Protected for all time: Yorkshire memorials to slaughter of the Somme

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EACH represents the sacrifice of brave Yorkshiremen - from two shepherds who spent their childhoods on the Moors before signing up together to fight, to the hundreds who left our cities, never to return.

Now six memorials across the region that commemorate those killed in one of the worst battles of the First World War are among 15 nationwide that have been protected or had their protection upgraded to mark 100 years since the start of the Battle of the Somme.

Margaret Spencer,  a member of the Royal Marines Association, looking at the Bradford War Memorial. Picture James Hardisty

Margaret Spencer, a member of the Royal Marines Association, looking at the Bradford War Memorial. Picture James Hardisty

The first day of the battle, on July 1, 1916, is known as the worst day in the history of the British Army, with nearly 60,000 men, all volunteers, killed, wounded or listed as missing.

The campaign, which only ended 141 days later, saw more than 400,000 British casualties, and the scarred communities they left behind were determined to mark their loss, erecting memorials to the dead.

Those in Yorkshire show how the war affected almost all communities, from tiny rural villages to the big industrial cities of Bradford, Sheffield and Leeds.

Among those receiving Grade II listing from Historic England for the first time is the simple stone marker at Commondale in the North York Moors, that represents the sacrifice of just two men, boyhood friends and shepherds Robert Leggott and Alfred Cockerill.

Commondale Shepherd's Memorial. Picture: Historic England

Commondale Shepherd's Memorial. Picture: Historic England

The pair signed up together in 1914, with Legott, who was just 17, lying about his age to enlist. He was killed at the Somme in September and his body was never found.

View and download original reports from the Somme as they appeared in The Yorkshire Post in July, 1916

His friend was injured at Ypres and brought home, and Leggott’s ashes are thought to be scattered where the monument now stands - the boys’ favourite spot on the Moors.

Building Conservation Officer at the North York Moors National Park Authority, Beth Davies, said: “The simplicity and location of the Commondale War Memorial perfectly convey the rural lives these boyhood friends shared as upland shepherds. The contrast between the horrors that Robert and Alfred experienced on the war torn Somme and the beauty and tranquillity of the North York Moors gives this memorial a particular poignancy. I am very pleased that the sacrifice of such young lives has been recognised by this listing.”

Robert Leggott, 17, who was killed in the Battle of the Somme, and is remembered at the Commondale Shepherd's Memorial. Picture: Historic England

Robert Leggott, 17, who was killed in the Battle of the Somme, and is remembered at the Commondale Shepherd's Memorial. Picture: Historic England

The Leeds Pals suffered incredible losses on the first day of the Battle, and their sacrifice is marked with a memorial at the place where they trained, Colsterdale Camp at Breary Banks, Healey, near Harrogate.

Tasked with attacking the German lines at the village of Serre, the Pals, or the 15th Battalion, as they were known, were decimated by artillery and machine gun fire.

Every officer was killed or wounded, with hundreds more dead. Just 47 soldiers were uninjured.

The Mayor of Harrogate, Coun Nick Brown, said the Leeds Pals made “the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom”.

The Memorial for the Leeds Pals at Colsterdale..Picture by Simon Hulme

The Memorial for the Leeds Pals at Colsterdale..Picture by Simon Hulme

He added: “It is important that we remember those who lost their lives, especially within the communities in which they lived.”

The memorial, built close to the site of the camp’s chapel, was opened on the 21st anniversary of the assembly of the Battalion at the camp in 1935. It is now Grade II-listed.

The same status, which means every effort will be made to preserve them for the future, was given to Bradford War Memorial on Prince’s Way. The city had two Pals Battalions, men who signed up and served together, and on July 1, some 2,000 of them were involved in the attack on Serre.

Around 1,770 killed or wounded.

The memorial, which features the sculpted figures of a soldier and a sailor, poised to attack, represents the 5,000 men of Bradford who died in the First World War.

Bradford Council’s heritage and armed forces champion, Coun Alex Ross-Shaw, said: “It is all the more poignant that this comes as we mark the 100th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when almost all of the Bradford Pals were either killed or injured.”

The Memorial for the Leeds Pals at Colsterdale..Picture by Simon Hulme

The Memorial for the Leeds Pals at Colsterdale..Picture by Simon Hulme

Also listed for the first time is the richly decorated Celtic cross dedicated to the renowned Green Howards regiment in Richmond. Comprised of 24 battalions with more than 65,000 men, it suffered heavy losses in the First World War, with nearly 9,000 killed and 24,000 wounded.

In total, 211 men were killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme alone.

The chairman of Richmondshire Council, Coun Tony Duff, said: “To have one of the seven newly listed memorials in our district is indeed an honour.”

Two memorials in South Yorkshire have been upgraded to Grade II* - the second highest level of protection - for their particular importance. Barnsley War Memorial in Church Street - a simple stone pylon topped by a bronze statue - and Sheffield’s unusual but striking flagpole decorated with bronze sculptures in Barker’s Pool. More than 500 Sheffield Pals were killed or injured on the first day of the Somme.

First World War and Heritage Minister David Evennett said: “These memorials are a poignant reminder of those who lost their lives in the Battle of the Somme 100 years ago and an important part of our heritage. It is only right that they are protected to ensure that we continue to remember the sacrifices made during the First World War.”

View and download original reports from the Somme as they appeared in The Yorkshire Post in July, 1916

Howard Pryor from Sheffield admires the War Memorial in Barkers Pool which has been upgraded to Grade II* by Historic England. More than 500 Sheffield Pals were killed or injured on the first day of the Somme. Picture Scott Merrylees

Howard Pryor from Sheffield admires the War Memorial in Barkers Pool which has been upgraded to Grade II* by Historic England. More than 500 Sheffield Pals were killed or injured on the first day of the Somme. Picture Scott Merrylees