This is the latest update of the pages relating to my Batley St Mary’s one-place study, the details of which I announced here.
In the past month I have added seven new pages. These include four weekly newspaper summary pages. I have accordingly updated the surname index to these During This Week newspaper pieces, so you can easily identify newspaper snippets relevant to your family.
There is one new War Memorial biography – that of John Brooks. I have also updated the biography of Herbert Booth to include a new photograph of a Batley street, dating from around 1910.
I’ve also written the first post in the occupations and employment category, describing the job of a rag grinder.
And there is the first post in the families section, entitled A Death in the Church.
Finally for this month, more men who served and survived have been identified. I have also updated that page. The biographies of these men will follow in due course.
Below is the full list of pages to date. I have annotated the *NEW* ones, plus the *UPDATED* pages, so you can easily pick these out. Click on the link and it will take you straight to the relevant page.
This is the latest update of the pages relating to my Batley St Mary’s one-place study, the details of which I announced here.
In the past month I have added six new pages. These include five weekly newspaper summary pages. I have accordingly updated the surname index to these During This Week newspaper pieces, so you can easily identify newspaper snippets relevant to your family.
There is one new War Memorial biography – that of Herbert Booth.
Finally for this month, more men who served and survived have been identified. I have also updated that page. The biographies of these men will follow in due course.
Below is the full list of pages to date. I have annotated the *NEW* ones, plus the *UPDATED* page, so you can easily pick these out. Click on the link and it will take you straight to the relevant page.
It is one of Batley’s most iconic sites. The soldier in the Memorial Gardens looking down solemnly over the names of Batley’s Fallen. But the design, and location, of the town’s War Memorial could have been totally different. And, it may come as a surprise, the town commemorated its Great War Fallen with far more than this Memorial. Here’s the story about the debates which went on in Batley about a suitable form of remembrance.
The Great War officially ended on 28 June 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. It was over a year later, on 9 August 1920, when Batley Borough’s General Purposes Committee resolved that “a representative Committee be appointed to consider and report to a public meeting on the question of the provision of some suitable War Memorial for this Borough.”
The War Memorial Committee was initially made up of the Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors, who were able to add others as deemed appropriate. In addition to these Borough worthies, those involved in the War Memorial Committee, and its offshoots, eventually comprised of representatives from each of the following organisations:
Co-opted Members of the Library Committee;
Co-opted Members of the Education Committee;
Co-opted Members of the Technical School Committee;
Chamber of Commerce;
Chamber of Trade;
Committee of the Batley & District Hospital;
Batley Workingmen’s Club;
Soothill Workingmen’s Club:
Batley Co-operative Society Ltd.;
Batley Paxton Society;
Temperance Society, Batley;
Trades & Friendly Club, Batley;
Carlinghow Workingmen’s Club;
Liberal Club, Batley;
Liberal Club, Staincliffe;
Conservative Club, Batley;
United Irish League Club, Batley;
St John Ambulance Association, Batley Division;
Batley Cricket, Athletic and Football. Club;
Independent Labour Party, Batley Branch;
Primrose League, Batley;
Women’s Liberal Association, Batley;
Co-operative Women’s Guild, Batley;
Teachers Association, Batley Branch;
Independent Labour Party Women’s Branch;
P.M.E. Batley (Hanover Street Church);
British Women’s Temperance Association (BWTA), Batley Branch;
BWTA Staincliffe Branch;
BWTA Hanging Heaton Branch;
Batley Old Band;
Batley Nursing Service;
Batley Ex-Servicemen’s Social Club; and
Batley Branch British Legion.
At the War Memorial Committee Meeting on 11 October 1920, three resolutions were passed:
That they should recommend to a public meeting that a suitable monument be erected in the Borough as one way in which to perpetuate the memory of those from Batley who fell in the War;
That it should also be recommended that a portion of any War Memorial Fund should be go towards the extension of Batley & District Hospital. Alongside this, that a Sub-Committee be appointed to consider and report upon the amount of pensions being paid to widows and other dependents of the men from the Borough who fell in the Great War; and
That subscribers to any arising War Memorial Fund should be allowed to earmark their subscriptions to any one or more of the selected schemes.
The pension aspect was considered further in January 1922. In this meeting the War Memorial Sub-Committee decided in view of the increased amount of State pensions payable to War widows and War dependents, and the decrease in the cost of living, the Batley war Memorial Scheme should be confined to raising subscriptions to erect a suitable monument. The main Committee accepted this recommendation and, as a result, the establishment of a larger benevolent fund was deferred. Essentially this meant it was scrapped.
