This Righteous War

Barrie Barnes

This Righteous War

The men of Hull during the Great War

 

First edition in hardback - Richard Netherwood Limited 1990

Second edition in paperback - Sentinel Press 2008

ISBN 1 872955 002

Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather who served as Pte. Robert Harris Weasenham, 11/682 2nd Hull Service Battalion (Tradesman's), later to be the 11th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment. He joined at the Hull City Hall in September 1914, trained in England and went to Egypt in December 1915. In March 1916 the Hull units were sent to France to prepare for the Somme offensive. He was badly wounded in the attach on Oppy Wood, 3rd May 1917 and invalided out of the army. Robert Harris Weasenham died in Hull Royal Infirmary , Anlaby Road, Hull in 1968. Still missed after all this time.

Preface by John Prescott MP

 

It is an honour for me to write this preface to this instructive and illuminating book. Barries' love and admiration for his grandfather, Private Weasenham, shines through on every page. Above all this study is an honourable epitaph for all the heroes, especially those of the Hull Pals Battalions, who fought in vain for a "land fit for heroes" in the "war to end all wars".

 

It is difficult for me to make an adequate contirbution, as I am from a generation that has enjoyed nearly 50-years of peace in Europe. It is hard to appreciate the sacrifice and suffereing, the pain and degradation and death of so many, that is graphically and horrifically illustrated in this work.

 

In future when I stand on November 11 facing the War Memorial at Paragon Square in Hull, I will better understand, and even feel all the more, our homage to the dead. Thanks to Barrie, the reality of battle and struggle at Oppy Wood and elsewhere will seem almost familiar. And I will think of Private Weasenham, alongside my own father, who lost a leg at Dunkirk in the Second World War. The misery of so many for so long was not rewarded with a better life. For 4-years, the sleepless nights, torn with fear and pain, wracked with illness and hunger, were endured in depression, but also in good faith and Hull humour. Senior officers well behind enemy lines, seldom felt the conditions of horror or the bitter consequences of their own orders, ignored the growing list of casualties and enforced a barbaric discipline which saw the shooting of shell-shocked soldiers. Troops trained to fight a raw hand to hand combat that took only 0.03% of the casualties in the First World War, were left to perish by their millions from anonymous bombs in the cold, damp, deadly, gas-choked tranches, which saw the first and often most brutal mass slaughter from the new military technology. French divisions revolted, and the Russians left the field to conduct their own revolution; British soldiers fought on.

 

Yet there are many examples of unparallelled humanitarian generosity of spirit that can teach us all so much. In the lulls between artillery fire and bomb blasts, soldiers from the Hull Pals hurled tinned "Bully Beef" meat across the few yards between trenches in return for sausages from the German infantry. And to his dying day, Private Weasenham would not accept criticism of his German counterparts. This moment of common solidarity between soldiers from warring nations, sharing the same degradation and horror of this war, is the shining hope of this book: that we can find a more civilised way of settling national differences.

 

Barries' book is an honour to his grandfather and to the Hull Pals, and a service to the memory of Hull and its people. It is not a glorification of war, but just a testimony to the soldiers who were often exploited but never unreliable. All were heroes, and we shall always remember them.

 

A fine and moving history of the Hull Pals in the Great War. The authors grandfather, who brought him up in Hull, served in the 2nd Bn Hull Pals (tradesman's Bn) and the story he told him led him on a three year journey to track down the few survivors of the Great War still living in and around Hull. He also collected, copied and collated numerous written accounts and photographs of the Pals that had been carefully preserved in archives and in family homes. The result is an amazing and absorbing human story which far transends the normal bounds of local history as Barrie followed the Pals from their home town with the initial enthusiasm of the early volunteers of 1914, through their training and to their blooding on the killing fields of the Somme.

The Pals saw service in Egypt in 1915, on the Somme in 1916, at Oppy Wood during the Battle for Arras in 1917 and in the Great German Spring Offensive of 1918. Here he tells their story with appendices on VCs and war graves. This is a moving and poignant account of early idealism, patriotism and sacrifice on grand scale that has been writen as a labour of love.

Kay Books on-line.

 

 

In recent years there has been an upsurge of interest in the Great War and many excellent books devoted to the Pals Battalions that were raised in the first months of the war have appeared. This is a fine example of the Genre, being a history of the Hull Pals Battalions, writen by a Hull school teacher who was born and bred in that Yorkshire city. His grandfather served in the 2nd Hull Pals as a young man and told him tales of that conflict which first fired his consuming interest in the subject. This is a fine and detailed history that will stand as a memorial to a generation that gave so much.

 

Naval and Military Press.

 

Author's notes

 

"In the mid eighties I had begun to look into my grandfather's military career during the Great War, my grandmother was alive at that time and she knew he had been in the 11th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, I had no idea what this meant and wrote away to the Army Records Office at Droitwich asking for his service record. They found it because of his unusual surname of Weasenham and sent me a very sparse outline of his service which I did not understand at first. It turned out he had been in a Pals Tradesmans Battalion and as I began to look into the details it became clear what an important find I had made, he had told me he had been badly wounded at a place called Oppy Wood on 3rd May 1917 when the Hull 92nd Brigade attacked there and this fitted in with the information I had found. I began to advertise in local papers asking for information on the Hull Pals and was contacted by numerous people who had photographs, diaries, medals, postcards and letters from that time. It took me three years to copy and organise this information, many people gave me the items they had and I collated it all into a large archive which I eventually gave to the Hull Local History Library where it will remain. I began to wonder if I could take this further in an acedemic sense and contacted the history department at Hull University, I was invited to bring my research in to discuss matters, they were suitably impressed and I was enrolled onto a Philosophy Degree in War Studies in 1987. The research side of things took over my life for three years as I plunged into this dark side of life, much of it was very disturbing, my grandfather would appear to me in dreams at least four times a week, as he stepped into the room of my house in Hull a bright blue light shone from behind him and lit up the room, I would turn to my desk which was full of documents and pictures and say to him "look at this" and would wake imediately to feel once again the warmth and security of his presence I knew so well as a child. I looked forward to these dreams as it was a comforting experience. My work finished in 1990 and part of my manuscript was published under the title of 'This Righteous War'. In the early 1990s I worked for a battle-field tour firm and would give talks on the areas we visited. At Oppy Wood there is a great granite memorial to the men of Hull who fought there and on my last tour I stood on the steps of the memorial and spoke to the people who had come with me, I had prepared detailed notes carefully and as I looked at the upturned faces I began my story, my notes fell to my side and all of my thoughts and emotions poured out of me as I told them of my emotional journey. I spoke for some time and at the end there was a stunned silence, people filed back onto the bus as I stayed a while at the memorial and as I entered the bus I was greeted with applause and thanks, this was much appreciated by myself. From that moment on my grandfather never appeared to me again, much to my regret.

 

© 2015 Barrie Barnes