West Leeds war memorial unveiled in poignant ceremony

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It was a moment the people of Bramley had waited many years for - a chance to finally honour the town’s 500 heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in times of war.

Bramley’s long-awaited war memorial was unveiled in a moving ceremony, poignantly coinciding with the centenary of the start of the Great War.

PIC: Simon Hulme

PIC: Simon Hulme

The people of Bramley turned out in their hundreds to pay tribute to their hometown heroes who have lost their lives over the past 100 years.

Dignitaries, schools, churches and community groups gathered at Bramley Park with local military service veterans and the families of some of those whose names are now etched in history.

For many of those families, the memorial was the first time their loved ones have been named and laid to rest on home soil after being buried abroad or in “unknown soldier” graves.

One such relative was Pat Harper, 82, of Pudsey, who laid a wreath and paid tribute to his brother Ernest Harper at the ceremony.

Ernest had lived on Outgang Lane in Bramley and was working at the textile manufacturer Yates Mill Lodge, on Broad Lane, with his two sisters, when he went to war.

He served as a trooper with the Green Howards in the Royal Armoured Corps but died aged 21 on August 27, 1944, in Arezzo, Italy, where he is buried.

Pat, the only surviving sibling of Ernest, said: “This is bringing him home, really. That’s what I wanted - to bring him home.

“All we have had is photos of him. Now we can come here. I’m 82 and when I’m not here, my family can come here.”

Also among those at the ceremony was the family of the memorial’s most recent name - 20-year-old Rifleman Sheldon Steel, who died while on foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province in 2011.

His mother, Wendy Fulthorpe, who was one of the earliest supporters of the war memorial, laid a wreath in his memory.

She said: “It’s very emotional. This means a lot to a lot of people. It’s very important. I’m really proud of it - very proud of everyone who’s made it happen. There are a lot of people who need remembering. I will be happier coming here than going to the cemetery.”

Bramley Labour councillor, Caroline Gruen, chaired the Bramley War Memorial group, a dedicated band of campaigners who have devoted the last two years to driving and co-ordinating the war memorial campaign, which raised the £100,000 for it to come to fruition. She spoke movingly at the ceremony to thank all those who gave “so generously of their hearts as well as from their purses”.

She said: “We have been met with overwhelming support, incredible generosity, a sense of community spirit and a real commitment from the people of Bramley.

“This is something which I believe has touched the hearts of local people and which will continue to be a central part of our community life.”

Bramley joined communities across the country yesterday who came together to mark 100 years since the start of the First World War. A ceremony was also held at the Barnbow Lasses Memorial, in Manston Park, Crossgates. The memorial, which was unveiled two years ago, honours those who lost their lives working in the munitions factory.

At the ceremony, the singing group from Crossgates and District Good Neighbours Scheme and Manston St James brownies and guides performed songs from the era.

Councillor Pauleen Grahame, (Lab, Whinmoor and Crossgates), said: “The history of what happened at Barnbow still runs deep in the community. It is wonderful that local children are to learn about the factory and its importance.”

The number one shell filling factory was built at Manston and started production in 1915. It had 17,000 workers, mostly women - the ‘Barnbow Lasses’ - working in hazardous conditions to provide shells and munition. On December 5 1916, 35 women were killed in an explosion at the factory. In March 1917, a second explosion killed two more. In May 1918, a third explosion killed three men.

On Sunday, a parade was held in Barwick and Scholes for a war memorial re-dedication service.

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