1916, 29 April – Batley News

Here is this week’s round-up of pieces from the 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.

Walter Waite’s letter home featured this week:

Desert, Arab Kraals and Jackals
Carlinghow Man in Persia

Gunner Walter Waite, R.F.A., writes from the Persian Gulf to his parents in Beck Lane, Carlinghow:—

This leaves me in the pink. I am writing this on the march up the line. We started a fortnight ago, but there have been heavy floods up country. It is blazing hot and has been [known?] to be 131 degrees in the shade, so I do not know what it will be like in a couple of months. I am going on well, but we have not “got there” yet! We get good food under the conditions, and as long as I keep my health I do not care. There are nothing but deserts, Arab kraals and jackals here. It is a poor country for health, what with the fever and other things. We passed the supposed Garden of Eden a week ago, and the river here is one of the finest I have seen. The fighting, you know, is right up country.

Joseph Ellis Hargreaves, home on sick leave, was interviewed:

Cook‘s Child Dying When Germans
Prepared to Attack.
(Exclusive to the “News.”)

Pte. Joseph Ellis Hargreaves (cook) who is on sick leave at his home, 19, Balk Street, Batley, called at the “News” Office a few days ago and recalled some of his experiences at the Front, where he has served for ten months with the local Territorials. Son of the late Mr. Edward Hargreaves, popularly-known in Batley as “Sailor Ned” because of his long service with the Navy, Private Hargreaves is a married man with two children and has had the misfortune to lose two others since the outbreak of war.1 He has been in the Territorial Force for 13 years, and went to the Front last April. Before the war he worked at Messrs. Critchley’s Batley Colliery, and filled up much of his spare time as a rope splicer. He was in the gas attack last December, and when taken to hospital several days later he found he was suffering from the effects of the poison, as well from chronic bronchitis and rheumatism. He said:

Having seen in your papers a few letters from some of my chums, I have often thought I would like to supply a few lines to you myself; but the opportunity has never come my way till now. I have been out in the fighting line 11 months, and experienced more during that time that ever I thought I should see.

I belong to the good old Territorials, and well do I remember that eventful day when we left York, as the train steamed into the station while friends and relations were saying their last “Good-bye” to the boys — who were laughing and joking, little dreaming that many a brave chum was taking the hand of wife or sweetheart for the last time. As the band struck up “Auld Lang Syne,” it made us realise the meaning of the old song and tune, and that we should soon be taking our place besides our comrades in the trenches.

We were not long in doubt about the last mentioned idea, as we were in the firing line in less than eight days. Our first experience of a big bombardment was one Bank Holiday Monday when we went over towards the Germans’ lines and accomplished the task that was asked of us, and made a name that will always remain with us. Since then, and on that occasion, I have seen many a brave comrade fall; but always, when death claimed them, they met it like a soldier.

I am not going to talk like a lot who have written home and make it appear that we have everything that is comfortable at our hand. Nevertheless, as far as lies in the officers’ hands, they make us as comfortable as it is possible. So we always go in and out of the trenches with a good heart, and often, as we have been singing on the way to the trenches, we have reflected on the thought that there would be one or two missing when we came out again.

However, we still kept plodding along till December 19th. Well shall we remember that day when the Germans sent us a taste of the gas, but we stuck to our post – at a price, it is true. I was in the front line that morning. We were relieved at night, and next morning when we looked round or inquired about one chum or another it was only to find that the gas had claimed them. I myself kept up all right till Christmas Eve, and I was then taken to a seaside hospital. I had just got into bed when the bell began to toll of Christmas. I had been 60 days in the trenches, in and out of the front line, and plenty of water to keep us company, for the weather was awful. But my chums had to stick it as well, and one or another would crack a joke or two. I was not very far from a Batley lad, who had just relieved me in the communication trenches, where we had been trying to pump out the water — while we stood up to the waist for four hours. He had not been there many minutes when a shell came and blew his legs off.

