A ‘BAND of brothers’ who held off a German attack to win a clutch of bravery medals including a Victoria Cross are being remembered a century on.
On November 30 1917, a dozen artillerymen found themselves at the point of being overrun by a determined attack on their positions at Little Priel Farm during the battle of Cambrai in France.
Their junior officer injured and out of action, the men were rallied by a sergeant, Cyril Gourley, whose coolness while under fire from machine guns and falling shells won him the VC that day.
Gourley had gathered and galvanised 11 men who managed to rescue their own heavy guns which they fired point-blank at the advancing enemy.
Of the other 11 men, two were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, one the Military Cross and the rest received the Military Medal.
All 12 survived the war.
Their story might have been largely forgotten were it not for two of their descendants who have spent several years piecing together what happened to them and their medals.
The research has brought together six sets of descendants and, remarkably, the bravery awards presented in 1917 remain within the families.
Just a few pieces of the historical jigsaw have eluded the researchers, among them Wayne Finch who is now focusing on tracking down the descendants of a Yorkshireman, Gunner Clough Hartley.
Researchers have established that Clough Hartley was born in Morley, Leeds in 1894. His father was Tom, mother was Emily and he had a brother, Arthur.
According to the 1901 Census, they lived at 27 Albion Street, Morley.
By 1911 they were at the same address. All three men gave their occupations as cotton twisters.
During the war he served with the 55th West Lancashire Division.
In a book about the history of the Division, Hartley’s bravery was recognised as “he was always to the front in the most dangerous places.”
In 1920, Clough Hartley married a lady from Holbeck in Leeds whose maiden name was
Hebblethwaite. The couple had a son called Ralph Hartley and moved to Dewsbury.
Clough Hartley died in 1984 and had been a prison officer whose last address was 470 Aberford Road, Stanley, Wakefield.
Mr Finch, 57, a civil servant from Cheltenham, is hopeful that readers of The Yorkshire Post might know of a descendent still alive today.
He was delighted recently to attend a “magnificent get together” at Aigburth Barracks in Liverpool where they managed to bring together five sets of medals, including Sergeant Gourley’s VC, which is now held at the Firepower Museum at Woolwich.
On display were the Military Medal presented to Gunner Reginald Charles Evans - Mr Finch’s grandfather.
Descendants from across the country were present.
“We now know where six sets of medals are, including the VC,” says Mr Finch.
“We are slowly piecing together more information for the next get-together.”
He and the other descendants have also discovered that some of the 12 men met up during the 1930s for reunion dinners - but Clough Hartley probably wasn’t among them.
“My own grandfather was a postman after the war, working for 46 years. He died in 1992 aged 94.
“He wouldn’t talk about the war; I couldn’t get a word out of him. But I ended up with his medals and now I would like to fill in the remaining gaps.”
* Mr Finch can be contacted on email: email@example.com