Moses Stubley

Name: Moses Stubley
2nd Battalion, The King’s Own (Yorkshire Light Infantry)
Service Number
: 3/290
Date of Death:
24 April 1915
Blauwepoort Farm Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium

Moses Stubley’s Headstone – Photo by Jane Roberts

Moses Patrick Stubley was born in Batley in the spring of 1889.1 His parents were Batley-born couple Albert and Mary Elizabeth Stubley (née Donnelly).

There is confusion over Mary Elizabeth’s maiden name. It occasionally appears as Donagh. This is not a variation of Donnelly. It is simply because Mary Elizabeth was born prior to her mother Johanna Donnelly’s marriage to Moses Donagh. However, despite this, she consistently appears as Mary Elizabeth Donagh in the census records – which also describe her as the daughter of Moses Donagh. This is who Moses owes his biblical name to – the man detailed as Mary Elizabeth’s father in the censuses.

And although Moses Stubley and both his parents were born in Batley, there is a family connection to Ireland. This is via grandparents Moses Donagh and Johanna Donnelly, both of whom hailed from there prior to settling in Batley.

Back to Moses’ parents. Albert Stubley and Mary Elizabeth Donnelly married in 1886. According to the 1911 census the couple had 14 children during the course of their marriage, nine of whom had died. Including Moses, the others I have identified were: Charles Edward (born in 1887, and who died the following year); Grace Ann (born in 1890 but who died in 1892); Maggie (b. 1892); Annie (b. 1895); Mary Elizabeth, who was known as Lizzie (b. 1897); Alice (born in 1899 but who died in 1900); Catherine, known as Kitty (b. 1901); Roger (born and died in 1905); and Ellen (born and died in 1908). Moses, therefore, was the couple’s only surviving son by 1911, along with daughters Maggie, Annie, Lizzie and Kitty.

Albert worked as coal miner (hewer) and Mary Elizabeth a woollen cloth weaver. Mary Elizabeth continued with mill work throughout her marriage. It was a marriage though which was not without its troubles. Mary Elizabeth admitted in 1899 that she and her husband had lived unhappily for 13 years.2

One notable incident from Moses’ childhood was the sudden death of his paternal grandmother, Grace Stubley. Shortly before lunchtime on 20 December 1892 she was doing some pre-Christmas shopping in town. After visiting the butcher’s shop at the co-operative stores, she collapsed outside Bennett’s pawn shop. She was dead before medical assistance arrived. Her death resulted in Moses’ father, along with uncles William, Newsome and Charles Stubley being taken to Dewsbury County Court for £1 3s 5d rent owed on the Ward’s Hill cottage their mother had occupied.3

The Stubley family had a number of addresses across Batley. In the early years of their marriage, Albert and Mary Elizabeth lived at Mill Lane. But by 1891 they resided at Spa Street, with a move to New Street by 1900 at the time of Alice’s death. This was also their abode in the 1901 census. They were subsequently recorded as living in Hume Street in 1905, Goodall Yard in 1908 and by the 1911 census they had a Taylor Street address. However by then Moses had moved out of the family home and was lodging with the Day family at Cross Bank Road, Carlinghow, whilst working as a coal miner (hewer).

The following year, on 26 October 1912, Moses married 21-year-old Annie Lizzie Kitson at St John’s, Carlinghow. The couple gave their address as 2, Birch Street, and this remained their home throughout their marriage. Their only child, Daniel Kitson Stubley, was born in July 1913 and baptised at St Mary’s, but he died the following year just short of his first birthday. This was only months after the death of Moses’ mother, who died at the beginning of 1914.

Moses had a few minor scrapes with the police. His first appearance before the magistrates at Batley Borough Court occurred on 13 May 1901 for playing some kind of game on the highway. Also charged alongside him were 14-year-old John Finneran and 17-year-old Alexander Jessop. It resulted in a fine for Moses of 2s 6d and costs. Other incidents included a charge of drunk and riotous in Stocks Lane on 8 October 1910; obscene language in February 1913; drunk and riotous (once again) in February 1914; and a breach of the peace in April 1914.

Notwithstanding these infractions, Moses was greatly esteemed by his colleagues at Soothill Colliery, where he was employed at the outbreak of war.

