Category Archives: Royal British Legion

A Week to Remember

It has been a hectic week or so since the publication of The Greatest Sacrifice – Fallen Heroes of the Northern Union about those professional rugby league players killed in the Great War. It has also been far more tiring and emotionally draining than anticipated. I’m more used to being closeted away in archives or working on my laptop at home ferreting through records and writing research reports with only my trusty four-legged friend to keep me company.

Dealing with media interviews and attending high-profile launch events isn’t normally on my to-do list. So I’ve found it exhausting.

Imperial War Museum North, Poppy Wave – by Jane Roberts

But it was a huge honour and privilege to go to The Imperial War Museum North to attend the unveiling of the England Rugby League commemorative jersey. This shirt will be worn on 11 November 2018 in the Third Test in the series against New Zealand. It will also raise funds for the Royal British Legion as part of their ‘Thank You’ movement, recognising all the First World War generation who served, sacrificed and changed our world, be it those lost their lives, those who returned and those on the Home Front.

More details of the shirt launch, including where to buy one, can be found here. Details of the ‘Thank You‘ campaign are here.

Chris and I with Tom and George Burgess in the England Commemorative Shirt

As part of the launch Jamie Peacock, former England and Great Britain captain, along with Yorkshire-born South Sydney players Tom and George Burgess were presented with copies of our book. The book will also be used to provide context to the England Rugby League team’s visit to the Western Front on 20 October 2018.

Chris presenting Tom and George Burgess with copies of The Greatest Sacrifice

In between there have been media interviews with national and local radio, plus TV and press.

I have copies of The Greatest Sacrifice, which can be signed and dedicated if required. I can also drop off locally around Batley and Dewsbury areas. If so the cost is £13.50. Post within the UK increases the cost to £14.50. Payment can either be via cheque (UK) or bank transfer. My contact email is pasttopresentgenealogy@btinternet.com.

The book is also available from Scratching Shed Publishing at £14.99.

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Remembered by Families in Batley Cemetery; Remembered by the CWGC Elsewhere

This is the first of my posts in the run up to Remembrance Sunday.

The work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is familiar to many. They care for cemeteries and memorials in 23,000 locations across 154 countries, ensuring the 1.7 million people from Commonwealth forces who lost their lives as a result of the two world wars are never forgotten.

Batley cemetery contains CWGC 66 burials. Predominantly these plots have standard CWGC headstones, but there are also some Private Memorials where families chose to erect their own headstone on a war grave. All are listed on the CWGC website.[1]

Unsurprisingly some families who had loved ones commemorated elsewhere by the CWGC, chose also to include their names on family headstones in home cemeteries. This is not exclusively confined to those military personnel with no known graves.  These are not classed as war graves. The service person is not buried there. So they are entirely distinct from CWGC recognised Private Memorials.

These inscriptions would provide a focal point close to home for families of service personnel with no known grave, or buried far from home. They are a visible sign of love, acknowledgement and family remembrance.

These headstones can prove invaluable for researchers in terms of family and service details. But, as they are not war graves, they are not recorded by the CWGC. So it is a case of seeking them out.

Here are four I spotted in Batley cemetery.

Able Seaman Farrar Hill, killed on 31 January 1918[2] when his submarine, HMS E/50,  was lost in the North Sea. It is believed to have struck a mine near the South Dogger Light Vessel.  He is commemorated on the Plymouth Naval Memorial. But he is remembered on the Hill family headstone.

Farrar Hill - family headstone

Farrar Hill – family headstone

Pte Robert Hirst, 6th Bn King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was killed in action on 24 September 1915 and has no known grave. His name appears on The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. His family have included his name on a relatively new headstone in Batley cemetery.

Robert Hirst's relatively new headstone

Robert Hirst’s relatively new headstone

Rifleman Edward Leonard, 1st/8th Bn West Yorkshire Regiment, killed in action on 2 July 1916 and commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. His sister Annie, a munitions worker at the Barnbow factory at Garforth, Leeds, died on 21 July 1916 from picric acid poisoning – the same day as the Leonard family received news Edward was missing. His and Annie’s name appear on the headstone.

Headstone - Edward Leonard

The Leonard family headstone

Pte Albert Smith of the 2nd/5th Bn Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment died of wounds on 27 May 1918. He is buried in Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt, France but he is also included on his family headstone.

The Smith family headstone - including Albert Smith

The Smith family headstone – including Albert Smith

So, even for those service men and women commemorated on CWGC memorials and in cemeteries elsewhere, do not discount information provided on family headstones closer to home.

The Royal British Legion launched its 2015 Poppy Appeal on 22 October. This is their link: http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/

Sources:

 

[1] http://www.cwgc.org/
[2] Some sources indicate the submarine was lost “on or around 1 February 1918”, but 31 January is the CWGC date