World War I Centenary

Like many other organisations, Huddersfield Local History Society commemorated the centenary of the First World War (1914-18).

Our own most significant contribution was the publication of ‘Yours for Eternity’ – A Romance of the Great War, by John Rumsby. Based on an extraordinary collection of 150 letters found in a tin box in the attic of a house in the Birkby area of the town, they were written by Henry Coulter,  a clerk with Huddersfield Corporation Tramways, and his sweetheart Lucy Townend, who worked in a shoe-shop.  Henry and Lucy’s letters express the activities and aspirations of two young  people separated by war. Poignantly, they include the very last one Lucy wrote to him on 22 October 1916. Henry never saw it: he had died of his wounds three days earlier.

Telling a different aspect of Huddersfield’s World War I experience, Society chairman Cyril Pearce has published a new edition of his classic Comrades in Conscience: The story of an English community’s opposition to the Great War. First published in 2001 and long out of print, Comrades  has now been reissued in a strikingly different format with significant revisions, fresh illustrations and new work based on further research.

Huddersfield in World War I was edited by Brian Heywood for the Huddersfield Rugby League Heritage Project.  Extending to 22 chapters, offering both chronological and thematic treatment and highly illustrated, this is available here.  The Project also contributed a World War I trail to the Discover Huddersfield programme.

People often ask why the Great War Memorial in Greenhead Park does not bear the names of the war dead. In November 2014, the University of Huddersfield published Huddersfield’s Roll of Honour, 1914-22. This 500-page hardback book provides a detailed account of 3,439 service personnel from Huddersfield who lost their lives during the War.  In a foreword, HRH The Duke of York writes:  “This publication represents the lifetime work of Margaret Stansfield who sadly passed away in 2012. Margaret spent 30 years compiling the 3,439 biographical entries giving a poignant insight into the background, working lives and families of those who selflessly left Huddersfield to fight for their country never to return.” A PDF version of the book can be freely downloaded.

Other memorial publications are appearing across the district and we will be pleased to promote them here.  If Somebody Remembers Me recalls the war dead of Shepley.  Those of Honley are recorded in Honley in the Great War, by Cyril Ford, published by Honley Civic Society.  The story of New Mill village during WW1 is the subject of Photos on the Wall by Tom Ashworth.

Full details of the wide range of commemorative activities, co-ordinated by Kirklees Council, can be found on the ‘Lest We Forget’ page of the Kirklees website.

Huddersfield’s Tolson Museum had a new exhibition, Huddersfield’s Great War Stories, and the new Memorial Garden was also opened.