1916, 26 February – 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.

At the monthly meeting of the Batley Education Committee on Monday discussion about St Mary’s school took place:


The School Management Committee approved recommendations from St Mary’s R.C. School Managers that Mr. John Healey, trained certified teacher, Liverpool, be appointed assistant master at £120 a year; and that Mrs. Mary Ellen Bleeze, untrained certified teacher, Netherton, be temporary assistant mistress at £2 per working week, and in the event of Mrs. Bleeze’s inability to accept the appointment, that Miss Alice Morrow, trained certified teacher, take the post.

Not related directly to St Mary’s, but of general interest, it was mentioned that many children stayed away from school to celebrate the home-coming of their soldier-fathers and other relatives.

Labour demand came under discussion too. Children over 13 on the Batley schools register in January, 1914, numbered 161. The same month in 1915 it stood at 98; in January 1916 this decreased to 77. This all related to the availability of employment, with the Director of Education saying “Parents can in most cases choose the situation instead of having to find it.

The paper published an extract of a letter from Bernard Gallagher to Bridget Hughes (mother of St Mary’s War Memorial man Walter James Hughes), as follows:

Batley Soldier Reaches the Trenches at Last

Private Bernard Gallagher, Cobden Street, Batley, writes to a friend, Mrs. Hughes, Coalpit Lane, Carlinghow:-

“I have been on the move for the last week now, and have just arrived at my destination – the trenches. Don’t bother; I shall be all right. I have gone in with as good a heart as I came out, and not in the least down-hearted. We have worked round France, and I have been through Senlis” (where a brother of Mrs. Hughes now resides).

Private Gallagher mentions that the local Territorials have been resting for some weeks.

The Gaby Glide. Gaby Deslys, 1881 – 1920; Harry Pilcer, 1885 – 1961, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Saul Zalesch, Public Domain image under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

The final piece for this week is an eyewitness account of Gallipoli, from St Mary’s War Memorial man John Lyons.

Vivid Description by a White Lee Borderer.
Turkish Snipers’ Explosive Bullets.
The Great Evacuation.
(Exclusive to the “News”)

A White Lee soldier, Private J. Lyons, K.O.S.B., who is with the British Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, writes to the Editor of the “News”:—

I will just let you know a few incidents from the time I left England for the Dardanelles to the day of the evacuation. I left the Old Country early in November, and saw some very queer sights on the troopship. One could see Tommy do a “Gaby glide”1 to the upper deck, and throw away what he had eaten just two hours before. It did not affect me, for I had done a bit of time on the sea. Anyway, we got over that journey all right, and we got put off at a Greek island for a bit of rest.

We were not on this island very long before we were warned to pack early one morning, to go to the Gallipoli Peninsula. We landed about 1 o’clock the next morning, at Cape Helles. Of course, we had to get ashore straight away, for if we had waited till daybreak we should have got one or two of Johnny Turk’s “coal-boxes” as an invitation.2 We got on to a lighter – a kind of tug-boat, covered in for the protection of the troops from the shells.

We then pushed off for the shore past the River Clyde,3 and pulled up alongside an old wooden landing-place. It was very quiet, except for the report of the monitors4 sending their shells screaming through the air, and landing fair and square on the trench in front of Achi Baba, where they made Johnny Turk think the world had come to an end.

Little did we know that the ground on which we stood on was the landing-place of the Dublin Fusiliers – the River Clyde, where many a good lad laid down his life for his King and Country. When we were all off the lighter, up came some carts for our kit and blankets, with a mule to draw the load, and an Indian as driver.

These Indians worked under great danger all day in full view of the Turkish guns, and it was nothing to see one of the team of mules blown up in the air, and the Indians put on their “skates” for all they were worth and rush into their dug-outs like a lot of rabbits.

We went on our march further up to the firing line – a very stiff job with a full pack and 120 rounds of ammunition to contend with. We reached our dug-outs all right about four o’clock in the morning, and had no sleep that night. The next day passed on all right for we were in the rest dug-outs. We paraded about to find our way round different parts of our underground lodgings, and next day had a good breakfast of eggs, bread, butter, tea, and “buss.” After that we had a bit of a lecture from our C.O., and he told us there was to be a big advance, also we had to be in it, as we were due to go up to the first line of trenches.

The next morning I woke and found no one about but myself and my “bed” mate – another of the K.O.S.B.’s. We got up in quick time, enquired where the others were, and learned that they had gone up to the firing line. They had forgotten all about me and my mate, for we were in a dug-out all to ourselves! However, we made the best of it, and packed our things up to go to find our Company up in the firing line. After about four hours’ walk through narrow trenches, holes, and round turnings, and dodging shells and whizz-bangs, we got to the firing line. There were the lads in the Scotch caps, letting Johnny Turk know who was up in the firing line.

