Friday 14 July 1916
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First casualties of the Battle of the Somme
The stark list of so many men from a small area who were among the Somme casualties is itself sobering. The following description of what the soldiers went through by Sgt J E Yates, which is published in Capt E V Tempest’s excellent History of the Sixth Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, Volume 1 – 1/6th Battalion, published by Naval & Military Press, gives a vivid picture of what they endured. He starts with the opening attack on 1 July: “The order to attack was given. Men sprang to the parapet and were at once in the zone where machine gun bullets swept like rain. Here and there a man dropped back into the trench. Others fell in swathes on the parapet. A few struggled further. I think the furthest would hardly make more than a few dozen paces. “Again and again men climbed the parapet and added their bodies to the pile. It was useless. Thiepval was not to be taken until the army had laid its finest manhood in the shellholes of the Somme. On the left
other Bradford battalions had fallen in heaps as we had. The splendid Ulster Division of the morning had become a broken remnant under our eyes, its dead being scattered over these lines of trenches.” Sgt Yates turned his attention to the following day: “Almost imperceptibly the first day merged into the second when we held grimly to a battered trench and watched each other grow old under the day-long storm of shelling. Big shells landed in the crowded trench. For hours, sweating, praying, swearing, we worked on the heaps of chalk and mangled bodies. Men did astonishing things at which one did not wonder till after. “Here is an instance of fortitude. A man had his right arm and leg torn off clean. His mind was quite clear
as I laid him on the fire-step. His left hand wandered over his chest to the pulp where his right shoulder had been. ‘My God,’ he said, ‘I’ve lost an arm.’ The hand crept down to the stump of the right thigh. ‘Is that off too?’ he asked. I nodded. It was impossible to move him at the time. For five hours he lay there fully conscious and smoking cigarettes. When at last we tried to carry him out the stretcher struck in the first traverse. We put him on a groundsheet and struggled on. But our strength was gone; we could not hold his weight. ‘Drag me,’ he suggested then and we dragged him along the floor of the trench to the medical dug- out. “At dawn next morning we were back in a green wood. I found myself leaning on a rifle and staring stupidly at the filthy, exhausted men who slept round me. It did not occur to me to lie down until someone pushed me into a bed of ferns. There were flowers among the ferns and my last through was a dull wonder that there could still be flowers in the world.”
“we held grimly to a battered trench and watched each other grow old under the day-long storm of shelling.”
‘Men did astonishing things at which one did not wonder till after’
Capt R A Fawcett, West Yorkshire Regt, has been wounded in the chest and has sustained a fracture of the right arm. He is now in a London hospital. Capt Fawcett was recently awarded the Military Cross. He is the senior captain of his battalion and has held his present rank for some years. At one time he commanded a company which won the Bingham Challenge Shield. One of his brothers, Captain E B Fawcett, was fatally wounded in Mesopotamia. Capt Fawcett was the eldest son of Ald J W Fawcett of Apperley Bridge. Pte Alfred Golbey, Mrs Golbey of 24 Caroline Street, Shipley, has received news that her husband, Pte Alfred Golbey (28) of the West Yorks Regt has been wounded and is in hospital in Wales. (Alfred appears to also have had a Baildon connection, because his wounding was mentioned in a round-up of their casualties). Sgt H Bernard Greenwood, who resided in Aberdeen Terrace, Clayton, has been killed. He was 25 years of age, joined the 1st Pals on its formation. He was a good all-round athlete and was formerly a prominent member and at one time captain of the Clayton AFC. Pte Herbert J Greenwood has received injuries to the face and shoulder. Pte Frank Hartley, of the 18th West Yorks, son of Mr R Hartley, slate merchant, Ellar Carr Road, Idle, was wounded on July 1st and is now in hospital in France. He was previously in Egypt. He enlisted May 10th, 1915. Pte Percy Holdsworth, whose home is at 3 Ashgrove, Greengates, has been wounded in both legs. He joined the army two years ago and had been in France ten months In a letter home Pte Holdsworth describes the excellent treatment he is receiving at the Yarrow Military Hospital, Broadstairs. He adds that his right leg is the worst but is going on as well as can be expected. He says nothing of how he received the wounds to his legs but from a
communication received from a friend at the front it appears that Pte Holdsworth took charge of the company after the officers had been shot down and it was whilst leading the men that he was injured. He was always a popular lad in the village and above everything believed in ‘playing the game’. He held several offices in the Wesleyan Sunday School and later was associated with the Trades’ Club. A large circle of friends will sympathise with him in the wounds the Bosches have inflicted upon him. His father, who is an old campaigner, is also doing his bit with the Royal Engineers in France. Signaller Robert Helliwell - Mr and Mrs John Helliwell of 22 Bromet Place, Eccleshill, received word on Wednesday from their son Pte Alfred Helliwell of the 6th West Yorks, that his brother, Signaller Robert Helliwell, had been killed in action. In his letter Pte A Helliwell says: ‘Our regiment has had some terrible fighting this last few days and we have had to so a lot of bayonet fighting. ‘You will perhaps have guessed now what I am trying to tell you. I got with our Bob in the fight and I saw him kill three Germans and then we got the order to retire. We were just getting into our own lines when Bob was hit. He had no pain. He said; “Tell mother and father not to take it too much to heart for the sake of the others. I have done my duty.” He was buried by the Rev R Whincup of Windhill.’ Signaller Helliwell was formerly in the 1-8th West Yorks as a clarionette player, but on obtaining a position in the Corporation tramways parcels department, he took up signalling. He has been 15 months at the front and was 21 years of age. He is the fourth son of Police Sgt John Helliwell (of the Idle and Eccleshill section of the Bradford City Police Force) who has three other sons in His Majesty’s army. Rifleman W Hodgetts, of the King’s Royal Rifles, whose home is at 3 Jane Hills, Shipley, has been wounded in the chest. This is the second time he has been wounded. He has two other brothers in the army. Pte H Holgate, son of Mr and Mrs T Holgate of 31 South View, Thackley, has been killed in action.
