1914, 3 October – Batley News

This edition of the Batley News had a variety of pieces connected to the St Mary’s men serving with the military. It also had news closer to home about some other parishioners. The articles are exact transcripts with spelling and punctuation as per the original articles.

The first piece selected is a letter home from Private James Edwards, serving with the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).

Batley’s Third Enlistment.

Private Edwards, Ambler Street, Batley, who has twice previously been in the Army and bought out, has joined the Scottish Rifles, and writes home from Bordon Camp (Hampshire):-

I am in good health so far, and hope you are the same. I have not received your letter yet, but I have written for it to be sent on. I was removed the night after I wrote to you. We left Scotland about 8.30 on the Saturday night for Bordon Camp, on the other side of London. I am still in civilian clothes, but we have got boots, socks, and shirts to be going on with, and I don’t think we shall be long before we get our other clothes now. There are no music halls here – it is a country place. I hope you had a good Feast:1 I was thinking about it in the train as we rode for 15 hours.

The next item does not directly relate to a St Mary’s serviceman. It is a letter from Seaman Farrar Hill on board the HMS Berwick, describing the capture of the SS Spreewald on 10 September, along with another two vessels. These events were first reported in the Batley News of 26 September 1914. I have included this eye-witness account because also on board the HMS Berwick was a St Mary’s parishioner, Able Seaman Cecil Manning.

Three German Ships Captured.
Liner’s Attempted Disguise.

Seaman Farrar Hill, son of Mr. Farrar Hill, the popular president of Soothill Working Men’s Club, has had some exciting experiences whilst on H.M.S. Berwick, which has gallantly captured several German vessels in West Indian waters. Writing to his father at Broom Street, Soothill, under date September 12th, Seaman Hill reports good health and proceeds:-

We are having a fine time out here. We are stationed at ——, which is our coaling station. On the 9th of September we captured a steamer carrying a Norwegian flag, but she was flying a new flag and a newly painted name, so we had suspicions. We stopped her and boarded her, and she was found to be carrying coal and provisions for the Karlsruhe, a German battle cruiser, which at present is bottled up in ——-, with a French cruiser waiting outside for her.

The day after this capture we had a race with another steamer, which was flying an American flag, so we boarded her and found she had about 7,000 tons of coal and a lot of provisions for German ships, Were were just sending a lot of our hands to take charge of her when on the horizon astern of us came another steamer, coming full steam towards us; but when she got a bit nearer to us, and saw our ensign, she turned about and went for all she was worth.

We left our sea boat over at the other ship, and went after her at top speed. We soon rounded her up and found her to be a North German Lloyd boat. She had tried to disguise herself and paint her hull white (it should be black). But they had been in a hurry and left part of it. We “had” her quite easy without having to fire a shell at her, but we nearly had to, as she would not stop at first when we told her to do so. (She was flying the German flag). We had two captures instead of one. The German liner mistook us for a German cruiser, and thought we were coaling from the steamer with the American flag flying. But she was led into the trap nicely, and we got both of them.

The whole three ships we captured are worth a good deal, so there will be a bit of prize money after the war is over.

I am writing this letter in the middle watch, which is from midnight to 4 a.m. We have just arrived at ——- with our prizes and to get a supply of coal. It is now 1.30 a.m.

The next item is about the return from Canada of reservist Private Thomas Foley. He was now with his old regiment, the Cheshire Regiment. What the piece does not mention is that Thomas’ younger brother, John, had died suddenly and unexpectedly whilst undergoing an operation at Batley Hospital on 23 September. This tragedy was covered in the paper of 26 September 1914.

Fought in the Boer War and Ready Again for Service.

Private Thomas Foley (son of Mrs. Foley, New Street, Batley), who as a member of the Cheshire Regiment saw active service in India and South Africa, and received medals for the same, has returned from Canada. He spent last week-end at his Batley home, and later rejoined his regiment, in Cheshire, but expected to have orders to go elsewhere. He went to Canada some time ago to seek better wages than he drew in this country as a miner. While at Kensington, however, he was called up as a Reservist, and left Canada with other British soldiers on August 23rd. When he left the Dominion he sent his medals home for safe-keeping, his destination being unknown, so that his four days’ furlough last week-end afforded an unexpected chance of visiting relatives and friends.

The final piece of war news with a St Mary’s connection was news about the Batley St John’s ambulance men who had departed for Chatham at the outbreak of war. Amongst them were three parishioners – Thomas Chappell, Patrick Mara, John James Doyle and brothers James and Joseph Kelly.


We have pleasure in reproducing a group portrait to well-known |Batley Ambulance Workers – some of the 25 who responded with gallant promptitude and went to Chatham when the need of their services was made known. The men appear to have been split up latterly, and some have travelled enormous distances.

The Batley Ambulance Men.
It is probable the caption is wrong and that G Kelly should also be J Kelly (St Mary’s men James and Joseph Kelly)

Away from war news, newspaper death notices this week included one on 30 September for 56-year-old Mary Colleran, wife of John Colleran, who lived at 12 New Street.

And, in an air of normality, there was a record crowd at Batley Baths for the Batley Swimming Gala on Saturday. Spectators crowded into every possible place. The were treated to “capital racing” with the school boys and school girls “as happy as mermen and mermaids.” St Mary’s came second behind Mill Lane School in the school boys’ team race (75 yards) for the Talbot Trophy. St Mary’s representative A. Riding came first in the school girls’ race (25 yards) for the Hirst Cup. And St Mary’s “A” team came first in the team race (150 yards) for the Boys’ Brigade Challenge Cup.

1. Batley Feast, which was held in mid-September.