1915, 27 March – Batley News

This is a round-up of pieces from the Batley News this week relating to the parishioners of St Mary’s. As usual I have put in bold the names of those connected to the parish who served with the military. And, as ever, the spelling and punctuation matches that of the newspaper.

The first news item involved the accidental fatal shooting of a soldier whilst stationed on the east coast. The rifle was discharged by his friend, a soldier named James Collins. Information in other newspapers indicate he too was from Batley. Although the report in the Batley News does not give any details, my research points to this being the St Mary’s man.

Batley Territorial Mortally Wounded by Accident
Third Tragedy Amongst Local Soldiers
Military Funeral Arranged
(Special to the “News”)

A sad blow has again fallen on the ranks of the local Territorials, Private George Roberts, of 5, Crown Street, Batley, having died in Hull Royal Infirmary from a gunshot wound, which it is understood he sustained accidentally at the hands of a comrade.

Private Roberts was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Roberts, also of 5, Crown Street, Batley, and prior to the war was employed as a finisher on the night shift at Messrs. Brearley’s Queen Street Mills. He was a married man, and leaves one child. The deepest sympathy will go out to his relatives, and the townspeople will doubtless demonstrate this to-morrow afternoon, when military honours will be accorded the funeral at Batley Cemetery. The private’s father is a well-known miner at Soothill.

The work of the K.O.Y.L.I. Battalion to which deceased was attached for three years had been the subject of much commendation, but it has suffered from various disasters. Early in the war, Private Austin Nolan, of Talbot Street, Batley, was accidentally killed whilst on railway sentry duty near Grantham; then came the pontoon bridge catastrophe (involving the loss of seven lives) at Gainsboro’; and now the tragic death of Private Roberts under distressing circumstances.

A double company of the K.O.Y.L.I.’s under Captain Guy Newsome (Dewsbury), has been stationed in the Aldbrough district on the East Coast since February 8th, with headquarters at Aldbrough, a remote village about a dozen miles from Hull, and several miles from a railway station, There they have done admirable service patrolling the coast.

It was at a house where the members of Private Roberts’ platoon have been billeted that the fatal accident occurred.

It is understood that about five o’clock on Tuesday afternoon Private Roberts was preparing to go on sentry duty, and charged the magazine of his rifle. This he laid on a table, and another private, named James Collins, seeing the trigger was up, and not knowing the magazine was loaded, picked put the rifle, which accidentally went off.

A bullet passed through Roberts’ left side. The injured man was shortly afterwards tended by an Army surgeon, Dr. Robinson, of Grimston Garth, and then conveyed in a motor ambulance to Hull Royal Infirmary, where he expired at half-past three on Wednesday afternoon.


The authorities made an effort to secure the attendance of relatives when Private Roberts’ condition became critical, and, in response to an urgent telegram, his wife and mother hurriedly proceeded to Hull on Wednesday afternoon, but the unfortunate soldier passed away before their arrival.

Only the same morning they had received from him a letter, written, apparently, shortly before the accident, which he explained he was to proceed to Beckett’s Park Hospital, Leeds, on Wednesday, for a slight operation. He wrote in a cheerful tone, remarking that he was in the best of health, despite the anticipated operation, and bidding his people to bear brave hearts and keep smiling faces. He was hoping for a visit from them to Beckett’s Park Hospital, and to go home on leave after Easter.


The regrets of Private Roberts’ comrades were communicated yesterday to the relatives by Captain Newsome, who expressed condolence and wrote of the esteem in which the dead soldier was held.

An inquest is to be held this afternoon at Hull Infirmary.

The funeral will be at Batley Cemetery at three o’clock to-morrow afternoon. A firing party of deceased’s comrades is expected to attend, and Batley Old Band will be present.


Miss Alice Atkinson, the lady at whose house the soldiers concerned in the deplorable accident were billeted, is a friend of the Rev. Hugh and Mrs. Jenkins, who recently came from Hull to Hanover Street Congregational Chapel. Batley; and the men’s hostess has written the following letter, received this morning, particular poignancy attaching to the case because Private Roberts worshipped at Mr. Jenkins’ chapel in Batley:—

Black House, Aldbrough, near Hull. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins, —No doubt you will have heard the sad news of Private Roberts. It has been a sad blow to me. The affair happened in the High House [behind and belonging to Black House]. Nearly all the men were going on guard and patrol that night, and they had all cone except C—- that is, Roberts’ pal. They were always together, and he was getting his rifle ready, when somehow or other it went off, and shot poor Roberts in the stomach.

