It was a labour of love which lasted 30 years.
And now all the countless hours local historian Margaret Stansfield put into researching the background to the Huddersfield people who gave their lives in the armed forces in the World War One has been transformed into a book.
She has even got Royal praise for her work.
In the mid 1980s Margaret from Elland decided to find out more about the conditions her grandfather faced in the Flanders’ trenches – and it just went on from there until she had researched 3,439 which is believed to be the final death toll from Huddersfield. Some died from their wounds after the war so the book goes up to 1922.
Sadly Margaret died in 2012 and it was her hope that all her painstaking research should be made public.
Her husband, Alan, said: “Margaret’s wish had always been for a copy of her research to be available in Huddersfield library, but for it to become a book is far, far better. She’d be absolutely bowled over by what has happened.”
The book will be published by the University of Huddersfield Press in early November and will retail at £20 with most of the proceeds going to the Poppy Fund of the Elland, Greetland and District branch of the Royal British Legion.
The book, which has a foreword from Prince Andrew, can now be pre-ordered from the university.
Prince Andrew wrote: “This publication represents the lifetime work of Margaret Stansfield. Margaret spent 30 years compiling the 3,439 biographical entries giving a poignant insight into the background, working lives and families of those who selflessly left Huddersfield to fight for their country, never to return.”
Along with the biographical accounts there are many moving letters to the families of soldiers who lost their lives, often from commanding officers.
Margaret, a senior operating theatre sister at the Royal Halifax Infirmary, discovered exactly how some of them died, revealing the incredible heroism behind many of the deaths.
Alan said: “Margaret’s grandfather actually survived the First World War but he was gassed and it badly affected what had been a wonderful singing voice.
“Margaret decided she wanted to know what he had been through and we went on a battlefield tour of the Somme.”
What she witnessed – including the Thiepval Memorial with 75,000 British names – moved her to do more. After a second tour this time to the Menin Gate at Ypres in Belgium Alan said: “Margaret came home and said she had decided to do “a bit of research”” – and it went on from there.”
Margaret even managed to find out where each is buried or where their name is on a memorial, helped by two men who visited each one in the Huddersfield area.
They were Ken Palmer from Marsh and the late Philip Gledhill from Bolster Moor.
Here are some of the extracts from her book, starting with brothers whose deaths left a lasting legacy to Huddersfield in the form of the Tolson Museum.
For the magnificent house and extensive grounds were donated to Huddersfield as a museum by Legh Tolson in memory of his two nephews, 2nd Lt Robert Huntriss Tolson and his brother, 2nd Lt James Martin Tolson.
Robert, 31, from Dalton was killed at Serre on July 1, 1916 – the infamous first day of the Battle of the Somme – while leading troops from the 15th Bn West Yorkshire Regiment over the top.
His body was not discovered until March 1917 and he is buried in the Serre Road Cemetery in the Somme area.
James joined the 74th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery in April 1916 but was wounded near Ypres in October the next year and came back to England for hospital treatment.
He returned to France but was gassed in June 1918 near Adinfer, yet still returned to his battery in July 1918.
He was just 20 when he was killed near Cambrai on October 20, 1918 – just weeks before the war finished.
He is buried in Quievy Communal Cemetery Extension in Cambrai.
Both brothers are on the roll of honour at both Huddersfield Parish Church and St John’s Church in Kirkheaton.
The brothers were two of six sons and daughters of Whiteley and Jessy Tolson, of Oaklands on Greenhead Lane in Dalton.
In 1919, Whiteley’s brother, Legh Tolson, who was living at Ravensnowle Hall, made a gift of his house to the Huddersfield Corporation as a tribute and lasting memorial to his two nephews.
Here’s a taste of how Margaret’s work is laid out in the book – exceptionally moving stories including a Lance Sergeant from Marsden who died in his brother’s arms 20 minutes after he was shot and a stretcher bearer from Marsh who was killed while trying to rescue a wounded man.
