Scores of Sheffielders shared their World War 1 memories with Sheffield University researchers. Here they share some of their favourite stories to commemorate the start of that terrible conflict.
We asked Sheffielders to bring any objects and stories relating to the war to Weston Park Museum.
People were invited to talk to the Sheffield 1914 team and Tim Lynch our fantastic, local military historian and author.
Lots of you came and made it an enlightening and moving event. So moving in fact that there were a few tears from some of the research team! So without further ado, the stories…..
Harold Edward Clarke
Rosemary Richards came to see us to talk about her father. She has an extraordinary archive relating to his war service and can trace his time in the army completely.
Harold was in the Royal Garrison Artillery, and because of this, spent his war firing heavy artillery rather than in the trenches. Although Rosemary feels like her dad had a relatively safe war, he suffered from hearing and balance problems all his life that were probably related to his service.
Harold’s experience reminds us that men were not able to go home straight after the armistice was signed, many had to stay in the army to deal with the aftermath of the war.
In 1919 he was sent to Germany where he served, with great success, as a clerk at army headquarters. Harold never spoke to his daughter about the war except to say what the comradeship of his mates had meant to him.
Terry and Arthur Turton
Terry came to see us about his grandad Arthur and a very unusual object. Terry is a bugler who has played in bands all his life.
He acquired this bugle from a family who took it to football matches in a very battered state. After having it repaired, Terry has been using it to play the Last Post Reveille at Armistice Day events throughout the country. After seeing our advert in the Star, Terry checked the bugle and found that it was dated 1914.
Its battered state probably came from war service where buglers 100 years ago had been using it to play the Reveille in the trenches. Terry’s grandad Arthur saw action in the trenches with the Yorks and Lancs regiment. A blighty wound in his ankle in the summer of 1916 meant that Arthur missed the Battle of the Somme where most of his battalion died.
Florence Raynor brought in items relating to the sad story of her mother’s half brother Tom Worth. Tom was a draughtsman at Hadfields and enlisted as soon as he could on the outbreak of war. He was engaged to Annie who he married in 1915.
Tom trained at Totley with the Yorks and Lancs and wrote an excited postcard to his father about his success at training and his anticipation of going to France.
From this, it was clear that the men had no idea about the kind of war that they were going to fight, this was indicative of the early stages of the conflict.
He fought at the Somme and was killed on 8th July 1916. Annie had gone to stay with Tom’s pregnant mother in Barnsley to help her with the new baby and they both found out about his death just after the birth of Tom’s sister. Annie’s best friend worked as a telegraphist and rerouted the telegram from Sheffield to Barnsley so they could find out together.
Michael Scott came in to tell us about his great uncle Fred Findlay and it was an incredibly moving story. Fred enlisted in the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in 1915 and died in Fricourt on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
The family archive is extraordinary, consisting of newspaper cuttings, letters, postcards and photographs. The striking thing about the correspondence is the sense of really being able to know Fred.
He comes across as a kind, funny young man who loved his family very much, especially his sister Sarah. He remained a central part of family life even from the trenches and family happenings were as important to him as what was happening in the war.
John (nicknamed Jack) Henry Mallett
Jack’s niece Sheila Outram brought us his tragic story, bringing tears to our eyes in the process.
Jack, along with 10 other men got caught in a wood and killed two days after the ceasefire.
They were all buried in the same cemetery in Belgium in the village where they were killed.
From family correspondence, we know that Jack was very close to his family, sending money home to buy his sister a new dress.
Sheila’s mother, his sister, was never able to visit Jack’s grave but Sheila and her husband are going on a trip to pay their respects this summer.
Alfred’s great niece Sue Armitage came to see us about the incredible collection of items that she inherited from him relating to the war. These include, medals, identity discs, exemption and wound badges, photos and a piece of shell casing. Alfred had reserved occupation status as a steelworker but chose to sign up with his mates anyway.
He was wounded in the knee by a piece of shell casing in May 1916 and this ended his war.
Alfred’s wounds never healed and he had a limp until the day he died but this wound prevented him from fighting in the Battle of the Somme.
He was given the shell casing from his knee and brought it home with him as a reminder of his service.
* Dr Helen Smith is a Research Assistant, Sheffield 1914:Lives and Headlines and Project Manager, Stories of Activisim.