Batley man publishes book about his dad’s wartime experiences

A BATLEY man has written a book about the life of his father, George William Broadhead, who fought in World War One and kept a diary of his experiences.

George, who lived in Staincliffe, survived the war, and will be remembered by many as housing manager of the old Batley Corporation. Shortly before his death in 1980 aged 85, George gave his son John, a senior civil servant with the Ministry of Defence, a leather-bound diary that he had never seen before.

After reading and transcribing it, John realised what a remarkable document it was. This inspired John, a former pupil of Batley Grammar School, to do further research into his father’s life. The book, entitled ‘A Bradford Pal’, also tells of his marriage to a French girl while the war was still raging. One of George’s tasks while serving with the Bradford Pals Battalion in France, was the writing up of the battalions’ diary.

While researching his book, John visited the National Archives at Kew to read the original copy of the war diaries. “There is a rule of silence in the archive’s reading room and my sudden cry of ‘That’s my dad’s writing!’ must have startled a few readers,” he said. “I recognised it immediately because he had very elegant and distinctive writing. It was unmistakeable.”

Later, the BBC filmed John reading extracts from his father’s diary for the Somme Commemoration at Thiepval in 2016. George remained in France after the war with his French wife and their three children. When the couple divorced 15 years later, he returned to Batley. George went back to his old job as a clerk with Batley Corporation and worked his way up to become the housing manager. In 1941 he married Margaret Fox, a librarian from Batley Library, and four years later their twins John and Janet were born.

The book, priced £20, is published by Unicorn Publishing. It can be obtained from all major book shops or online retailers.

See page 28 for more.