Join us as we remember some of Sheffield’s forgotten heroes. Over the last few weeks, Louisa Merrick-White has been speaking to families of the men featured here, hearing their stories and memories. Take some time this morning to share their stories as we remember them.
Arthur Pemberton fought in World War One with the Army Service Corps, adding a year to his age to get in. He bore two physical scars: one on his hand and one from a bayonet wound to the neck, a blighty wound which saw him end up in Wharncliffe War Hospital with what we now know as post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. He fought in France in the Flanders area. At the end of the war he was still in the army and was sent to Turkey, not returning home until 1920. He had married while on leave after his wounding and had only spent two weeks with his new wife. When he returned, she was dead and buried as a result of the influenza epidemic.
Later in life, Arthur and his family went on a day trip to France when they were on holiday. The destination was a small town called Cassel. Driving through the countryside and beautiful farmland, he tapped his daughter Lynne on the shoulder and said, “See that lane there … my best friend was blown to bits at the side of me down that lane”. The invisible mental scars caught up with him periodically all his life when he would suffer what he called the “blue devils” – severe depression. He would quote Byron at times like that…
“No; for myself, so dark my fate Through every turn of life hath been; Man and the world so much I hate I care not when I quit the scene.”
Despite everything he went through, he held no ill will towards those who had been the enemy and had no prejudice against anyone no matter what their race creed or colour.
John Cadman was born on 14 October 1891. He originally joined the York and Lancaster Regiment, but his first regiment suffered such severe losses that he ended up in the Cameron Highlanders, who were involved in many battles in France, including the Battle of Loos and the First Battle of the Ainse.
He rarely talked of his war experiences, but he did say that the Germans would deliberately take a shot at the tea urn as it was being carried along the trench line, much to the dismay of cold and thirsty British soldiers. Sadly he passed away in January 1946, a victim of influenza among other things. It’s said that his time in the trenches made a little old man of him at the ripe old age of 54.
John Saint fought in the Battle of the Somme. He was on the frontline at Paschendale in France where he operated a Howitzer gun. He was injured in 1918 and finished out the war teaching soldiers how to use these guns. After the war, he went to Bridgetown, Barbados where he was a scientist in sugar technology. In 1942, he was awarded an OBE and he was then knighted by King George VI in 1950. When he left Bridgetown in 1953 he was made an honorary freeman of Bridgetown.
William Bartrop was a football player for Worksop Town where he lived. He was then sold to Barnsley in 1909 where he stayed for five years, winning the FA Cup in 1912. He then transferred to Liverpool and played only three games before the war began. Like many players, he went to sign up when the war broke out, joining the Royal Field Artillery as a gunner. He was based near the River Escaut when his regiment came under fire and he was killed just four days before the war ended. His FA Cup Final medals were auctioned in 2008 and sold for more than double what was expected.
Arthur Pashley was born in 1875, he was known as ‘Snowball’ because of his white blonde hair. He was quite a character by all accounts. He once had a bet with his best friend about who would be the first to spend the night in the new police station in Commerce Street, Chapeltown. He waited until it was finished, got into bother and then gave himself up – and won the bet! He dressed in his mother’s clothes to escape detection. He was smuggled up to Grenoside where he made his getaway, still dressed as a woman.
He was part of the East Yorkshire Regiment and was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, aged 41. His name is listed on the war memorial in Chapeltown Park and the Thiepval memorial in France.
John Henry was injured in the first Battle of the Somme. He was captured by the Germans and taken to a field hospital. The German surgeon saved his leg, despite initially being told to amputate it. John was repatriated back to Sheffield as part of a prisoner of war exchange and upon returning told his brother, “tha volunteers for nowt” so he never went on to fight in the war, much to the relief of their family.
William Henry Lappin
William Henry Lappin was part of the 1st/5th Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions throughout the war, with two heroic acts standing out in particular.
Entirely on his own initiative, Lapping proceeded, unaccompanied, to observe the enemy’s trenches. He went over the parapet, crawled across about 100 yards of intervening space and under the German barbed wire to their parapet. There he looked through a small breach and obtained valuable information as to the condition of the trenches and the strength in which they were held, and successfully returned with the desired intelligence.
