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Bramley’s 500 fallen war heroes are etched into history at last

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FOR almost 100 years, the name of Harry Sutcliffe was seemingly consigned to history.

This son of Bramley - along with more than 300 other young men from the historic town - gave his life for his country during the Great War.

For decades, Harry’s name, and those of his comrades in arms, were buried in long-lost documents or hidden from view thousands of miles away on graves in foreign cemeteries, their ultimate sacrifices only really remembered by those that knew and loved them, and their descendants.

It might have stayed that way, were it not for the efforts of a dedicated band of campaigners who have devoted the last two years to creating a long overdue war memorial for Bramley.

On Monday, exactly 100 years after the start of the First World War, all the town’s fallen heroes will finally be recognised - and the efforts of campaigners rewarded - with the official unveiling of the new Bramley War Memorial in Bramley Park.

The striking obelisk, designed with the help of renowned civic architect John Thorpe, stands 4.25m from ground level and weighs around 12 tonnes. It is believed to be the only new war memorial being officially opened on the 100th anniversary of the war breaking out.

Across the country, the Lights Out campaign will see millions of households turn off their lights in a collective act of remembrance on August 4.

But Bramley will also host a unique commemoration event of its own.

A ceremony and service on Monday morning will be attended by local military service veterans, and families and relatives of the almost 500 fallen servicemen from Bramley, Stanningley and Rodley whose names are inscribed on the new monument. As well as the heroes of the Great War, the area is known to have lost around 200 men in other conflicts that followed.

For many families, the ceremony will be the first time their relatives will be named and laid to rest on home soil after being buried abroad or laid to rest in “unknown soldier” graves or tombs. Some family members are travelling from abroad to be there.

The new Bramley War Memorial cost £100,000 - all raised through community effort, support from local businesses and contributions from local councillors’ community cash pots.

Bramley Labour councillor Caroline Gruen, who chaired the Friends of Bramley War Memorial group, which drove and co-ordinated the successful campaign, said: “The Bramley war memorial is a fitting tribute to the hundreds of local servicemen who have served in our armed forces over the past 100 years, who will finally be appropriately recognised and remembered by their inclusion on an official war memorial.

“It will be an emotional occasion for the relatives of the servicemen. Many families have waited a long time for this day to arrive, and some will be coming from far and wide to be present for the occasion.

“It is a unique situation in Leeds that so many people from one area played such a significant contribution to our armed forces over the years – especially in the First and Second World Wars. It is something that local people, including the many relatives who still live in the area, can be extremely proud of.

“Their names will now be etched into local history and will be clearly visible for all to see in this poignant local monument in the heart of the local community in Bramley Park.”

The timing of the Bramley memorial unveiling was not originally designed to coincide with the centenary of the outbreak of WW1. But as the campaign progressed it became more and more likely, and supporters admit there is a beautiful poignancy to it.

The idea for the memorial sprang out of discussions at Bramley’s regular community forum and it quickly gathered pace, catching the collective imagination of this proud community with a long and vibrant history of its own.

Local historians, campaigners and councillors all got behind the idea, key among them being Roger Cliff from Bramley Historical Society and Norah Gibson, chair of Bramley Elderly Action and a warden at St Peter’s Church, which had earlier created its own memorial garden for the town’s war heroes,

Initial estimates had suggested there were more than 200 Bramley fallen. But campaigners believed there were many names still unknown.

With the help of appeals in the Yorkshire Evening Post, and even a social-media campaign, volunteers dug into history and found the actual figure was more than double the original estimate.

The mammoth task of collating all the information that flooded in went to volunteer John Barker.

He continues to gather documents and evidence that will help draw up a complete picture of Bramley’s war story.

Describing his own emotional journey of discovery, he recalls a family member of one lost soldier, who died in a prisoner of war camp in Indonesia in 1945, bursting into tears when told his relative would be included on the new memorial. And on Monday, John explains, the younger brother of one lost hero - who was just four years old when his sibling died in combat, and is now 83 - will attend the unveiling, bringing with him his brother’s war medal.

Behind each name on the new memorial, of course, is a heartbreaking story of a family torn apart.

The aforementioned Lance Corporal Harry Sutcliffe lived at Quarry View Terrace, Hough End, Bramley and died on May 3, 1917. Aged just 24, he served in the 18th Bn. West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales Own). For many decades, there was no memorial of him except his grave in France.

That was until his great grand nephew Anthony Sutcliffe received a letter informing him of the plans for a Bramley memorial.

Harry’s story is mirrored in hundreds of personal and deeply moving experiences, of Bramley’s beloved boys who became the flickering flames of hope but were wiped out too soon.

The first Bramley soldier to fall in World War One was 36-year old Private George Henry Edmundson, who died on August 24, 1914 – just 20 days after war was declared. The town’s youngest hero was Frank Boyes, aged 16, who died on August 9, 1915 in Gallipoli.

Fifteen Bramley men died on the first day of the Battle of the Somme on July 1, 1916.

Amongst the other fallen were the three Watmough siblings, John, 26, Victor, 19, and Edmund, 27, who passed away in 1915, 1917 and 1918 respectively. The town’s fallen came from all walks of life. For example, there was tailor Frank Brown, 35; dyer Ernest Yoddy, 22, and grocer Frank Wentworth, 28. One Bramley street, Atlanta Street, lost three neighbours, John Robert Bullen, 32, Thomas Smith, 24, and James Brown, 18, who lived at numbers 18, 20 and 22.

The list of inscriptions for the new Bramley War Memorial goes on and on.

And the last name on the list will be Sheldon Steel, the 20-year old rifleman who died while on foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province in 2011.

Wendy Fulthorpe, Sheldon’s mother, was one of the earliest supporters of the war memorial.

She told the YEP at the launch of the campaign: “My son, Sheldon, was a fantastic lad and he passed away doing what he wanted to do and trained for – being a hero.

“And that is the reason we need a place, other than a cemetery, to visit our heroes - not just my son but all the other heroes.”

MARK CENTENARY WITH ‘LIGHTS OUT’

THE Yorkshire Evening Post is supporting the Lights Out campaign marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War on August 4.

Everyone is invited to take part in Lights Out by turning off their lights from 10pm to 11pm on Monday, leaving on a single light or candle for a shared moment of reflection.

People can take part in whatever way they choose, marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War either individually or by attending one of the many events being organised around the country for a collective experience.

Tell us why you are marking the occasion - and where - and let us know what happened to your family in the 1914-18 war.

Commemorative candles can be purchased for £4 from Marks & Spencer stores or from the company’s website, with profits going to The Royal British Legion.

Email: andrew.robinson1@ypn.co.uk and chris.bond@ypn.co.uk.

Send photos/comments via Twitter @LeedsNews using the hashtag #LightsOut

 

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