Huddersfield historian Tom Ashworth’s latest book – ‘Dark Hours: 1916 A Valley at War’ – traces the everyday lives of the people of the Holme Valley and district who were living through the extraordinary events of 1916. He launches his book tonight (Wednesday, December 14) at New Mill Club but here’s a story from the book about three men from the valley who paid the ultimate price.
It was during October 1916 when news came of the deaths of three Holmfirth men.
Harold Heeley, who had been a member of the Holmfirth cricket 11, had been killed in the last bout of fighting in September.
Bugler Brown, his close friend, wrote to Harold’s parents, saying: “Just a line in answer to your parcel and letters which you wrote to your son Harold. I am sorry to have to tell you that your son got killed on the 23rd.
“I am sorry to have to put it so bluntly, but I find it is not much good telling you that he is missing when we know.
“He was liked by every lad in his platoon and I can tell you, being a Salvationist myself, he was a good-living and God-fearing man. He was one of the best. It will be a good job when the war is over.”
Harold was 21 and had last been on leave during Whitsuntide when he managed to play a few games for Thongsbridge 11.
He was last seen when he and five others went out on patrol from the trenches and only one returned. A private in the 10th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s, Harold had enlisted at the beginning of the war from his home at 24 Albert Place, Thongsbridge, and was employed as a foreman dyer at Messrs Vickermans.
He has no known grave and his name is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. His brother Arthur was killed the following year.
Lance-Corporal Hubert Hobson of Outlane, Netherthong, was a life-long Methodist. He was the Sunday school secretary of Netherthong Wesleyan Church, played the clarinet in the orchestra and was a member of the choir.
He was 25 and his headstone at Bertrancourt Military Cemetery 25km from Arras in France reads: “For England’s cause he fought his best and then he entered into rest.”
There are 413 graves in the cemetery, nearly all of them Yorkshire men.
Hubert was wounded by the same shell that killed George Dawson, another Holmfirth conscript, and died to his wounds the following day. He played football for Netherthong and was a member of the Hinchliffe Mill Working Men’s Club.
Dark Hours is published by Shalliley Books. Tom can be contacted either through the Facebook page ‘Dark Hours’ or at firstname.lastname@example.org.