On 29 October, Corporal Lappin again went over the parapet in broad daylight, and crawled to a Bulgarian flag, fixed by the Germans about 80 yards from British trenches and 30 yards from their own. He brought the flat, with its nine-foot pole, safely back to his trenches under a heavy rifle fire.
He can be seen here on the back row, fourth from the right. Also pictured on the bottom row, first from the right, is his nephew Albert Highton who was killed in action on 2 March 1915 aged 28.
Frank Poules served in the First World War, as a private in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He enlisted when he was only 17, because someone gave him a white feather and he didn’t want to be accused of being a coward.
He was injured by a bomb and lost his left arm and his hearing. He was also shot in both legs and had dozens of other injuries. Frank made it home by offering his rum ration to the stretcher-bearers in return for transport home. He went on to marry, have five children, 12 grandchildren and get a job at Painted Fabrics, a place for soldiers who’d lost limbs to earn a living.
Frank Hodges was born in Sheffield in 1893 and fought in the Battle of the Somme. While he was lucky enough to survive, he suffered an injury that left him blind in one eye and, like many soldiers in The Great War, he had shell shock (PTSD). Later in life, he never spoke of what he’d seen but he always stood to attention on Remembrance Day.
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Thomas Hodges was born in Sheffield in 1892 before emigrating to Australia in 1912. When the First World War broke out, he came back to Europe to fight in France with a division of the Australian forces. While he survived the war, Thomas was killed by Spanish Flu just a day after the war ended. Thomas is pictured front row on the right.
Colin Joseph Hodges
Colin Joseph Hodges, twin brother of Thomas, also fought in the First World War and was killed in action in at Flanders in France in 1918. Colin is pictured here on the front row, second from the right.
Reg Glenn was born in 1893 in Burngreave and worked as a clerk in the education offices at Leopold square. In September 1914, he volunteered to join the 12th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment or the ‘Sheffield Pals Battalion’. The Sheffield Pals became part of 31st Division made up of Pals battalions from the East of Lancashire and the West of Yorkshire.
The division had a spell in Egypt defending the Suez Canal before being moved to France, to take part in the ‘big push’ in the summer of 1916 when they moved into the trenches in front of the French village of Serre, which had been heavily fortified by the Germans. On 1 July, they advanced in the leading waves of the Battle of the Somme. In March 1917, he returned to help identify some of the bodies, something which haunted him for the rest of his life.
During the second half of the war, he trained at Redmires and, with some signalling skills he had learned in the Church Lads’ Brigade, he was trained as a signaller. In 1917, he put in for a commission and trained at New College, Oxford. He went back to France in 1918 as a subaltern in the 8th Battalion, North Staffordshires and was wounded on the Aisne in his first day of combat as an officer. He was never fit enough to go back to the trenches and became a training officer in Northumberland with his new regiment and later with the Cameronians at Invergordon.
Reg, pictured here in later life, gave a moving account of the advance of the Sheffield Pals Batalion on 1st July 1916.
“Zero hour was at 7.30am, and just before it the first two waves got out of the trench and laid down in No Man’s Land. There seemed to be an uncanny silence, you could even hear the skylarks singing. It was a beautiful morning, then the whistles blew. They all stood up and started to move forward in a straight line. They hadn’t gone but a few steps when they all went down again. I thought that they had been tripped by a wire aid across No Man’s Land. But it was soon obvious why, we could hear the machine guns chattering away and all hell broke loose. I ducked back down in the trench and moved back to Battalion HQ to await instructions. Things got a little chaotic with the rest of the battalion trying to get forward with the attack and keep up with the timetable. The wounded struggled to get back and John Copse soon became filled with wounded.”
In March 1917, he returned with the Sheffield Pals padre to where his battalion had fought, to recover the dead and identify some of the bodies who had been lying in No Man’s Land and on the German wire since the previous July. The pair held a short service; they sang On the Resurrection Morning.
“There they lay in rows just as they had fallen in the battle, But they were no longer recognisable bodies, but skeletons where the white bones were held together by khaki rags and their webbing equipment. Some still had helmets on their skulls, some still had tufts of hair. The next day it snowed and covered all the bodies.” It was an awful job, which haunted him all his life. He later said, “I don’t fear death, as I’ve seen Hell.” Recalling his visits back to the Western Front later in his life, he said, “You go into the cemeteries – there are scores of them – and you see the graves of all your friends. I was No 928, and both 927 and 929 are in there. I could just as easily have been with them.”
