Pte Levi Berry’s (right) dream of a new life in Canada was ended by shell in France on 2 June 1916.He had left his family home in North Street, Thackley, and his work-mates at G Garnett & Sons, Valley Mills, Apperley Bridge, and emigrated to Canada to take up a farming job five years before, aged 20.But when the old country went to war, he returned with the Canadian Mounted Rifles and had been in France since Christmas.The Brigade chaplain wrote to his mother: ‘Your son was killed instantly by a shell on the night of June 2nd and was buried by me on the following night.‘The grave has been carefully marked
and a cross will be erected as soon as possible. The cemetery will always be kept up.‘I am sure his loss will prove a heavy blow to you but please try to remember that your boy gave his life for his country and in the cause of right, and such sacrifice is not unremembered by our heavenly Father.‘Moreover, it was a soldier’s death – killed in action! – and if we must die now, that is the highest we, who are out here, can ask.’SniperAnother Thackley family, the Inghams of 6 Park Road, also received the news of a son’s death in France.
The letter came from one of Pte John Ingham’s comrades, who wrote: ‘I feel it very hard to break the news to you but Jack was killed on Wednes-day night between and 6 and 7 o’clock by a sniper. He never spoke after being hit.‘I had just cut him a slice of bread and butter as we were about to have tea. When I went to call to him, a young man who was close by, told me he had been killed. To tell you the truth I could not realise but it was only too true.’Pte Ingham had been in the army about six months and had been in France since Easter. He was formerly a member of the Thackley FC and attended the Idle Primitive Methodist Sunday school.Before enlisting he had worked for Messrs James Harper & Sons at Ravenscliffe Mills.
Dream of new life ended as Thackley mourns two sons
Pte Abram Atkinson sent a letter home to Eccleshill describing his life serving with the Medical Corps in a hospital in France.‘I have had two wards under my care – one surgical and the other medical,’ he wrote ‘And of the two I prefer the surgical as it is far more interesting.‘Taking the patients as a whole the wounded are more thankful than the sick patients and the latter get far more depressed.‘We have 1,340 beds at this hospital so you will realise that when they are occupied we have a very busy time. At present in my ward there are only four vacant beds out of the 48 and we are expecting another convoy any minute.’But it wasn’t all work and with Yorkshire pride he added: ‘Now that the summer has come we practise cricket on a matting wicket whenever possible. ‘Occasionally we have a cricket match with one of the rival hospital teams or any other team that happens to challenge us. So far we have played three matches and have won them all rather easily.’
Hectic on the wards but still time for cricket
Pte Lewis Helliwell wrote to a friend in Idle about the training he was receiving prior going to France.He was with the Northumberland Fusiliers at Hornton Mere Camp, Yorkshire, and said: ‘Just a few lines to let you know that I am in the land of the living. ‘It’s a rough place up here for training. They are not half putting it into us and it’s a pity to see the weaklings fall out. There are twelve in our tent and ten have already been sick.‘We went on a 15 miles route march yesterday with full pack on. We are fit up with everything here.‘We had a General here this morning, inspecting us, and he had a few words to say about Kitchener’s death and how he was sold by the German spies in this country.‘He said: “I want all you boys to train hard and be ready for the Front in 10 or 12 weeks and show them that although Kitchener is gone, we are determined to fight until victory has been achieved.”‘It’s a lovely spot is this, about ten minutes’ walk from the sea. It is trenched all round and they say it is the nearest point to Germany and that if there is an invasion, we must expect it here.’
‘Weaklings’ struggle to cope with training as they prepare to go to France
While conscription saw more and more men signed up to fight, for some the war was over, discharged after ‘doing their bit’ in the face of the enemy.‘True Englishmen raise their hats to such young men as these,’ wrote a Shipley Times & Express reporter, ‘and rightly so for they have done their duty to the land that bred them.’Edward Harrison jnr of Woodlands Terrace, Idle, had fought in the battle of the Aisne and ‘after the famous retreat from Mons, Edward with his regiment, the King’s Own Rifles, assisted in driving back the German hordes. Whilst thus engaged, he received a severe wound in his left arm.’Cpl W B Yates had never shown any
interest in military matters before the war but ‘like other patriotic Britons he realised that his services were needed and volunteered.‘Judging from his personal appearance, he has, to use a colloquialism, had “to go through the small sieve.” Satisfaction‘He may not be enjoying the robust health which he did before going into the firing line but he has the satisfaction of knowing that he has done his best to keep the flag of justice and freedom floating in the breeze.’By coincidence, Cpl Yates was mentioned in another article about
Cpl Stanley Wright (pictured) who was heading back to France after a short leave at home following twelve months at the Front.He had fought in the battle of Loos where he had escaped unhurt despite being blown into a dug-out when a ‘whiz-bang’ exploded.In an interview with a reporter he made a point that ‘during the greater part of the time, he has spent in France, he has enjoyed the comradeship of another Idelian in the person of Willie Yates, who before being recently discharged from the army was in the same company.’
The war is over for men who had been through sieve
In a letter to a friend, Laurence Wilkinson revealed a little of what it was like to arrive at the front line for the first time.Pte Wilkinson, whose home was 2 Mount Avenue, Eccleshill, had arrived in France with the 1st Bradford Pals Regiment.‘I have not been in action yet,’ he wrote, ‘but am expecting being called to do my share any day and am feeling fit and well for the job.‘We are in very fair billets just now and these are not far from the firing line. We wake up in the night by the roaring of the guns for by the noise they make, they only seem to be a few yards away.’Uncle’s visitIt is understandable that in those strange and unnerving circumstances, every moment of ‘normality’ would be precious and Pte Wilkinson wrote: ‘I was delighted to have a visit from my uncle who, as you know, is attached to the Canadian hospital staff. He has come 25 miles to see me and we had a splendid half-day together.’ He also added: ‘Those at home little know how letters are appreciated out here and we get all too few.’
Roar of the guns at night keep awake new arrivals on the front line
Many of the reports of local casualties involved sailors lost in the recent Battle of Jutland, including two men from Windhill.Seaman Gunner Harry Throup, second son of Mr and Mrs Wm Throup of 10 Shaftesbury Avenue, was on the Indefatigable and official news has been received of his death.He was in this twenty-first year and had been in the navy close upon four years.The other is John Mooney, of HMS Lion, and eldest son of Mrs Ellen Rodgers of 121 Briggate. He joined the navy in May 1914 and was twenty-two years of age.
Two Windhill sailors among Jutland dead
Morgan brothers in arms
Solicitor William Morgan of Shipley had three sons serving in the forces.The eldest, William, also a solicitor, had joined the Cyclist Corps, while the youngest, George, had left a job in the textile trade to enlist. He had recently signed up again ‘having served the full period with the Queen’s Own Yorkshire Dragoons.’WoundedYet another solicitor, Owen, was the middle son and the family had just received a telegram from the War Office to say that he had been wounded.Owen had joined the West Yorkshire Regiment as a private ‘but proved to be so smart that he was immediately singled out for promotion, being well known to the officers for his long service with the Church Lads’ Brigade.’ He was now a lieutenant.