The War Memorial Committee then appointed another Sub-Committee to prepare and consider plans for the erection of the War Memorial.
On 20 February 1922 this War Memorial Sub-Committee discussed the siting of the Memorial. One suggestion was part of Batley Parish Church Yard. However it was felt a new Memorial inappropriate for an old church yard. The two remaining options were the park, adjoining Bradford Road; or the Market Place, because of its accessibility. Objections to the latter were raised on the grounds that the market would be too crowded. As an alternative, another portion of the Market Estate was proposed – the open ground at the top of the Market Hill. The Committee voted on the two options, and overwhelming decision was Market Hill. The Borough Surveyor had the task of preparing a rough layout in time for the next meeting.
The Sub-Committee reconvened on 6 March 1922 for further discussions, based on the layout drawn up by the Borough Surveyor. Some did not like the proximity of the Memorial to the police station. Others still argued for a more central market position. But the top of the Market Hill won the day, with the lay-out approved to put forward for main committee sign-off.
The Borough Engineer was asked to obtain sketch models for the Monument and a walled enclosure on the Market Hill site, with the design of the Monument left to the discretion of the artists. A cost of £1,500 was set as part of the design specifications.
The Borough Engineer brought 16 submitted designs to the 15 May 1922 meeting. Two designs were selected – one by Messrs. Wright and Sons Limited of Bradford; and the other by Messrs. R.L Bolton and Son of Cheltenham. The Committee also wanted a third design in the form of another Cross, so the decision was taken to ask Messrs. Kelly of Bradford and Messrs. Scott of Dewsbury to resubmit designs so one of these crosses could also be considered. The rough minutes of the meeting contained rudimentary doodles of the designs. I have reproduced these below. Yes, my sketches are bad. But in my defence they are very good replicas of those in the draft minutes!
Now thoughts turned to names on the Memorial. The Town Clerk was asked to compile a nucleus list consisting of name, rank and unit. This could then be circulated amongst churches, clubs etc, and checked with information from official bodies like the War Pensions Department and Post Office. Once this nucleus list was established, it would be publicly available for consultation in the Town Hall and library, and advertised in the local papers.
June 1922 came and went. The War Memorial Sub-Committee failed to reach a design decision. More designs had come in. More were sought. And the Town Clerk and Borough Surveyor were instructed to obtain photographs of monuments already erected in other towns.
These photographs were presented on the 30 August 1922 War Memorial Sub-Committee meeting. Finally two designs were settled on. As in May it was the design by Bradford’s Messrs Wright and Sons Ltd, at a cost of £2,000. This was a figure on a pedestal. However, the Sub-Committee decided to ask this firm to submit an alternative design for the figure. The second design selected was by Mr L.T. Moore of London. This was a tall pillar on a plinth surmounted by a Cross. Lions were depicted on the sketch, and the Sub-Committee wanted an amended design without the lions.
The Memorial site and designs now went before the full War Memorial Committee on 8 September 1922. They overwhelmingly concurred that the Market Estate site was preferable to the park, 20 votes to 4, with one abstention. But the designs attracted more debate.
The Borough Surveyor outlined the design of Messrs Wright and Sons Ltd. In a pose symbolic of attendance at a funeral, a bronze soldier stood on a Bolton Wood Stone pedestal. But some were dissatisfied with a soldier. Alternate suggestions bandied about included a Winged Figure for Victory. Another suggestion was for a Sailor, a Soldier and an Airman; and taking this combined services theme a step further, a single symbolic figure representing all three services was mooted. But the line was held. This bronze soldier was the design decided upon by the Sub-Committee, and it was this design which the full Committee had to consider.
Mr L. T. Moore‘s design was similarly debated by the Committee. Rather than lions surrounding the cross, could it not be the figure from the first design, came the suggestion? It was confirmed that the Sub-Committee agreed that the lions be removed. The War Memorial Committee choice here was therefore the cross with or without figures.
Finally it came to a vote. With 23 in favour against nil, and two abstentions, Messers Wright & Sons Ltd Soldier design was the one chosen at Sub-Committee stage for Batley’s War Memorial.
