Tuesday, 29 July 2014

World War One Soldier's Story - Crossland Barraclough

I've been adding photos taken by the Barnsley War Memorials Project Information Officer, Pete, in Barnsley Cemetery, to an index page for War Memorial Gravestones there.  I was intrigued that Crossland Barraclough's next of kin on his Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) entry was his mother, Amelia who lived in Wallsend-on-Tyne (that's how they wrote it!) That and his unusual name ... presumably a family name for a first name, but we will see.
Crossland Barraclough's CWGC entry (from the CWGC website)

My own grandmother was born in Wallsend in 1907.  There will be no connection between the two I'm sure, but simply the coincidence of the place attracted my attention.  Easy to distract from 'proper work', that's me, especially in the current heat!  It's 24 degrees in our dining room where I'm sitting typing this.  
Crossland is remembered on his father and sister's gravestone
in Barnsley Cemetery (photo by PS)
This is the photo that the quest began with and the inscription on the gravestone transcribed for you (by Pete) below:

In Loving Memory Of / Oswald / the dearly beloved husband of / Amelia Barraclough / who died Oct. 16th 1920 / aged 54 years / also Crossland, the only / beloved son of the above / who died from wounds / received in action in Palestine / May 2nd 1918, aged 24 years / also Millicent Edna / their daughter / who died in infancy / Peace Perfect Peace.

We can see that his father, Oswald, died in 1920.  So that means that the CWGC entry shown above was compiled after his death as in that he is referred to as 'the late'.  There is also a sister who 'died in infancy'.  Lots of clues.  But why did Amelia end up in Wallsend?
Crossland Barraclough's SDGW entry (from Ancestry)

Checking on Ancestry for Crossland's Soldier's Died in the Great War record I see that it appears he lived in Wallsend when he enlisted, but that he actually enlisted in London into the London Scottish Regiment.  This agrees with the CWGC entry.

Crossland's Army Service records do not appear to have survived and the Long, Long Trail website, which is usually very helpful about the movements of various regiments can only tell me that the 2/13th and 2/14th (County of London) Battalions arrived in Salonika in November 1916 and then moved to Egypt arriving in Alexandria on 5 July 1917.  The 2/14th (County of London) Battalion (London Scottish) moved to France on 30 May 1918, which is after Crossland's death.
Jerusalem War Cemetery entrance (from the CWGC)

He is buried in an individual grave in the Jerusalem War Cemetery, which, according to the CWGC, took in graves from battlefields and smaller cemeteries in the neighbourhood.  The new documentation on the CWGC site confirms that he was in the 2/14th London Battalion and that his mother paid for the addtional text "Awaiting a Higher Command" to be added to his stone.  The record for the Cemetery notes that the advance to Jerusalem took place in autumn 1917 and that the Allied forces formally entered the city on 11 December 1917.  

It is hard to say for sure how or when Crossland was injured (he died of wounds according to his SDGW entry), however looking at the other men buried in the same cemetery there are quite a lot from the London Scottish, the London Civil Service Rifles and the London Irish Rifles who were killed at the end of April and the beginning of May 1918 suggesting a battle of some kind.  A search of Wikipedia for the dates and area brought back a report on the attack on Shunet Nimrin and Es Salt in which the 60th London Division took part.  This is a very detailed report and I will let you go and read it yourselves!  It does seem likely that this was the action in which Crossland and his colleagues were killed and injured.  There were 1,116 casualties suffered by the London Division from a total of 1,649 British Empire casualties, including Anzac and Australian soldiers too.

The reason that this story caught my interest is the question why the family moved from Barnsley to Wallsend?  Another Google search on Crossland's unusual name brought back a listing on a War Memorial at St Peter's Church in Wallsend.  So he was also remembered in the area in which his mother was living in the 1920s.  I have sent an email to the group researching this memorial asking if they know anything about the family.

