WWI: Tribute to war hero grandad

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The chairman of the Royal British Legion’s Batley branch has paid tribute to his grandfather, who died just more than 100 years ago during the First World War.

Albert James Roberts passed away on March 10 in 1915, most likely during the brutal Battle of Neuve Chapelle.

Albert Roberts, a Batley Carr man who died during WWI.

Albert Roberts, a Batley Carr man who died during WWI.

His wife, Clara, found out about the tragedy just two days before she gave birth to their second son, also named Albert in his honour.

Albert James’ grandson, Alan Roberts, said thousands of men were killed just to gain a few yards during that battle.

“It’s actually frightening,” he said. “Thousands and thousands of young men were jauntily going off to war thinking it would all be over by Christmas, and ‘Let’s have a bit of fun while we’re at it’. And when they got to the battlefields, it was horror.

“I do think they were all heroes, as I do the ones today. I wouldn’t be involved with the British Legion if they didn’t do something for servicemen.”

Albert James joined the Northumberland Fusiliers in about 1906 and the 1911 Census records him stationed in India.

But he later came out of the forces and settled in King Street, Batley Carr, with his wife. The couple married at Holy Trinity Church in Batley Carr during 1913. Their first son, Eric, was born the same year while Albert was working for textiles firm J T and J Taylor at Blakeridge Mills.

Albert James was called up as a Reservist in August 1914 but did not go to the front until January 1915, losing his life two months later.

He is remembered at Aubers Ridge British Cemetery in France. His name also appears on the Holy Trinity Roll of Honour in Batley Carr.

Alan’s father, Albert, joined the Royal Marines during the Second World War. He served in Egypt, Italy and Singapore.

Although never in the military himself, Alan was in the Merchant Navy as a young man. He has also continued the family’s military connections by taking over from Peter Gater as Batley’s RBL chairman in January.

Alan, 57, of Carr Street, Birstall, said: “My father was a staunch member. He had the Royal British Legion written through his heart.

“If nobody had come in it was in danger of folding. In memory of the people who’ve gone before who had put hours and hours into the social services side of it, I just thought it would be a shame if it did fold. So I’m following in my father’s footsteps.”

It is not only ex-servicemen who can support the RBL.

The Batley branch’s next meeting on Wednesday April 15 is open to all. It will be held at the Irish Democratic League Club in Churchfield Terrace, Batley, 11am.