L Cpl Ralph Holmes, West Yorks Regt, son of Mrs W Holmes, 2 Hall Royd, Shipley, has been wounded in the arm. Sgt Alfred Hudson, of 89 Institute Road, Eccleshill, was wounded on July 1st while fighting with the 2nd Bradford Pals. In a letter to his wife he says: ‘There has been a terrible number killed in the advance and I think we lost all our officers by the time we got to the German lines but we carried on. ‘A shell burst just by my men and some went up in the air and I got a piece in my shoulder and in my arm. Another piece hit me on the left side of my mouth and came out on the opposite side.’ He is now in a Hampshire hospital. Before enlisting he was for three years in the police force at Eccleshill. 2nd Lieut Arthur Norman Hutton, Leeds Pals, third son of Mr Charles Hutton, Brentwood, Eccleshill, has been wounded in the right shoulder and side. He is now in a Manchester hospital. He is managing director of the firm of Messrs Smith and Hutton, woollen and worsted manufacturers, Eccleshill and Leeds. Pte Gilbert Isles, 2nd Bradford Pals, has been slightly wounded in the right arm by shrapnel. His home is at 10 Holdsworth Buildings, Eccleshill. L Cpl G Johnson, Ferniehurst, Baildon, and of the 18th West Yorks, has been wounded in the right hand and is at the General Hospital, Newport. Pte Richard Laycock has written to his wife who resides at 5 Mount Terrace, Eccleshill, to say he has been wounded in the left arm and back by shrapnel. He is a member of the 1st Bradford Pals and has been in France two months. L Cpl Frank Liley, son of Mr and Mrs J T Liley of 10 Cobden Street, Idle, was wounded in action on the 1st July. He has received wounds in both legs and is in hospital at Leicester. L Cpl Liley joined the 18th West Yorks early last year and being regarded as a very smart soldier, he was not long in receiving promotion. Pte Laurie Lincoln, son of Mr George Lincoln of 30 Highfield Terrace, Nab Wood, Shipley, is in hospital at Sheffield suffering from wounds in the back and arms.
Pte Richard Maud, 10 School Hill, Windhill, a reservist called up on the outbreak of hostilities has been wounded in the left leg in three places. He is in hospital in Bristol. Pte Fred Morphet, 121 Heath Terrace, Laisterdyke, late of Idle, of the 2nd Pals has been wounded and is now in hospital in France. Prior to enlisting he was a clerk on the GNR at Idle station. Pte H D Myers, son of Mr Alfred Myers 18 Salisbury Place, Calverley, was wounded on July 1st. He is in the Leeds Pals and had served in Egypt. He is in hospital in Birmingham. Pte Joseph Myers, 20 Mount Avenue, Eccleshill, of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, has been wounded in the left hand. He was assistant secretary of the Idle Old Boys’ Football Club. Pte John Parker (33), East Yorkshire Regt, formerly a porter at the Great Northern station Windhill but afterwards at Sheffield, has been killed. He married a Baildon lady who is left with five children. His brother, Benjamin Parker, whose home is at 48 Dale Street, Shipley, is a member of the Pioneers and one of his sons, Pte George Parker (28) West Yorkshire Regt, was killed by a sniper. Another son has been discharged and a third is in France. Pte Horatio Patrick, 10 West Yorks, of Idle, died in a military hospital at Rouen on July 5th from wounds received in action. Pte Patrick was wounded in his left hand and head. He joined the forces in May of last year when he resided at Hampton Place and he went to France about eleven months ago. He leaves a widow and three children. His mother and sister reside at 8 Thorpe Garth, Idle. A sympathetic letter has been received from the matron of the hospital in which Pte Patrick passes away. Pte Harold Peel of 26 Acre Lane, Eccleshill, and another Congregational scholar, is reported badly wounded. He was with the first Bradford Pals. Pte Willie Pickles, has been wounded and is in hospital at Glasgow. Pte Pickles is 19 years of age and was in the 3rd West Riding Regiment.
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