A general search on the Ancestry website gave me the information that Crossland Barraclough was baptised in Tankersley on 17 June 1894, his parents (as we know) being Oswald and Amelia Barraclough.   As this combination of names is very unusual I have confidence that we have found the right family.
1891 census snip for 23 Sheffield Road, Hoyland Nether (from Ancestry)
Oswald Barraclough married Amelia Crossland in the September quarter of 1890 in the Barnsley Registration District, probably in St Edward's, Tankersley or St Peter's Church in Hoyland Nether as that is the area where the young couple are living in 1891, with her widowed mother.  Eliz Crossland is 'Living on her own means' and her sons Walter and Joseph have good jobs,  Walter as an Assistant Schoolteacher and Joseph as a Grocer's Assistant.  Oswald, who gives his occupation as a Coal Mines Deputy was born in Silkstone around 1867.  Amelia, who is a little older than Oswald, had been born in Tankersley in 1865.

Snip from the 1900 baptism register of St Mary's Church, Woodkirk (from Ancestry)
In 1901 Oswald and Amelia are living on Pinfold Hill in Ardsley.  Oswald is still listed as a Colliery Deputy.  They only have the one child, Crossland.  However a search of the baptisms on Ancestry reveals that they had a child, Millicent Edna, who was baptised in 1900 in St Mary's Woodkirk which is on the far side of Wakefield from Barnsley.  On the baptism Oswald's occupation is given as Under Manager Pit.  Searching on the Old Maps website I can find Woodkirk and there are a lot of quarries and brick works nearby, but I can't pin point a likely coal mine that Oswald might be working at.  Maybe it was very short lived and that's why he came back to Barnsley.  Millicent Edna Barraclough dies in the Wakefield Registration District (the same one in which she was born) in the September quarter of 1900, and was buried in the same church at which she was baptised aged just five months.  Interestingly Millicent is remembered on her father's gravestone in Barnsley Cemetery along with her brother even though she is not buried there either.

1911 census snip from 16 Lingard Street, Barnsley (from Ancestry)
By 1911 the family have moved into the central part of Barnsley, Lingard Street is just off Victoria Road, very near to the current Barnsley College.  A further daughter, Constance Muriel, has been born to the family at Stairfoot and thanks to the additional information on the 1911 census we know that Oswald and Amelia had been married 20 years and only had three children, one of whom died young.  This is a very small family for this era, did Amelia have difficulty getting pregnant or did they purposely limit their children?  Oswald is now a Colliery Underviewer.  

Crossland is working, despite being aged only 16 years, he is a Bursar, a job suggesting the handling of money and which sounds responsible and which could lead to better things.  Has he obtained a good post because of his father's position?
A section of the record for Wallsend Colliery (from DMM)
Oswald Barraclough is listed on the Durham Mining Museum website as being the Under Manager of the Wallsend Colliery in 1914.  From 1921 to 1927 my own great, great uncle Edward Nutley was the manager of one of the mines in this group.  My own grandfather William Satchell Hutton worked at a pit in Wallsend until 1931, which was the year he married my grandmother at St Luke's Church there.

We now know that the family were in Wallsend by 1914.  We know that Crossland Barraclough enlisted in London (had he moved there to improve his job prospects?) and we know that when the CWGC approached Amelia for about his gravestone that she was living at 31 Beech Grove, Wallsend.  This was probably in the early 1920s.  Oswald Barraclough died in October 1920, so it was after that, and a search on FreeBMD shows that he dies in Barnsley!  Odd.  I had assumed he had died in the North East ... a search of the Barnsley Cemetery records show that he died at 54 Sackville Street and that he is the only burial in that grave plot.  So Amelia was not buried with Oswald.

Constance Muriel Barraclough may have married a Charles H Davison in Barnsley in 1921 - but as the marriage is not available to check on Ancestry I can't be sure it is the right person.  The only death of an Amelia Barraclough that fits Crossland's mother is in Hendon, London in 1933.  That seems a bit of a stretch, but I suppose her daughter could have moved down there ...