Arthur Spencer lived in Walkley and served in the Second World War but didn’t send for his medals until the 1970s, when an old friend he’d served with said he should.
While he never spoke of his experiences, he was awarded a variety of medals for his services: the France and Germany Star which was awarded to people who served in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg; the Defence Medal which was given to many for brave conduct; the 1939–1945 Star (Battle of Britain clasp), awarded for 180 days operational service and the War Medal, 1939–1945 which was awarded to all personnel who served full time for at least a month during the war.
John William Harrison
John William Harrison was born in Sheffield in January 1926. Like Arthur, he never sent for his medals and was reluctant to talk about the war.
He served in Burma, spent some time in the military police and at one point, guarded Raffles Hotel, which was taken over in the Japanese occupation of Singapore in February 1942 before being claimed by the British Navy during Operation Tiderace in September 1945, following Japan’s surrender.
Whilst John was in Burma, he sent home two little diamonds and a sapphire so that his soon-to-be wife could have them made up into an engagement ring. They were married in 1947.
John Reginald ‘Reg’ Garforth
Lieutenant John Reginald ‘Reg’ Garforth was brought up in Walkley and served with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was killed in action in Italy in 1944 and is buried in Padua War Cemetery. The King’s Own Light Infantry was heavily involved in Italy at this time following the allied invasion of Sicily in 1943. At the time of his death, it’s possible Reg was one of the men responsible for defending the landing grounds at Arezzo.
Harry Wade served in the Tunisian campaign of 1942/43 and was killed in action in Tunisia in 1943, one of over 6,000 British men to die in the campaign.
In one particularly moving letter, Harry describes how his section was pinned down for two days and bombarded with shells. On the second day they were given 12 hours to leave before tanks came in but they held out for a while, during which time the bombing increased. With tanks on their way, they began to move out across a minefield. They were nearly across when they hit a mine, losing a handful of men and alerting the enemy to their location, so shelling began again.
He described it as hell, saying he’d never prayed so hard and never wished to experience anything like it again. They took a nine-hour rest stop after the minefield before finding themselves under attack again. Harry’s sergeant was so badly hit that he, and other members of the section, had to carry him four miles to get help. Harry died just four days later.
Douglas Hewitt was a gunner in the Royal Artillery, having joined the army before the war began. During the war, he was stationed in South Africa, North Africa, Middle East and France. Tobruk in North Africa was where he and his regiment were taken prisoners. They were first taken to an Italian prison camp but later moved to Leipzig in Germany.
Doug did not talk very much about the fighting, but talked about the comradeship between the men and the lighter moments. He spoke about some of the men who were prisoners with him who made their own so called alcoholic drink, which was deadly. He said it used to lay them out for about two days. They all looked forward to getting their food parcels and letters from home. Doug came home in May 1945 and married his sweetheart, Hilda Bell in the June.
The Atkinson Family
Members of the Atkinson Family fought in many wars across the decades from the mid-nineteenth to mid-twentieth century including the Indian Mutiny, World War One and World War Two. The image shows just some of the family who fought and were featured in The Star’s collection of ‘Fighting Families’. Unfortunately, not all members of the family survived.
The full list of serving individuals is as follows: Thomas Maskrey, Colin Colgrave, Joe Colgrave, Tom Colgrave, Jack Colgrave, Albert Atkinson, Fred Atkinson, George Atkinson, Arnold Atkinson, Percy Atkinson, Oliver Colgrave, Alfred Colgrave, Fred Colgrave, Willie Colgrave, Ernest Hurst, Ted Howard, Wilfred Rodgers, Colin Huttley, Norman Huttley, Colin Colgrave, Jack Howard, Colin Howard, Jack Colgrave, Leslie Howard, Arnold Atkinson, Raymond Atkinson, Harry Vickers.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.
Article first published in the Steel City Standard on Remembrance Sunday 2020. All photos are used with permission of the families of the men whose stories are included here.