VARLEY, Joe. Lance Sergeant. No 1174. 1/7th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. Born Marsden. Second son of Luke and Agnes Varley, 28 Plains, Marsden. Employed as a spinner by Mr J E Crowther, of Marsden. Was a member of the Marsden Wesleyan Sunday School. Played the cornet in Marsden Brass Band. Enlisted at the outbreak of the war. Embarked for France in April, 1915. Killed in action, 20.9.1915, aged 20 years. Buried Bard Cottage Cemetery, Boesinghe, Belgium. Grave Location: Plot 1, Row H, Grave 22. (Brother of Private James W Varley, Military Medal, died at home, 6.5.1919 from pneumonia). His parents received a letter from their son, Private James W Varley, who wrote: “Yesterday afternoon about 3pm our Joe was hit by a bullet but mercifully he did not suffer a moment’s pain as it at once made him unconscious. He lived about 20 minutes and passed away quite peacefully in my arms. Fortunately I was close to him at the time and I am thankful to say that everything was done that could be done for him both before and after he passed away by both officers and men. He was buried in a graveyard about one and a half miles behind the firing line. Major Wilkinson completely broke down once reading the service.” ROH: Huddersfield Drill Hall and Marsden War Memorial.
BAILEY, Thomas Dismore. Private. No 3189. B Coy, 1/5th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. Born Field Street, Marsh, 29.12.1895. Son of Samuel and Selina Bailey of 5, Holme Place, Grasscroft Road, Marsh. Samuel Bailey was employed as coachman by Mr J H Sykes, Bryancliffe, Edgerton, Huddersfield. Educated at Holy Trinity Church School, Huddersfield. He was a member of the choir at Holy Trinity Church. Worked as a tailor’s cutter for Messrs Bairstow, Sons and Company. Enlisted 6th October, 1914. Went out to France April, 1915. Was a stretcher-bearer in the Ambulance Section. Was shot by a sniper whilst going out to rescue a wounded comrade, 14.6.1915, aged 19 years. Buried Rue-David Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix. Grave location: Plot 1, Row B, Grave 13. Roll Of Honour: Holy Trinity Church, Huddersfield; Huddersfield Drill Hall. His parents received the following letter from their son’s Commanding Officer, Captain J E Eastwood, who wrote: “We had just one man badly wounded and your son, as a stretcher-bearer, was attending to him when I heard that we had another man wounded higher up in the trenches so your son set off to attend to him and while doing so was shot dead on the spot.” Lt A L McCally, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, wrote: “He was always willing to do his share of whatever was in hand and the fact of his at once going out to a dangerous place to help a wounded man shows that he had the very highest conception of what his duty was.”
GUEST, Herbert. Lance Corporal. No 2124. 2nd Battalion The Black Watch. Formerly No 10078 Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. Born Douglas, Isle of Man, 26.11.1892. Son of Arthur Henry and Sarah Ann Guest, 12 South Parade, Huddersfield. Educated Spring Grove Board School. Employed as a grocer’s assistant. Single. Enlisted in May 1911. When war broke out he had been stationed in India for nine months. He came over to France with the 1st Indian Expeditionary Force in September, 1914. The last letter his parents received from him was on 22.9.1915, when he asked them “not to send him any further parcels or letters as he expected to be home on leave in the course of a few days.” Killed in action at the Battle of Loos, 25.9.1915, aged 23 years. Has no known grave. Commemorated Loos Memorial To The Missing. His parents received a letter from Captain M E Raylin, of the 2nd Battalion Black Watch, who wrote: “I am very sorry indeed to tell you that your son, No 2124 Lance Corporal Herbert Guest, was killed in action on the morning of the 25th September during an exceedingly successful charge in which the regiment completely broke the German line. He was an NCO of quite unusual promise and had already shown himself a most useful and fearless soldier. He is a very great loss to the company.”
* To order a copy go to www.store.hud.ac.uk or email your name, address and email (optional) to email@example.com or phone 01484 473838.