(Above) A machine gun unit of the 1/6th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s Regiment c.1915
Like communities big and small across the country, Skipton and Craven was deeply affected by the Great War. Across the District, men flocked to the colours and the wider population served in a myriad of supporting roles.
Using the data provided by Craven’s Part in the Great War (see below) William Turner [Journal of the Western Front Association, summer 1986] has analysed the patterns of military service, causes of death and distribution of deaths by date. This paints a useful picture of the extent of the area’s involvement.
1563 individuals who died as a result of the Great War – male and female – were recorded and memorialised by CPGW. The qualifying criterion was to have had an ’association’ with the Craven District; this ranged from having been born and lived there to having been educated or worked there. A significant number had emigrated overseas, mainly to British colonies. It is to be assumed that the data for deaths is in line with broader patterns of service. Hence, the domination of the Army as the main form of military service.
1500 served in the Army (96%) – 100 officers and 1400 other ranks.
46 served in the Royal Navy/Merchant Navy (3%) – 4 officers and 42 other ranks.
16 served in the Air Force (1%) – 8 officers and 8 other ranks
1 served in the VAD – 1 officer
The distribution of Army service across the regiments unsurprisingly sees concentration in the Yorkshire Regiments, particularly those of West Yorkshire. Skipton and Craven was particularly associated with the part-time soldiers’ unit, the 6th (Territorial Force) Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment. Companies (sub-units of the battalion) were based in Skipton, Settle, Keighley, Haworth, Bingley and Guiseley. Other than the 1/6th and its reserve (2/6th) battalion, the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment had two professional battalions, 8 Territorial battalions and 3 ‘Service’/’New Army’, temporary battalions (those brought into being during the war itself) and two Labour battalions. Craven men would have featured in many of these battalions.
Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment– 559
West Yorkshire Regiment – 102
Yorkshire Regiment – 35
King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Regiment – 32
York and Lancaster Regiment – 20
East Lancashire Regiment – 38
Northumberland Fusiliers – 58
Royal Field Artillery – 82
The introduction of conscription at the start of 1916 made it more likely that service was more randomly spread across the wider range of national regiments.
For example, Ernest Carter of Russell Street, Skipton was called up in April 1917 as an eighteen year-old. Following his training, he was sent to France in February 1918 to serve with the 1st Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers, plugging manpower gaps caused by casualties. Tragically Ernest died of wounds on 27th March 1918.
Turner’s analysis of the CPGW data also reveals the patterns of causes of death. Taking the biggest cohort of 1500, the Army, for all ranks:
Killed in Action 847 (56.5%)
Died of Wounds 302 (20.1%)
Missing Presumed Killed 136 (9.1%)
Sickness 154 (10.3)
Accident 22 (1.5)
Died as Prisoner of War 21 (1.4%)
Gas 18 (1.2%)
Distribution of deaths by date, identifying the highest monthly total:
1914 – October (14) – professional soldiers mobilised to France and Belgium in the early days of War and Naval personnel associated with the ‘Rohilla’ Hospital Ship disaster
1915 – September (38) – accounted for by first major British Army offensive on the Western Front at Loos in France and the presence of the 49th (West Riding) Division on the highly dangerous Ypres Salient in Belgium.
1916 – August (85) – accounted for by the British Army’s major Western Front offensive on the Somme in northern France
1917 – October (85) – accounted for by the British Army’s major Western Front offensive at the 3rd Battle of Ypres in Belgium
1918 – April (95) – accounted for by the British Army’s involvement in defending against the German Army’s Spring Offensive on the Western Front
Guidance for researching your Great War Family History
For modern day descendants of Craveners who served in the War, there are an above average range of sources that they can consult to learn about the experiences of their ancestors. Much of this is based on the comprehensive contemporary coverage of local newspapers that later fed into the 1920 publication ‘Craven’s Part in the Great War’, the magnificent tribute record of people who served and gave their lives.
In recent years this has inspired a digital update of the original 1920 publication. With diligent research, the CPGW website has taken the local data base to a whole new level and it is a must for anybody looking to find out about local participants in the War.
