Many battles of war veteran Alec.
MY grandfather Alec Battye - miner, construction worker, chapel caretaker, battered survivor of World War One - is still remembered by some older folk in the Holme Valley for his preaching.
Every Sunday, he set off from his home in Holmfirth to a Methodist chapel on the local circuit, earning a reputation for short sermons and deep dedication. His unbendable left leg - the legacy of a bullet that smashed it just three months before the end of the war - never stopped him, no matter what the weather, from leading services in chapels as far apart as Dunford Town End and Thurstonland.
He never talked about why he became a lay preacher in 1924, not long after he emerged from hospital. Nor did he talk to his family about why he joined the army (though he was heard to joke that if England was willing to fight, so would Yorkshire) when he could have stayed out.
The second youngest of 10 children, Alec left school at 12 and went down one of Hepworth Iron Company's mines as a trammer, pushing the trams of coal from the face and by the time he joined the 9th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment (West Riding) when he was nearly 26 he was a ripper, digging out the coal. He could have stayed there in a reserved occupation but in January 1915 he walked from the family home at Upper Whitley Farm (now derelict) at Crow Edge to Halifax to enlist.
"He probably saw it as his duty," said his son Wilfred (nicknamed Pip after the Pip, Squeak and Wilfred cartoon of his youth).
Alec was trained in Bovington, Dorset, where the Regimental Association reports that in the early months of the war recruits trained with broomsticks because no rifles were available and without uniforms. Even blankets were scarce and the first rifles didn't appear until March 1915.
B y August that year Alec was in action. Little more than a year later, after the first battle of the Somme and the Battle of Delville Wood, he was promoted to Lance-Sergeant.
He never talked about the war either - although he did admit to some popularity among his comrades because, as a farm boy, he could milk any cow they might just happen upon - but the list of actions his battalion took part in comprises many of the famous battles on the Western Front.
These were the first battle of the Somme, Arras, Passchendale and the second battle of the Somme, among others. He even brought home a souvenir from the Somme, a German bugle which he found on the battle-field. On the base it is inscribed Sydow Potsdam, February 25, 1907 and has a German eagle on it. This bugle is now owned by Pip.
Alec survived all but the last battles as in late August 1918 he was hit by a bullet at Le Tronsloy.
It took two years before he was fit enough to return to civilian life. Still, as always, Alec would find a silver lining.
This took the form of Jack Andrews of Blacktoft over in the East Riding.
They were on stretchers side by side in the dressing station - first stop for the wounded - in adjacent bunks in the hospital train that took them back to Britain, in next door beds at a London hospital and just days after Alec was taken to Barnsley's Beckett hospital, Jack turned up there as well.
They decided they were meant to be best friends for life. They were.
But the bullet had severed the sciatic nerve in Alec's leg and he was never free of pain again. His leg never bent again and there was no way he could ever go back down the mines. Nor, in those days, did the younger children inherit anything, so he turned to the building trade as a labourer, married (Marion England of Upper Cumberworth as was), had three children and became a lay preacher, initially walking or cycling. In his later years he preached on into his 70s he might get a lift.
The centre of his life, however, was the big, old Methodist chapel in Holmfirth, now demolished. A caretaker's salary helped meet the expenses of Honley Grammar School for twins Jessie and Hilda and younger brother Pip, who all helped with the work. The twins cleaned, Pip stoked the boiler.
Alec was luckier than his favourite elder brother Joseph, who went over the top at Bullecourt in May 1917, just 10 miles from where Alec was, and was never seen again.
The family had put an appeal in the Holmfirth Express for any information about Joseph who was 41 when he vanished while serving as a private with the 2/5 Duke of Wellington's Regiment.
He had been Superintendent at Crow Edge Wesleyan School and a member of the chapel there.
He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the missing and also at Hepworth Parish Church.
The German bugle |found on the Somme battlefield by soldier Alec Battye, inset, which his son, Wilf Battye, pictured right, with grandson, Michael Battye, left, of Scholes, have kept. It is inscribed F. Sydow Putsdam FB 35 1907.
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|Publication:||Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)|
|Date:||Oct 15, 2014|
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