The next step was the approval of these decisions by the General Purposes Committee of the Town Council (28 September 1922), and sign-off by the Town Council itself (5 October). Both passed as stood – the Market Hill area of the Market Estate, and Messers Wright & Sons Ltd were confirmed. Preparations were now taken to enclose and lay out a portion of the Market Estate for the Monument, and to inform the people of Batley.
The town’s meeting took place on 30 November 1922. Even here there was a last-ditch unsuccessful attempt to force a reconsideration of the the Market Estate location for the Memorial. But the plans were finally signed off here, with only three dissentients.
The town’s meeting also saw the newly-elected Mayor, Councillor Hamilton Crothers, formally launch the Mayor’s Fund-Raising Appeal to pay for the Memorial. At the meeting it was announced that an initial £750 had been donated equally by Messrs G. & J. Stubley, Messrs J., T. & J. Taylor Ltd, and Mrs Adeline Stubley. By 1 August 1923 the Mayor’s Appeal stood at £2,248 7s and 6d, with donations coming in from across the town, way in excess of the amount needed.
In parallel to the fund-raising appeal, collecting the names of the Fallen moved onto the next phase. In February 1923 forms were issued to householders in the Borough asking for the particulars of any relative who was killed or whose death was certified as due to wounds received, or disease contracted in the War. In addition to this house-to-house canvass, names were obtained through the War Pensions Department, Clubs, Institutes, Religious bodies etc. Information poured in, on officially distributive pro formas, in various books placed in the municipal buildings, and by post. Multiple clubs, organisations and churches also submitted names. All this information was used to produce lists, with numerous corrections and iterations leading to multiple versions and refinements. A format of the list was also published in order to receive further names, or any corrections (including spellings). This was an enormous task, in a time when information had to be cross-checked, compared, collated, sorted and organised manually – then typewritten.
By August 1923 a satisfactory draft list showing rank, name, regiment and date of death was produced. This list – 782 names in total – was forwarded to the chosen contractor, Messrs Wright and Sons Ltd of Bradford, for them to prepare the twelve bronze tablets for the Memorial. These tablets would include the men’s Christian and surnames, organised in alphabetical surname order.
On 6 September 1923 the Sub-Committee responsible for the unveiling of the War Memorial met formally for the first time. They had not long to make arrangements for the event, which they set for 27 October 1923. In terms of who would perform the unveiling, the Sub-Committee tasked the Mayor with approaching either Field Marshal Earl Haig, Admiral Earl Beatty, General Ian Hamilton or General Harrington, G.O.C. Northern Command
General Sir Ian Hamilton, commander at Gallipoli, had retired from the Army in 1920. But he subsequently took a keen interest in the work of the British Legion, and he was in great demand as a speaker for veteran organisations. Despite the very short notice he agreed to perform the unveiling of Batley’s War Memorial.
And yet, even at this late stage, there had been no decision as to the War Memorial inscription. Those discussions continued during September. By early October the sculptors finally received confirmation that the inscription would be:
In grateful memory of the men of this town who fell in the Great War 1914- 1918.
The War Memorial unveiling ceremony commenced at 3pm on 27 October 1923. General Hamilton, in his short address, said it was not enough to raise a memorial to the nearly 800 dead. The people must take their part to prevent the world entering upon another period of war, and to save their children from suffering as they themselves had suffered. The inscription on the War Memorial today, shows this hope did not come to pass.
At the wreath-laying ceremony which followed the unveiling, nearly one hundred relatives of the fallen men laid flowers at the foot of the Memorial.
Batley finally had its War Memorial.
So what of the other proposals for the Mayor’s War Memorial Fund? As explained earlier, there were originally three:
The now fulfilled erection of a monument;
The augmenting of the pensions received by widows and other dependents of men from the Borough who fell – an aim which was quickly dropped; and
Contributing to the Batley Hospital Extension scheme.
From 1924 onwards the move was made to ensure that the surplus of the Mayor’s Appeal Fund be devoted to the urgently needed hospital extension “in such a manner as to help perpetuate the memory of those who fell in the Great War.”
In fact, the Mayor’s War Memorial Appeal Fund had been so well-supported by the folk of Batley that £750 was duly handed to the Board of Batley Hospital on 30 April 1926. And there was still a surplus available. Around £100 of this was earmarked for a suitable Memorial Plaque for the hospital to commemorate the gift from the War Memorial Fund. It was mooted that this could possibly be in the new entrance hall of the hospital, but the final decision as to location would be for the Hospital Board. This £136 surplus was still under discussion in 1934.
