As men and women returned to civilian life there was little sense of ‘normality’ and sadly there was no new brave world awaiting them. As the British government struggled to recover the costs of a global war the expectations of a war-weary people could not be easily met. Employment prospects narrowed.
Demobilised men were welcomed home all over the world. These women are in Sydney. Image: H11576 Australian War Memorial
Victor Taylor of Fairweather Green took his own life in 1931 by drinking Lysol in Victoria Park, Keighley. He joined the 1st Pals in 1914 (No. 16/460), survived the war, was married and had four children. He had been gassed in the war and became depressed despite an apparently happy family life and practising as a highly respected football referee. Information supplied by Victor Taylor’s grandson, Alan Dell of Toronto, Canada.
Captain EV Tempest MC DSO married Marcelle Julienne Thuillier in Vignacourt, France in 1918. He returned to his career in the Bradford wool business and was active in the British Communist Party. He had three children and died in 1961.
Prospects were particularly harsh for men who had sustained life-changing physical injuries. An estimated 300 disabled servicemen were looking for work in Bradford in 1919. The King’s Roll Committee, chaired by the Lord Mayor, asked employers to contribute at least one opportunity for a disabled man.
The degree of disablement and a man’s rank determined the level of pension payable and men were re-assessed every six months by a Medical Board of the Ministry of Pensions. The maximum award to a Warrant Officer was 42/6d and to a man in the ranks 27/6d per week. To qualify for this a man would have lost two or more limbs, or have a severe facial disfigurement, or incurable disease, or be classed as a ‘lunatic’. Amputation below the knee or loss of one eye qualified for a 50% pension. A man who had lost 2 fingers received 5/6d per week.
Widows and orphans faced a bleak future. The Bradford WW1 Group has identified 4447 local men who were killed with nearly 25% of these leaving behind 1101 widows. Widows’ pensions were never above subsistence level and, like the disabled, these sums were further eaten away by the inflation of the 1920s.
Mrs Sarah Whitehead, Eccleshill mill owner’s wife and former Lady Mayoress of Bradford lost two of her four sons in the war. She died in December 1918, reportedly of grief.
There were psychological scars too. Estimates put shell shock victims at more than 80,000 nationally, a number which grew after the Armistice as the effect of combat trauma continued. Re-establishing relationships with families, loved ones and work mates who had not gone to war could be difficult. Memories were often tucked away in an attempt to hide the mental scars of trench warfare, the spilling of blood and guts and inexpressible grief at the loss of comrades. How often was it said, “He never spoke about the war, y’ know.”
It is difficult to imagine the impact of the losses on families, work places, sports clubs and community groups. Many have written about the war and its impact but two men who served in local battalions, Captain Tempest (6th West Yorks) and Pte Walter Hare (1st Pals) offer particularly thought provoking, challenging and inspiring thoughts.
In concluding his history of his old battalion, Captain Tempest speaks of men “called upon to pass through a succession of sordid, nerve-racking and perilous experiences with human endurance tried to its limit, yet the spirit of the men proved invincible”. In his 90s, Walter Hare turned to poetry.
And did we waste our time in days gone by,
As there we stood
Knee deep in mud.
And was it just a waste of human life
To try to find a way
Of turning evil into good.
Oh no, we still must try to find the goal
Which is the hope of every soul
That wars must cease.
Then we shall know that love, not hate
Can rule the day
And we can say
Goodbye to this fair earth, our time has passed,
And we can rest in perfect peace at last.
Pte Walter Hare, 1991
Brothers Stuart and Norman Byatt pictured in 1916. Stuart joined the Bradford Territorials in 1910. In July 1915 he suffered shrapnel wounds to his right leg and compound fractures of tibia and fibula in his left leg. His leg was amputated to save infection spreading. Norman served with the Royal Field Artillery and also survived the war. Stuart Byatt married in 1918 and continued to work as a manager in the wool trade. He championed ex-soldiers, especially through the Limbless Ex-Servicemen’s Association.
Sketch of Walter Ashworth by artist Henry Tonks showing him before and after plastic surgery. Pte Walter Ashworth served in the 2nd Bradford Pals. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme he received a gunshot wound which destroyed much of the soft and bony tissues of his face. He was one of the first patients of the famous pioneering plastic surgeon Harold Gillies at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup. After a two-year convalescence in Australia he took up his old job as a Darley Street tailor. Information supplied by Ashworth’s grand-daughter, Delyse Smith.
Survivors of the Pals battalions at Bradford Cenotaph on 1 July 1977.
Among them is Cpl George Morgan (right) who said, “I’ve lived 60 years afterwards and never, never got over it”.