FIFTEEN years ago local war historian Charlie Turpin began researching the 509 World War I casualties on the Spenborough War Memorial.
After five years he had almost completed the task, building up a profile of each man, and the one woman, which included details such as their regiment, where they were killed and buried, or commemorated, their age, home address, family details and former occupation.
He also managed to obtain photographs of about half of the casualties and a picture of their grave, usually in France or Belgium.
However two names eluded him – E Gould and CA Speight.
Over the years searches were made locally and at the Public Record Office in Kew. By this time a local former Royal Marine, Ady Lowe, was helping Charlie in his search.
“There were many Goulds and Speights killed in the war, but none could be found that met the criteria,” said Charlie.
“Then two years ago some soldiers’ papers were released via the website Ancestry.com. Only about 20 per cent of records from World War I survived the London Blitz when a German bomb fell on the record repository.”
Ady searched the records and found an Ernest Gould who had been discharged from the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on October 12, 1916, due to sickness. It transpired that he had been gassed in the Battle of the Somme and had developed tuberculosis. He was too ill to attend a Medical Board to assess him for pension on May 14 and he died in the hospital three days later.
Ady and Charlie continued their research and found he was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in East Ardsley churchyard and the vicar is now trying to find the exact spot.
“The Ministry of Defence and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission have agreed that he is entitled to a military headstone as he was a casualty of the war and such a stone will be erected in due course,” said Charlie.
“So how does he come to be commemorated on the Spenborough War Memorial and why was there no mention of his death locally?
“He enlisted voluntarily in Dewsbury two weeks after the outbreak of war in 1914 – he was 5ft 6in tall and weighed eight stone. He was in lodgings at 7 Tanner Street, Hightown, and gave his occupation as a coal miner.
“After training he served in France for 16 months without leave until he was gassed.
“He did have a brother and sister living in London, but we will never know why he came to Spenborough to work in the coal mines.
“There is a record of an Ernest Gould as an inmate in the Hanwell Industrial Training School in London, a place which usually housed orphans, but it cannot be proved this is the same Ernest.
“We can only assume that his landlady put his name forward for inclusion on the Spen War Memorial as there is no local record relating to his death or relatives.”
Charlie and Ady are continuing their research on CA Speight.
If anyone has any information or photographs of either men, please contact Charlie on 01274 871534.