In 1935 it was resolved at last. A Memorial plaque would definitely be erected. Two choices for wording were considered. The final decision was:
To assist in perpetuating the memory of the men of Batley who fell in the Great War 1914-1918 whose names are recorded on the town’s War Memorial the sum of £862 was given from the War Memorial Fund towards the cost of the extension of this Hospital begun 1924, completed 1928.
There was one other tangible form of remembrance. In 1925 the War Memorial Committee decided to seek tenders for a Memorial Tablet Frame containing the names of Batley’s Fallen. Despite these tenders being commissioned and received in 1925, nothing happened for almost another ten years. Finally in 1935 another set of tenders were requested. The specification decided upon was for two English Oak Mural Tablets, encasing behind glass parchment scrolls containing the names of the 782 fallen. These were to be displayed inside Batley Library. The 1935 tender request was quite specific that this was to be English Oak. Perhaps this was a throwback to 1925 when one of the aborted tenders, from Harry Senior, cabinet maker of Daisy Hill, Dewsbury, showing an astounding lack of awareness, stated his quote was for frames of PRIME QUALITY AUSTRIAN OAK ! (And yes, his quote did have this phrase in capital letters).
Messrs. Osborn Hoyle Ltd, Engravers, Die Sinkers and Stamp Makers of 17 Bond Street, Dewsbury finally won the tender, at a cost of £14 4s for the frames, and £7 10s for the 12 parchment scrolls and glass. There was also an additional cost of supplying and fixing 108 bronze letters on the oak frames, amounting to £4 1s 1d. This work was all complete by August 1935. This firm also won the contract for the Hospital Memorial plaque.
I believe the Oak Memorial Tablets are now in Batley Town Hall. But does anyone recall seeing the bronze Memorial Plaque in Batley Hospital, or know what became of it since the hospital’s closure? It did briefly resurface back in 2014, but I’ve not found out what happened after that. I’ve not noticed it in Batley Town Hall, but since researching the War Memorial history I’ve been unable to go down to check. It may be it is still in storage somewhere. I really do hope it can go on display once more at some point. After all, it is part of our town’s history, and it is a tribute to our ancestors’ efforts to commemorate our town’s Great War Fallen in perpetuity.
Finally, this Remembrance Sunday will not be like others because of the pandemic restrictions. If you have not been able to buy your usual poppy locally this year, and do feel able to donate to the Royal British Legion, here is the link to the Poppy Appeal 2020.
Footnotes: • For more information about those on the War Memorial see Batley’s Roll of Honour; • I am gradually uploading mini-biographies for the St Mary of the Angels Catholic Church parishioners on the One-Place Study section of my website.
This is another updated mini-biography of one of the men on the War Memorial of St Mary of the Angels RC Church, Batley: Thomas Curley. Significantly more records and information are available for him since my initial research, which I started over a decade ago.
Thomas’ parents, Anthony Curley and Mary Rush, originated from County Mayo but married locally in 1895 . Anthony is shown in various records working as a labourer , with Mary’s employment (when mentioned) a rag sorter .
Thomas was born on 28 July 1896 and baptised at St Mary’s less than a fortnight later . I have not obtained his birth certificate, but some sources indicate a Batley birthplace, others Heckmondwike. It is clear though that the family lived in Heckmondwike by the time of the 1901 census . Given that sons John (born 12 January 1898 ), Anthony (born 8 August 1899 ) and Willie (born 1 May 1904 ) were not baptised at St Mary’s, but at St Patrick’s in Heckmondwike, (now the Holy Spirit parish), it is likely the move to this neighbouring town took place before John’s birth.
By 1911 the family had returned to Batley, living at what would be their home for life, 25 Villiers Street . This was in the well-known Skelsey Row vicinity of town, popular with the Irish Catholic community. This census also indicates Anthony and Mary had another child, as yet untraced, who died at an early age. Mary though was once again pregnant when the family filled in their census form. The the couple’s sixth child, James, was born on 26 July 1911 . No further children are recorded.
By the time of this 1911 census, 14-year-old Thomas had put school well behind him and was already working as a coal mine hurrier. A working life down the pit all changed with the declaration of war on 4 August 1914.
Thomas enlisted in Dewsbury as a Private with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. His Service Number, 3/1578, indicates he joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, a depot/training unit. They were based at Pontefract at the outbreak of war, subsequently moving to Hull. Although his service papers have not survived, his number indicates he enlisted around the mid-point of August 1914, at just 18 years of age. He was clearly keen to do his bit.
