Leeds nostalgia: Can you help with First World War stories?

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The Friends of Beckett Street Cemetery have for some time been conducting investigations into some of the people buried there who have connections to the First World War.

Now, as the project gathers pace, they are appealing to Times Past readers to come forward with any information they may have.

Alun Pugh, chairman of the Friends of Beckett Street Cemetery, said they were still in the process of compiling information for their book but had collected lots of stories already.

He said: “Our First World War project has gone well. Research has thrown up some very interesting stories.

“But what we really need are some more personal stories and photographs regarding the soldiers buried or remembered in the cemetery.

“The following story came to us recently and we will be including it in the publication. Maybe it will prompt other Yorkshire Evening Post readers, who have First World War relatives buried in Beckett Street, to get in touch with us. I do hope so.”

The story related belongs to one James Lancaster.

He was born in 1891 and lived at 16 Bellbrooke Road, Harehills, Leeds.

The son of William and Elizabeth, he worked for the Midland Railway as a drayman in the Goods Department. He enlisted in 1914 in the Royal Garrison Artillery, as Corporal J. Lancaster, registration number 48869.

While in France he suffered gunshot wounds to his arms and legs and after some time in a French hospital was transferred to the General Hospital, Saffron Walden, Essex.

He died on the 30th May 1918 and was brought back to Leeds and buried in Beckett Street Cemetery.

James’s very distinctive headstone is towards the front of the cemetery, which stands opposite St James’s Hospital. His name appeared on the war memorial at Burmantofts Congregational Church, Shakespeare Street [now demolished].

Alan said: “This information came from Gordon Lancaster of Oakwood, a relative of Cpl Lancaster.

“I really do hope this prompts others to come forward with similar information for publication.”

Another soldier, George Marriott, was called into the army after his marriage to Annie. He joined into the 1st Tank Corps maybe because of his height, 4ft 11ins.

Sometime in 1918 his tank was hit by a shell and he suffered shrapnel wounds to his knee. They patched him up in a field hospital and sent him home with a knee that he could not bend.(Allan’s uncle could remember him shuffling about the dairy business on his bottom).

Their youngest son William was born in October of 1919 (Allan’s father) then in the February of 1920 they took him into hospital to remove the shrapnel and he died of septicaemia - had they left him alone he would probably have lived.

Annie ran the business in Camp Road with her two young sons for many years after his unfortunate death.

According to family sources, she never spoke of George or remarried.

Alan Pugh can be contacted on 0113 225 3866, or a.apugh@ntlworld.com. Alternatively, contact neil.hudson@ypn.co.uk, remembering to include a contact telephone number if possible.