A relative of a Huddersfield soldier has been out to France to pay homage to him 100 years after his death.
Friends Wendy Holmes and Margaret Atkinson, the current President of Huddersfield Choral Society, went to Arras to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the loss of Margaret’s great uncle Lewis Townend who was reported missing on May 3, 1917.
Bullecourt was one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the war and May 3 was the day that many Huddersfield soldiers lost their lives.
Lewis, a private in the 2nd/5th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, was born on August 11,1892, son of Benjamin and Annie Townend, of 117 May Street, Crosland Moor.
He was educated at All Saints Church of England School, Paddock, and employed as a dyer’s labourer at Messrs Tom Liversedge and Sons Ltd, Canal Bank Works, Huddersfield.
He was a member of Paddock All Saints Church Choir, the Huddersfield and District Light Opera Society and also Huddersfield Amateur Operatic Society.
The commemoration involved a walk to the spot where the battle was fought.
It was organised by Chris Preston from Derbyshire whose grandfather Pte James Riley of The Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was wounded in the battle.
It was attended by many nationalities, but predominantly British and Australians all commemorating lost relatives. Two Belgians – one dressed in a British uniform and the other in a German uniform – had studied the battle in depth and gave talks at various points on the walk.
Wendy, of Birkby, said: “We first visited Arras a few years ago to find Lewis’ name on the Arras Memorial and to visit the town of Bullecourt where he was reported missing.
“The trip this time was to join a memorial walk which had been arranged by someone whose grandfather had also been killed on the same day in the same battle.
“About 30 of us met at 3.30am in the small village of Croiselles and followed the route through the fields to be at the point of engagement for 4.45am – the exact time of the commencement of the battle. It was pitch dark and a whistle was blown for a minute’s silence followed by a reading of ‘at the going down of the sun.’ As you can imagine, it was a hugely emotional experience for everyone, even those of us with no direct descendants involved.”
They met one man whose father had been captured in Bullecourt and after two years as a POW returned to Skegness and had nine children, the youngest of whom was there to remember him.