UNVEILING OF PONTEFRACT
TREMENDOUS CROWD TO WITNESS
LONG ANTICIPATED EVENT
AND THE "ORDINARY SOLDIER"
PONTEFRACT ADVERTISER, SATURDAY 29TH
At last, nearly five
years after the cessation of hostilities, Pontefract can boast a
memorial to the town’s men and women who fell in the Great War.
Some years ago, during
the first year of the mayoralty of Ald. T.J. Sides, C.C., meetings were
called with a view to the provision of a town’s memorial, but the
popular scheme – the reception of a Y.M.C.A. institute – was abandoned
as being too large an undertaking.
For some time nothing
more was done until, about two years ago, when, as a result of the
initiative of Alderman Sides, another public meeting was called, and the
present War Memorial Committee elected. It was then decided that the
memorial should take the form of a monument, and later, with the
sanction of the Corporation, the present site at Town End was selected.
The next point was the
choice of design, and, after several had been considered, that of Mr.
H.B. Benson, of Bramham, was approved, and the tender of Messrs E.
Raynor & Sons, of Woodlesford, to erect it at a cost of £1,230 was
accepted, and though the barrier enclosing the site was fixed up nearly
twelve months ago, the work has only just been completed.
It was originally
intended to inscribe the names of all the fallen on the memorial, but
this idea had to be abandoned on two grounds – lack of space and lack of
funds; and the happy resolution was arrived at to place bronze replicas
of the badges of the two regiments stationed at the Pontefract depot on
the east and west sides of the memorial in place of the names, and the
names themselves in a separate roll.
As already described in
these columns, the memorial is of massive monumental design and consists
of Scotch grey granite, all fine axed with the exception of the four
panels which are polished. The panel facing the South (towards Mill
Hill) bears the inscription “The names of the dead are inscribed in the
Roll of Honour kept among the archives of the Borough,” and on that
facing the north (the town) is inscribed “To the memory of our Fallen
Four steps lead up to the
monument, which is surrounded by 12 granite pillars connected by 8 iron
Above the main four
panels are two ornamental cornices, over which are four wreath stones,
each bearing a bronze laurel wreath, surmounted by a large dome, at the
top of which is a four-way cross.
The selection of a
suitable person to unveil the memorial presented some difficulty, but
eventually the Committee invited Brigadier-General C.B. Ingham Brooke
C.M.G., D.S.O., to perform the ceremony – a decision which has met with
the approval of the townsfolk, who remembered the gallant officer during
the time he was in command at the depot during the early part of the
popular step taken by the committee was the invitation to dedicate the
memorial offered to the Rev. canon W. Gell, M.A., now Vicar of
Holme-in-Cliviger, near Burnley, who was Vicar of Pontefract for 19
years, and during the latter part of his vicariate himself lost his
youngest son, Sec. Lt. C.S. Gell.
Thursday afternoon was
chosen as the most suitable occasion for the unveiling ceremony, the
details of which had been well though out beforehand, and were carried
out entirely according to plan.
At 2.35pm, a guard of
honour, consisting of representatives of both regiments from the
Barracks, headed by the band of the York and Lancaster Regiment, under
Sergeant-Drummer A.T. Cole, formed up in the Market Place to await the
arrival of the civic procession, and to meet the Brigadier-General. The
officers accompanying the guard of honour were Major A.R. Keppell, Capt.
Starling, Capt. Watkins, Lt. Masters and Lt. Butterfield, all of the
K.O.Y.L.I. Regt., and Major Walker, Capt. Dickinson, Lt. Symes, Lt.
Lowden and Lt. Pittock, all of the York and Lancaster Regt.
At 2-40pm the civic
procession left the Town Hall en route for the Market Place, where the
Mayor (Ald. R.P. Husband) was met by Major Keppell (Officer in Command
of the Depot).
