Thursday, 25 April 2013

World War One Soldier's Story - Bernard Dyson Oldroyd from Darton

My first request - sort of.  My friend GB and I were transcribing in Barnsley Town Hall yesterday and she had brought her Family Book for me to see - I'm so jealous she has that many family photos - and she knows who they are too!  I have an album, but most of the names are guesses - note to self ... label those photos before it's too late!

I knew we had a mutual Oldroyd connection - well her husband and mine anyway, so I mentioned I'd found some WW1 service records for a member of that family - Bernard Dyson Oldroyd is actually distantly connected to my OH's family twice by marriage - that's beginning to happen a lot as the Barnsley side of my family history spreads sideways.  He is also GB's husband's 2nd cousin once removed. 

Bernard was born in Woolley, Darton, near Barnsley in 1893.  He was the eldest surviving child of at least nine children to George Kitson Oldroyd and his wife Martha, maiden name Oates.  They had married in Thornhill, near Dewsbury in 1891, which was George's place of origin, however his father had moved away from there when George was a child, firstly to Outwood (1881) and then to  Staincross (1891) where he was a butcher.  I can only assume that George met Martha on a visit to relatives in the Thornhill area, and as was usual they would have married in her home parish church.  George gives his residence as Darton when he marries and their first child, Albert, who dies young, is baptised at Darton church.  The family must then move to Woolley as from 1893 onwards that is their church of choice for the next few years.
St Peter's Woolley with West Bretton
In the 1901 census George Oldroyd is a "Pump Man in Coal Mine" and the family are living in Top Row, Woolley Colliery.  Despite its name Woolley Colliery is just half a mile from the church in Darton and about three miles south of the actual village of Woolley and its church - however the parish boundary runs just south of the colliery meaning the occupants of the pit houses had to walk quite some extra distance for their family celebrations. 

The houses in Top Row look smaller than the ones in Low Row, those appear to have an extra offshot portion.  This would probably have reflected in the rents charged for the houses, with face workers and men with more responsibility being able to afford the slightly larger houses, nearer the pit. 
L: Woolley Colliery, showing Top Row 1906         R: Darton, showing Church Street 1906    (from Old Maps)
In the 1911 census Bernard, aged 17 and his 16 year old brother Robert are both Pony Drivers down the pit.  The family is living in Church Street, Darton, which runs diagonally between the church and the railway line in the right hand map snip above. 
Bernard Oldroyd's Attestation in 1915 (from Ancestry)
Bernard enlists "for the duration of the war" on 15 August 1915 - giving his address as Church Street, Darton.  He is 22 years old and his occupation is noted as Miner.  He joins the Royal Engineers in the 40th Signal Company.   I can find no definite record of his brother Robert joining up - but there are medal cards for at least four Robert Oldroyds in the Ancestry collection.

Bernard begins his service as a Driver, and is sent to France on 1 June 1916.  On 20 March 1917 he 'remustered' have been trained or tested and his rank was changed to Pioneer.  A note on the Great War Forum discusses the meaning of this rank - most men recruited to the Royal Engineers at the start of the war had some particular trade or skill, but later unskilled men were recruited and trained up to maintain the trenches, installing barbed wire, laying duck boards, building bridges and laying communication cables.  They had to do a lot of work at night time, it would have been too dangerous during the day - even so as many as 10% were killed.  Men with particular skills, such as carpenters were given the rank sapper.
A note from Bernard Oldroyd's Service Records certifying his change in rank (from Ancestry)
I wish I could read more of the above note - the ink seems to have been washed off in parts, and the edge is burnt, but at least Bernard's record is amongst the few that survived the blitz in World War Two.

"I certify that No 106843 Driver ? Oldroyd is in my opinion fully qualified in the main items laid down in AF8?? as a Pioneer and I recommend ?? remuster ?? rate of Engineer Pay from 20th March. Present Rate 4d Date of ? 13th Sep? Date 11th Mar 1917"

Bernard was awarded a Good Conduct Badge on 16 August 1917 - this was an inverted rank chevron worn on the left sleeve and was awarded for two years "trouble free" service. Thanks to the British Military Badge Forum for that snippet of information. 
Protection Certificate issued when Bernard was discharged in 1919 (from Ancestry)
The next date noted on Bernard's records is his discharge in January 1919.  The above certificate notes his address again as Church Street, Darton, Barnsley and that he was born in 1893 and that his medical category was A1.  There is another form in his service records where he declares he wasn't suffering from any disability brought on by his service in the war - this would have been completed so that he could not claim a pension at a later date.

He doesn't waste much time when he gets home.
1919 marriage entry from All Saint's, Darton for Bernard Oldroyd and Kate Makinson (from Ancestry)
Bernard marries Kate Makinson in September 1919, just nine months after getting back to Darton.  Had he been seeing her before he went overseas in 1916?  Had they been writing back and forth for three years, did he have a photograph of her to remind him of home?  Did she have a photo of him looking very proud and smart in his uniform? We'll just have to imagine that they did.  The witnesses at the wedding were Bernard's brother in law John Singleton and Kate's sister Emily. 

Bernard and Kate had five children, between 1920 and 1939.  They died within a short time of each other in the Halifax area in the early 1970s.  They would have celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1969.  I wonder if there's a report in a local newspaper? 

Bernard seems to have had an uneventful time during the war, but any service in the trenches is bound to have left him with difficult memories for the rest of his life.  I'm glad he was able to come home and settle down with his wife and family, so many did not. 

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