As early as 1916 – as recorded in the pages of the Craven Herald & Wensleydale Standard (and hereafter referred to simply as the Craven Herald) – the notion was mooted for the eventual need of some form of memorial for the local servicemen and women who were fighting and dying on the various fronts of the War.
In October of 1916 Colonel John Birkbeck, J.P. (former commanding officer of the 1st/6th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment), Mr Thomas Brayshaw (a Settle solicitor) and John T. Clayton (the then editor of the Craven Herald) met in the home of the much-loved and respected ex-member of Parliament for the Skipton Division and local benefactor Walter Morrison J.P. at Malham Tarn House and decided that a pictorial record to the dead would be the most apt way to proceed. An article in the Craven Herald on 6th October, 1916 announces that:
“A record is being compiled of every brave soldier who has paid the price for his patriotism, and who enlisted from the district of which Skipton forms the capital. The work will be illustrated by photographs; will contain portraits and brief biographies of the many officers who have died on the field of battle; and will include many more features having a direct connection with this portion of Craven’s share in this unprecedented struggle, for liberty. The expense involved is being borne by a well known and highly respected gentleman, whose acts have ever proved his intense loyalty to the British Empire and British ideals, and was ever ready to assist any and every movement calculated to benefit his beloved Craven, of which he is a resident. He prefers, however, that his anonymity shall be preserved, and we are bound to respect his wish. The scheme has no political or sectarian flavour, in proof of which we may point out that instructions have been given to those responsible for carrying out the details that a copy of the record shall be presented, at the conclusion of the war, to every man in the Skipton Parliamentary Division who has taken up arms in defence of his country and her liberties. The rest of the edition, which will be handsomely bound and attractively printed, will be on sale to the residents of the Division at a nominal sum. All correspondence bearing on the subject should be sent to Mr. Thomas Brayshaw, solicitor, of Settle, whose literary taste, combined with a passion for detail and accuracy, eminently fit him to play a useful part in bringing the project to a successful issue.”
In numerous other articles in the Craven Herald between the end of 1916 and 1919 the problems of collecting the information to compile a full Roll of Honour and an accurate list of those who died are graphically highlighted. The articles which comprise this history of the origins and development of Craven’s Part… will eventually be included in one of our ‘Additional Information’ links on the site.
One of the methods used to gather information was to include a questionnaire form along with the ‘Sugar Cards’ that were sent out to every household in the area after the introduction of sugar rationing – the precursor to the general food rationing which eventually came into effect in December 1917. The results of this request were patchy and necessarily incomplete, but in July 1920 the book appeared – with the name of the ‘well known and highly respected gentleman’ who bore the expenses revealed as Walter Morrison himself – and the long process of distribution began.
Craven’s Part in the Great War is, indeed, a handsomely produced and attractive work, and a full facsimile of the volume can be viewed on this site. It consists of an introductory outline of the War, the War Record of the 1st/6th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment and the nominal Rolls of Honour of the 1st/6th and 2nd/6th Battalions (the former containing the names of all the troops who embarked for France on 14th April 1915).
There is an account of the wreck of the hospital ship ‘Rohilla’ off Whitby and the remaining bulk of the volume then consists of ‘Craven’s Roll of Honour.’ This comprises a listing – with accompanying photographs (where available) and varying amounts of information – of the 1,554 officers, N.C.O.’s, men and the one woman (according to the book) who died, either on active service or as a direct result of wounds or disease, from August 1914 up to the Armistice of 11th November 1918, on past the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28th 1919 and into 1920. The final pages of the volume consist of a (partial) list of all the servicemen and women who gained honours in the War.
The Skipton Parliamentary Division & “Craven”
The area now known as ‘Craven’ was once part of a much larger area that was in existence from post-Roman times onward – indeed it may have been one of a number of similar local ‘kingdoms’ scattered throughout the country – and in Domesday Book the whole area was referred to as ‘Cravescire.’
The area described as ‘Craven’ in the original volume comprises what was, in the period 1914-1920 onward, the Skipton Parliamentary Division. With an area of 435,450 acres and a population of 71,000 it was the largest Parliamentary Division in the country, although its population was, for the most part, unevenly spread between industrial mill towns and extensive farming landscapes.