I am happy to have found out why Amelia's address was in Wallsend after the war, but it would have been nice to have finished the story off properly.  Maybe there will be a part 2!  You never know.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Penistone Book Launch - The Stories Behind the Names

I'm not saying that blogs are like buses - but you wait for ages and then two come at once!  I've had rather a nice day, beer was involved later as well, so in fact the best evening I've spent with the OH for some time. 

When the Barnsley War Memorials Project began to gather steam earlier this year I made contact with Janet Dyson from Penistone.  She is part of the Penistone History Group and she told me that they were planning to continue the work started by Richard Weller on the names on the Penistone War Memorial.

The front cover of the book described in the text.  It has a picture of a large cross surmounted war memorial framed in mock wood with a trailing poppy at the lower left corner.  One oval picture of a First World War Serviceman has been superimposed at the top right.

Tonight that work came to fruition with the launch of their new book "The Stories Behind the Names". It's a sizable book, A4 and 192 pages plus a heavy glossy card cover.  Spiral bound as you can see, which is an advantage as it allows you to lie the book open and flat very easily.  Price £10 and available from the Penistone History Group who meet on Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings at St John's Community Centre in Penistone.

Each of the 58 names on the memorial has been researched plus another seven names of men who might or should have qualified for inclusion.  Each man has two pages, one with a reproduction of his Commonwealth War Graves certificate and facing that (which is why it is so handy the book lies flat) is a page with family, personal and related military information for the man.  There are quotes from the local newspaper, the Penistone Express, from the Penistone Almanack and from Army Service records.

In their Foreword Janet and Rex Dyson comment that, "One of the most surprising and poignant details we came across is that the memorial shows five pairs of brothers, all killed."  

The book also contains a brief history of the war as it affected Penistone in 1914, contemporary pictures of the dedication ceremony for the memorial in 1924, information about Penistone and district men who were given awards for bravery and a section on letters and news from overseas throughout the war.

At the end of the book are two pages of references and acknowledgements.  I was immensely pleased to see that the Barnsley War Memorials Project had been included under websites in resources list.

The launch this evening (Wednesday 16 July 2014) was well attended and a very enjoyable occasion.  Afterwards the OH took me down the road to visit the Penistone Royal British Legion Club where Barnsley CAMRA had photographed three Rolls of Honour for the BWMP a month or so ago.  They and their surrounding display of medals were even more awesome in real life. 

The OH even managed to take some extra photos while we were out, of the Lady Chapel in St John's Church, of the WW1 Roll of Honour in the RBL club and of Hoyle Mill War Memorial on the way home which has had its urn replaced in the last couple of days, much to my surprise.

A lovely evening out.  Thank you. x

World War One Soldier's Story - Charles Eric Hemmerde's Mission to America

I've had this story on the back burner for a while now, things in the War Memorial department have been moving on apace and the preparation for my Open University exam was very intense leaving very little time for anything else much. 

You will be pleased, I hope, to hear that I passed my exam.  I wasn't terribly pleased with my mark until I realised that most of the people who chat on the module Facebook page (A327 - Europe 1914-1989; War, Peace, Modernity) had been marked so hard that the exam moderators had found it necessary to bump us up a grade.  Hmmm.  It was a brand new module, first time out, so I hope that the students next year will gain the benefit of our experiences and that some aspects of the course will be amended for the better.  After a phone call to the Open Uni I was offered a BA (Hons) Humanities with History, Upper Second Class which I was pleased about as having a degree with the word History in title makes me more assured about calling myself a historian after all these years.  My first degree in 2000 was a BA (Hons) Open, in other words composed of modules that did not fit the requirements for any particular degree, in fact half the credit for that degree came from my Radiography Diploma - so it was actually a degree in Radiography and History!  I still have some modules 'left over' that I haven't been able to count towards a final qualification (a couple of level 2 statistics modules, a level 1 maths and a level 1 computing module) but now that the cost of modules at the OU has increased so much, see my previous posts for more on this, there is no chance of me doing other study.  