I landed in “Blighty” on January 8th was taken to Epsom Hospital, and received treatment of the best. I was one of the lucky once’s to go to see the King at Buckingham Palace. There were over 2,000 there that day, and it was a sight never to be forgotten. We had the pleasure of being waited on by the King and Queen, Generals and Countesses, and others of high degree; but it was a pitiful sight to see the blind — 220 of them. It brought tears to the King and Queen’s eyes as the poor fellows all wanted to shake hands with their Majesties. One poor chum, with both legs off, and his right arm gone, was a sad spectacle. If there is any single young fellow that has not yet taken up arms against the Huns, he ought, if he has any spare time on his hands, to pay a visit to one of the hospitals, and then, if he has any British pluck left in him, he will take his place by the boys who are doing their duty to defend the Old Flag. The task in our hands is not easy, so the sooner the slackers that are hiding in munitions works come out to do their bit, the sooner the war will be brought to an end.

Take my own case. I am a married man; so if I can go and do my duty like many other married chums, surely the single fellows will? I well remember December 17th, when I received a cablegram to say that I had a child dying, so I had nice encouragement on the 19th, when I was facing that “creeping death,” the German gas. Now, slackers, throw your pride on one side; do your duty as Britishers; and help to stop this murderous war.

Thomas Prendergast and John William Gannon were before the magistrates:

Batley Court – Tuesday.

Two soldier absentees, Privates Thomas Prendergast, Cobden Street, and John William Gannon, New Street, were remanded for escorts. Once defendant overstayed his leave and the other came home without.

Jane Cooney also came before the magistrates, in a case which also involved Jane and Thomas Gavaghan,

Batley Court – Wednesday.

MARRIED WOMAN SENT TO PRISON. —Jane Cooney, married, Cross Cobden Street, Batley, appeared on two charges, viz., for use of obscene language, and drunkenness and disorderly conduct. She strongly repudiated the former allegation, but admitted the other. —Constable Cannon alleged that at 10.10 p.m. on the 11th inst., defendant, while under the influence of drink, used offensive language to a neighbour. —Jane Gavaghan, wife of Thomas Gavaghan, miner, said she had reason to speak to defendant, who used the most abusive language. —When shown a copy of the language, defendant declared, “I’ve never used such language in my life. I’d rather drown myself than use it.” —In the second case, Constable Bentley stated that at 10.35 p.m. on the 18th defendant was drunk and used foul language in East Street. There were ten previous convictions for drunkenness and obscene language, including four in 1914 and two in 1915. —For obscene language defendant was fined 20s., and 2s. 6d. witness’s allowance, or 11 days and on the other summons she was sentenced to 14 days’ hard labour without the option of a fine. “We consider it time you altered your ways,” declared Mr. A. W. Taylor (presiding Magistrate), and we are determined to put down this abominable language.

The death notices had one connected to St Mary’s:

HOOK. —On the 20th inst., aged 10 months, Norah Hook, Oxford Street

The final piece this weeks relates to Father Kestelyn, priest at Birstall, who later in 1916 transferred to St Mary’s.

Presentation to Birstall’s Belgian Priest

There was an interesting event at St. Patrick’s School, Birstall, on Sunday night, when the Rev. Father Julian Kestelyn, a Belgian priest who has administered to the spiritual needs of his compatriots in the district for many months, was presented with a cheque for 14 guineas, subscribed by the Catholics of Birstall as a tangible recognition of his good work.

Father Russell presided over a large attendance, and gave an interesting resume of Father Kestelyn’s labours since his arrival in Birstall and of his efforts for the welfare of the Belgian refugees.

Mr. P. Melvin and Mr. P. Higgins paid fine tributes to Father Kestelyn’s character and charming personality.

The presentation was made by Mr. J. Maguire, who declared that Father Kestelyn’s fine qualities had earned the esteem and respect of all with whom he had come in contact, and the gift was a mark of appreciation from the Catholics of Birstall. He also mentioned the notable fact that Father Kestelyn was ordained to the priesthood on the battlefield, where he spent several months tending the wounded.

Father Kestelyn suitably acknowledged the gift, and referred to the numerous kindnesses he had received from Birstall people, especially from Father Russell. He declared that he always prayed for their welfare and should continue to do so, and although the time would come for him to return to his own country it would give him unbounded pleasure to visit the people of Birstall at the first opportunity. (Applause).

1. Daughter Margaret, died in September 1914. A second daughter Eileen died on 16 December 1916.