Historian finds stories behind town’s memorial to the fallen

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A CHURCH parishioner has spent three years uncovering the stories behind the 76 names listed on the parish First World War memorial.

Jane Roberts, 47, a history graduate and civil servant, admitted to a fascination with the names which stemmed back to her childhood.

She has now produced a booklet about the fallen men from St Mary of the Angels in Batley.

In the course of her work she identified a further six men with parish associations not listed on the memorial.

A copy of the remembrance booklet containing biographies for each of the men is now available to view at Batley Library and provides a valuable resource for those interested in local and family history.

“Since childhood I’ve been fascinated by the names on the memorial and wanted to find out more about the men behind them,” she said.

“Although it has been a lot of hard work I am proud of what I have achieved. I have received extremely positive feedback from those who have seen the booklet, including family members of some of those commemorated.”

Included in the booklet is the story of Batley rugby league player Robert Randerson, believed to be first Northern Union star to receive a commission as an officer in the Army.

It also includes Thomas Foley who is thought to be the first Batley man to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Another entry of note is the account of Austin Nolan (also known as Noland) who was killed shortly after the outbreak of war and is buried in Batley Cemetery. His was the first military funeral of the war to be held at the church.

Mrs Roberts began her research by looking in local newspaper archives and at a book entitled Soldiers Died in the Great War.

She also used Census documents to trace family details and also accessed war service records, although many of these were destroyed by fire in the Second World War.

The library will be mounting a display of books relating to the Great War, which will include rolls of honour produced by local historians Chris Frank and Tony Dunlop.

The display will be on show throughout November and will include contemporary newspaper articles about the war effort, and books available for loan.