His disembarkation date overseas, in the France and Flanders theatre of war, was 26 January 1915. Technically, at 18 years of age, he was too young to serve overseas – the minimum age being 19. His Medal Index Card or Medal Award Rolls do not indicate which King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry battalion he first went out to serve with. However, investigating others with similar service numbers and medal qualifying entitlement dates, does give clues. Pte. James William Bollington, Service Number 3/1577, had the same disembarkation date and died on 1 April 1916. He served with the Regiment’s 2nd Battalion. It was based at Bailleul, on the French/Belgium border at the end of January 1915. It received drafts of 98 and 72 men respectively on 28 and 30 January . Perhaps Thomas was amongst these men.
Confirmation that this was indeed the battalion Thomas served with overseas comes in the form of a Daily Casualty List. The War Office produced these grim rolls. A version of these was also published in the newspapers, in particular The Times. Column upon column, densely packed with the names of the dead, missing and wounded, appeared day after day after day. Although published some time after the event, these lists would be poured over by families up and down the country, checking to see if relatives, friends and neighbours were listed, praying they were not. In the 4 October 1915 list Pte. T Curley, 1578, of the 2nd King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, was reported wounded.
This battalion’s Unit War Diary is scant on casualty details, with lots of ‘Quiet Day’ reports. In the weeks leading up to this 4 October list, the men rotated their time in trenches, or supplying digging and mining parties, around the Bray and Carnoy areas of the Somme. The only significant activity was the Germans detonating two mines on 4 September, blowing in some of the British listening posts .
Looking at Commonwealth War Graves burials for the battalion in the period 1 September to 4 October 1915, there are only six recorded. Five of these are in Carnoy Military Cemetery, the latest being 18 September, again indicative of nothing dramatic or large scale. Neither is there any report in the Batley News for the period to shed any further light on how Thomas sustained his injuries .
Thomas returned to action, possibly by now with the 8th Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. For it was with this battalion that he sustained wounds which proved fatal.
Their Unit War Diary does not provide specific name details about Other Rank casualties; and again neither the Batley News or Batley Reporter and Guardian carried any report of Thomas’ injuries or subsequent death.
In terms of major action, the nearest time-wise to when he died was the Somme Battle of Le Transloy. Taking place between the 1-18 October 1916, the 23rd Division, which included the 8th KOYLI, assisted in the capture of Le Sars. This is a possibility. But in terms of it definitely being when Thomas was injured, it is speculation on my part.
The circumstances surrounding the 8th KOYLI involvement here is detailed in their Unit War Diary.
On 1 October, when in trenches near Martinpuich, the 8th KOYLI were tasked with the capture of two lines of German-held trenches. The diary account of the attack reads:
Battalion took up its position in assembly trenches behind DESTREMONT FARM just before dawn. The attack was timed for 3.15pm and the objective was the two lines of German trenches over a frontage of 300 yards in front of LE SARS. The advance was across 600 yards of open ground. At dawn our position was revealed and the assembly trenches were shelled continuously. About 25% of strength were then lost in casualties before the attack. At 3.15pm our artillery put up an intensive barrage and A. & D. Companies left their trenches clearly followed by C. Co[mpan]y in support. B. Co[mpan]y remained in reserve. The objective was gained easily despite a counter barrage by German artillery and work of consolidation on the two lines began. The objective was held all night against small counter attacks and at 2am B Co[mpan]y reinforced. At 4 am two companies came up from Brigade Reserve and took over O.G.2. While the remainder of the 8th K.O.Y. L.I. were withdrawn to O.G.1. 
By the time the O.G.1 contingent were relieved the following day, the battalion’s casualty count stood at 1 Officer killed, 2 missing, 8 wounded, along with 248 Other Rank casualties.
Despite this the operation was deemed a success. Major General Babington, the General Officer Commading the Division, sent his personal congratulations to them, writing as follows:
My dear Colonel. Will you please tell all ranks of your battalion how very pleased I am at their behaviour on Oct[ober] 1st. I congratulate them most heartily on their success which was due to their gallantry and the fine spirit they showed. Good luck to you all. Yours Ever (Signed) J. M. Babington 
Additionally, a number of officers and men of the 8th KOYLI collected gallantry awards for the parts they played.