Local Newspapers: Craven Herald and West Yorkshire Pioneer
The two weekly newspapers serving the Skipton and Craven area duplicated a lot of the War material, but both are worth checking out for minor differences in the level of detail.
From the outset of the War in August 1914, the local newspapers published regular and in-depth articles. In the early years of the war they featured letters from eager volunteers able to relate a remarkable level of detail about their experiences of training and the early days at the ‘Front’. As time went on casualty reports and obituaries featured heavily compiled by family members but with references to letters received from the comrades of the victims, often junior officers who commanded them. From 1916, information is less precise; for instance, combatants’ specific regimental battalions were no longer reported. Letters also featured less, perhaps discouraged by the censorship process at the Front.
Microfilm copies of the relevant newspapers can be accessed at Skipton Library.
Craven’s Part in the Great War – 1920 Clayton
Using the articles and many photographs of casualties, the editor of the Craven Herald, John T Clayton, was able to compile a book centred around the known 1554 fatalities with an association with Craven, including one female. Fallen officers get priority treatment each given a fairly detailed biography of their background and military service; the vast majority are accompanied by photographs. The NCOs and Other Ranks are covered on the basis of the month/year of their death; biographies are shorter, but usually mention their regimental association.
CPGW also has a short history of the war service of the local Territorial battalion: the 1/6th Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment. Along with this there is the Nominal Roll – alphabetical list of NCOs and Other Ranks – of the battalion as it left for France in 1915. A similar list features for the reserve (2/6th) battalion arranged by company which left for France early in 1917. Group photographs of officers feature for both battalions.
The book also contains an extensive list of honours and awards gained by Craven men, running to a total of 462.
Of special interest to Barnoldswick is an account of the wreck of the Rohilla, a hospital ship, in October 1914. 12 men from the town lost their lives in this tragedy off the coast of Whitby.
The original book was issued to all families of the fallen and surviving service people. Copies can be found in the reference section of Skipton Library. Alternatively, commercial reprints are available published by Military and Naval Press. The CPGW website (see below) provides a digital version of the whole book.
Craven’s Part in the Great War Website – WWW.CPGW.org.uk
The CPGW Website launched in 2006 builds on the data of the 1920 book. Its database of the listed victims has been expanded to include a further 312 individuals who slipped through the net. The database curates basic information gathered from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission database, the whole range of local newspaper articles featuring the individual, appearances on local war memorials and additional photographs and material offered by the public.
West Yorkshire Pioneer War Record – 1921
This tribute to Skipton’s war dead contains an alphabetical record of names accompanied by some basic information. This includes: rank, age, regiment, surviving next of kin, address, date killed/died of wounds/illness and possibly the place/circumstances. It also contains photographs of selected servicemen, some different to the ones that feature in CPGW. The CPGW website (see below) provides a digital version of the whole book.
Roll Call of Skipton Division Liberal and Conservative Associations, 1914-1916
This booklet provides a record of men who volunteered to serve from the Skipton constituency. It is based on information gathered from delegates and subscribers (party members) of the Liberal and Conservative Party Associations; for this reason, it is far from comprehensive in recording the area’s service volunteers. The Roll Call identifies the delegate/subscriber and his address, followed by the sons, son-in-laws and grandsons serving, providing basic detail such as rank and regiment and number. The country/front they are fighting in is sometimes referred to, as are casualties. The record covers the period of volunteering up to August 1915. The CPGW website (see below) provides a digital version of the whole book.
Literally hundreds of memorials were erected in commemoration of the fallen of the Great War ranging from the town’s focal point, high profile structure down to modest display boards of a work place or sports club. Churches and chapels also provide a rich abundance of memorials. Individuals, therefore, have a strong chance of appearing on multiple memorials. Information is, however, limited providing no more than a name and perhaps regiment, age and date of death.
To gather further information researchers can access national records.
CWGC website – database
Medal Roll Index (The National Archive Ancestry)
War Service Record (TNA/Ancestry – officers’ files not on line)