the ironwork was slippery and it was safer to walk on the wood between the metals; besides it was half dark.

Isaac Mumby, 27, Arthur Street, Doncaster, fireman on a light engine running from Peterborough to Doncaster, said that they were going twenty miles an hour. The weather was foggy, and he could not see more than five yards in front of the engine on the bridge. The driver whistled when they approached the bridge as a precaution, and witness called “Whoa” as he saw two men, and stopped at once. He did not see Nolan knocked down. He did not think 20 miles an hour was so excessive pace to go when they knew that troops were out. He did not know that troops were actually on the bridge.

Lieutenant Baines said they did not guard the inside of the bridge, but deceased had to go over it to get to his post. A policeman was on the bridge.

William Hulme, driver of the light engine, 79, Cooper Street, Doncaster, said he had no detailed instructions from the Company that troops were on the bridge guarding it. Witness knew the railway had been taken over by the Government. It was foggy, but he could see 15 yards. His mate shouted and witness pulled up. The fireman went back and reported someone injured.

Dr. H. P. Job said that at 6.30 a.m. he was called to the tubular bridge and at the Lincoln crossing some Territorials signalled to him that they had the deceased with them. Witness saw him at the station and found he had a punctured would three-quarters of an inch long on the jaw, a fractured jaw, fractured base of the skull and dislocation of the spine.

The Coroner, in summing up, said that as the military had taken over the line it would be better not to go into the circumstances further.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death,” adding that they thought the men in being taken to their posts should walk on the line side instead of in the four-foot. They sympathised with the relatives.

Lieutenant Baines said it was impossible to walk on the side of the bridge as it was slanting. He would convey the expressions of sympathy. There was only the mother left, and they should see that everything was done for her.

On Monday morning, Mrs Nolan received the flooloing letter from Captain J. P. Critchley at Doncaster:-

Dear Madam, – I regret having to inform you that your son, Private Nolan, No. 1442 G Company, 4th K.O.Y.L.I., was accidentally killed whilst performing the duties of a sentry on a railway bridge at Newark. He was being taken to his post, and must have walked too near the metals, and a passing engine caught his head. The doctor said his death was instantaneous, and he suffered no pain. I want to offer you my deepest sympathy in your loss, which is also a great loss to his Company, as he was a courageous and willing lad and was the stuff of which soldiers are made.

We are making arrangements for a military funeral in Doncaster on Monday afternoon unless you otherwise desire. His body is now at the mortuary in Doncaster.

It must be some little consolation to you to know that your son died in the service of his country and in the execution of his duty. I may add steps will be taken to try and get a soldier’s pension.”

Private Austin Nolan

There was further news of the Batley Ambulance Men in Chatham, a contingent which included St Mary’s men Thomas Chappell, John James Doyle, Patrick Mara and brothers Joseph and James Kelly. This is an extract from a longer article detailing the visit to Batley by the Superintendent, Harry Greenwood.


Immediately after he arrived home Superintendent Greenwood sent post-cards to the mothers, wives, and sweethearts of the 25 Batley men who had responded to the call for active service, and 39 of the women folk together with a number of fathers and brothers crowded into the drawing-room of Mr. Greenwood’s house in Commercial Street on Tuesday afternoon. He promised to devote a couple of hours to conveying messages from the men and accepting others to take back as there were difficulties in the way of postal communications being exchanged. The eagerness of the women to “give and take” was at once pathetic and amusing, but all evidently realised that their relatives were out to render noble services.

The following were amongst the messages which Mr. Greenwood was required to convey to his good-hearted comrades:-

“Tell my husband his smock is all ready, mended for him to go to work as soon as he returns.”

“We are all in good health at home, but unfortunately the girls are on short time. Still, we are all right, but shall be glad to see our lad back home, because there is a lot of trouble in getting ‘t’coil’ up from the cellar.”

“I am lovesick (says a young wife) and I should like to see my husband for a few days.”

“Tell my husband the clock has given over going since he went.”

“I miss my lad on washing day, because he used to mangle and hang the clothes up in the house.”

“By shots!” exclaimed one woman, “we shall be glad on the day our lad comes back home.”

Supt. Greenwood – or to give him his present military designation, Chief Ward Master Harry Greenwood – took due note of the variety of messages entrusted to him, and promised to convey them, with good cheer, to the men in his care. Of those men who went out with him, 21 are with him at present on the special ambulance train at Chatham, and the others are hoping to become attached to him shortly.

Altogether Mr. Greenwood has 80 men from various parts of the United Kingdom under his charge. They respond with alacrity to the first duty of the day – breakfast! That is at 7a.m. The succeeding duties comprise parade at 8 o’clock; washing the floor of the train during the next two hours; inspection at ten by sergeant; then two hours in various duties such as loading and unloading, stretcher carrying, etc. The dinner interval is from 12 to 1.30, followed by two hours of company drill and parade at four o’clock.

After that tea is taken and the rest of the time can be spent as desired. For the first week or two, however, drills and training took place from early evening till bedtime, but now that the men have been grounded in their various duties, evening parades and drills have been dispensed with.

No cases of wounded have yet been treated from the Fleet, but some cases of sick soldiers have been attended to. These men have been brought in for the Fleet at sea by special carriers. Names of the boats from which the patients have come are, quite properly, rigidly suppressed.

Asked as to the food and other comforts Chief Ward Master Greenwood replied that the food was good and plentiful, and, he added, “We are all healthy.” ….

Preparations were well in hand for the start of the rugby season, but the Batley team were having to make these without a couple of players.

How the Back Division Will be Made Up for the First Match

Arrangements for the opening of the football season next week-end are proceeding as usual, and although no new players have been secured Batley are hoping to be able to place a strong side in the field when Leeds are opposed at Mount Pleasant.

It is a bit unfortunate that the club, so far as is known at present, will be minus the services of Tindall and Randerson, two players who would probably be regarded as the regular wing men.

The only information with regard to Tindall is that he has joined the Colours on the three years’ service conditions, and that he is at present under canvass.

Randerson has volunteered for service with the corps raised in connection with Leeds Training College, and goes up for training each day. The headquarters are at present in Leeds, but it is possible the men be ordered away at any moment….

In general news from the Catholic community in the area:

Sunday was observed as a Day of Intercession in the Catholic Churches of the district. There was an exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and congregational prayers during the day, whilst collections were taken for the Prince of Wales’ Fund.

Edward, Prince of Wales, set up this National Relief Fund in the immediate aftermath of the declaration of war. It was designed to help the families of serving men and those suffering from “industrial distress”. Within a week, donations nationally to the fund had reached £1m.