Friday 30 June 1916
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We now know that this edition of the newspaper was published the day before the start of the Battle of the Somme. Readers at the time, of course, had no knowledge that the bloodiest battle in the country’s history was only hours away. Indeed, judging from the coverage that was given, they might well have thought this was one of the better stages of the conflict.
When Pte Archie Sparks (right) described the fighting to his family, he used the analogy of a cricket match. And he was definitely on the winning side! “You have never seen a cricket match like we have here. The Germans have 8 wickets down for 16 runs and I have taken 6 of them for 6 shots, so I am not doing bad,” he wrote to his parents at 38 Fourlands, Idle. The 27-year-old former Boys’ Brigade member had worked at Halford confectioners in Bradford before the war. Hot Cross Bun Like so many of his colleagues on the front line he took great pleasure in everything that reminded him of home.
In another letter to his parents he said: “I have not been forgotten at the school. They have sent me a hot cross bun just to remind me of old times and I can tell you I enjoyed it. “By the way, it cost a shilling to come which is too much but they don’t mind what it costs evidently so long as the young men enjoy them.” He expressed approval that the traditional Whitsun holiday had been cancelled to ensure work didn’t stop, especially on munitions. “They must not stop that as the more shells we get, the better we shall do out here,” he wrote. “When I was in the trenches on Whit Sunday I was seated in a dug-out and
I was thinking what a fine time you would be having at chapel and school. “We are out here to do a good work I have come across one or two young men with whom I was recruited in Bradford and we were very pleased to meet. “I lost four handkerchiefs in the trenches with climbing up and down and dodging the shells that were flying over our heads. Sea fight “I think we had the best of the great sea fight and the Germans will get some more before they are done.” And in what might have been a reference to the ‘Big Push’ for which the army had been preparing for several months, he added: “Now the Russians are putting them through it and before long we shall shift them or they will shift us.”
Archie has the Germans on a sticky wicket
Pte J Briggs (right) of the Duke of Wellington’s Regt, of 23 Butt Lane, Idle, joined the colours immediately after the outbreak of war and when only 17 years of age. He was one of the first in Idle to respond to the call of King and country. He fought at the Dardanelles, where he received a shrapnel wound in the body. He was formerly a prominent member of the Idle rugby team and very popular among his fellows.
One of Idle’s first volunteers wounded in Dardanelles
Doctors end careers of two Idle officers
Two officers from Idle were forced to resign their commissions through ill health. Second Lieutenant Leonard J Gavin (left) had joined the Northumber- land Fusiliers as a private soon after war was declared. His good qualities were quickly recognised and within six months he had been given a commission. But, while training on Salisbury Plain in the harsh winter of 1915 he
suffered a bad attack of rheumatic fever which had put him in hospital for four months. He had been on sick leave ever since and a recent medical board had ruled that his heart was not strong enough for him to undertake even light duties. ‘Major A S O’Brien, formerly of the Coldstream Guards, says in a letter which was received yesterday that he always found 2nd Lieut Gavin to be a reliable and intelligent officer. He has been most capable in his work and the officers and men are very sorry to lose him.’
Alderman Arthur Brown (left) had been one of the leading figures in establishing Shipley Volunteer Force before he was gazetted to the 3/6 West Yorkshire Regiment in June 1915. Nervous breakdown ‘After a very strenuous period of hard mental and physical work he suffered a nervous breakdown and from the effects of this he has not yet recovered. ‘We might add that it is a matter of regret on the part of Lieut Brown’s superior officers that the state of his health would not allow him to continue in the army where his record of service has been most creditable.’
Mr and Mrs F R F Sircom were on the way to France to visit their son Harry in hospital only to be told on reaching Southampton that he had died. Pte Sircom, of the Hirst, Hirst Wood, was educated at Bradford Grammar School and joined the West Yorkshire Regt in September 1914. He was wounded on 9 March 1916 and had his left leg amputated but doctors were unable to save his life.
Parents unable to reach Harry before he died
As a wireless operator on board a British cruiser for the last 22 months, Arnold Rushworth was keen while on leave to tell a reporter about the wonders of “wireless” which was still so rare that the word was put in inverted commas. ‘At 500 miles a message can be received, transcribed and placed in the captain’s hand in less than five minutes after sending,’ he explained. He was obviously interested in all kinds of technology because among his souvenirs were some photographs taken of his ship after it had been in the fight that saw the German SMS Cape Trafalgar sunk in one of the first major sea battles of the war. Dragged her anchor One of the photos showed the damage done by a shell which hit the ship within a yard and a half of his cabin. He quoted an example of how “wireless” had helped capture a German vessel. ‘At Tenerife in the Canary Islands, there were a number of German mercantile ships at anchor and they had been there since the war broke out. ‘During a storm one of these ships dragged her anchor and drifted out to sea for a distance of about eight miles.
‘A tugboat was sent to out to tow her back but in the meantime one of our cruisers had been notified of the occurrence by “wireless” and put on all speed to effect a capture. ‘The cruiser appeared on the scene just in time for the German ship was nearing the three-miles limit of neutral waters. Pamphlets ‘A shell made the tugboat drop the tow-rope and the German ship became a prize to British smartness. The Germans on board were afterwards taken to be interned.’ Much of his ship’s work involved stopping and searching vessels at sea and ‘though it often results in the unavoidable delay of legitimate shipping, it sometimes leads to a lucky find,’ he said. ‘We had an experience of this kind in searching a Portuguese vessel bound for South America. We discovered a German on board with thousands of pamphlets written against England. ‘These our enemy had hoped to distribute but his plan was foiled and he was placed where he could be less harmful than in South America.’
How “Wireless” is helping to win the war at sea
Charles Davison (right), who had been a soldier since 1903, was awarded the Military Medal and promoted from sergeant to second lieutenant. The honour was awarded for ‘noticeable coolness under heavy shell fire on many different occasions and for devotion to duty.’ Lieut Davison had lived with his parents at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Saltaire Road, Shipley before joining the army. He had been stationed at Dover before the war where he was a gymnastic instructor for about nine years. ‘He is an expert swimmer and club swinger.’ He had been in several battles including Neuve Chapelle where he was shot in the foot by a sniper. That put him in hospital for six weeks but he was now fully recovered from the injury.
Medal for Shipley soldier
Pte Fred Waite (above) is the youngest son of Mr and Mrs Joseph Waite, Rawson Square, Idle. He joined the colours on May 15th last year at Bradford and has since been in training at several places. He is now at Wangford, Suffolk. Before enlisting he was serving his apprenticeship with Mr E Woodhead, butcher, of Bradford Road, Idle.
Butcher career on hold
POW in Germany
There was so little current news of serving men that the Shipley Times & Express had room for a new photograph of Pte Christopher Stephenson (above) who had been a prisoner of war in Germany since October 1914. Pte Christopher, who lived at 1 Fanny Street, Saltaire, had been reported missing after the battle of Mons.. At first it was feared that he might have been killed but he managed to send a postcard to his wife to reassure her. She was currently living with her family at 25 Thompson Street, Woodend, Windhill.
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