This ‘Craven’ district differs considerably from the local government area now designated as Craven. Throughout the work we therefore have used the names of the historic counties of Britain, not the present day administrative areas, to describe places of birth and residence, etc. and there are no references to modern designations such as ‘North’ or ‘West’ Yorkshire or ‘Cumbria’.
A better indication of the coverage of ‘Craven’ can be found in the title banner of the Craven Herald & Wensleydale Standard where it is stated that:
In addition to covering the Skipton Parliamentary Division, the Craven Herald has a considerable circulation in the Parliamentary Divisions of Richmond, Otley, Keighley, Clitheroe and Lancaster…
Similarly the West Yorkshire Pioneer & East Lancashire News incorporates the Colne Observer.
Most importantly in this respect the Craven Herald regularly contained news sections devoted to Hawes, Askrigg, Aysgarth and Bainbridge, and, after 1920, as far afield as Ilkley.
A cursory glimpse through the pages of Craven’s Part in the Great War will reveal that a great many of the servicemen contained therein have what may be considered to be only tenuous connections with Craven. Many of the officers (in particular) and men from the ranks turn out to have birthplaces far removed from Craven and, indeed, even Yorkshire: they may have been the sons of people whose professions brought them into our area, or work-people from other parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire or (in a number of cases) Scotland and elsewhere.
In this matter we have let the original Craven’s Part… and the Craven Herald itself become our guide as to whether or not a man is included in our data. As we started going through pages of the Craven Herald we very quickly realised that an ‘association with Craven’ was the thing: if a man or woman’s death was reported in the Craven Herald the decision was made to include them in our data, as to exclude them would be a value judgement that we felt we could not – or should not – take.
Our primary data was therefore taken from the commemorative volume Craven’s Part in the Great War. This work is all the more remarkable when you consider the age in which it was compiled. In our modern world where world conflicts are virtually televised as they happen and information on events reaches us via the speed of modern high-tech communications, we must remember that in 1914 information took days or weeks to filter through to the public – if it did at all.
Records were made and kept, but collating these records and analysing it took time and effort. In many cases the information was not properly put together until many months or even years after the events. So the accuracy of our primary data source was remarkable for its time: but it was far from perfect.
Since its initial publication in 1920 Craven’s Part in the Great War has been reprinted by the Naval & Military Press, and it has also been reproduced on CD-ROM in facsimile form. At no point, however, has anyone taken the time to compile even a basic index of the men listed in the volume. So, after transcribing and reproducing verbatim the all-too-brief, sketchy and often very inconsistent entries in Craven’s Part… we laid the foundations of our database: a name, a rank, a service, a regiment, a date of death, frequently the name of a theatre of war where the man died and, in a great many cases his age and basic information on where he came from, where he lived and who his parents, relatives or spouses were.
Our next job was to validate this data by cross-checking it with the two major sources of accurate information on fatalities in the First World War: Soldiers Died, 1914-1919 – originally published in eighty-one volumes in 1919 and 1921, eventually brought out on CD-ROM by the Naval & Military Press in 1998, and dealing with 703,000 United Kingdom army personnel; and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission – an online database covering 1.7 million men and women from all the services who died in both World Wars, along with details on the 23,000 cemeteries and memorials in its care worldwide.
It was during this validation process that we came across further inaccuracies and discrepancies. At the most basic level we discovered that a soldier’s name could have been recorded or reported wrongly: either differences in spelling a surname, or different forenames given. Of course, it has often been extremely difficult to decide which version is correct and so our general rule was to take a consensus opinion.
Similarly places of birth and residence often varied considerably from source to source, and a person’s age could also pose problems. In many cases a final confirmation of details could only be made by checking names in the 1881 or 1901 census. In every case we have taken pains to ensure that these basic details are as accurate as we can possibly get them.
A further complication arises with a soldier’s military details. A glance through the pages of the Craven’s Part… will show that a soldier’s entry states he was in the Machine Gun Corps, or the Manchester Regiment, whereas the photograph of the soldier clearly indicates him wearing a Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment badge. Checking this information in Soldiers Died and Commonwealth War Graves reveals that when he died he was, indeed, in the Machine Gun Corps but had formerly been in the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment. Checking in the National Archive Medal Cards has often revealed that a soldier has a whole string of former service numbers and has been in several regiments before his final one.
Officers in particular have been very problematical here, as a 2nd lieutenant commissioned into the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment could have been attached to another regiment which, effectively, was the one he was serving in at the time of his death.