On to today's Soldier's Story - the subject is vaguely related to me - very vaguely!  Charles Eric Hemmerde was great great-nephew of Eliza Hemmerde who was the wife of Thomas Wilson Elstob who was my first cousin five times removed.  So there! 

Charles Eric was born in Lewisham in the final quarter of 1896, the son of Charles Louis Hemmerde, a Stock Broker, and his wife Maud.  He was their eldest child and had a younger sister Audrey and, according to the 1911 census another sibling who died young.  He was not living at home in 1911, he was boarding at Chipping Ongar Grammar School, aged 14.  

Charles Eric Hemmerde's Medal Index Card (from Ancestry)
Charles has three medal index cards - something I haven't come across before, but then not many of my Barnsley men are officers!  As you can see above there is a LOT of information on there.  The first fact I notice is that he entered a theatre of war - that is went overseas - on 15 August 1914.  Given that his birthday falls in either October, November or December 1896 he can't have been 18 years old at this point.  

So our first clue to the nature of the man is that he somehow volunteered at the very beginning of the war, as an enlisted man, a Gunner in the Royal Horse Artillery, and managed to be sent to France at the age of 17 years.  One theory is that he was part of a school cadet corps but that doesn't explain how he was allowed to go overseas under the then minimum age of 19 years.

London Gazette 8 February 1916
On 8 February 1916 he is commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment.  This is reported in the London Gazette, see left. I make him 19 years and a few months old. 

It is difficult for me to imagine these very young men being officers, but I suppose it was a common enough story.  Many of the young officers in the First World War seem to have had little or no experience when they were sent overseas, at least Charles had those 18 months as an enlisted man (I note that his medal card has him down as a Corporal) to back him up.

I am unable to access Charles' Service Records - well, that's not quite true - I could if I choose to pay extra for them.  This is because he became an officer, so his enlisted man's records would have been transferred to another part of the records system which hasn't been released on Ancestry or Find My Past.  They are available here from the National Archives - but I don't know how much they'd be as they are not downloadable and you have to contact them for an estimate.  If I get a reply before I've finished this post I'll let you know the cost!

Another of Charles' Medal Cards states that he was "Mentioned in Dispatches" and that this was listed in the London Gazette in May 1917.

I have also found a note that Charles won the Military Cross and that this award was listed in the London Gazette on 18 July 1917.  This was for "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in personally reconnoitring an obscure situation under heavy shell and machine gun fire in order to ascertain the whereabouts of our advanced troops. The valuable information which this gallant action afforded enabled our artillery to give closer support to the infantry, whose attack had been held up."  I find the London Gazette harder to search these days, but with this huge clue I did manage to find the reference - which was listed, oddly, under 17 July 1917 instead.  

Lebanon News 9 January 1918
(from newspapers.com)
The next news I have of Charles is that he was posted on a military mission to America and turns up there in January 1918.  The newspaper snip on the right comes from a much longer piece that describes the night manoeuvres being practised by the American soldiers being trained by Captain (he's had a promotion) Hemmerde and his colleagues.

Another London Gazette entry on 11 February 1918 states that Charles is to have a temporary promotion to Captain while employed with a British Military Mission, so that was reported a little bit late!

I'm guessing he must have been in America a while for him to manage to get himself engaged to be married!  He is 21 years old.

The newspaper reports of his wedding seem a little confused about who Emily Mauritzen (the spelling of both her names vary from piece to piece too) actually is and where she lived before the wedding.  One piece dramatically describes her braving U-boats on the crossing from Copenhagen to make the wedding in New York.

I have found Emilie in the Ellis Island records arriving in America on the SS Pretoria in 1913, planning to stay with her uncle Peter Mauritzen in New York.  Of course she might have visited home in Denmark again between then and 1918.  She appears in the New York State census in 1915 as Emilia Mauritzen aged 19 years, the niece of the head of household.

