Nostalgia with Margaret Watson: War – a vow of silence?

This photograph showing nursing staff and wounded soldiers, was taken in one of the many military hospitals set up in this country during World War One. Leonard Norton, from Hanging Heaton, who was wounded four times but survived the war, is pictured with two of his comrades. He is the one in the middle, lying on his back.  He couldn't sit up because of his injuries. Picture kindly loaned by David Coates, his grandson.

This photograph showing nursing staff and wounded soldiers, was taken in one of the many military hospitals set up in this country during World War One. Leonard Norton, from Hanging Heaton, who was wounded four times but survived the war, is pictured with two of his comrades. He is the one in the middle, lying on his back. He couldn't sit up because of his injuries. Picture kindly loaned by David Coates, his grandson.

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Last week I wrote about a unique little book which I am having re-published showing the names of all the men who served in the Great War from Hanging Heaton and Upper Soothill.

I am delighted that it has created a great deal of interest in Hanging Heaton, where I live, and is already helping families find long lost relatives - and new ones they never knew they had.

The stories I am hearing are all the same, and it is that their relatives who fought in the war and came home never talked about it.

Everyone who has looked at the names in this book say the same – these men, those who perished and those who survived, seem to be now speaking to us. They want their stories told, and this little book will certainly tell them.

It was in 1914, that the Vicar of Hanging Heaton, the Rev W E Cleworth, began keeping a war register of all those from his village who had gone to war, and this was continued right through to the end of the war.

While this book was still being put together, a public meeting was called to discuss the erection of a war memorial in the village in memory of those who had died.

It was, after all, their soldier sons who had died, and so it should be them who should decided what form the memorial should take and where it should be erected.

The monument, they unanimously decided upon, still stands to this day, nearly a hundred years later.

It is exactly where the ratepayers at that meeting decided it should be, a proud testament to the courage of the men of Upper Soothill, who had given their lives in the Great War.

And it is comforting to know that the names of the men who survived also live on, in the form of the book which the Reverend Cleworth said they would, the one which is now being republished..

The following is an article which appeared in the paper in 1919 describing the kind of memorial under consideration:

“The residents of the old urban district of Upper Soothill, comprising roughly Soothill and Hanging Heaton, are next week to have the opportunity of deciding whether they will erect a war memorial to the memory of their soldier sons.

“The district, which comprises the whole parish of Hanging Heaton, has always maintained its independence in matters of this description, even after amalgamation with neighbouring townships, and there is a firm public opinion that the locality should have its own war memorial.

“It is estimated that about 1,000 residents have served with the Forces during the war, of whom about 90 have made the supreme sacrifice, and it is eminently fitting that such a capital war record should be suitably perpetuated by the residents.

“The matter has been taken up by the committee of Soothill Upper Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Christmas Gifts Fund, a body representative of every section of the community, which during the past few years has done splendid work in raising money to send Christmas gifts to all residents on service.

“With the cessation of hostilities, the work of this committee is presumably at an end, but its constitution admirably fits it to deal with the question of a general war memorial.

“For a considerable time it has been discussing the proposition, and the result of its deliberations will be placed before a meeting of ratepayers in Mill Lane Council School next Tuesday.

“The committee’s suggestion is that a war memorial in the form of a monumental cross should be erected in a place to be decided by the meeting

“After inspecting various designs the committee will recommend as a fitting tribute a beautiful granite structure, some fifteen feet in height – a pillar, simple in design, with a neatly arranged basement, and a cross at the top.

“it is interesting to note that the favoured monument bears a striking resemblance to the impressive Stones of Remembrance which the Graves Commission of the Government are placing in each of our military cemeteries in foreign climes.

“On the pillar it is proposed to have a general inscription of Soothill Upper’s war record and to inscribe on tablets the names of all those who have fallen.

“The Rev W E Cleworth (vicar of the parish) has generously offered a suitable site for the erection of the monument in the centre of a newly opened portion of the parish churchyard, at a prominent junction of two of the main paths, but the decision as to where it will actually be placed will rest with the meeting.

“It will be generally agreed that such a memorial ought certainly to be erected on sacred ground, in which case the churchyard is the only available place.

“The cost of the suggested monument is £365, the inscription and names will be about £60, and it is suggested there should be a surplus of £50 to keep in trust for purposes of repair.

“A bed of concrete as a base to the structure will be necessary, and it is estimated the total amount required will be £500.

“The Gifts’ committee have a surplus in hand from last year’s efforts, and it will be for the meeting to decide whether or not this money shall be transferred to the Memorial Fund.

“It is hoped there will be a large attendance of ratepayers at the meeting to deal with this matter which is of great interest to every household.”

The following week a public meeting was duly called in Mill Lane Council School, and the unanimous decision was made that a memorial, as described above, would be erected in Hanging Heaton Churchyard.

Not everyone was at first in favour of the churchyard being the most suitable place, and Mr J E Raynor suggested it should be erected at the top of Grange Road where more people would be able to see it, and at a little further expense a drinking fountain could be erected.

Mrs T Summerscales said the memorial was not a thing to be gazed at and was too sacred to be converted into a drinking fountain.

She was supported by Mrs Williamson, who said the boys did not die for town-halls but for the sake of their fellows.

This allusion to “town halls” was probably in reference to the township of Birstall where the council was talking about building a town hall in memory of those who had died.

Mrs G Summerscales said she was not a churchwoman, but was of the same opinion, but she felt this was not a sectarian matter.

Councillor Oates said sectarianism should be kept out of the scheme. If the lads had died at home, 90 per cent of them would have been buried in the churchyard.

Mr Raynor, who had first suggested Grange Road, said he still thought his suggestion was best, but if it was decided to have the memorial in the churchyard he would support it heartily.

Councillor F Oates told the meeting that £500 was a large sum for a small district to raise, but 80 or more of their boys had been killed, and much heart-break had been caused.

If they wanted to show some sympathy, it was only to be done in a direction that would cost something, for cheap sympathy was nothing. He felt the people would be behind him on this.

Also raised at the meeting by the vicar was the matter of the war register book, mentioned above.

He pointed out that while the memorial in the churchyard would be a tribute to those who had given their lives, the book they were currently working on, would be a memorial to those who had served and survived.

Anyone who would like to order a copy of the re-published book, which is owned by David Coates, whose relatives fought in the war, can do so by emailing tresham3@gmail.com, or calling 07528 452761.

The book, which is in hard-back, costs £20 and any profits will go to local charities. The book will not be sold in book shops, only directly through me, so order early so as not to be disappointed.