Similarly a soldier’s reported rank could differ from source to source, not to mention the many differences in the naming of ranks, e.g. privates, sappers, pioneers, riflemen, gunners, troopers, etc. As with names we have always gone for a consensus of the various sources, but our rule here has always been to state, as accurately as possible, the rank, regiment and battalion that the soldier was in at the time of his death. Often a final judgement was made by reference to a soldier’s record in the National Archive Medal Cards register.
Finally the names of regiments given in the various sources can also vary widely but our definitive version of any name has always followed Brigadier E.A. James’s British Regiments, 1914-18. The latter source has also enabled us to determine which division a soldier was serving in at the time of his death: a piece of information which, in turn, will enable us to identify the military action where a soldier met his death. This will be ascertained wherever it is possible to do so and will ultimately be added to a soldier’s ‘Additional Information’ entry.
So, a variety of sources has led us in every case to come up with what we have considered to be a ‘definitive entry’ for every soldier who appears as our ‘Main Entry’ for that soldier. To enable others to check our data we have always included the verbatim entries from both Soldiers Died and Commonwealth War Graves, and also added comments on the sources of additional information (census or National Archive Medal Cards, etc.) that we have used.
The details on each soldier have also been further fleshed out by showing the regimental badge he would have been wearing at the time of his death – always taking into account variations in badge, as in some cases the different battalions of a regiment also wore different badges. We have also taken great pains to determine, as accurately as possible, the many different badges that were worn by the various battalions of the Canadian Infantry and the battalion colour flashes that the Australian forces considered more significant than their general ‘bursting sun’ badges.
Our source for these has been the black and white illustrations in Reginald W.H. Cox’s Military Badges of the British Empire 1914-1918. Finally, we have shown, wherever possible, the soldier’s divisional sign or insignia and these have been based on the versions presented in V. Wheeler-Halon’s Divisional Signs and Mike Chapel’s British Battle Insignia.
Because the material in our source book – Craven’s Part in the Great War – was based on reports and articles that appeared in the pages of the Craven Herald we decided straight away that we needed to include this original information in our database record for each soldier. We therefore went through the microfilm copies of the Craven Herald kept at Skipton Library for each issue between August 1914 and June 1919, and, to bring us up to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s cut-off point, we continued through to the end of 1921.
The relevant pages from each issue were printed out from the microfilm at the Library, and then each article on a soldier who ultimately died (and was therefore already included in our database) was scanned and stored as a digital file. Each article was then run through word recognition software and the resulting text painstakingly corrected and tidied up into a consistent form and then entered into the database. These articles were not just restricted to notices of death or obituaries, but also included any news on the various soldiers that might have appeared in the newspaper.
Obviously the number of articles about any one soldier varied considerably; from the basic record that he had died in action, or had been wounded and then subsequently died (sometimes with only the barest of information: his name, rank, regiment, age – and those not always given correctly – and details of his parents or wife and perhaps his home), to a whole series of letters home, mentions by his serving ‘pals’, records of promotions, the award of honours, visits home on leave, and then perhaps letters from ‘pals’ or commanding officers or chaplains after his death, etc, etc. Unfortunately it is the way of these things: for some soldiers we have only one or two articles, for others we might have up to a dozen articles which provide a great deal of additional information.
As we worked our way through the issues of the Craven Herald we were not at all surprised to come across articles about servicemen and women who died that were not included in Cravens Part… We soon arrived at the decision that any new name of a dead soldier that appeared in the Craven Herald should be incorporated into our database. Quite often the death was reported of a relative of someone living in Craven, or of someone who had lived in Craven but had subsequently moved away.
Others were the names of men who had moved into the area from elsewhere to work here; others still were ‘old boys’ of Ermysted’s in Skipton, or had been educated at the public schools in Giggleswick and Sedbergh. As stated earlier in this introduction, it soon became apparent that it was the ‘association’ with the Craven area that was important.
Conversely, there have been many instances where the names of servicemen have not appeared in the Craven Herald. Many will have ‘slipped through the net’, particularly at times when action on the war fronts had been extremely heavy; others may not have appeared simply because their relatives chose not to report the news to the newspaper.
Cravens Part… originally gave us a list of 1,555 names of soldiers (and a single nurse) who died. By the end of 1921 our grand total of servicemen and women had reached 1,866 names. All the indications are that this total will increase still further as we go through the local war memorials.
