Friday 14 July 1916
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First casualties of the Battle of the Somme
”We have reason to be proud of the way in which our men have fought in the early stages of the ‘big push.’ The many casualties which have come to hand make it clear that the West Yorks Regts have been caught beneath a withering fire which, however, did not deter them in their steady advance against the foe.” As well as producing a whole page of photographs of men who had been killed or wounded or were missing, the Shipley Times & Express published whatever details they could find about the men. We reproduce these reports from various parts of the paper, arranged in alphabetical order to make it easier for anyone seeking a family member. They are on three different pages with other relevant stories, which can be reached by the links below We start with two letters, one written on the night before the battle and the other describing being in the thick of things on 1` July.
Amongst the many men who have fallen in the British great offensive and whose memory we shall ever cherish, is Lieut Robert Sutcliffe, West Yorks Regt, of Heptonstall and formerly of Idle. Lieut Sutcliffe was exceedingly popular in local golfing and musical circles. For one year he was president of the Idle Musical Union. He fully realised, as his last letter indicates, that in leading his company to attack on July 1st he would be starting on a great adventure which not all would survive but he was a true patriot and did courageously what he held to be his duty. He left the battlefield alive but died
whilst being brought across the Channel. Here is his last letter, written to his elder sister on June 30th. “Just a line to say I go over ‘the top’ tomorrow. My company are in the first line of attack and hope to do great things. “We all naturally hope to come through all right but, of course, one never knows, somebody is bound to go under and it’s the only way to end the war. “It’s a good thing to be in and I’m glad our division is one of the first chosen to go over. “I don’t know when you will receive this letter. I’ll write you again as soon as I can.”
Pte Joseph Robinson who was reported wounded while fighting with the 2nd Bradford Pals, has sent the following letter to his parents who reside at 16 Peveral Mount, Moorside Road, Eccleshill: “What do you think about the Pals now, or, I should say ‘Mothers’ Darlings’ for that’s what some people have been kind enough to call us. “To be quite candid, I am lucky to be here for there is very little left of the whole brigade. The lads went into the charge with heart and soul and there were no shirkers although they dropped like flies under a heavy curtain fire. “Both high explosives, machine guns and all kinds of fire forces were sent in front of us but those who were
unwounded went dashing forward. “I was running forward with a pal when a piece of shrapnel caught me in the hip and I was thrown up in the air like a shuttle. My equipment was shattered and fell off my back. “It might be a consolation for you to know that the steel looking-glass and my bible which I carried in my pocket saved my life. Any man who came out of the charge all right was very lucky indeed. “We took two German lines and a village up to the time of bringing me away so that shows we can beat them in spite of their artillery fire. I am living in hopes of getting at them again.” Pte Robinson is progressing favourably in Bristol Hospital.
Glad to be among first to go over the top
Saved by my bible and looking-glass
Pte Willie Ambler has been wounded. Pte Ambler is 23 years of age and was in the Royal Worcester Regt. He has been wounded in the chest and is now in one of the base hospitals. Pte Maurice Andrews of the 2nd Bradford Pals has been slightly wounded. He is the eldest son of Mr Edwin Andrews of Lane Ends and one of the Clayton representatives on the North Bierley Board of Guardians. Pte Herbert Atkinson (22), West Yorks Regt, son of Mr F Atkinson of 20 Albert Road, Saltaire, is in hospital in Manchester having been wounded by shrapnel which passed through his left foot. Before joining the army he was engaged at Scott’s Motor Works and had recently been an overlooker at Saltaire Mills. Pte E A Baxter, West Yorks Regt, eldest son of Mr Arthur Baxter of Thackley has been wounded. He writes home saying that he was hit in the knee but that the bone was not damaged. Pte Baxter was formerly at the West Yorkshire Bank in Bradford. Cpl W Baxter, 1/8 West Yorks Regt, son of Mrs James R Baxter of 21 North St, Thackley, has been killed. He was 25 years of age. He has two brothers in the army, Sgt A C Baxter and L Cpl J Baxter. Pte Frank Beech of Baildon was wounded in the face and shoulder. Pte R E Bell, of the 18th West Yorks, has been wounded in the left knee and right foot and is now in hospital in Birmingham. He was formerly goalkeeper for the Shipley Celtic Association FC.
