The Nostalgia column with Margaret Waton – they will not be forgotten

Margaret Watson.
Margaret Watson.

NEXT MONTH will see the result of years and thousands of hours of dedicated work by Dewsbury Sacrifices, a group of Dewsbury war historians, who have been researching the lives of the 1,053 Dewsbury men killed in World War One, and named on the Cenotaph in Crow Nest Park.

Since its formation, Dewsbury Sacrifices have been helped in their research by other local groups, churches and individuals.

Town tribute: The unveiling of Dewsbury War Memorial in 1924. The names of 1,053 men from Dewsbury killed in World War One are etched on the impressive structure.

Town tribute: The unveiling of Dewsbury War Memorial in 1924. The names of 1,053 men from Dewsbury killed in World War One are etched on the impressive structure.

Between them, they have not left a stone unturned in their quest to ensure that the name of every single man from Dewsbury who paid the supreme sacrifice will be recognised.

They have scrolled through numerous newspaper accounts, historical war records and visited many cemeteries in this country and abroad, to make this possible.

Although the war officially ended on 11th November 1918, the work of Dewsbury Sacrifices will continue until December 2019.

Theirs has been a five year project and they continue their research into the lives of those men who were killed, or died from injuries, after the Armistice was declared.

From the outset, Dewsbury Sacrifices, which has been funded by a Lottery grant, have been determined to ensure no Dewsbury man who paid the supreme sacrifice will be forgotten or his story left untold.

It has been an arduous task, but on Saturday, November 3, the fruits of their labour will be recognised at a special Service of Remembrance in Dewsbury Minster Church, hosted by the Reverend Simon Cash.

Several readings will be given from a superb souvenir order of service produced by Dewsbury Sacrifices which will give glimpses of the sheer scale of the mammoth task undertaken by them.

This will include a list of all the names of those 1,053 war heroes from Dewsbury who gave their lives, all of their stories meticulously researched and identified.

A poem, written by teacher Suzanne Hudson, in memory of Charlie Haigh, one of those named on the memorial, will also be read, as will a letter sent from the trenches by Private Scholefield, of Earlsheaton.

Gunner Charlie Haigh lived at Victoria Buildings, Leeds Road, Dewsbury, and was a pupil at Eastborough School.

He served in the Royal Field Artillery, and died of wounds sustained during the Battle of Passchendaele in 1917. He was laid to rest at Canada Farm Cemetery.

Children from Eastborough School, which Charlie attended, have been involved in workshops throughout the year regarding World War One.

They have particularly concentrated on what happened to former pupils such as Charlie, and have written letters which they might have sent to soldiers in the trenches during WW1.

Private Scholefield was gassed on 19th March 1918, and posted missing a week later.

His unfortunate parents spent the following 42 weeks not knowing of their son’s fate.

During the second week of January 1919, the Infantry Record Office notified them he had been killed in action on 25th March 1918.

He was 24 years old.

He is named on Arras Memorial, France, which honours the servicemen with no known graves.

Locally he is commemorated on the Dewsbury Cenotaph, the Earlsheaton Park War Memorial, and on St Peter’s Church Oak Reredos, also the memorial plaque of the former Springfield Congregational Chapel, and on the Dewsbury Central Liberal Club brass plaque.

The Remembrance Service in Dewsbury Minster, at 11am on Saturday, November 3, is one of many services and events which will be held in Dewsbury to mark the hundredth anniversary of the end of WW1.

Members of Dewsbury Irish National Club will also be remembering one of its most illustrious members, Sgt John William Ormsby, who won the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery in 1918.

Sgt Ormsby, a professional soldier, was one of the lucky ones to return home.

He received a hero’s welcome when he arrived back in Dewsbury.

His son, John Ormsby, was later to present the VC to the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry museum in Pontefract where it now remains.

Recently, his grandson, also named John Ormsby, had replica copies made of all his grandfather’s medals and these will be on display at the club throughout the day on Saturday, November 10.

Another Dewsbury war hero, Private Horace Waller of Batley Carr, was also awarded the Victoria Cross, posthumously, for outstanding bravery on the field.

In future columns, I will be writing at greater length about Private Waller and Sgt Ormsby, both of whom had streets in Dewsbury named after them.

Anyone who would like to learn more about their ancestors from Dewsbury who fought in WW1 can attend a drop in centre run by Dewsbury Sacrifices every Friday from 10.30am to 12.30pm at Longcauseway Church, Dewsbury.