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WWI centenary: Batley maths teacher won military cross

TANK CORPS Herbert Pearsalls grave commemorates his role in the tank corps, despite him not losing his life in combat.

TANK CORPS Herbert Pearsalls grave commemorates his role in the tank corps, despite him not losing his life in combat.

Batley Grammar School was synonymous with World War One, as scores of former pupils and teachers tragically lost their lives during the conflict.

And one amateur historian believes another name is yet to be remembered properly.

Herbert George Pearsall, a former maths teacher at the school, did not die in combat – but some believe his experiences in the tank corps during the war led to his death shortly after his homecoming.

Historian and former Batley Grammar pupil Philip Wheeler said: “Herbert was a very brave man and is someone we are interested in.

“Though he died after he returned, he is believed to have caught his ailments while fighting in the war.”

Herbert was born in Birmingham in 1888 and, after studying at Cambridge, was appointed as a mathematics master at Batley Grammar School in 1912.

He enlisted in 1915, joining the newly-formed tank regiment.

In 1916, Herbert was awarded the military cross for gallantry, as his unit helped capture more than 300 prisoners during combat in Guedecourt.

His bravery and leadership skills led to him being given command of his company in January 1918.

After leaning the army in 1919, he returned to teaching at Batley Grammar.

He died in March that year of Spanish influenza and was buried at Smetwick cemetery in Birmingham.

R L Agar, headmaster of Batley Grammar School at the time of Purcell’s death, led the tributes in the school magazine.

He wrote: “It was self devotion that took him into the army – it was self devotion that brought him back to us.

“Our lives will be the richer for his. Let us thank God for him.”

 

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