Sombre time at Priestley Green

Priestley Green - 1917
Priestley Green - 1917

It was in 1917 a year after the Somme that the Reverend John Michael Stanhope Walker whilst addressing a large gathering of fellow clergy somewhere in England summed up his experiences of that unforgettable five months of death and destruction.

During the first three months of the battle he and his colleagues buried over 900 who had died at the casualty clearing station they were working at.

It was estimated they had 1300 casualties enter the station in a twenty four hour period and on one night over 700 were taken in after 11pm.

Such was the destruction of life that between the July 1 and November 16, 1916 the British lost 420,000 casualties, the French 200,000 and the Germans 420,000.

There were more British soldiers killed on that first July morning than there was during the whole of the Battle of Waterloo.

Brighouse like every other town, city and village was to lose many of its young men during that five months.

On November 3rd, 1918 a memorial service took place at St Matthew’s Church, Lightcliffe and of the 46 men being remembered many of them had been killed at the Somme.

It would appear from newspaper records there were others who were not mentioned on the service sheet.

Some of those also being remembered at the memorial service were not all killed at the Somme included: The Reverend Alban Bodley Mace, CF, October 3 whilst acting as the Chaplain at Salonica.

The Reverend Mace was the Curate of Brighouse and had earlier been the Curate at St Matthew’s during 1910.

Whilst at Lightcliffe he was lodging at one of Crow Nest Cottages and was 31 years old when he died. He was nephew to Sir Algernon and Lady Janet Firth.

On May 5, 1918 a special service was held at St James Church to dedicate a stained glass window in his honour.

Second Lieut John Andrew Benjamin Jolley October 13. Sec-Lt Harold Hoyle 23 July, of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

He was 26 years of age and was the only son of Mr and Mrs E. Hoyle of Glen Terrace, Hipperholme;

Sgt Harry Stuart Riley July 23 of the Lancashire Fusiliers and lived at Ripley Street, Lightcliffe; Corporal Joe Willie Shaw October 8.

Cpl Fred Booth October 26; Private Harry E. Minnet was one of those killed on the first push July 1.

He was a member of the Royal Fusiliers and lived at George Street, Hipperholme; Pte Reginald Naylor July 18; Pte Bertram Wood September 4; Pte Aaron Sucksmith September 4 of the Durham Light Infantry, 27 years of age, who lived with his parents in St Giles Road; Pte Thomas Stocks September 18, Gordon Highlanders, from 22, East Street; Pte Richard Greenwood October 3; Sgt Horace Shaw September 3 and Corp Herbert Aspinall September 3.

During the 1914-1918 many casualties were sent to local military hospitals to recover, such as at Boothroyd at Rastrick or Priestley Green where they alone under the Commandant Lady Janet Firth saw over 900 soldiers pass through the hospital during those four years.

This week’s featured photograph shows some of the recovering military personnel at the Priestley Green Military Hospital on June 28, 1917.