Beverley And The Great War 1914 to 1924
First published in hardback - Sentinel Press 2013
ISBN 978-0-9534262-6-3 (hardback)
Dedicated to the memory of Pte. Ernest Dawson of Nornabell Street, Holderness Road, Hull. He served with the 9th Batallion King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during the Great War and was killed at Broodseinde, Passchendaele, 4th October 1917, aged 23 years. He now lies in Tyne Cot Cemetary, Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium. Ernest is the author's great uncle.
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Foreword Dr John Markham
Years ago on a study tour of Normandy a group of us from East Yorkshire became accustomed to passing war cemeteries with their disciplined rows of simple memorials. We began to take them for granted, almost as part of the scenery.
It was only when we stopped at a cemetery where one of our members had been asked to look for a particular grave that reality hit us in the face. Up to that point we had been a jolly crowd, but now the mood changed. We returned to our coach in silence, some in tears. There was no more light hearted conversation. We has read the names and the ages of the young men buried there and we understood the tragic cost of war to individuals.
At home too we tend to take war memorials for granted, only making them the focus of attention one day a year. Barrie Barnes however has long realised their importance, as this impressive work proves. He has previously written four books, two on the Great War and two on World War Two, and began accumulating material for this new work; Known Unto God (a quote from Kipling), many years ago. With admirable persistence he has pressed on with his researches into the history of those named on - and omitted from - the Beverley War Memorial in Hengate. This is the most comprehensive volume on the subject which will ever be produced.
The first part of the book, a social history, captures the normality of Beverley before that fateful day of the 4th August 1914, and the fluctuating reactions to the war, optimistically forecast to be over by Christmas, went on and on and the dread news (even though sanitised) became impossible to ignore.
The original response had been an outpouring of patriotic fervour and eagerness to join the colours. They had chosen to do a practical job which gave a break and change from the humdrum of everyday life and in the final analysis all they has in common was their ignorance of the terrors which lay ahead. At first the people of Beverley were represented with a rosy picture of the progress of the war. Letters home from soldiers, published in the press, gave a cheerful picture of the success of the war and, even when the situation became ever more serious, they tried to hide from their family and friends the full truth about the slaughter, mud, and futility they faced daily. The people of Beverley had no idea of the carnage that was being wrought at Ypres.
One striking feature was the involvement of the church, which saw the war as a religious crusade.
As the news darkened and the lists of casualities were growing, the atmosphere became more intense, with attacks on civilian 'slackers' walking the streets of Beverley, and a feverish condemnation of innocent people as spies. Even the wife of the Vicar of St Mary's, who had foreigh ancestry, was not immune from chauvinistic hostility.
War heightens emotions. Normally prosaic people began to express their feelings in poetry, or more accurately, verse which at times touched on doggerel, all the more moving because of its naivety. The inclusion of such material and the relentless reporting of more and more casualities create an unforgettable picture of the impact of war on those who remained on the home front.
Proof of Barrie's inflagging determination to unearth the background of those who fell in the war is the amount of detail he has managed to discover. Through his meticulous research those who were mere names on a memorial now live again as normal human beings, finding themselves in appalling circumstances, who deserve to be remembered. By writing so well he does them full justice.
Barrie Barnes is a model to other local historians, he sets himself a task, casts his net wide and and carries on to the end - or at least untill his manuscript is delivered to the printers. Proof of this is his latest book 'known unto god' (Beverley and the Great War), an impressive volume of over 900 pages. At times the amount of material overwhelmed him, he stumbled into blind alleys and sruggled to correct mistakes made in the past and long accepted as facts. Modestly he says his book is not a perfect record of events and people but is the result of his aim to construct a lasting memorial to that Beverley generation. Bringing people back to life is his main objective, he has written a fascinating introduction creating the context in which it all happened. He descibes the normality of life in Beverley before that fateful day, 4th August 1914, when war, optimistically forecast to be over by Christmas, began. He vividly captures the atmosphere of patriotic fervour of those early days, men were eager to join the colours, innocently looking forward to a break from the ordinariness of everyday life.
Barrie has unearthed the way in which the list of names for the Beverley War Memorial was compiled amid some controversy. He has uncovered numerous mistakes on the memorial, twenty eight men had been missed off it and others included that were not entitled to be there. At the end of his labours what did he conclude? The finished book is not what he expected and completing it was not an uplifting experience. But to the families of those he investigated he has surely brought the consolation that the lives of long lost relatives have not been erased from history.
Dr John Markham.
Hull Daily Mail. November. 2014.
Book Launch 19th November 2014
© 2015 Barrie Barnes