At the time of writing we have now assembled a total of 4,784 articles covering our 1,866 named servicemen and women. (This total includes a large number of ‘In Memoriam’ entries that grew particularly heavy throughout the latter part of 1918 and on through to 1920 – and 1921).
In addition to newspaper entries for our dead soldiers we have also scanned and saved all articles reporting awards of honours to surviving soldiers, as well as a great number of articles containing extra material that will ultimately appear on the website as special features. In particular here we will trace the development of the various town and village war memorials and rolls of honour. Furthermore, since there was a section in Craven’s Part… on honours awarded we will eventually be covering this with our own database of surviving honoured soldiers.
A job that remains to be done is to put together all the relevant articles from the West Yorkshire Pioneer – our other Skipton newspaper. We have now located a complete run of the newspaper from 1914 to 1918 and all the relevant articles have either been printed off from microfilm or digitally photographed (in the case of the bound copies of the 1915-1916 runs). These will now be scanned and run through character recognition software so that the verbatim texts can be included in our database. So, please bear with us…
Whenever there is an entry for a serviceman or woman in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database (the vast majority of cases) we have a record of a soldier’s final resting place (a CWGC cemetery abroad, a CWGC grave, a family grave in a public cemetery in the UK), or the CWGC memorial on which he is remembered. In addition to this we have also endeavoured to identify our soldiers on memorials within the broad ‘Craven’ area. Having located the various memorials throughout our area, these have all been visited and photographed. The photographs not only give us a necessary visual record of the memorial, but also enable us to draw up a roll of honour to which we can then correlate the soldiers in our database.
As with the Craven Herald articles we have discovered here a further tale of ‘omissions and additions,’ as we have found many names that are not (thus far) represented in our database, as well as not coming across names that are in our database. Sometimes, because ranks and regiments are not always shown on memorials, we have not been able to definitely assign some of men to a memorial. We would expect to find a soldier’s name on the memorial (or memorials) in his place of birth as well as his place of residence: but sometimes the appearance of a soldier’s name on a war memorial is (to us, at least) totally inexplicable. Once again it could be the question of ‘association’. In any case we have made no value judgement on this but merely record (and show) each memorial on which the soldier appears.
Although we started this project with the assumption that a soldier would be recorded if he appeared in the pages of Craven’s Part… our criteria have now expanded somewhat to include all servicemen and women mentioned in either the Craven Herald or the West Yorkshire Pioneer and must now expand further to include all servicemen and women who are remembered on the war memorials in our area – for whatever reason that might be. In particular we have not picked up many soldiers who are named on the major local memorials, such as those in Skipton, Settle, Bentham, Earby and Barnoldswick. All these names will ultimately be added to our database.
- Australian War Memorial (AWM 145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914 -1918 War, Army)
- Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1918 CD-ROM (Naval & Military Press Ltd., 2004)
- 1881 British Isles Census
- 1901 UK Census
- Brooks, Andrew, The Ingleton War Memorial 1914 – 1918 and 1939 – 1945
- Chappell, Mike, British Battle Insignia (1) 1914 – 1918, (Men-at-Arms 182) Osprey Publishing, 1986
- Clayton, John T., Craven’s Part In The Great War, Craven Herald, 1920
- Cox, Reginald H.W., Military Badges of The British Empire 1914-1918, (Reprinted) Naval & Military Press
- Gaylor, John, Military Badge Collecting, Leo Cooper, Secker & Warburg, London, 1983
- James, Brigadier E.A. British Regiments 1914-1918, Naval & Military Press Ltd., 1998
- Men of Worth Project: The Men of Worth Project researches local people from Keighley and the Worth Valley who served the country in wartime.(www.menofworth.org.uk)
- Taylor, Keith, Swaledale and Wharfedale Remembered; Aspects of Dales Life through Peace and War, Ashridge Press (Country Books) 2006
- Taylor, Keith, Wensleydale Remembered, The Sacrifice Made By The Families Of A Northern Dale 1914-1918 and 1939-1945: 2004
- Westlake, Ray, British Battalions on the Somme (Leo Cooper 1994; an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd.)
- Westlake, Ray, British Regiments at Gallipoli (Leo Cooper 1996; an imprint of Pen & Sword Books Ltd.)
- Wheeler-Holohan, Captain V. Divisional and Other Signs; Naval & Military Press (Reprint) 1920