Thanks to the wonderful Batley Library staff and volunteers, the missing Batley Borough 1918 Electoral Register was located just before Christmas. I spent the early few days of February beavering away on it to extract the absent Healey naval and military voters, and put them into spreadsheet format.
This work has significantly expanded the list of servicemen I initially identified using CWGC records of those who died, the WO 363 “Burnt Records” and WO 364 records of those discharged for medical/capability reasons. This initial list identified 39 men, though I have subsequently discovered an additional man. He is Arthur Ellis, a rag merchant whose address was 263 Healey Lane. He served with the Grenadier Guards, Service Number 27774.
The Electoral Register, signed off on 1 October 1918 by the Batley Town Clerk’s Office, identified 121 men, though there is a small overlap with my earlier findings. The numerical difference is indicative of the limited numbers of soldiers’ service records surviving, with around two thirds of them being totally lost or irretrievably damaged during WW2 1940 bombing.
First bit of background information about voting entitlement and the Electoral Register. The Representation of the People Act 1918 came into force in time for the December 1918 general election. One of the drivers for electoral reform included the fact only men who had been resident in the country for 12 months prior to a general election were entitled to vote. This residential qualification, combined with the property ones, meant many serving King and Country overseas were effectively disenfranchised. The Act abolished these restrictions and extended the vote to all men over the age of 21. Additionally, men who had served in the war could vote from the age of 19. However Conscientious Objectors were disenfranchised for five years. The Act also gave the vote to women over the age of 30 who met a property qualification, wives who were over 30 of all husbands who were entitled to vote in local government elections and also to those who were university graduates.
However, it should be noted that parliamentary and local government franchises were not the same. Hence the 1918 register is split into three categories.
- Division I: Persons qualified as both parliamentary and local government electors;
- Division II: Persons qualified as parliamentary electors but not as local government electors; and
- Division III: Persons qualified as local government electors but not as parliamentary electors.
Abbreviations used are:
- R: Residence qualification;
- BP: Business Premises qualification;
- O: Occupation qualification;
- HO: Qualification through husband’s qualification;
- NM: Naval or Military voter; and
- a: indicates absent voters.
The men on my Healey list all fall within both the absent and Naval and Military categories. The information was supplied by next of kin so may not be accurate. It may include men who were killed after its compilation. And addresses may not necessarily reflect actual residence, but merely be the most convenient address, for example the in-laws where the man’s wife was living whilst he was serving, or a friend’s home.
It is also worth emphasising this is the Electoral Register. It isn’t what is commonly known as the Absent Voters List (AVL). These lists, generated to provide servicemen and nurses with voting cards, ballot papers or proxy voting forms depending on where they were serving, gave far more detail. They normally included regiment, number, rank and home address. Sadly, despite checking with West Yorkshire Archives and Huddersfield Local Studies Library, I’ve been unable to locate the one for Batley Borough. It may be it no longer survives. The AVL would have provided so much more crucial identification information. But the Electoral Register is better than nothing.
The Register also enabled me to further define the parameters of this project. I used the Batley West Ward Polling Districts G and H to identify the relevant streets. These are:
- Belle Vue Street
- Crowther Street
- Deighton Lane
- Healey Lane (excluding the numbers falling within Polling District I. These are mainly below 79, with the exception of some numbers in the 40s which fall within District G)
- Healey Street
- Mortimer Avenue
- Sykes Street
- Towngate Road
- Trafalgar Street
- West Park Grove
- West Park Road
- West Park Terrace
These are in addition to Nelson Street and Prospect Terrace identified from earlier research. Looking at the 1911 Census Summary Books some Chaster Street houses may also fall within the catchment area.
The men’s details from the Electoral Register are contained in the following six tables. I checked across all three Divisions to identify other voters registered at the men’s given addresses, in the hope this provides more family clues.
So I can give myself an early 2017 back pat. This data extraction was one of my 2017 New Year’s Resolutions. I’d targeted a March completion, so I’m ahead of schedule and I can now begin the hard research, although I am still toying with the idea of the newspaper trawl. I know from previous experience how much value this adds. It’s a case of whether I have the time to do it alone!
Previous posts in this series are:
- Register of Electors 1918, Parliamentary Borough of Batley and Morley
- 1911 Census Summary Books