1915, 29 May – Batley News

This is a round-up of pieces from the Batley News relating to the parishioners of St Mary’s. It includes one death at the Front.

As usual I have put in bold the names of those connected to the parish who served with the military. Spellings and punctuation are identical to those in the newspaper.

A letter from John Cassidy appeared in this week’s edition of the paper. A miner by trade, he had been discharged from the Army in 1907. In the newspaper piece he claims to have been part of the mining activities on Hill 60. 171 Tunnelling Company were responsible for the five mines he refers to, detonated on 17 April 1915, which marked the opening of a British attack to take Hill 60 from the Germans. So from the letter it appears he had at some point re-enlisted and was with this Royal Engineers Tunnelling Company.

By way of context, Hill 60 was named after the contour line on which it stood. It was a man-made feature created from spoil following the laying of the Ypres-Comines railway. It was bitterly fought over ground during the war because of the vantage point it gave over the British line and into Ypres.

Hill 60 on 17 August 1917, Public Domain Image, Australian War Memorial Website, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C387950

A number of St Mary’s men played a part in the 17- 21 April attack when the British took the Hill from the Germans, and also in the subsequent fighting in May 1915 when the Germans re-captured it.

John Cassidy wrote of his part as follows:

Batley Corporal’s Feat.
”Very Dangerous Work.”

Corporal John Cassidy, a Batley man, claims to have played a notable part in the mining of Hill 60:-

My first work here was to start to mine Hill 60, and it was a very dangerous job. But none of the boys could see danger, as they only wanted to blow those dirty dogs to ———, and may God give me strength to carry on, and pay them back for what they have done to me and my pals. I dare not have put this lot in my letter if we had not finished the work we started.

We had five mines ready on the 18th April, but we did not know when they were going to be blown up.1 The mine that blew up the 150 men, and another mine, were worked by me and my men, who worked very hard, having foul air as well as shot and shell to put up with. I think we are entitled to be included amongst the heroes.

It was the 17th April when these mines were blown up, and it was Hell itself – first one mine went up and then and another, and so on, and nothing could be seen but dirt, bodies, and smoke, all flying through the air. And when that cleared, our big guns started, and that was Hell upon earth.

If ever anyone speaks about the Hill 60, tell them that it was me that put the powder in the chamber of Mine 3, that laid the cable and the fuses.

Batley’s record-breaking rat catcher Thomas Cassidy (who I wrote about here) appeared in court this week:

Batley Court – Wednesday.

“There are many cases of chimneys on fire – perhaps worse than yours – which never come here,” said the Mayor to Thomas Cassidy, rat-catcher, New Street, Batley, who was fined 2s. 6d.

One piece of interest from the 1st/4th KOYLI at the Front, which included several St Mary’s men in its numbers, was an appeal for periscopes, cigarettes, and combined knife-fork-and-spoon articles.

Formal confirmation of the death of Moses Stubley appeared this week.

News Officially Confirmed
Formerly Worked at Soothill

Official intimation has this week been received of the death of Private Moses Stubley, 2, Birch Street, Carlinghow, whose death was reported three weeks ago. The mesage simply states that Private Moses Stubley, 2nd K.O.Y.L.I., was killed on April 28th,2 and expresses sympathy with the relatives. Previous to the war he worked at Soothill Colliery, where he was greatly esteemed.

Another parishioner, Walter Waite, wrote home to his family. He did try to give information about Moses Stubley. The letter read:

A Hint to Batley Shirkers

The Censor has deleted part of a letter sent home by Guner [sic] Walter Waite, of Carlinghow, who writes from the he Front concerning the late Private Moses Stubley, whose death is reported above. The Censor has passed the words, “Dear Mother, about Moses Stubley,” and then crossed out half-a-dozen lines which the relatives of the dead soldier have tried in vain to decipher.

In the rest of his letter, Gunner Waite says:

I am in the best of health and spirits, and getting plenty to eat. I should have thought that there were no shirkers in Batley, for we shall want all the men out here, no matter who they are; and if they could see what some of our fellows are going through.

This week’s paper was full of reports of Whitsuntide celebrations from a multitude of local churches across all denominations. St Mary’s though was a notable absentee. The explanation was given as follows:

The picturesqueness of local Whitsuntide celebrations was considerably modified this year by the absence of Catholic processions at Batley and Dewsbury, the events being dispensed with on account of the war. Birstall Catholics, however, were responsible for a beautiful pageant,of symbolism.

Although the final piece this week relates to Birstall St Patrick’s, Belgian priest Father Kestelyn did subsequently move to St Mary’s.

Father Julian Kestelyn, who came to this country three weeks ago, is in residence with Father Russell, at Birstall Catholic Church, having been given spiritual charge of the Belgian Catholics of the district. Father Kestelyn has been ordained a priest since the outbreak of war. For some time he assisted in Red Cross work at the Front.

1. This date is incorrect. The mines were detonated at 7pm on 17 April 1915;
2. The correct date is 24 April 1915.