WWI centenary: Hero who died while saving others was given medal

A wreath laid during a service organised by Project Bugle.

A wreath laid during a service organised by Project Bugle.

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A WWI hero who died after he sustained wounds while repeatedly helping others under heavy fire became the first Batley man to receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Private Thomas Foley passed away in a Boulonge hospital two days after being wounded on March 9, 1915.

An official report about his heroic actions posthumously stated: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, notably on the night of March 7, 1915, when he went out in front of our trenches to bring in some stretcher-bearers who had lost their way.

“Subsequently he went out three times under heavy fire to bring in wounded men, and although wounded more than once himself, he continued to carry out this duty.”

The medal winner was the son of John Foley, who lived in New Street, Batley.

Pte Foley, of the Cheshire Regiment, had joined the Army at 18 and was posted to India and saw service in the South African War.

A reservist, he was working in Canada when the First World War broke out and returned home immediately to rejoin his regiment.

Eight months into the war, it was clear that early hopes that the conflict would end quickly was not the case, as eight Batley and Birstall men died in May 1915.

Among them was Lance-Corporal Charles William Major who, while making a charge, was the third Hanging Heaton man to die.

A fellow soldier from his Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, wrote to his window, saying: “We miss him in the Company, as he was well liked by all the comrades.

“He was always willing to do anything he could. I am sending his watch and his chain and his book-case; they were all I could get out of his pockets at the time.”

Charles Major, who died at 32, was a one-time secretary of Dewsbury Socialist Sunday School.

Project Bugle is a Heritage Lottery-funded commemoration group, publishing monthly newsletters about Batley and Birstall’s fallen. They also create exhibitions for the town’s libraries.