A report on the wedding appears in the Washington Post on 18 January 1918 stating that the marriage had taken place the previous afternoon, so there is some discrepancy in the date of the marriage as the piece above had said the wedding was to be 19 January.  Charles' best man was Captain Paul Rochat of the French Army and officers forming a double line with crossed swords as the bride and groom left the church included Major F H Liebenrood, Captain J R Ralli, Captain J P O'Donovan, Captain J P Pringle and Captain R D Green all of the British Army and Captain Count F de Casteja, Captain Pierre Lantx, Lieutenant Jacques Raffray and Lieutenant Alcide Martineau of the French Army.

Charles is still in America in March, a piece in the Washington Post describes how he is training the men in the use of periscopes with rifles for snipers.  Men so equipped were "getting a high average of hits on an imitation German loophole at 100 yards.  The objective was only three inches wide by about twelve inches long." Washington Post 5 March 1918.

The Capital 18 November 1918
(from newspapers.com)
It is difficult to say when Charles returns to France, however we do know that he is Killed in Action on 27 September 1918.  He had been married just eight months. I could not find a cutting reporting his death but just a couple of months later he is mentioned in a piece about the death of a friend.

It describes a little more about the training the British contingent were carrying out in America, Captain Dean taught soldiers "how to fight against gas tactics".

The article states that Captain Charles E Hemmerde "met his death while leading his men against German machine-gun nests" and acknowledges him and Captain Dean as brave, chivalrous and loveable men.  That description sounds a little odd to me, but it sounds as if the young men must have endeared themselves to more than just a few during their tour of duty in America.

Charles' young widow Emilie (or Emily or Emilia) is found again in the Ellis Island records in March 1920 returning to New York from London, England on the RMS Mauretania.  She is now aged 23 years and 4 months (very precise!).

Portville Review 1937 (from newspapers.com)
Emilie Hemmerde marries again in the third quarter of 1926 in the Chelsea Registration district.  Her new husband is Harold Sims, who is employed in some capacity by the British government.  

A book called "Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44" by Thomas E Mahl, gives an interesting description of the woman now known as Mitzi Sims. "[she is] always the center of an animated group at any event she attends.  An exceptionally good conversationalist, she is one of the few social notables in Washington who never need to rely on the weather as a topic of repartee."

The newspaper cutting on the right claims that Harold Sims was a friend of the Duke of Windsor and that in 1937 he was an attaché of the British embassy.

Charles lies beneath a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone in Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery in France.  New documents released by the CWGC show that his body was exhumed from its original location and 'concentrated' into this cemetery.  There had been a cross on his grave prior to its relocation which I imagine looked like the one I recently saw in Darfield Church which had stood over the local vicar's son.

Charles Eric Hemmerde's CWGC gravestone (from the Great War Forum)
Charles' age is given as 22 years - but we know his birth wasn't registered until the final quarter of the year, so unless he was born at the very end of September 1896 and a slight delay in registration caused that event to be recorded in the last quarter instead of the third I suspect that he was actually only 21 years old when he died, and he had been at war for over four of those years.  He had been Mentioned in Dispatches, won the Military Cross, had been sent on a British Military Mission to America to train soldiers over there and had been married for just eight months when he died.  What a life, what a short but very full life.

Lest we Forget.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

World War Remembrance - the latest offering - The Royal British Legion's Every Man Remembers

The Lives of the First World war site has a support forum for contributing suggestions for improvement (and they are many), suggested life stories (the ones not as yet included as the man/woman has no Medal Card) and two for feedback and discussion  - I'm not really sure what the difference is between the latter and to be certain of keeping up with everything that is being said I regularly check all four threads.

Lives of the First World War logo and title with added word Support

This morning I found a mention of a new remembrance site - the Royal British Legion working with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission this time.  It is called Every Man Remembered. It covers those who fell in the First World War and asks for each of them to be individually commemorated by those alive today. 