Sgt James Berry, KOYLI, the son of Mr Fred Berry of 20 Queen Street, Greengates, was wounded in the arm. He enlisted at the age of 17 and is now in a military hospital in this country. He is 19 years of age. Pte Arthur Blakebrough, of Eccleshill, the youngest brother of Pte Fred Blakebrough, the well-known boxer, has been wounded in the face in France and is in hospital in Cardiff. Writing home he says: “I have been most fortunate to get home to dear old England with only a little wound. I shall soon be better. To me it seems wonderful for one day we were in the thick of the fight and the next day I am in a nice clean ward with everything perfectly quiet.” Blakebrough joined the 1st Bradford Pals in September 1914 and has been with the regiment in Egypt and had four months of trench life in France. Pte Willie Blundell is attached to the Bradford Pals. He lived with his mother at Highgate, Clayton Heights and was employed in Messrs Henry Briggs and Co Ltd. He is now lying in a Birmingham hospital. Pte Albert Booth, 18th West Yorks, of 16 Close Place, Gt Horton, Bradford has been wounded with shrapnel in the right leg and right arm and is in hospital in France. Prior to the war he was employed at Saltaire Mills Pte Ernest Briggs, of 1st Bradford Pals, was wounded early last weekend and is now in a Bristol Hospital. Prior to joining the army he was employed as a hairdresser. Pte Walter Burton, 5 Mount Avenue, Eccleshill, 1st Bradford Pals, has been wounded and is now in Ipswich hospital. Before joining the army he was with Messrs Illingworth and Newboult, Bradford.
Pte Frank Carroll, Mr and Mrs M Carroll of 5 Dockfield Road, Shipley, have received information that their son, Pte Frank Carroll, has received gunshot wounds in the forearm and that he is now in hospital in Birmingham. It was on the first day of the “big push” that he was wounded. He was gassed on Hill 69 and after being in hospital for some time he came home on furlough. The people living at Dockfield made great preparations for the hero’s return and when he arrived, a profusion of flags and bunting was suspended across the street. He joined the forces soon after the outbreak of war along with Pte Ernest Clegg of Hargreaves Square, Shipley who was killed some time ago. Pte John Valentine Chapman, of 63 Bradford Road, Shipley, has been wounded. Pte Tom Chippendale, son of Mr Walter Chippendale of 77 Manor Lane, Shipley, West Yorks Regt, is at the Manchester Royal Infirmary, suffering from injuries to the face due to a shell bursting in the trench where he was on duty. Pte Chippendale, who is 24 years of age was formerly employed by Messrs Mitchel Bros, Bradford, and enlisted soon after the war began. Pte R Collins, of the 2nd Bradford Pals, was wounded on the 1st inst. He was a scholar at Hanson School and will probably be remembered as the captain of the school’s football team in his time. He held the position of left back and helped Idle to win the cup in 1913. He has been wounded by shrapnel in the jaw, ear and eye. He is the son of Mr J Collins, well-known in the wool trade and lately proprietor of the Stansfield Arms, Apperley Bridge.
Pte Harry Dixon, of 2 Tunwell Mount, Eccleshill has received a bayonet wound in the right arm and is now in hospital within ten miles of England. Pte Dixon is one of the 1st Bradford Pals Pte Edward Dobson, Royal Fusiliers, son of Mr and Mrs John Dobson of 7 Dawson St, Windhill, has been wounded in the face and is now in Warrington Hospital. He originally joined the RFA at the age of 17 and was ultimately transferred to the Royal Fusiliers. He is 19 years of age and has seen active service at the Dardanelles in Egypt and in France. He formerly worked for the Bradford Dyers’ Association at their Shipley branch Sgt J W Dyson, second son of Mr J Dyson of Angel Street, Baildon, has been wounded in the foot. Rifleman Tom Edmondson, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, only son of Mr and Mrs William E Edmonson of 10 Taunton Street, Shipley, was killed on June 27th. He was 21 years of age and for several years he took an active interest in the Shipley Church Lads’ Brigade. His parents have received a sympathetic letter from the London headquarters of that organisation. Letters to hand from two of his comrades speak of him as a fine soldier and a valued friend. Before joining the army on the outbreak of war, he was employed by Mr John Greenwood, cabinet maker, Shipley. Pte Frank Ellis, of 22 Bromet Place, Eccleshill, who enlisted in the 6th West Yorks about 12 months ago, has been killed. He was married on June 14th last year and leaves a widow and a baby girl.
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