The civic procession, a
very long one, was led by a squad of Police under Supt. J. Fairbairn,
Inspector Bell, and Sgt. Thompson, who were followed by the Mace Bearer
(Mr. F. Baxter), preceding the Mayor. Next came the Rev. Canon Gell,
followed by the Town Clerk (Mr. F.M. Farmer, M.B.E.), the Clerk of the
Peace (Mr. J. Routlidge), and the Mayor’s Chaplain (the Rev. T.A.
Hodgson Thomas). Then came the Chairman and Secretary of the War
Memorial Committee, Ald T.J. Sides, C.C., and Col. C. C. Moxon, C.M.G.,
D.S.O., respectively, who were followed by Capt. H.W. Cole-Hamilton,
D.S.O., Capt. H. Barker, M.C., Capt. G. McNally, Capt. H.W. Richardson,
Lt. J. Glew and Lt. G. Sylvester, representing the military.
Next in the procession
were the Borough Member (Mr. Tom Smith), and the Borough County
Councillor (Mr. W. Barber), who were followed by Mr. W.F. Tempest, Mr.
W.J. Robson, Ald. F.W. Pease, Mr. J.M. Curtois, Mr. R.B.Walker and Mr.
T. Barker, representing the West Riding and Borough Magistrates, with
the Clerk of the former (Capt. C. Guy Leatham).
The clergy and ministers
came next, the Parish Church being represented by the Vicar of
Pontefract (the Rev J. Young), and the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist
Chapels by the Revs. S.W.M. Ingersent and J.T. Taylor respectively;
Aldermen T. Butler, O. Holmes, and A. Schofield, and Crs V.
Heckingbottom, G.R. Hemingway, W. Wordsworth, J. Hutchinson, C. Johnson,
W. Leadbeater, P. Wilson, H. Holmes, T. Brindley, and G. Sainter
represented the Corporation, and the Education Committee were
represented by Mr. E. Bruce Forrest (Headmaster of King’s School), Mrs
A.G. Nicholls having proceeded direct to the site.
The Pontefract Board of
Guardians were represented by their Clerk (Mr. T.J. Amies), who was
followed by Mr. Miles N. Watson (Borough Accountant), Mr. R.P. Winter
(Borough Treasurer), Mr. A.B. Jackson (Nuisance Inspector), and Mr. G.
Guy (Markets Superintendent) who represented the Corporation officials.
Then came a contingent of about 60 ex-Servicemen, under the command of
Capt. P. Bentley, M.C., who was accompanied by Capt. Brown, Capt. (Rev.)
H.S. Rogers, Lt. P.A. Jones, and Lt. W. Turton. Behind the ex-Servicemen
were twelve members of the Fire Brigade, led by Capt. F. Wharldall and
Vice-captain J.W. Gardiner, who in turn were followed by some fifty
members of the St. John Ambulance Brigade, under Corps Supt. T.C. Amery,
Corps Officer C. Hornby, and Sgt. Maj. Colley, the Brigade Band being
under the conductorship of Bandmaster Ward and Asst. Band-master J.
arrived immediately after the two processions had united in the Market
Square, and, having been met by the Mayor and officers, he inspected the
guard of honour, and afterwards the joint procession moved off towards
the Town End, headed by the military band.
Arriving at Town End, the
procession split up, the various bodies taking their respective places
in the arena, which was already well-filled with relatives and patients
from the Darrington Hospital. Special places had also been reserved for
the teachers and children of the various elementary schools.
When the ceremony
commenced, punctually at 3-00pm, the whole of the Town End area was
filled with people wedged tightly together, and in the opinion of
persons able to judge, there must have been well over 5,000 – more
probably 6,000 – present.
Canon Gell opened the
service with the following words: -
“Dearly beloved, we are
met together to remember the loving kindness and mercy of the Lord
towards us in delivering us from the hands of our enemies and from the
evils that beset us in the time of War, and more particularly to
remember, and to thank Him for the devotion of those through whose
sacrifice that deliverance was accomplished, and further, to dedicate to
their memory a tribute of honour and respect, that so their lives and
example may be ever kept in mind in token of all that Thou through them
hath wrought. That we may the more worthily do this let us pray that God
will cleanse our hearts and inspire our minds by the grace of His Holy
Let us pray – Almighty
God unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from who no
secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration
of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee; and worthily
magnify Thy Holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen. Our Father, which
art in Heaven", etc.