I heard the shot, and said to the other, “Oh, dear! There is a gunshot!” They said, “No, it was a bucket turning over.” I said, “I think it is to true,” and I ran. C—- was shouting, “Bring up some water quickly,” so I called the corporal and went up with water.

I shall never forget it. I though Roberts was dying then, and everything seemed over. All the officers were soon on the spot, with a doctor; and we telephoned to Hull for the ambulance. It came at 2.30 in the morning.

I would like to write to his wife, but cannon – I am too upset. Will Mrs. Jenkins be kind enough to make these flowers (enclosed with the letter) into a wreath, and send it to Mrs. Roberts for me?”

The following death notices with relevance to the parish featured in this week’s paper:

FRAIN. —On the 19th inst., aged 33 years, John Frain, 16, Wellington Street.

LYONS. —On the 20th inst., aged 64 years, John P. Lyons, 1, Ward’s Hill.

RICHARDSON. —On the 22nd inst., aged 70 years, Ben Richardson, 10, Cobden Street.

The burning of James Critchley’s clover and haystack merited two separate pieces. The second covered the charging of Thomas Fitzpatrick, the boy accused of starting the fire. Both he, and William Gavaghan – the schoolboy giving evidence – were connected with St Mary’s.

STACKS RUINED BY FIRE. —About £50 damage was done by fire to stacks, the property of Messrs. J. Critchley and Son, colliery proprietors, on Sunday. Situate near Batley Field Hill, the stacks consisted or hay and clover respectively, and were found ablaze about 11.50 a.m. Batley Brigade was called, the fly, with eight men, turning out about 12.10 p.m. They found difficulty in obtaining water, owing to the distance from the mains. The stacks were thereupon pulled to pieces and allowed to burn out, some of the men remaining on duty till 4 p.m. The cause of the fire is uncertain, but boys about 14 or 15 years old were noticed leaving the vicinity just before the outbreak was discovered. One stack was insured, but the other was not.



STACKS ON FIRE. —A boy named Thomas Fitzpatrick, aged 10, of Back Richmond Street, Cross Bank, was charged in the Juvenile Court with setting fire to part of a stack of hay and part of a stack of clover (value £55) belonging to Messrs. James Critchley and Son Ltd., at the Baulks, Upper Batley. —Inspector Ripley said that last Sunday about 11 a.m. defendant and William Gavaghan, aged 12, of Back North Street, were playing for some time near the stacks. Defendant pulled out his handkerchief, and a match fell out. He picked it up, struck it on a stone and threw it down amongst some loose straw between the stacks. It was a dry, windy morning, and the straw caught fire, which then ran up the stacks. Gavaghan wanted to go home, but defendant said he should remain, and the Inspector saw him there whilst the fire was on. —Gavaghan having given evidence, defendant pleaded not guilty, and his father said he was not with Gavaghan when the fire began, but went there afterwards. He was in bed at 11 o’clock. —Constable Batterbea said that when arrested yesterday defendant said “I struck a match, but I did not know it would set fire to anything.” —Defendant said he made that statement to the constable because he was frightened. When he went to the place the haystack was already on fire, and he stayed to watch it till half-past three. —Sergt. Hebden said that at the police station, in his father’s presence, defendant said the match fell out when he took his handkerchief from his pocket, and he struck it on a brick and threw it down amongst the straw, but did not think it would set the stacks on fire. —The Bench considered the case proved, and in binding the father over for the boy’s good behaviour, the Chairman said the case showed how careful boys should be in playing with matches. The lad had been untruthful, and he would be placed under the supervision of Mr. Gladwin.

The final piece this week is another absentee. Named as Frank Rourke in the paper, he was the brother of War Memorial men and Henry, James and Michael Groark. Their surname has a number of spellings in records, and Michael served as Michael Rourke.

Batley Court – Wednesday.

“Although you have been to the Front and have been wounded, your King and Country still want you,” said Mr. Wm. Parker to Pte. Frank Rourke, who admitted being an absentee from 2nd K.O.Y.L.I. —Ordered to await an escort.