A new war memorial is being unveiled in Leeds on Monday, honouring almost 500 men who lost their lives while fighting for their country. Aisha Iqbal reports.
FOR almost 100 years, the name of Harry Sutcliffe was seemingly consigned to history.
This son of Bramley – along with more than 300 young men from this historic Leeds suburb – gave his life for his country during the Great War. For decades Harry’s name, and those of his comrades in arms, were lost in long-untouched documents or in foreign cemeteries, their ultimate sacrifices only really remembered by those that knew and loved them, and their descendants.
It might have stayed that way, were it not for the efforts of a dedicated band of campaigners who have devoted the last two years to creating a long overdue war memorial for Bramley.
On Monday, exactly 100 years after the start of the First World War, all the town’s fallen heroes will finally be recognised – and the efforts of campaigners rewarded – with the official unveiling of the new Bramley War Memorial.
The striking obelisk, designed with the help of renowned civic architect John Thorpe, is believed to be the only new war memorial being officially opened on the 100th anniversary of the war breaking out.
Across the country, the Lights Out campaign will see millions of households turn off their lights at 11pm on August 4. Bramley will host a unique commemoration event of its own to tie in with the unveiling. The ceremony and service will be attended by local military service veterans and families and relatives of the almost 500 fallen servicemen from Bramley, Stanningley and Rodley whose names are inscribed on the new structure.
As well as the heroes of the Great War, the area has lost around 200 men in other conflicts. For the families of many of the fallen, the ceremony will be the first time their relatives will be named and laid to rest on home soil after being buried abroad or laid to rest in “unknown soldier” graves.
Some family members are travelling from abroad to be there. The new Bramley War Memorial cost £100,000 – all raised through community effort, with support from local businesses and contributions from local councillors’ community cash pots.
Local Labour councillor Caroline Gruen chairs the Friends of Bramley War Memorial group, which drove and co-ordinated the successful campaign. “The Bramley war memorial is a fitting tribute to the hundreds of local servicemen who have served in our armed forces over the past one hundred years who will finally be appropriately recognised and remembered by their inclusion on an official war memorial,” she says.
“It will be an emotional occasion for the relatives of the servicemen. Many families have waited a long time for this day to arrive, and some will be coming from far and wide to be present for the occasion.
“It is a unique situation in Leeds that so many people from one area played such a significant contribution to our armed forces over the years – especially in the First and Second World Wars. It is something that local people, including the many relatives who still live in the area, can be extremely proud of.
“Their names will now be etched into local history and will be clearly visible for all to see in this poignant local monument in the heart of the local community in Bramley Park.”
The timing of the memorial unveiling was not deliberately designed to coincide with the centenary of the Great War, but supporters admit there is a beautiful poignancy to it.
The idea for the memorial sprang out of discussions at Bramley’s monthly community forum and it quickly gathered pace, catching the imaginations of many in this proud community with a long and vibrant history of its own. Local historians, campaigners and councillors all got behind it.
Behind each name on the new memorial, of course, is a heartbreaking story of a family torn apart. The aforementioned Lance Corporal Harry Sutcliffe lived at Quarry View Terrace, Hough End, in Bramley, and died on May 3, 1917.
He served in the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales Own) and for decades there was no memorial of him except his grave in France. That was until his great grand nephew Anthony Sutcliffe received a letter informing him of the plans for a Bramley memorial.
Responding to the letter, Anthony said it would be “wonderful” if his relative’s name could be represented on the new structure. Harry’s story is repeated and mirrored in hundreds of personal and deeply moving experiences, of beloved boys who became the flickering flames of hope but were wiped out too soon.
The first Bramley soldier to fall in the First World War was George Henry Edmundson, who died on August 24, 1914 – just 20 days after war was declared. Fifteen Bramley men died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916. Amongst the other fallen were groups of brothers – whole families virtually wiped out.
The fallen came from all walks of life. There was tailor Frank Brown, 35; dyer Ernest Yoddy, 22, and grocer Frank Wentworth, 28. One Bramley street lost three neighbours. The list of inscriptions for the new Bramley War Memorial goes on and on.
The last name on the list will be Sheldon Steel, the 20-year old rifleman who died while on foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province in 2011.
Wendy Fulthorpe, Sheldon’s mother, was one of the earliest supporters of the war memorial.
She spoke at the launch of the campaign: “Losing my son was, and is extremely difficult to come to terms with – still even now it is very raw for me. My son, Sheldon, was a fantastic lad and he passed away doing what he wanted to do and trained for – being a hero. And that is the reason we need a place, other than a cemetery, to visit our heroes – not just my son but all the other heroes.”
• YORKSHIRE pOST Newspapers is supporting the Lights Out campaign marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.
Everyone is invited to take part by turning off their lights from 10pm to 11pm on August 4, leaving on a single light or candle for a shared moment of reflection.
Tell us why you are marking the occasion – and where – and let us know what happened to your family in the 1914-18 war.
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