Church remembers wartime vicar whose family paid the ultimate price

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A West Yorkshire church has held a special service in honour of its World War One vicar who lost two of his sons in the conflict.

The Reverend T D Hyde held the ministry at Whitechapel in Cleckheaton from 1893-1926, and this month marks the 100th anniversary of his younger son’s death.

The Hyde boys, Eustace and Charles, were former pupils of Bradford Grammar School who were still living at the family vicarage when they were killed while serving in France.

The present vicar, the Reverend Brunel James, paid tribute to his predecessor at a sermon last week.

“We all need healing in our lives, and I wanted to reflect briefly on a different dimension of healing - the way that the wounds of history impact on families and communities, and generate strong emotions which pass down the generations and to touch on the story of the Hyde family,” he said.

Eustace, a lieutenant with the Royal Irish Fusiliers, was promoted from the ranks after originally joining as a private in the Leeds Pals before gaining an officer’s commission. He was 23 when he died at the Somme, and is buried a mile from where he fell. He was shot by a German machine gun while leading his platoon.

He had worked for the Bradford Dyers Association at Hunsworth Dyeworks, and his elder brother Charles had died on the opening day of the battle just three months earlier.

Charles, who served with the Bradford Pals, was 25 and has no known grave. He was wounded and was later killed by a shell while sheltering in a crater. Charles had a position with the Union of London and Smiths Bank in their Cleckheaton, Dewsbury and Leeds branches.

Records from the time show that their father, though devastated, continued to hold services both during and after the war with the support of his surviving son.

Charles and Eustace are listed on memorials at Whitechapel Church and Bradford Grammar School, and a stained glass window at the church commemorates their lives.

Eddie Morton, chair of the Spenborough branch of the Royal British Legion, said:

“It is good that Whitechapel took the opportunity remember this family and the sacrifices made in this infamous battle. The battle started on July 1, 1916, which became known as the blackest day in British military history; on that day 22 men from the Spen Valley lost their lives”.

The Reverend Hyde stood down from his position almost exactly 90 years ago, giving his final service on Bonfire Night in 1926.