A special service is being held to remember those who lost their lives 100 years ago at the Battle of the Somme.
The tribute will take place at Whitechapel Church in Cleckheaton this Sunday, September 4, marking a phase in which many Spen Valley men were involved.
Poignantly, the remembrance will spotlight three local men who died on the Somme.
The service at 2.30pm, supported by the Spenborough branch of the Royal British Legion, will be led by Rev Brunel James.
He said: “In the second phase of the battle on September 3, local men were involved in an attack which led to many casualties.
“Our service will focus on three local men who died that day as a way of honouring the wider legacy of that generation.”
The three were Capt Charles Hirst, 2nd Lt Alfred Edison Hirst and 2nd Lt Thomas Christopher Vause.
Capt Charles Hirst was serving with the 1st/4th West Riding Regiment when he was killed in action on September 3, 1916 aged 22.
He lived at Fieldhead and The Royds in Cleckheaton.
He died leading his company in the attack on the Schwaben Redoubt, a German stronghold just north of Thiepval village. He was one of many local men killed in this action, which became known in Cleckheaton as Bloody Sunday.
His body was never recovered and he is listed in the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing along with over 73,000 others whose bodies were never recovered or identiﬁed.
2nd Lt Hirst was a member of one of Cleckheaton’s most prominent families. His father owned Charles Hirst & Sons Exchange Wireworks in Cleckheaton.
2nd Lt Alfred Hirst also served with the 1st/4th West Riding Regiment and was 24 when he died also on September 3.
He went to France with the battalion in April 1915 and shared all the hardships of the Ypres salient before moving to the Somme in 1916. The attack at 4am on Sunday, September 3 on the Schwaben Redoubt which was a German fortress on a small hill, surrounded by strategically placed machine guns. Underneath was a series of tunnels containing sleeping accommodation, bakeries, a hospital and messes.
2nd Lt Hirst was killed while leading his platoon and a witness states that he saw him mortally wounded in a shell hole. His body was never retrieved for burial and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
His father, Eli Hirst, was the owner of the local newspaper, the Spenborough Guardian, and he had many letters published describing life in the army.
He had been prominent in local scouting circles as Master of the Moorbottom Troop in Cleckheaton.
2nd Lt Thomas Vause served with the 1st/8th West Yorkshire Regiment (Leeds Riﬂes) and was 33 when he died.
On September 3, 1916 the Battalion was involved in a large scale attack just north of Thiepval village. The objective was a machine gun post known as the Pope’s Nose. However, on leaving Thiepval Wood, many casualties were claimed by the German machine guns situated in the Pope’s Nose and also on the Schwaben Redoubt overlooking the objective.
He was reported missing but it was not until August 1917 that the family received the telegram stating that he was ‘now presumed dead’. Many of the casualties from that attack were not found until Spring 1917 following the German retreat to the Hindenberg Line.
Unfortunately, after lying in No-Man’s-Land for nine months, many bodies could not be identiﬁed but Thomas’ was and he is buried in the Mill Road Cemetery near to where he fell.
He was educated at Cambridge University in 1904 and obtained a Master’s Degree in 1911. He subsequently gained a Law Degree and embarked upon a teaching career. He was appointed Second Master at Whitcliffe Mount Secondary School in Cleckheaton in 1914. A ﬁne all-round sportsman as well as a brilliant academic, he was well-liked by both staff and pupils.
A second teacher at the school, Lance Corporal Evan Williams, was killed on July 19, 1918 and is buried at the Pernes British Cemetery, near Calais. Mr Williams was a chemistry master and, like Mr Vause, joined the school in 1914.
In 1932 Vause and Williams were linked to form a house name along with Arnold and Wadsworth.
Vause-Williams was intended that they should stand for all those – masters and boys – who once worked in the school and who lost their lives in that ‘greater service’. They were Arthur Armytage, Percy Bentley, William E Brooke, John Butterfield, Reginald Drake, Percy Holdroyd and Tom Jowett.
The house system continued until the mid 1980s but was re-established in 2010 and while Wadsworth was retained, Vause-Williams was not.
Eddie Morton, chairman of the Spenborough Branch of the Royal British Legion, said “The Royal British Legion is the custodian of remembrance and it is heartening to see local communities and churches remembering local men who served with distinction and, in turn, passing it on to the younger generation. We must try and maintain the support generated by the centenary of the First World War for youth of today to take forward.”