Moses went to France on 13 September 1914, serving with the 2nd KOYLI. Given his service number, it appears that Moses originally enlisted as a Special Reservist with the 3rd KOYLI in January 1909. The Special Reserve was introduced in 1908 as part of the Haldane Reforms, replacing the Militia. Men attesting with the Special Reserve signed on for six years and, after undertaking an initial period of training, thereafter received 3 to 4 weeks training annually. They also accepted that they may be called up in the event of general mobilisation. At the outbreak of war the function of these 3rd (Reserve) Battalions was to provide reinforcement drafts for the active service battalions. It is therefore likely Moses was mobilised in early August 1914, within days of the burial of his infant son on the 29 July. The 3rd KOYLI moved on mobilisation from Pontefract to Hull.

Annie Lizzie would be left to grieve alone in Batley, with the added anxiety about what the future would hold for her husband. This concern would only increase following his swift posting overseas, brought about because the 2nd KOYLI were in the thick of the early exchanges of the war.

The 2nd KOYLI were part of the British Expeditionary Force, arriving in France from Dublin on 16 August. They suffered losses in the Battle of Mons on 23 August (a roll call of the 2nd KOYLI on the 24th August revealed one officer killed, whilst 27 other ranks failed to answer their names).4 Le Cateau on 26 August though brought significantly heavy losses totalling 600. This comprised of 18 officers, 21 sergeants, 22 corporals, 7 buglers and 532 privates. Of this total 310 were later reported to be prisoners in Germany, 170 of whom were wounded.5 The timing of Moses’ arrival in France would therefore fit with their need for reinforcements. And the reason for this would be clear from the casualty lists arriving home. In fact, amongst those 2nd KOYLI wounded at Mons was St Mary’s parishioner James Trainer.

Moses was known as amongst many of his comrades as “the smartest gunner in his section”and his photo (below) shows him with his hand on a Vickers machine gun.6 It is therefore likely he was part of the Battalion’s Machine Gun Section.7

Moses was killed during the second battle of Ypres. The 2nd KOYLI had moved to the Flanders Front in the autumn of 1914. Preceded by the struggle for Hill 60, 2nd Ypres commenced on 22 April with a surprise German gas attack on French North African forces in the northern sector.8 Although not involved in this, the 2nd KOYLI Unit War Diary noted on 22 April 1915 that the Ypres-Poperinge road had:

…a continual stream of refugees coming from Ypres, followed by French Algerian troops and transport of all sorts which completely blocked the road and our further march forward. We then learnt that the Germans had used asphyxiating gasses on the French Algerian troops trenches…9

It was two days later, on 24 April 1915, that Moses was killed in action. This marked the start of the Battle of St Julien phase of 2nd Ypres. According to CWGC records he was one of nine men from the Battalion to die that day.

According to the Unit War Diary, on 23 April the 2nd KOYLI were attached to the 1st Canadian Division in operations north east of Ypres. At nightfall they consolidated a newly established trench line before being relieved at dawn when they withdrew to the canal bank. At noon on the 24 April they were ordered to assist the 10th Canadians retake a lost line north east of Wieltje. Approaching St Jean they were subjected to heavy shell fire which followed them until they reached their position. Unfortunately on arrival they were unable to take shelter in the trenches which were already full of troops. Owing to bad staff arrangements by the Canadian Division the line which should have been empty and ready for occupation was so crowded by troops of different regiments that 2nd KOYLI companies were forced to lie in the open, fully exposed to the enemy who rained heavy shrapnel fire on them, killing and wounding many men. St Jean is the death location for Moses noted in his Soldiers’ Effects register entry.

In the first half of May Moses’ family began to receive unofficial messages that he had been killed in action. These included news from a Lieutenant serving in the same Regiment.

