It’s amazing how people rally around to solve mysteries dating back 100 years – and here’s one of a young father who sadly failed to return home after going off to fight for his country.

Research by Kirkheaton Family History Group revealed that family details for many of the men on the war memorial in the village was scant and so mooted the possibility that many of them were orphans.

Sandra Stocks from the group said her plea for help through the Examiner brought in more information on the soldiers who lost their lives during the 1914-18 conflict.

And one was the tragic tale of a farm labourer who married an older woman when he was 17, they had three children but he was then killed in 1915.

Kenneth Palmer has done some research into the men on the Kirkheaton Roll of Honour. Some 20 years ago he helped Margaret Stansfield from Elland who was collating information on all 3,439 people from Huddersfield who lost their lives as a result of the war by recording all the names of the war dead on war memorials and in graveyards around Huddersfield.

Kenneth said that Percival Martin Jones was mentioned on a grave at Laneside Cemetery and the history group now has his marriage certificate.

Percival married Ethel May Sykes at Wakefield Register Office on October 23, 1909. Percival was 17-years-old, a farm labourer and gave his address as Chapel View, Aslockton, Nottingham. His bride was 23-years-old and lived at Sunny Villa, Flockton. Their daughter, Olive Maude Annie Jones, was born just two months after the wedding on Christmas Day 1909 and died a spinster in 1985.

On the 1911 census, Ethel May Jones and her daughter, Olive, were living with Ethel’s parents in Huddersfield.

By 1911 Percival had joined the 2nd Battalion the Grenadier Guards. However, the couple had two further children, Jack Percival Jones, born September 7, 1911, and Dennis Jones, born in 1913. After Percival’s death the family moved from Emley to Sykehouse near Goole with Ethel’s adoptive father. Both sons married in Scunthorpe and Ethel May Wilson died at her son Dennis’ home in Dunstall Street, Scunthorpe on November 21, 1948.

Sandra said: “Thanks to recently uploaded data on the Kirkheaton.Info website, we have found the grave which mentions Percival at Laneside Cemetery. It is that of his mother-in-law Martha Sykes, who died in 1917.”

Percival was 23 when he was killed by a shell on October 19, 1915, at Loos and is buried at Vermelles British Cemetery near Lens in France. The cemetery was begun in August 15 when a nearby chateau was used as a field dressing station and now it has 2,134 plots.

British soldiers negotiating a shell-cratered, winter landscape along the River Somme in late 1916
British soldiers negotiating a shell-cratered, winter landscape along the River Somme in late 1916
 

In terms of another Kirkheaton soldier, Sandra said that Ann Shaw, of Kirkheaton, revealed she was at school with soldier John Edward Wilson’s grandson, David Wilson, who was born in 1942 and died in 2006.

John, of Low Gate, Kirkburton, married Ada Lodge, of Shop Lane, Kirkheaton at Huddersfield Register Office in Huddersfield November 25, 1911. They had one son, Lewis, born in 1912. Ada lived in Shop Lane for the rest of her life. She died in 1949 and is buried at Laneside Cemetery.

Sandra said: “We are still unable to trace John’s early life and parents. Lewis died in 1973 leaving three sons, two of whom survive and from information we’ve been given we believe they are living in Leeds.”

Cheryl Perkin visited last month’s World War One exhibition at Kirkheaton Parish Church and mentioned that her grandfather, Frank Stancliffe, had survived the war. She was shown the ‘served and survived’ board which featured her grandfather as a Military Medal winner while serving with the machine gun corps. The history group was able to supply her with a lot more family details, including passenger lists of visits to Canada and California, and also a copy of the photograph which appeared in the Huddersfield Weekly Examiner in 1917 when Frank was awarded his medal.

Huddersfield historian Dr George Redmonds visited the exhibition and had read the piece in the Examiner about ‘possible orphans’. He recalled coal-miners telling him that foundlings were sent to the area as ‘hurriers’ and used the surname of the miner who headed their ‘gang’.

He said two of the names  quoted were of hurriers from Spa Bottom, Lepton. During the exhibition old photographs of Kirkheaton Parish from the early 20th Century and photographs of some of the fallen together with WW1 scenes were movingly set to music by history group member Roger Armitage. Many visitors wanted a copy of this and a link to it can now be found on the Yetton Together website.

The group can be contacted at familyhistory@yettontogether.org