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This morning around 150 people braved wet weather (unlike a certain American President) to see the unveiling of a memorial at Sowerby Bridge station to the 42 local men who had worked for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and who never returned from the First World War. I’ll blog about this in detail later.

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I’d like to thank Jim Milner from the Friends of Sowerby Bridge station for allowing me to use excerpts of his speech here. They give some valuable historical background on some of the men who are remembered on this memorial.

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Jim Milner delivering his speech, parts of which are reproduced below.

“With regard to the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, over 10,000 of their employees served and almost 1,500 died in service. This Memorial records the names of the 42 former employees of that Company who lost their lives, and who had been based at Sowerby Bridge, Greetland, Ripponden and Luddenden Foot.

Of those called up or enlisting, 9 of the men joined the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment, 5 the Prince of Wales’s Own West Yorkshire Regiment, 3 each the Lancashire Fusiliers, the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and the Northumberland Fusiliers, and 2 each the Royal Field Artillery, the Durham Light infantry, the Royal Engineers and the Royal Marine Light Infantry.

For those who embarked for France in the late summer and autumn of 1914, optimism was high. Many were told, and believed, that it would all be over by Christmas. But of course, that did not happen. The war would continue for another four years.
Sadly, for four of the men, it was all over by Christmas of that year. Thomas Barron, Arthur Goulden, Charles Pimblett and Samuel Rowe were early casualties of the War. Charles Pimblett had disembarked only 10 days earlier when he was killed in the Battle of Mons in Belgium on 24th August, 1914. He was the first Sowerby Bridge railwayman to lose his life.

During the course of the war, 36 of the men lost their lives in Northern France and Belgium. Most were involved in trench warfare. For much of the time there would have been little activity but, on occasions, they would have faced artillery bombardment, machine-gun fire, snipers and gas attacks. According to reports, two of the men were “accidentally killed”. Today we call it “friendly fire”. Eleven of the men, together with thousands of others, have no known grave.

Clarence Stott had briefly worked as a clerk at Ripponden Station. He served with the Royal Scots Fusiliers and died from wounds on 18th June 1915, following a bayonet charge by the enemy. At the time of his death Clarence was just 17 years old. He is the youngest of the men recorded here.

Walter Heaton had worked as a goods guard at Luddenden Foot. He served as a gunner with the Royal Field Artillery and sustained severe wounds from which he later died on 17th August, 1916. Walter was posthumously awarded the Military Medal for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire.

Willie Hoyle enlisted with the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment but had transferred to the Sherwood Foresters when he died from gas poisoning in
a Casualty Clearing Station in France on 9th November 1918. This was just two days before the war ended.

Four of the men were further afield when they lost their lives.

George Page had worked as a labourer at Sowerby Bridge Engine Shed. He enlisted with the Hampshire Regiment and was killed in Salonika in December 1915. John Thompson had also worked at the Engine Shed, as a washer-out. He served with the Royal Marine Light Infantry and was killed in the trenches in Gallipoli in June 1915.

Harry Haigh had worked as an engine cleaner, and he also enlisted with the Royal Marine Light Infantry. He lied about his age in order to be accepted. Harry served on the battleship HMS Malaya and was killed in an explosion while supplying munitions to his gun during the Battle of Jutland, off the coast Denmark, on 31st May, 1916. He was killed just days after his eighteenth birthday. Harry Haigh was buried at sea.

Thomas Barron, a former ballastman, joined the Royal Navy as a stoker. He was lost while serving on the HMS Good Hope off the coast of Chile on 1st November 1914. The ship was attacked and sunk by the German battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau with the loss of all hands – Thomas Barron was just one of a total of 919 officers and enlisted men lost that day.

All 42 of these men had many things in common. They had all been employed locally by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. They all served King and Country at a time of war. Had they survived they would all have had stories to tell children and grandchildren. They were all brave men. They all made the ultimate sacrifice”

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