Right in front of me was another Batley lad whom I know well. I asked him where my Company was. “Oh!” said he, “they’re half a mile dahn’t firing line!” After a good walk down that line, I came across my company, which was getting it very hot, for in front was one of the Turks’ bombing saps, and the enemy were “putting them over” as fast as they could. However, we soon got the upper-hand of them, for our C.O. came up – and he is a great man for bombing. So he soon put the Turks’ bombing party out of mess.

We were up in the firing line eight days before we went down for a rest. The time I was up on the Peninsula we saw some great sights – advances and charges; and when the men were in an advance, it was just like hell, for the monitors dropped their shells just like rain. When they burst, they made a tremendous noise, and one could see arms, legs, turf, and all kinds of things fly up in the air.

Then to make things better there were the whizz-bangs, coal boxes, and bombs, not to count thousands of rifles. To watch the advance from a distance was very blood-stirring, for one could just see a thin line of figures go over the open (called No Man’s Land) as fast as their legs could carry them. Then would come a loud cheer, and you would know that the lads were over the parapet, making it hot for Johnny. Mind you, Johnny kept up his rapid fire till our lads got to his parapet, but he soon gave in, for he did not like the cold steel thrust into him.

Of course, it is all right for a looker-on to tell all about it; but the lads that were in it can tell you better what it is like – and I was one of them.

I went on all right without a scratch all the time I was on the Peninsula. Then it came to preparations for the evacuation – we baffled Johnny in a most simple way, for every night we had to keep sniping at Johnny till 11 o’clock arrived. Then we had to stop till five o’clock in the morning, but we were not asleep, for we kept a sharp look-out, and we would have made it hot for the Turks if they had sent a patrol out. Anyway, Johnny kept on sniping at us – and proved to be not a bad shot, for he used to make my ears ring nearly every shot, because the bullets the snipers used were of the explosive kind; they went with a crack into the sand-bag near my head.

That continued every night till we cleared, and on the 7th of January, the day before we did so, we got one of the biggest bombardments that ever the Turks put up, for the benefit of the 4th Welsh Borderers. Johnny blew their parapet down; so they went over and took two of the enemy saps. That got the wind up, and Johnny started rapid fire all along the line. We could see his bayonet stuck up over his parapet, and his firing line must have been packed, judging by the number of bayonets. In that part of the firing line we were only 25 yards apart, and we could hear the call, “Come on Tommy.” They thought we were going to attack them, and we thought they were going to attack us; but we were there with our bayonets fixed, waiting for them to start their strafing. The day passed over all right, with Johnny the loser of a lot of men, for his foolishness.

Then came the day of the evacuation, and I was warned off as one of the party to keep up the firing till the men nearly all got out. We got together and set off to the Lancashire landing. We did it so cleverly that the Turks did not know but what we were still in the firing line. We could hear Johnny sniping at the parapet.

We landed on the beach about one o’clock in the morning and lined up in twos to get on the lighter. We were not out of the range of Johnny’s guns yet, for over the top of us came one or two shells from a gun which will be remembered by all who fought on the Gallipoli Peninsula as Asiatic Annie. From the lighter we bounded on to a destroyer, and settled down. We looked back on the Peninsula – a very queer sight, for all along the beach was one mass of fire. It was a sight which brought back to my mind the retreat of Antwerp; but it was not as exciting, for in Antwerp we had to run through the towns while they were all ablaze. As we looked back on the big blaze on the beach, up went a magazine with a terrible noise. It seemed as if the Peninsula were getting blown up. Pieces of dirt, wood, iron, bricks, etc., came over on to the top of us. At first I thought we were getting blown up, too, together with the boat! I bet the Turks didn’t get half a surprise; he would think we were blowing Achi Baba up. We then shoved off, and it was very nice to watch the fire get worse as we got out of sight.

So I said “Farewell” to the Gallipoli Peninsula, and hoped I would not see it again for a long time. I have told you all I can think of just now, and I am doing my little bit on the sandy plains of the Near East, where the sun very seldom fails to shine.

I will close with best wishes to the readers of the “News,” for while at home I was a regular reader of the paper.

1. Named after actress and singer Gaby Deslys, the popular Gaby Glide dance was created for her and her partner Harry Pilcer in the 1911 show Vera Violetta.
2. Nickname for a shell emitting thick, black smoke.
3. A British collier vessel requisitioned by the Admiralty, which landed the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers, along with the Munster Fusiliers and Royal Hampshire Regiment, at V Beach, Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. The plan was for her to be beached and the men to disembark, jump on to the shore and advance inland to fight the Turks. However, she beached 80 yards short of land, and out of the men’s depth. It resulted in carnage – men drowning with the weight of their kit, or being mown down by the enemy. The boat remained there as a dock and breakwater.
4. Royal Navy ships which could get close to shore to fire at targets, in effect floating gun platforms.