Every Man Remembered heading with poppy logo

I think this site will provide a much easier platform for the public to remember their grandfathers and great uncles than the Lives of the First World War has proved to be.  If a serviceman is on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site then he/she will be on here.  Of course it only includes those who fell, and the LFWW will, eventually, include all service personnel plus nurses and civilians who contributed to the war (that's what they are promising us).  

See text - a snip of the entry on Everyman Remembered for Reginald Leslie DuncanAdding a 'story' to the RBL site seems simple - find your man (search by initials or forename and surname plus regiment if you want  - add a short sentence of commemoration, then on a subsequent screen you can add a longer story of up to 3,500 characters - a lot more generous than the LFWW limit.  A map is displayed at the search phase (if you search on a large screen - this didn't show on my tablet) showing where the man fell and a running total of tributes and donations made is shown down the side.  12155 tributes this morning.  Despite asking we have no idea what the reach of the LFWW is yet ...

This is the entry I made for the OH's 1st cousin 3x removed Reginald Leslie Duncan.  On the Stories tab I just added links to my blog and to LFWW - well I don't want all the work I've put into that to go to waste.

Other remembrance offerings that are 'Coming Soon' include:

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is promising enhancements to be launched tomorrow, 7 July 2014.  These will include the launch of archive documents online and a Discover 14-18 historical section.

Last week the government confirmed the distribution of £5 million pounds for the conservation and protection of War Memorials, this included half a million pounds for the Imperial War Museum to develop a website to help communities find out where information on War Memorials can be found - to be delivered by 4 August this year.  

How many more remembrance sites will we have before the end of the centenary?  Is anyone trying to co-ordinate all the efforts or are we seeing duplication on a massive scale?  Don't forget all the local sites out there, like the Barnsley War Memorials Project and one of my favourites at the moment, Tynemouth's World War 1 Commemoration Project.

As a historian I should think this is all wonderful ... shouldn't I ... the proliferation of remembrance and the commemoration of such a pivotal event of the 20th century.  So why do I feel so uneasy?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Today I am Remembering ... the First Day of the Somme

Since I first began the OH's family history I realised that the connections with the First World War were, in Barnsley, much stronger than I had found them in the North East, where my own family comes from, or in Sheffield, where I lived for twenty years and brought up my two children.  I have traced several of the OH's family lines back to the 18th century in Barnsley, although he has a good sprinkling of incomers too from Lancashire and Lincolnshire.  This means that through the branching of the lines and various intermarriages I have so far found nearly 80 Tommies (men who served in WW1) in his tree.

WW1 Soldiers 'Going over the Top' (image from Leger Holidays)
I am sure that you are aware that today is the 98th anniversary of the First Day of the Battle of the Somme - a day that holds especial significance for Barnsley as it was on this day 98 years ago that the true horror of 'total' war began to be realised by our town.  For many years after the Great War the 1st July was commemorated by a Drumhead Service in Locke Park - the date had more resonance for the people of Barnsley than Armistice Day - it was the day hundreds of local men lost their lives and hundreds more had their lives affected by wounds and the sheer trauma of seeing their friends killed around them.  Not just the Barnsley Pals, though of course the losses suffered by the 13th and 14th York and Lancaster Regiments were immense, but many other regiments containing Barnsley men 'went over the top' on this day.

Today I am reading a selection of books from my own bookshelf about the Somme.  Here is a little taste of each one.

Middlebrook, M. (1971/1984) The First Day on the Somme, London, Penguin.  pp.122-3

"Exactly at 7:30am an uncanny silence fell over the battlefield.  The British barrage suddenly ceased as it lifted from the German front line ... the sun was shining out of a cloudless sky, birds hovered and swooped over the trenches, singing clearly.


"The men looked left and right as if to correct their dressing on a parade ground and set off after their officers at the steady, well rehearsed pace towards the enemy.  There was no rushing, no shouting."


"The Germans spotted some of the gaps in the British wire and their machine guns soon turned these narrow alleys into death traps.  [The men] were bewildered, the Germans were all supposed to be dead." 