There then followed a period of quiet days resting, and undertaking working and carrying party duties before moving to billets prior to heading up to Ypres in mid-October. The only casualties mentioned in the period after 1 October are an accidental one on 19 October in the line at Zillebeke; and 1 Other Rank wounded at Ypres on 24 October 1916, where they were either bathing or assigned to working parties. But Thomas’ burial location makes these less likely options.
Wherever sustained, his injuries were sufficiently serious for him to be moved down the line to Rouen. The southern outskirts of the city had a number of military camps and hospitals. These included eight general, five stationary, one British Red Cross and one labour hospital, and No. 2 Convalescent Depot. Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war. The great majority of those who died in these hospitals were buried in the city cemetery of St. Sever. In September 1916, it was found necessary to begin an extension, and it was here that Thomas was buried when he succumbed to his wounds on 28 October 1916.
Thomas was awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War and Victory Medals. In addition to his parish church of St Mary of the Angels in Batley, he is also remembered on Batley War Memorial.
The family remained in the 25 Villiers Street home in the years following Thomas’ death. This is Anthony and Mary’s recorded home in Batley cemetery’s burial registers when they died in 1937 (Anthony was buried on 29 March, and Mary on 21 November). It is also where William and James are living in their 1939 Register entry. The streets went in Batley’s slum clearances in the 1960s period.
Notes:  GRO Indexes, September Quarter 1895, Dewsbury, 9B, Page 1182, accessed via Findmypast;  1901 and 1911 Censuses England and Wales, Labourer for Building Contractor in 1901 and Mason’s Labourer in 1911 Censuses, accessed via Findmypast, originals at The National Archives (TNA), References RG13/4261/141/28 and RG14/27245;  Rag Sorter in the 1911 Census England and Wales, as above;  St Mary of the Angels, Batley, Baptism register, accessed 2010;  1901 Census England and Wales, as above;  Birth date obtained from 1939 Register, living 19 Villiers Street, Batley, accessed via Findmypast, TNA Reference RG101/3608B/008/22 Letter Code: KMEX  Birth date obtained from 1939 Register, living 91 New Street, Batley, accessed via Findmypast, TNA Reference RG101/3608A/011/44 Letter Code: KMEW; and GRO Death Indexes January Quarter 1984, Dewsbury, Register 384 Volume 4  Birth date obtained from 1939 Register, living 25 Villiers Street, Batley, accessed via Findmypast, TNA Reference RG101/3608B/008/32 Letter Code: KMEX; and GRO Death Indexes, January Quarter 1970, Bradford, 2B, Page 735;  1911 Census England and Wales, as above;  St Mary of the Angels, Batley, Baptism register, accessed 2010, also his GRO death registration in 1974. Note the 1939 Register gives the date as 27 July;  2nd Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Unit War Diary, 1 August 1914 – 31 December 1915, TNA Reference WO95/1551/1  Ibid;  The Batley News editions between 9 to 30 October 1915 have been checked to date. Earlier dates and the Batley Reporter for the period have not been examined;  8th Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Unit War Diary, 1 August 1915 – 31 October 1917, TNA Reference WO95/2187/2  Ibid
Sources (other than mentioned in the notes): • 1905 OS Map is reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under a Creative Commons licence. https://maps.nls.uk/index.html; • Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, https://www.cwgc.org/ • Daily Casualty Lists, The Genealogist website; • History of The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in the Great War 1914-1918 ; Bond, Reginald C. London: Lund, Humphries, 1929. • Soldiers Died in the Great War, accessed via Findmypast; • Soldiers’ Effects Registers, accessed via Ancestry, original record National Army Museum; Chelsea, London, England; Soldiers’ Effects Records, 1901-60; NAM Accession Number: 1991-02-333; Record Number Ranges: 367001-368500; Reference: 197; • WW1 Pension Ledgers and Index Cards 1914-1923, accessed via Ancestry and Fold3, original record Western Front Association; London, England; Pension Record Cards, Reference: 055/0235/CUN-CAR and PRC Ledgers, Reference: 687/04D;
War Memorials can be found in churches, towns and villages the length and breadth of the country, inscribed with the names of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Years later researching those named can prove problematical, as all that exists on the Memorial is a name. I know this only too well from my Batley St Mary’s research!
However some Parishes and Districts went a step further and, in addition to these Memorials, they produced registers and books containing more details about their war dead.
This Christmas my parents bought me a limited edition reproduction of one such book, the Upper District of Soothill War Register and Records of War Service 1914 to 1920.
