Clayton and the Somme (II)

Below are details of men connected with Clayton who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.


Private Albert Briggs

16/1040, "B" Coy. 16th Bn., West Yorkshire Regiment

 (Prince of Wales's Own) who died on 01 July 1916

On the Somme Age 22

The ' 16/ ' prefix to Albert's army number and the date of his death give a clue as to how he died — Albert was another of the 1st Bradford Pals who went over the top on that fateful July day. He had quit his job as a warehouseman and enlisted at the same time as all the others of his battalion in September 1914, leaving his family and friends back in Bradford.

His parents Timothy and Frances Briggs lived at 16, Gaythorne Terrace, Clayton while Albert himself lived on Lavinia Terrace. He was closely associated with Clayton Parish Church and was a regular member of the Parish Church Mutual Improvement Society, as well as being a SundaySchool Teacher.


Private John Martin

 4654, 1st/6th Bn., West Yorkshire Regiment 

(Prince of Wales's Own) who died on 14 July 1916 on the Somme age 25

Johnny and his brother George moved to Clayton after they had left school in their home county of Kent. They came to try to find employment, which at the time was in abundance in the mills of Bradford and eventually both secured permanent jobs. Johnny was employed by Messrs. J. Benn and Co. and the pair managed to rent a house on Crestville Terrace.

In the middle of 1915 Johnny decided to quit his job and enlisted into the lst/6th West Yorkshire Regiment in Halifax. He was posted to France in early 1916 as a re-enforcement and was another soldier to go over the top on July 1st 1916. Unlike so many other soldiers he survived the ordeal and managed to return to his trench by nightfall.

For the next couple of days, most activity at the front ground to a halt while dead and wounded were brought in from no-man's land, and Johnny would have been removed from the front line. The rotation of soldiers at the front effectively meant that men went from a three-day period in the front line to a base camp to get cleaned and washed then effectively had a few days of reduced duties with social activities such as sports tournaments or film showings. After this, the soldiers would return to do a stint in the reserve trenches which, although safer from the front line, were still prone to artillery bombardments or later on in the war, air raids.

The Somme Offensive 're-started' on the 4lh July and for the next three weeks sporadic and fierce fighting occurred for every available square foot of ground in front of the British lines. It was two weeks into this that Johnny was killed in action and like so many of the other soldiers who fell in the Somme Offensive, his body was never recovered.

According to some sources the cost of Allied soldier's lives at the end of the campaign in October 1916 was 120 men for every square foot taken - a horrendous figure if precise.


Lance Corporal Benjamin Abbott

 202180, 1st/4th Bn., York and Lancaster 

Regiment who died on 14 September 1916 on the Somme age 19

Born in Clayton, grew up in Pudsey. Enlisted in Attercliffe, Sheffield into the 1st/4th (Hallamshire) Battalion, York & Lancaster Regiment and was working in Rotherham. Died in the Somme Offensive and remembered on Thiepval Memorial.


Private William Edward Lister

18/1300, 18th Bn., West Yorkshire Regiment 

(Prince of Wales's Own) who died on 01 July 1916

on the Somme Age 22

William's fate can be clearly seen by his serial number and date of death: again, he was another of the luckless Pals who suffered so greatly for their King and country. He belonged to the 2nd Bradford Pals, and he and his fellow Pals had the misfortune to know the fate about to befall them as the 18th West Yorkshire's were set to advance about thirty minutes after the 16th battalion at 8.20am. By the time they reached the front trench before no-man's land, the full and immense scale of the tragedy would have been on view to them all. As well as having to contend with what they knew to be virtual suicide, the German forces had begun to retaliate with what one observer described to be " intense bombardment on our front line and support trenches” Canister bombs, high explosives and shrapnel catching all men as they reached the support line. This curtain of fire was extended to our support trenches." (extract taken from Hudson's Bradford Pals)

These were to be conditions that the 2nd Pals had to make their way through, as well as trying to pass over the wounded and shattered forms that once comprised the 1st Bradford Pals and the 1st Leeds Pals. Needless to say, not one man on that morning from either of the Bradford Pals battalion was branded with the label of being a coward, as every single soldier did his duty and his best to reach the German trenches.

William was the son of Albert and Nelly Lister, and at the time of his enlistment had lived at 69, Stanacre Road (near Wapping Road, BD3).


Private Herbert Vincent Rawnsley

 16/1133, 16th Bn., West Yorkshire Regiment 

(Prince of Wales's Own) who died on 01 July 1916 on the Somme age 23