Were many soldiers from Kirkheaton killed in World War One orphans?

Researchers probing their backgrounds say their past throws up more questions than answers

British soldiers negotiating a shell-cratered, Winter landscape along the River Somme in late 1916 after the close of the Allied offensive
British soldiers negotiating a shell-cratered, Winter landscape along the River Somme in late 1916 after the close of the Allied offensive

Several soldiers from Kirkheaton who were killed in World War One were probably orphans.

Researchers from the village have drawn a blank while looking into their family histories and can only conclude that they had no living parents at the time of their deaths and so looking into their background has thrown up more questions than answers. Perhaps Examiner readers can help solve them.

The Kirkheaton World War One exhibition is running until August 25 at St John’s Church, Kirkheaton, on weekday mornings from 9am until 12.30pm and Saturdays from 10am until 4pm.

The Kirkheaton Roll of Honour at St Johns’ Church has a list of the names on the war memorial and gives information on the men such as regiment, age and where and when they died.

Researcher Sandra Stocks said: “In some instances there is very little information and it’s been quite a difficult task to discover who these men actually were and even to find a reason why they were included on the memorial and what was their connection to our village.

“We have reached the conclusion with several of them that they were orphans who were sent here to work either in the local mills or coal mines.”

Here are a few of the stories behind the men.

Albert Edward Brooks was 21 when he was killed in France on April 29, 1918, while serving as a private in the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment. He lived at Spa Bottom, Lepton and before joining was employed by Messrs Ben Elliott and sons at the Lodge Mill Colliery. On February 2,1922, a note was added to his medal card requesting authority to dispose of his medals and Sandra said: “From this we conclude that Albert had no living relatives to claim them.”

Cpl Thomas Houghland was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire in 1896. His father died in 1903 and his mother died in 1910. In 1911 Thomas was an ‘inmate’ at the Industrial School at Birkenhead but he enlisted in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in Huddersfield, giving his residence as Thornton-le-Fylde. He was listed as missing presumed killed on May 3, 1917 at Arras and is commemorated on the memorial there.

Sandra said: “We have made contact with Thomas’s great nephew who still lives in the Fylde area and was unaware that his grandfather had a brother. He is hoping to visit our exhibition to see his great uncle’s name on the memorial.”

Percival Martin Jones was 23 when he was killed in action at Loos on October 19, 1915, while serving in the 2nd Grenadier Guards.

The war memorial at Kirkheaton Parish Church.
 

Sandra said: “That is the only information we have in the Roll of Honour. In 1911 we have found him serving in the Grenadier Guards, giving his place of birth as Aslockton, Nottinghamshire, and stating that he was single. But was he really single? And why does his name appear on our memorial?”

John Edward Wilson was 28 and a private in the Highland Light Infantry when he was killed in action on the Somme on August 13, 1916.

Sandra said: “But who was John and where did he come from? Our only clues come from a transcription of Soldiers Died In The Great War 1914-1919 which says he was born in London, lived in Huddersfield and enlisted in Dewbury in the Yorkshire Regiment. We have possibly found him in the 1911 census living at Spa Bottom, Lepton and giving his occupation as a ‘colliery hurrier – underground’. Is he another orphan, sent from London to work in the coal mines of Lepton? We know that John married in Huddersfield and had a child and his widow and son continued to live in Kirkheaton after he died.”

Sandra added: “If you recognise any of these names and can give us any information on any of the men, we would love to hear from you. Our email address is kfhg@outlook.com”

 
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