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The grief of World War I struck many families across the world but it is hard to imagine that many women suffered more than Eliza Barraclough of Tong Park, who lost four sons and a grandson in the conflict. Born Eliza Bucknell in Mexborough in 1859, the daughter of farm labourer George and his wife Mary, Eliza married George Barraclough in 1875. By 1891 the family were living at 11 Herbert Place, Windhill with George working as a bargeman on the canal. Eliza was no stranger to mourning even before the war. We learn from the 1911 census that four of her 12 children had already died. Her granddaughter, Kathleen, daughter of Frederick, died in 1910 aged three and her husband George was dead soon after the census was taken. Then came the toll of the war by which time Eliza was living at 73 Tong Park.
A woman whose life was marked by tragedy
Fred (pictured richt, born 1884, lived at 19 Tong Park with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Ella Hodgson Barraclough. He was posted to Salonica and there died of sunstroke on 7 July 1916. His widow received a letter from the Rev J H Darby who was serving on a hospital ship. He told her that Fred had been ‘brought on board the Valdivia at Salonica and was very ill from heat stroke. Notwithstanding every attention from the doctor and nursing sister, he grew weaker and passed away on 7th July ‘I am the Church of England chaplain and I was with him just before the end. He was quite conscious and spoke of you. I took the body ashore and the funeral – a military funeral – took place in the British Army Cemetery at Salonica. The site of his grave is 205. ‘Every respect was paid: we were met by the guard and firing party and after the funeral service the buglers sounded the last post.’
ON THE VERY SAME DAY 1,500 MILES AWAY Herbert (pictured left), born 1890, was a private in the Northumberland Fusiliers and was killed taking part in the Battle of Albert at the start of the battle of the Somme. He died on the same day as Fred. Eliza learned the news in a letter from one of his comrades who wrote: ‘We had to press forward to get our object and it was while we were doing so that Pte Barraclough was hit.’  Herbert is remembered at Thiepval Memorial on the Somme.
1918 BROUGHT EVEN MORE TRAGEDY
Ernest Hird was the son of Joseph Hird and his wife Sarah, Eliza Barraclough’s daughter. He was born in 1896 and in 1911 Ernest was described as working in a glass works and was living at 3 Walker Place, Windhill with his parents and younger sister Ada. The family had moved to 7 Ives Street, Shipley by 1918 when they received the news of Ernest’s death, the day after his 22nd birthday.
The Shipley Times & Express reported: ‘Pte Ernest Hird, West Yorkshire Regt., died on April 19th from wounds received on April 17th. He has had four birthdays at the front and was 22 years of age on April 18th. ‘In civil life he worked for his father, a metal and machinery broker, and he enlisted on August 5th, 1914. Altogether he had been wounded on three occasions, the first time being in September, 1915 after which he returned to the front in February 1916.’ Ernest is remembered in the Mendinghem Military Cemetery.
Joseph (right), born 1888, was a member of the Royal Defence Corps and lived with his wife and child at 71 Tong Park, next door to his mother. A former employee of Fyfe and Kemp, lime and coal merchants of Otley Road, Shipley, Joseph lost an eye and suffered a compound fracture of the skull in 1916. Ironically his death, on 10 October 1918 came, not during battle, but as he was coming home on leave. He was one of 18 men from his unit amid the 77 crew and 694 passengers on board the RMS Leinster making its way from Dun Laoghaire (then Kingstown) to Holyhead when it was torpedoed by a German U-boat. Joseph was one of the 501 reported as dying though research since suggests the death toll was even higher. He was buried in Grangetown Military Cemetery in Dublin
Eliza hardly had time to grasp the news of Joe’s death before her youngest son, Willie (left), born 1893, became a victim of the influenza epidemic that swept Britain. A member of the West Yorkshire Regt., he died in a hospital in Hartlepool in December 1918. He is buried in Windhill cemetery.
I am grateful to Freda Humpherson, Eliza’s great, great granddaughter for supplying me with information and photographs of Ernest and the four Barraclough brothers
Fred Barraclough Fred Barraclough Fred Barraclough Joseph Barraclough Joseph Barraclough Joseph Barraclough Willie Barraclough Willie Barraclough Willie Barraclough Ernest Hird Ernest Hird Ernest Hird Herbert Barraclough Herbert Barraclough Herbert Barraclough