Hunslet Players in WW1 and The Lochnagar Crater in the Somme
By PAT BENATMANE
Some background first. During the First World War, miners on both sides were sent to the front to dig tunnels under enemy lines. These were packed with explosives in the end chamber then, at the launch of an offensive, the charges were fired, blowing up the enemy. After the war, craters were left. Most were filled in as farmers reclaimed the land. Richard Dunning, from Surrey, realised there would be no tangible remains of this devastating war tactic if all were ploughed away, so bought the largest of these craters in 1978 as a memorial to the many young men from both sides who died. ‘Let us now, in their honour, wage peace.’
Around the crater is a walkway. On the edge of the wooden planks, engraved plaques can be purchased detailing particular WW1 people, mainly from the forces, usually ones who lost their lives on the Somme. These plaques can be sponsored by schools, clubs, etc. They cost £25 each.
Between the supporters and ex-players of Hunslet, we will have nine plaques at Lochnagar: eight players and one committee member. Some of these died: some were badly injured: others survived. Each plaque will mention Hunslet RLFC and they will be placed next to each other along the walkway. Most WW1 Battlefield Tours will take you to the Lochnagar Crater.
Thank you to all who contributed. You are keeping alive the memory of the generations of Hunslet RLFC family.
The plaques are to commemorate:
Pte Mark Kay
Halfback. 10th Battalion of Cameron Highlanders. Lived at 1 Lady Pit Grove. Awarded Croix de Guerre for Conspicuous Bravery Under Fire. Killed in Action 31 July 1917, age 26. No grave. Heritage Number 408.
Pte Ernest Vincent Brearley
Fullback. 8th Batt of Manitoba regiment, Canadian Infantry. Lived at 61 Kirkstall Ave. Killed in Action 26 Sept 1916, age 24. Buried in France. Heritage Number 393.
Pte Thomas Henry Tillotson
Forward. 2nd Batt, Coldstream Guards. Lived at 31, Algeria St, Beeston Hill. Killed in Action 16 Sept 1916, age 26. No grave. Heritage Number 366.
Pte William Dobson
Forward. 12th Batt Prince of Wales West Yorkshires. Lived at 26, Albert Yard, Church St, Hunslet. Killed in Action 3 April 1916, age 27. No grave. Heritage Number 374.
Pte George Wishart
Forward. 56th Batt Royal Field Artillery. 2nd Northern Union player to die in WW1. Killed in Action 7 Oct 1914, age 22. Buried in France. Heritage Number 425.
Pte Armitage Brooke
Winger. Coldstream Guards. Medical Discharge 25 Aug 1916 age 25 – Mediastinal Tumour (between chest and lungs, probably caused by being gassed with chlorine gas). Heritage Number 421.
Sgt William Joseph Eagers
Left wing and goalkicker. Age 36, joined Legion of Frontiersmen, 25th Batt Royal Fusiliers. Lived at Punch Bowl Hotel, Holbeck. Fought in East Africa. Badly injured. Medical Discharge 30 April 1918. Testimonial Match at Hunslet 20 April 1921. Heritage Number 339.
General Signaller 2nd Class Norman Reeves
Age 19, joined Royal Garrison Artillery but at first was in Army Reserve as he was a miner at Purston Jaglin, Featherstone. Survived and returned to work at Sharlston Colliery. Heritage Number 493.
Lance Corporal Edgar Meeks
Committee Member and Chairman for many years from after the war to 1961. Royal Army Medical Corps. Lived in Waincliffe Mount. Became Headmaster of Bewerley Street School. Honorary Life Member of Hunslet RLFC.
So we shall again