The original was compiled by the Rev W.E. Cleworth, Vicar of St Paul’s, Hanging Heaton. Printed by E.F. Roberts in Batley, it was based on a War Service Register kept by the Vicar from the start of the war. The Soothill Upper War Memorial Committee subsequently assisted. When the war ended 1,000 Record Forms were printed, information inserted from the Manuscript Register and then these were distributed to households in the area for correction and additions. Over 900 were returned and these were used in the production of the book, which was truly a parish effort. Copies of the original book are held at St Paul’s Hanging Heaton and Batley library.
It is particularly noteworthy that this book contains the names of not only those who gave their lives in the course of the conflict; it includes information about all those from the District who served. So a wonderful record of those who came home and are all too often overlooked.
It contains addresses, Units, age when war service commenced, places served, promotions, distinctions and other points of interest about the service careers of those featured.
Details of the limited edition reproduction organised by Margaret Watson, including more about the original, can be found in October 2014 editions Batley & Birstall News. However I understand the reprint has now sold out. The book includes a number of men linked to my family tree, including Jesse Hill, so I am so pleased to now own a copy. And I am indebted to Margaret and all those who worked on putting the reprint together.
On a recent visit to Lavenham, Suffolk I popped into the local Parish Church of St Peter and Paul to look at their War Memorial. To my surprise and joy beneath their Memorial they too had a book.
Lavenham Parish Church – Jane Roberts
This one commemorated those who died in both World Wars. A handwritten Book of Remembrance dating from 1922, it was compiled with the specific intention that those who died would have more than their names remembered.
Lavenham War Memorial – Jane Roberts
There appeared to be a page devoted to each man, giving name, age and address alongside service details and even extracts from letters informing families of their loss. A wonderful lasting legacy for generations to come.
These books are particularly poignant because of their “of the time” nature. I wonder how many more are out there? And how many are being reprinted to ensure these men’s memories are perpetuated?
This week was a full-on working week with two long London trips. Although I didn’t have time to do any family history research, I did take the opportunity to visit the War Memorial at King’s Cross station.
Over 20,000 railwaymen died in the First World War and there are various memorials to them dotted around the country. The one at King’s Cross is dedicated to employees of The Great Northern Railway (GNR) who lost their lives in that conflict. It contains 937 names. Originally erected in 1920, it was further dedicated to employees of the London and North Eastern Railway who gave their lives in World War Two. Their names are not listed.
The memorial was re-designed and re-dedicated in 2013. Its 11 tablets are reminiscent of John Singer Sargant’s painting “Gassed“.
I had a particular reason for wanting to stop off at the memorial. Amongst those named is William Colbeck. He was a parishioner at St Mary’s, Batley, and someone whose life I researched as part of my St Mary’s War Memorial book.
Born in 1887, William was the son of David and Catherine Colbeck (neé Garner). He initially followed his father’s trade as a woollen spinner before switching to become a platelayer employed by the GNR at Batley station.
William enlisted in March 1916, serving as a Sapper with the 264th Railway Company, Royal Engineers. The Royal Engineers by the end of the war numbered over a quarter of a million officers and men. Amongst a myriad of other construction roles, they built and maintained the railways. These were a vital part of the war effort, essential for moving men, supplies and equipment. So Williams specialist skills, developed in civilian life, were utilised during his military service.
He died from pneumonia in the 41st Stationary Hospital, France on 6th November 1918 and is buried at Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery.
At the time of his death his family placed a number of “In memoriam” notices in the “Batley News”. The one below is from his fiancée Elsie:
No one knows how much I miss him,
None but aching hearts can tell;
Forget him, no, I never will,
Loved him here, I love him still.
“Ever in my thoughts”
From his loving fiancée Elsie.
More information about railwaymen who died in the First World War can be found at the National Railway Museum (NRM) website. It includes a searchable database on the fallen.
I’ve included a series of close-up photos of the names of the men, which hopefully will be of use to those connected with the men commemorated.
Close up of the names on the first two tablets
Close up of third and fourth tablets
Close up of marble tablets five to eight
Close up of the names on the final three tablets
However, as with many War Memorials, not all those names you expect to find are included. Michael Lydon, another St Mary’s man, is one such example. According to newspapers he was employed as a goods porter by the GNR at Batley station. He lost his life on 1 September 1918. He does not feature on the GNR memorial or on the NRM database.
It would be good if both men (and any others with connections) could be remembered at Batley Railway Station.