1916, 1 January – Batley News

This is a round-up of pieces from this week’s Batley News 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.

This week’s paper perfectly illustrates the problems with identification of men, including trying to piece together partial or contradictory information (e.g. incomplete names, potentially incorrect initials, and confusion with ranks even on the same page).

There was one parish priest officiated death in the Family Notices columns:

MACDONALD. —On the 24th ult., aged 72 years, Mary MacDonald, Fleming Street.

A parishioner serving with the Army was up before the magistrates:

Batley Court – Tuesday.

ABSENTEE DRUNK. —Thomas Kelly, Villiers Street, Batley, admitted that he was drunk and riotous in Victoria Street, Carlinghow, early on Tuesday morning. —He declared he had been “pestered” by the police ever since he “came on leave.” —Inspector Ripley said defendant had a pass which expired on December 21st, but the Commanding Officer gave him a chance to return on his own account. Instead, Kelly went about for several days, getting drunk. —Fined 6s., and ordered to await an escort for being an Army absentee. —The Mayor: It is a very lenient penalty, and I think young men like you should buck up and be smart and stop all this conduct. It is no credit to you, and certainly does not improve you for the future. —Mr. T. W. Collett: Give the drink up.

This week news began to filter through to the paper about a 19 December 1915 German gas attack in Belgium involving the local Territorials, the 1st/4th K.O.Y.L.I. News was still patchy, but it was already clear from the early reports that St Mary’s men were amongst those caught up in the incident.

The first reference appeared on page 5, with more details on page 8. I have picked out the relevant sections which give some background to events, and name the parishioners.

Authentic List: Rumour Denied
Five Killed; 30 Suffering From Gas Poisoining

While the list of casualties to local Territorials, as the result of a German gas attack – or of wounds caused during the affair – on December 19th, is serious enough, we are asked to deny a rumour that many men are dead. We give below a reliable list of the victims; and on Page 8 appear extracts from letters sent by numerous soldiers or the Commanding Officer…

….Lance-Corpl. Higgins, 6, Armitage Yard, Batley1….
Private Crayton, 2, Back Knowles Street, Batley2….
Lance-Corpl. Gallagher, Cobden St., Batley3….

How well our brave Territorials behaved in the trying ordeal on December 19th is shown by the appreciation of their Divisional Commander, who in an Order issued on December 22nd, in “Belgium,” said:—
I have just received the preliminary report of the gas attack and heavy shelling by the Germans on the Sixth Corps’ front on the 19th inst., and I should be very glad if you would convey to the troops of the 49th Division my appreciation of their steadiness and behaviour under very difficult and trying circumstances.
Owing to their steadiness the attack failed to produce any practical or material effect. It was a day which reflects great credit on the whole corps.

More detailed information appeared about Bernard Gallagher:


Private Bernard Gallagher, son of Mr. Patrick Gallagher, 47, Cobden Street, Batley, writes that he “got a dose of the gas, but also got over it.” He worked at Messrs. John Blackburn and Son’s Old Mill prior to enlistment.

Over on page 8, amongst more pieces from and about casualties, was another brief general item.

Local Officers and Men in Casualty List
Col. Haselgrave on the Deadly Enemy
“Guns Going Like Mad” on Both Sides

We regret to announce a number of casualties to officers and men of the local Territorials, as evidenced by the official lists and by letters. The former source of information gives no further clue to the period of the occurrence than the phrase “under various dates,” but the Commanding Officer, and also various victims, state that it was on December 19th, about five o’clock in the morning, so that it would not be daylight. It would appear that the gallant local lads have been in doubly-dangerous situations, for the casualties include deaths and “suffering” from gas poison, and also cases of wounding. We are sure that the sympathy of the public will be extended to the bereaved, and to the suffering soldiers of whatever grade, with a hope that those in hospital may be quickly restored.

In other news from those serving, thanks for gifts came from one of the ambulance men, Private J Mara:4


Tribute to the way in which soldiers and ambulance men appreciate the work of the Batley Ladies’ Sewing Guild appears in the following letters received by Mrs. Ben Turner, Mayoress….

From Private J. Mara, on a Naval Hospital Train.—Very many thanks for your beautiful gift of dainties and handkerchiefs. It is very kind of you to think of the absent ones so much.

To end this week’s news on a feel-good piece, Christmas cheer was in good supply amongst the 3rd/4th K.O.Y.L.I at Clipstone Camp, with John William Gannon (of Spa Street, husband of Annie) amongst those enjoying the festive season.

(Exclusive to the “News.”)

Local soldiers send the following letter to the Editor of the “News” for the pleasure of the public, and we are confident that we express the voice of the people in reciprocating the soldiers’ Compliments of the Season;

On seeing the group photo of the 3rd/4th K.O.Y.L.I. sergeants reproduced in your excellent paper, we though you might be interested in hearing particulars of the K.O.Y.L.I. at Clipstone Camp this Christmas. Everything has been of the best – roast rabbit, pork, plum pudding, and good beer in plenty for the soldiers, who appreciated the excellent fare.

In addition, cigarettes, mineral waters, apples, oranges, nuts, and other dainties were provided. The decorations in each hut were splendid, and friendly rivalry resulted in a bottle of port wine being offered for the best-decorated hut. The “trophy” was awarded to No. 3 Hut, whose decorations were very neat indeed. The commanding officer, Major Lyons, received a glass of port wine from Company-Sergt. Major Williams when he (the Major) came into the winning hut on his round of inspection, and he complimented the corporal and men on the neat and clean appearance of the hut. Company Sergt. Major Williams immediately called for three cheers for the Major, and they were heartily given.

The hut is in charge of Corporal A. Harrison, a well-known Batleyite. There are two other Batley lads in it – Privates J. W. Gannon and J. S. Newsome – who rendered effective assistance to the designer, Private T. Fairhurst, of Barnsley. Visitors who came to view the decorations were numerous – and the donations left behind were generous! The hut was visited in the evening by the platoon officer, Lieutenant Huntington, who was delighted at the effect rendered by fairy lanterns which illuminated the place.

All the men have been given four days’ leave, about 50 at a time being allowed to go. We can truthfully say we have never enjoyed a better Christmas, and we desire to express our thanks to all those in Batley who have contributed to it. In conclusion, we wish you, Mr. Editor, and all our friends in Batley, A Happy New Year.

1. There were several Higgins Catholics in the parish. More details are required to confirm if this man was one of them.
2. I suspect this is possibly one of the sons of Elizabeth Crayton, although that family address was 2 New Street. Matthew was certainly amongst the 1st/4th K.O.Y.L.I. More work is required to confirm
3. Rank differs from his eyewitness account later in the piece
4. I wonder if the initial is wrong here? Patrick Mara was serving in this capacity.