The Shipley Times & Express had far fewer stories than usual about men serving in the war with no mention of casualties at all.With hindsight, however, we can see the significance of a couple of small items in which local men talk of being transferred from Egypt to France. The army was clearly starting preparations for what would become the battle of the Somme.Harry Dixon of Eccleshill, who was with the 1st Bradford Pals, wrote: ‘Things have altered since I wrote to you last for we are now “somewhere in France.”Across the desert with full pack‘When we received our orders in Egypt we had a ten miles march across the desert with full pack. ‘When we reached France we saw a great number of German prisoners working on the quayside and on passing through the town, were able to note the many splendid buildings the place possessed.‘At this place we are now resting but are expecting being sent to the firing line before long.’
Clayton’s Maurice Andrews, with the 2nd Bradford Pals, had a similar story to tell. His regiment received instructions to pack up for France on 2 March and the sea voyage took them six days before they ‘arrived in one of France’s most important seaports.‘The French farmer takes advantage of every scrap of ground and even the railway embankments are cultivated and good crops are grown.‘Few men are to be seen and the relatives of the men who have fallen are wearing black but they do their best to keep cheerful‘All along the railway journey we had splendid receptions when passing through the towns and villages and everywhere the children were begging for buttons etc. They seemed to think a good deal about anything worn by a British soldier.’The report concluded that Pte Andrews and his mates were ‘living on biscuits again for a day or two but have had some butter served out to them and thus have to think they are eating buttered cream crackers.’
Quiet time but troops make significant move
St Walburga’s Roman Catholic Church has received an interesting war relic from Sgt N E Walker of the RAMC, a member of the congregation.The gift consists of a carved oak panel representing Joseph and the infant Jesus. It was picked up after the battle of Loos last September.The finder gave it to Sgt Walker who obtained the permission of his Commanding Officer to forward it to St Walburga’s.
Religious relic finds its way to St Walburga’s
BIRTHS, MARRIAGES & DEATHSBOLTON – Wounded on the 11th, died on the 12th of March, Pte Harry Bolton, of the 20th Lancashire Fusiliers, 3rd son of Mr and Mrs Bolton, 61, Valley Street, Windhill. Memorial service at Windhill Primitive Methodist Chapel, at 10.30 a.m on Sunday, April 2nd.
Gunner Harold Hodgson who is with the artillery in France, writes: ‘There are rumours that the war is going to end this year but it hardly strikes me that way for the Germans have got both the ammunition and the guns and they might still have the men for aught we know.‘Just recently there was an attack in front of our guns and the Huns lost heavily and we made some prisoners.‘Among these men was a staff captain and he was asked how long the war would last. What do you think he said? “When England is beaten.”‘If that is the spirit of the German nation, the war is not likely to be over yet. All the time I have been out here I have not yet come across any of our Eccleshill lads but they might turn up in time.‘You will no doubt be pleased to know I am still in the best of health and spirits.’
Doubts about rumours that the war will be over by the end of year
German Fleet keeping out of sight from us
Reggie S Durrant, who is on board HMS Agincourt, says in a letter home: ‘You will have no doubt read in the papers that the German Fleet has been out in the North Sea, but that is all bosh.‘If they really did come out we should down them but they hug their mines too much and take jolly good care not to come too near the East Coast. If they did, they would never get back to the Kiel Canal again.‘We quite expect if we do meet them that some of our ships will go under but the German fleet will keep them company. ‘It would do a great many people good to see what our Fleet looks like today but hey may have the chance after the war is over to see what is left of us.‘I hear all the “Pals” are now in France. Let us hope they will distinguish themselves and all get back home without a scratch.’
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Miss Tattersall, who was secretary of Clayton’s Women’s Working Party, received a batch of letters from soldiers at the front, thanking her for parcels they had received.‘Pte A Helliwell, 6th West Yorks, stated that his parcel arrived ‘in the nick of time. The cigarettes were very welcome as his comrades and himself had exhausted their stock and thus they shared his amongst them.’Private Vernon Barker said he was back in the trenches after recovering from injury while Private F W Holt, of the Cameron Highlanders, explained that he had been doing light work ‘in consequence of his being out of sorts.‘Pte Holt, who was a member of the Dramatic Society, expressed the hope that the rehearsal for the opera is progressing.’Fritz played outPte Ben Ennett wrote: ‘It pleases me very much to think that the people of good old England are thinking about them and such gifts as the Clayton friends are sending are greatly appreciated.’He was of the view that the war couldn’t last much longer ‘as Fritz seems about played out and we are making it hot for him. In a short time we will finish him off.’Pte Theo Robinson said he was particularly delighted to get felt slippers in his parcel. ‘His regiment are at present out of the trenches, doing all kinds of odd jobs; in fact anything from road making to building railways.‘Pte Eric Green writes to say shirts and socks are always useful. They cannot always get clean ones as frequently as they would like.’
Soldiers grateful for parcels from home
In a series of talks during a visit to the district, Shipley MP, Oswald Partington (pictured), reflected on the war.‘At the present time our capacity for enjoyment has been dulled by the war. Our thoughts naturally go out to those of our relatives and friends who are undergoing terrible hardships in the trenches.‘Not only are they fighting on our behalf but I hope and believe they are waging war against war itself, in order that our children might be spared the horrors which they themselves are going through.‘We entered this war with clean hands and with clear consciences. We did not enter the war to gain glory, although some of the most glorious pages in the military history of this country will be written of the doings of our men in France and Gallipoli.‘We did not enter the war to gain territory, although we have taken from the Germans all their colonies which I believe are larger than the German Empire itself.‘We did not enter the war to gain trade, for we have as much trade as we could possibly manage to undertake at the present time.Solemn obligation‘But we entered it to fulfil a solemn obligation that we had entered into and nothing will compensate us for the great sacrifice we had made but a lasting peace.‘We have had the shadow of the great war hanging over our heads for generations and we want to sweep it away but we should not sweep it away until we have uprooted Prussian Militarism.‘The Germans have been taught they are a superior race and ought to dominate Europe. The people of Europe, however, take a rather different view. What we want is to live our life and we want to gain the same things for the smaller nationalities of Europe.’International arbitrationHe added that he thought after the war the great nations of Europe would ‘so band themselves together and say: We will not trade with any nation which in the future refuses to settle its international differences by international arbitration.‘If we were to do that we should bring the most stubborn nations to its knees for if they lost their trade, their national existence would soon come to an end.’Turning to the contribution the people could make, Mr Partington said: ‘We cannot all take up arms, some of us are too old, but at least we can take some other part to help against Germany.‘We must not leave all the unpleasant things to our fellows who are fighting in the trenches. We must do our little bit and do it thoroughly, putting our back into anything we have to do.‘Those who have a little extra money should lend it to the Government. This war is a war not only of men, munitions and guns but of pounds, shillings and pence.A penny a week‘Nothing gave me greater pleasure than when I took up a Manchester evening paper and found it reported that the great loan which Germany was trying to raise had been a dismal failure. I regard it as the most satisfactory news I have read since the war started.’He urged his listeners to all do their little bit: ‘If we all saved a penny a week, we should in the course of a year have saved ten million pounds. That would buy four dreadnoughts and dreadnoughts are necessary to win the war against Germany.’
Shipley MP reflects on reasons for war, its aftermath and need for thrift