Next, the gathering
united in the singing of Rudyard Kipling’s “Lest We Forget”, to the
accompaniment of the band, after which General Brooke pulled the cord to
release the four Union Jacks which had until then covered the sides of
With these words Canon
Gell dedicated the memorial:
“In the Faith of Jesus
Christ we dedicate this memorial to the Glory of God, and in memory of
His servants, the noble and brave men of this town, who gave their lives
in the cause of justice, liberty and freedom in the Great War, in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”.
Amen, and the sounding of
the “Last Post” and “Reveille” by a party of buglers with further
prayers and followed by the blessing, concluded this most impressive
portion of the ceremony, after which came the hymn “Onward Christian
Soldiers”, again accompanied by the band.
General Brooke, whose
remarks were delivered in ringing tones which carried well into the
midst of the assembled concourse and must have been audible to a large
proportion of the great gathering, said that some months ago, a great
soldier, Sir Henry Wilson, on his last appearance before the public,
proclaimed that on such occasions as that day’s it was better that they
should receive and take over these memorials in perfect silence. He
agreed that it was well that they should keep silence, for silence was
more appropriate than the most silvery oratory, but there were some
things which he felt ought to be said, and which he wished to say.
He asked the people of
Pontefract to remember that the Memorial had been raised by public
subscription to preserve the memory of the 600 men and three women or
thereabouts, of the Borough, who served faithfully unto death; but he
reminded them that the memorial did not close their debt to the dead or
their dependants – for although on that occasion they offered their
sympathy and respectful admiration to the bereaved ones – they must
remember also the disabled who remained. There were the maimed, the halt
and the blind also entitled to their sympathy and help. He wanted them
to realise that the erection of that memorial was not, as it were, a
receipt stamp placed at the end of the very long bill for the War. They
still had the dependants and the disabled among them, and it should be
their business to give them help and assistance and make their lives as
happy as they could. He congratulated the Memorial Committee on the site
they had selected – “at the gates of the city”, where the roads leading
into the town met. They had on one side the road to Leeds, on the west
to Wakefield and the cities of the West Riding, on the south to
Doncaster and to the capital of the country, and on the other to York
and Hull and overseas. Thus, people coming to or through Pontefract – on
pleasure or on business – would be obliged to pass that spot, and would
treat it with the respect it deserved. The memorial stood as a sentinel
on the road on which so many thousands of their soldiers took their
first step on the way to their Great Adventure, and he well remembered
how, nine years ago, the serried ranks of men came down from the hill
(i.e. the Barracks) and the cheerfulness of that happy throng. He
thought that if they looked for a term in which to describe these men
they would find it in these two words – from the hymn they had just sung
- “happy throng”. He pointed out that this memorial forged a fresh and
more binding link between the inhabitants of the Borough of Pontefract
and the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and the York and Lancaster
Regiment. Pontefract had been the home of these two distinguished
regiments for nigh in fifty years, and the idea which had prompted the
committee to place on the memorial the badges of the K.O.Y.L.I. and Y.
and L. Regiments, was one which would always be looked upon by these two
honourable regiments with esteem and affection. He was sure that in
future no formed body of troops would ever march past the memorial
without according to it the most marked tokens of respect. He asked
them, however, were they to consider the memorial only as memorial to
those who fell? Had it reference only to those of the K.O.Y.L.I. and Y.
and L. Regt., who went forth and were willing to sacrifice their all at
the call of duty? To his mind the memorial had a greater significance
even than that. It reminded them of a period of peril and unpreparedness
– how great a peril he did not think any of them could realise. But the
nation gathered itself together in its strength – also greater than they
had realised – and they gained a final victory. The memorial should
remind them of how in those days, as Macaulay sang of the days of Rome:
“None were for the
But all were for the State.
