War veterans – on a roll

It seems like the genealogy posts are having a bit of a roll at the moment – in a flurry of war veterans. Another from my side of the family this time.

When I was researching ‘Doing our bit’ several years ago, I accidentally found an article in the local paper that gave me some family information that was completely new to me. I’d been looking for general information about the town in WW1 when I saw this article, published 1 February 1918:

Selby soldier in Egypt

Sapper H Bradley, Royal Engineers, son of Mr & Mrs J Bradley, Church Hill, Selby, writes to his parents from Egypt.

Says he is quite well, though has a very lucky escape with his life. Bishop, Isherwood and himself were landed safely but poor Walker – didn’t know where he was. ‘It was a terrible experience but everyone’s courage was marvellous. It was a nurse who saved me – threw me a rope from a trawler after I had been in the water about three quarters of an hour. We were only nine miles from land when we were torpedoed; there was no chance to launch the lifeboats.’ Corporal Francis Bradley, West Yorkshire Regiment, (brother) who was wounded in the Cambrai battle on 20th November last and was invalided to England, has been home for a few days leave from hospital and is making satisfactory progress towards recovery.

Apart from the surprise, this was useful on several counts:

Sapper H Bradley – didn’t know he was in the Royal Engineers, until I read this; he had enlisted into the West Yorkshire Regiment on 7 September 1914 and discharged as medically unfit for further service on 8 October of the same year.  It didn’t occur to me to look for re-enlistment, but, lo and behold, he had been recalled in June 1917, this time into the Royal Engineers.

The other thing that I didn’t know until I’d seen this article, was that Harry’s brother, Francis (aka Granddad) had been wounded on 20 November 1917 near Cambrai. Though I’d realised from the medal and award rolls that he’d been wounded, but didn’t have the detail to be able to check out the war diary for the correct day.

Last, but not least it confirmed the move from Water Lane to Church Hill and narrowed down the dates during this might have happened.

I’ve also got a couple of medals that granddad won, and with a lot of help from Alan Greivson, worked out what they were for:

The five-pointed silver star you have is a shooting medal awarded during the annual field firing competitions of the Territorial Force. It would have been suspended from a cream/yellow-coloured silk ribbon with a slip-bar dated 1910. There may well be a man’s bust on the obverse. I’m not sure who this would be of, perhaps the Duke of Connaught or Lord Roberts. The second medal you mention is probably another marksmanship award. The third will be something similar. The shield may show the arms of the City of York which is the cross of St. George, the patron saint of England, and five lions of England. This was the shield on one of the competition’s individual trophy badges. In 1893 the Duke of Connaught, who was Edward VII’s brother, was appointed as commander of the Army’s Southern District which included Aldershot. At the same time, the commander of the Yorkshire Volunteers was Colonel John Edward Bingham (later Sir J E Bingham) who was a believer in conscription and national service. In 1912, he was reported in the New York Times as telling the Congress of Chambers of Commerce in Boston USA: “My view is that every able-bodied man in England ought to have a rifle and know how to use it. Lord Roberts says that knowing how to use a rifle is eight out of the ten parts that go to the making of a soldier.” At an earlier suggestion of the Duke of Connaught, Col Bingham instigated the annual Yorkshire Field Firing Competition in 1895 in which all the Volunteer Battalions of Yorkshire would compete over a weekend, generally the weekend of Queen Victoria’s birthday. As he owned a silver and cutlery works in Sheffield he donated a huge trophy made of 1,500 ounces of gilded silver for the Volunteer Battalion that was the overall winner and individual soldiers won medals and cash prizes for their skills. The trophy vanished in the 1940s.
The competition was fiercely challenged and the 5th Bn West Yorkshire Regiment was often pitted against the 5th Bn Alexandra Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) who up to 1909 had won the Bingham Trophy twice and the Bingham Shield once. Field Firing had been promoted by the Duke of Connaught who had aspirations to be Commander in Chief of the Army. He and Bingham both believed men should be able not only to shoot accurately, but to do so in trying conditions after they had been put to the test in marching and field conditions. The 5th Bn (Alexandra’s) Yorkshire Regiment had also put to the test “How far Territorials could be relied upon to make a long forced march and to fight at the end of it”. One weekend they marched from Doncaster to York over a route of 79 miles in 44 hours and 20 minutes without a single man falling out. They then staged an imaginary brush with the enemy. The competition faced by soldiers like Francis was stiff.

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