Book of re­mem­brance

Lancashire Life - - REMEMBRANC­E -

Driv­ing through the choco­late-box vil­lages of the Hod­der Val­ley, the ceno­taphs add a touch of melan­choly.

As the sun goes down over places like Slaid­burn, the day vis­i­tors dis­ap­pear, and the ceno­taph’s shadow length­ens.

Mar­garet Brench­ley at the Slaid­burn Ar­chive has spent the four years find­ing the sto­ries be­hind ev­ery man from Whitewell to Tos­side who served, record­ing names and try­ing to con­tact next of kin to as­sem­ble their back sto­ries.

‘As a child, I knew some of the men who went to war from the Hod­der Val­ley,’ she says. ‘But no one ever talked about it back then. It must have been too hor­rific to men­tion.’

From the 135 Hod­der Val­ley men who went to war, 34 were killed in ac­tion. It is safe to say, the ones who came home were all in some way in­jured, phys­i­cally or men­tally.

On the up­per floor of the crooked Slaid­burn cot­tage housing the ar­chive, Mar­garet guards the fold­ers that hold an­swers col­lected af­ter many phone calls with the fam­i­lies she found, post­cards and let­ters from the front, age-stained and ink-faded, but still just leg­i­ble.

Dur­ing her re­search she came across a name miss­ing from the Dale

Head sec­tion on the Slaid­burn ceno­taph – Harry Peel. His name orig­i­nally ap­peared on the memorial plaque of St James’s Church in Dale Head, which was de­mol­ished when Stocks Reser­voir was built. Why his name was never trans­ferred to the Slaid­burn ceno­taph with the other men is a mys­tery. The mis­take will be rec­ti­fied in form of a plaque added to the ceno­taph this au­tumn.

Mar­garet’s work about the Hod­der Val­ley sol­diers will be pub­lished this Novem­ber via the Slaid­burn Ar­chive’s web­site. A chap­ter will be ded­i­cated to the women and their war ef­forts as well. Small de­tails like these bring the past alive. the 30th July, 1891 at St. Mary and All Saints Parish Church, Whal­ley. His ad­dress is given as Nether­town, Whal­ley.’

He hopes to find as much in­for­ma­tion about each soldier and to share it with his com­mu­nity. Aid­ing Cliff is one of the re­gion’s few col­lec­tions of con­tem­po­rary news­pa­per clip­pings, pub­lished by the late hobby his­to­rian Ge­orge Hard­man.

‘As a child, I knew some of the men who went to war. But no one ever talked about it back then. It must have been too

hor­rific to men­tion’

Calder­stones, once an asy­lum for the men­tally ill on the out­skirts of Whal­ley, was turned into a hos­pi­tal for the wounded sol­diers and this had a con­sid­er­able in­flu­ence on vil­lage life. ‘When a train car­ry­ing the wounded ar­rived, the hos­pi­tal’s siren would blow to scram­ble off­duty nurs­ing staff,’ says Cliff.

Dave Bam­ber, of Whal­ley Scouts, is help­ing Cliff or­gan­ise the pa­rade for Re­mem­brance Sun­day. ‘The sac­ri­fices made are hard to com­pre­hend,’ he says. ‘It’s incredibly im­por­tant Whal­ley makes a spe­cial ef­fort, and that children get in­volved. They might not un­der­stand the whole his­tory, but they will re­mem­ber Whal­ley’s con­tri­bu­tion.’

With help from an NHS grant, ban­ners have been erected stat­ing “Whal­ley Re­mem­bers”. They are em­broi­dered with pop­pies, the vis­ual im­pact mak­ing passers-by reflect for a mo­ment.

One un­usual el­e­ment of the day came about when the event com­mit­tee de­cided to find as many old walk­ing boots as they could and leave them through­out town for the Re­mem­brance Sun­day pa­rade to sym­bol­ise the men who joined up but never re­turned. On Novem­ber 11, the boots will be placed along the pa­rade route, a ges­ture which means the fallen sol­diers will ac­com­pany young and old.

On an evening in au­tumn, Whal­ley’s parish church is bur­nished by the set­ting sun. The pair of empty boots in front is evoca­tive in an at­mos­phere of seren­ity.

The Whal­ley war memorial has 13 names but the graves of war dead in the vil­lage church­yard take some find­ing. They are mainly un­der the tall fir trees at the far end of the wall - a good place to start when try­ing to find out about lo­cal lads.

Some of the in­scrip­tions are weath­ered and faded but the peo­ple of Whal­ley are mak­ing sure their names will never be com­pletely erased.

Mar­garet Brench­ley at Slaid­burn Ar­chive

ABOVE: Cliff Ball and Dave Bam­ber help­ing to en­sure the vil­lage re­mem­bers

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