A further letter dated 10 May from a comrade, Lance Corporal J. H. Johnson, had what seems like particularly blunt opening lines. It read:

Just a few lines explaining why I am sending back your letter addressed to Private M. Stubley. Well, I am sorry to inform you that he got killed in action, and it is my orders to open all his letters and return them to the senders. (Of course, they are not read). I and all the other chaps in the section send our deepest sympathy to you and all his relatives in your bereavement. We were all sorry to lose such a good comrade. Anything you wish to know, I will try to the best of my ability to inform you about.10

Official confirmation duly followed towards the end of May simply stating that Moses had been killed in action and expressing sympathy with his relatives.11

The family were desperate to find out more information, but the censor did not help. Another Carlinghow soldier and St Mary’s man, Gunner Walter Waite,12 wrote to his family about Moses. The censor passed the words “Dear Mother, about Moses Stubley” but then crossed out the half dozen or so following lines regarding the fate of Moses, which his distraught family tried in vain to decipher.13

In June 1915 they did learn more in a letter from another St Mary’s man, Private Patrick Gallagher, who served alongside Moses in the 2nd KOYLI.14 In the postscript of a letter home to his wife he wrote:

I have been enquiring how Moses Stubley was killed. Tell his wife he was shot through the back and the bullet came out of his neck.15

At around the same time rumours circulated that Moses had been awarded a VC. His wife heard these reports, and a letter to this effect also arrived at the Batley News office.16 No official confirmation followed, and these reports ultimately proved to be false.

Moses is buried in Blauwepoort Farm Cemetery. He was awarded the 1914 Star with Clasp, Victory Medal and British War Medal. In addition to St Mary’s, he is also remembered on the Batley War Memorial.

Blauwepoort Farm Cemetery with Moses Stubley’s headstone identified by the poppy cross – Photo by Jane Roberts

In terms of other family members Moses’ father, Albert, and his uncle, Newsome Stubley, both served in, and survived, the war. His cousin John Joseph Stubley (son of Newsome) died in Gallipoli in 1915. Living in Ossett at the time of his death, his details can be found on the Ossett history website.

Moses’ wife, Annie Lizzie, was awarded a pension of 10s per week from November 1915. She eventually remarried in 1932. She and her husband, Brook Ingham, are recorded as living at 2 Birch Street in 1939 – the same address she and Moses spent their brief married life at.

1. The St Mary’s parish register gave his date of birth as 19 April 1889, but there is a supplementary note to indicate that his month of birth may have been March;
2. Batley Reporter and Guardian, 21 April 1899;
3. Batley News, 3 March 1893;
4. Bond, Reginald C. History of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the Great War, 1914-1918. London: P. Lund, Humphries, 1929;
5 Ibid;
6. Batley News, 12 June 1915;
7. Later in 1915 these Machine Gun Sections were formed into Machine Gun Companies of the Machine Gun Corps and attached to Brigades;
8. The first use of gas on the Western Front. In this instance it was chlorine gas;
9. 2nd KOYLI Unit War Diary, TNA, Reference WO95/1558/1;
10. Batley News, 22 May 1915;
11. Batley News, 29 May 1915;
12. Walter survived the war;
13. Batley News, 29 May 1915;
14. Patrick died in 1917 and is commemorated on the church War Memorial;
15. Batley Reporter, 25 June 1915;
16. Batley News, 12 June 1915.

Other Sources:
• 3rd KOYLI Service Records;
• 1871-1911 England & Wales Censuses;
1939 Register, TNA, Reference: RG101/3608F/007/36 Letter Code: KMFA
Baptism records;
• Batley Borough Court Records,
West Yorkshire Archives;
Batley Cemetery Records;
Commonwealth War Graves Commission;
The Long, Long Trail website;
GRO Indexes – Births, Marriages and Deaths;
Medal Award Rolls, TNA WO329/1455 and WO329/2466;
Medal Index Card;
• Newspapers as named, but also Batley Reporter and Guardian, 24 December 1892, 14 May 1915 and 21 May 1915; Batley News, 23 December 1892 and 21 April 1899;
Marriage Register, St John’s, Carlinghow, West Yorkshire Archives, Reference WDP132/1/2/2;
• Soldiers’ Effects Register, NAM Accession Number: 1991-02-333; Record Number Ranges: 172001-173500a 2; Reference: 67
Soldiers Died in the Great War;
Unit War Diary, 2nd KOYLI, TNA WO 95/1558/1;
• Western Front Association Pension Record Cards and Ledgers, 176/0897/STU-STY