The rich man helped the poor man,
And the poor man loved the great.”
And to his mind the
“great” in this great War, were the ordinary soldiers of the British
Regiments who, with the traditions of the past behind them and the Cross
of Sacrifice before, fought their way to victory and liberty.
Alderman Sides said it
was his duty that afternoon to present to the Mayor the book in which
would be entered the names of the fallen of the Borough of Pontefract
during the Great War. After the remarks which had already been made, he
did not think it was necessary for him to say very much, but he offered
to all the relatives of the fallen, his deep and heartfelt sympathy.
During his term of office as Mayor he had the privilege of welcoming
home several of the various regiments, and he always remembered how it
was with a very sad heart that he saw the relatives of those who did not
come back, endeavouring to smile and welcome the others, although all
the time the tears were trickling down their cheeks. He prayed that the
blessing of God Almighty might rest upon all the parents, widows and
relatives of the fallen. Speaking of the memorial itself, he suggested
that although it had been completed rather late in the day, it was a
credit to the town. Many, including himself, would have liked to see
something which would have been of help to the living, but the minority
had to give way to the majority. He announced that it had been arranged
that the Mayor and Corporation and Townspeople should meet at that spot
on November 11 of each year and offer up a silent prayer for the souls
of those who gave their lives for their country, and he trusted that as
long as it existed the town would perform this small duty. He concluded
by remarking that he felt sure that all present would feel better men
and women for their attendance that afternoon.
The Mayor, in accepting
the Roll from Ald. Sides, said that all would regard this valuable
record as one of the most sacred possessions of the town, and the
Corporation would provide not only safe custody for the Roll, but would
have it placed in a suitable place where the relatives could have access
to it at any time, and see in the list the names of those they had lost
– the heroes whom he regarded as having won the War for us. As mayor, he
was proud to think that that day they had removed the stigma which was
theirs so long as they had no memorial to the bravery and self-sacrifice
of their townsmen, and he felt that to those present – especially the
young people – the sight and speeches had been most inspiring.
The official wreath was
then placed on the memorial by the Mayoress (Mrs Husband) “In
affectionate memory of our fallen townsmen. From the Citizens of
Amongst the many other
wreaths placed alongside this, were several from the Barracks; one from
“The comrades of the Ex-Servicemen’s Club”; another “In Memory
of our fallen comrades of the C.L.B.”; one “In memory of our
comrades of the St. John Ambulance Brigade”; and one “In grateful
remembrance of fallen members of the Pontefract Conservative and
Unionist Club”; whilst immediately after these came the relatives,
including fatherless children of 5 or 6 and upwards, with emblems
varying from magnificent confections of hot house blooms to a simple
bunch of flowers grown for the occasion and tended with loving care in a
After these last and
touching tributes, the National Anthem brought the proceedings to a
close, but until long after dusk there was a persistent procession of
visitors to the column to inspect it and especially, the steadily
growing mass of final tokens of remembrance.
After the ceremony the
patients from Darrington Hospital were entertained to tea by Cr.
Wordsworth in the Valley Café, and during the evening General Brooke
“looked in”, chatted with the men, and shook hands with each.
The presence of a large
aeroplane, which swooped and circled above the assembled crowd at the
commencement, gave quite a war-like touch to the occasion, but this
effect was somewhat overpowered when the humming and roaring persisted
throughout a large part of the service, almost completely drowning the
words of Canon Gell.
Letters of apology for
absence were received by the Town Clerk from the Recorder (Mr. H. Vernon
Wragge), the Coroner (Major W.B. Arundel), Miss Hall and the Rev A. G.
Shipley (members of the Education Committee), Mr. J.W. Bentley, J.P.
(Chairman of the Pontefract Board of Guardians(, and Mr. F.W. Rhodes (a
The above account, reproduced from the
Pontefract Advertiser, Saturday 29th September 1923, was kindly loaned to us by Mr. John O.E. Holmes.