Band of six brothers who joined war effort

Gunner Robert Ewart died from war injuries in France.
Gunner Robert Ewart died from war injuries in France.

The granddaughter of a war hero has recalled how six of her ancestors signed up to fight in the First World War.

Margaret Breen, of Thornhill Lees, researched her family history and uncovered a fascinating tale of bravery and tragedy.

Following the outbreak of the war, Batley police sergeant William Ewart watched his six sons sign up to fight in the hostilities.

Margaret’s grandfather, Gunner Robert Ewart, was one of the six brothers who fought for Queen and country - but three did not return home.

The eldest of six, Robert died from war injuries in France.

Margaret said: “Robert was shot in the leg and taken to a field hospital.

“He died on November 6 but the family did not get to know until five days later, November 11.”

In November 16 1918, the Batley News reported: “He was slightly gassed three weeks ago whilst in hospital and was attacked by influenze [the flu], pneumonia followed and a chaplain said he was buried near Boulogne.”

Margaret said a nurse who cared for Robert sent his belongings to the family.

She said: “I remember the family had a letter from the nurse who was with him when he died.

“She wrote that he died peacefully and sent contents of pockets.”

Robert’s two brothers, Private William Ewart and Gunner James Ewart, were also killed in France.

William died of wounds in June 1916 and James was killed from shell wounds a year later.

Margaret said: “When James was 16 he ran away from home to fight in the war.

“His father was quite strict and went and found him. He had to pay a fee so he could come home. But James ran away again to fight in the war. He probably wanted to do it because he wanted to be like his brothers.”

James enlisted in January 1915 and was deployed to France in June later that year. He returned to England in September after being wounded in the arm, and on recovery was sent to Egypt. After six months, he was transferred back to France.

James was severely wounded in the leg and right arm and had been admitted to a casualty clearing station.

His family received an official telegram which said he was dangerously ill but they were denied permission to visit.

The following week, James’ parents received news from the sister in charge of the station that he had not recovered from treatment and died.

Margaret said: “It must have been terrible because the news was so slow in those days. But even if one of the family had died, they must have felt they had to go to war and fight for their freedom and family.”

William Ewart’s three other sons also fought in combat.

Gunner Tom Ewart served in France and India, where he recovered from a fever he contracted in mesopotamia.

His brothers John served in France and George Edward was discharged from the army.

The names of the fallen soldiers are on the war memorial in Batley town centre.

Their names are also on a commemoration board that is stored in Batley Library.