Holt, T. & V. (1996/1999) Major and Mrs Holt's Battlefield Guide to the Somme, Barnsley, Pen & Sword. p.15 & pp.88-9

"At 0728, seventeen mines were blown under the German front line.  Two minutes later 60,000 British soldiers, laden down with packs, gas masks, rifle and bayonet, 200 rounds of ammunition, grenades, empty sandbags, spade, mess tin and water bottle, iron rations, mackintosh sheet, [and] warmed by a ration of rum clambered out of their trenches from Serre to Maricourt and formed into lines 14 miles long."

"Sheffield Memorial Park & Memorials. Railway Hollow CWGC Cemetery.
Originally there were four small copses in this area, named after the Apostles, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The remnants of them now merge into one wooded area, in which is the park, where craters and trench lines have remained undisturbed by agriculture and have been allowed to grass over naturally."

Horsfall, J. and Cave, N. (1996) Serre: Somme, Barnsley, Pen & Sword.  p.63

"On the left of the attack, 14/Y&L were pushed to the right by the long range machine gun and artillery fire coming from the edge of Rossignol Wood, and in to the path of 12/Y&L.  The men were knocked down in droves as they began to bunch and search in vain for gaps in the German wire."


"At 9:30am 18/DLI, 800 yards from the front line, stuck to their schedule even though they could see the awful disaster spread out before them. They went over the top in file, passing through 2nd Bradfords who had gone before them, with what was left of the battalion sheltering best as they could.  On the left 1st Barnsley Pals had made a similar approach to the front, and also took their place in the disastrous scheme of things."

MacDonald, L. (1983/1993) Somme, Harmondsworth, Penguin. p.34

"Most of the men of the 31st Division were hardly aware they were in the Fourth Army, let alone the 8th Corps.  They seldom even referred to their battalions by their official titles.  A man of the 13th or 14th York and Lancaster Regiment preferred to think of himself as being of the 1st or 2nd Barnsley Pals."


"In all of Kitchener's Army there was hardly a group of more happy-go-lucky amateur soldiers than the Pals and luck, so far, had been on their side.  While the majority of the Army had been enduring the chill and discomfort of winter on the Western Front, the Pals had been wintering in Egypt and had only been brought back to France late in the spring."

Of course there is also Jon Cooksey's great book about the Barnsley Pals and there are lots of other dedicated books about different areas of the front and different Regiments during the Battle of the Somme but today I am looking at a particular aspect.

My own 'research in depth' war memorials are St Luke's at Worsbro' Common - eight men fell on 1 July 1916 and another on 2 July - and St John's, Barebones nearer to the town centre - ten men fell on 1 July 1916 and another two on 7 July and I haven't finished finding all the names on this memorial on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site yet.  Of those six were in 1st Barnsley, six in 2nd Barnsley, eight more in various other York & Lancaster Regiments and three in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI).  

Bearing in mind that Worsbrough Common and Barebones/Wilson's Piece are adjacent to each other, separated only by Park Road, with families spread across both and often men mentioned on both memorials because of that (one of the men tallied above is a William Padley Tindall who appears on both memorials) and the surnames Tingle and Royston appear twice but are different men - the impact on the area once the news began to reach Barnsley must have been appalling.

Barnsley Chronicle 8 July 1916
(thanks to Barnsley Archives)

The Barnsley Chronicle published a piece on 8 July trying to defuse the tension. 

"All kinds of wild rumours were yesterday current locally concerning the Barnsley Battalions ... we can authoritatively say that no official news has come thorough which would in any way corroborate the startling tales afloat regarding the fate of our local lads ... in the event of no messages being posted it must, therefore, be taken as granted that nothing of outstanding importance has transpired." Barnsley Chronicle 8 July 1916

Unfortunately it was not long until official news did reach Barnsley and the full horror of the slaughter at the beginning of July 1916 was revealed.

Thanks for reading - Lest We Forget.