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3181: 3 Thackley brothers - the Whitfields part 1

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posted on 2024-01-16, 17:20 authored by Lest We Forget Project Team

Bateson was the eldest child of Edward and Mary Whitfield, born in Thackley, near Bradford, Yorkshire on 11th April 1884. After he left school he worked for his father as a mason until 8th August 1900 when he enlisted as Private 5385 in ‘B’ Company, 3rd (Militia) Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment. Bateson was only 16 years 4 months old at the time, which was a few months after the South African War (Second Boer War) broke out, commencing with a string of defeats for the British (‘Black Week’).

On 12th October, Edward wrote a letter to regimental H.Q. at York stating that his son wished to return home and requested he be allowed to buy him out of the Army. The reason he gave was that Bateson was his eldest son and the only one of his many children who was of any use to his business. The letter was returned from the depot in York endorsed with the comment that no discharges were at present permitted. As Bateson was absent from the 1901 census he was probably still in the Army. There is no entry for a ‘B. Whitfield’ in the Medal Rolls relating to the West Yorkshire Regiment for the South African War (consulted through, however he was listed as Lance Corporal 3rd West Yorkshire in medal roll WO 100/368 eligible for the Mediterranean Medal. This suggests he served in a Mediterranean garrison in order to release Regular troops for South Africa.

After he was bought out of the Army Bateson returned to work for his father, and in 1912 at the age of 28 he married Lizzie Blanshard, the 30 year old daughter of James, a coachman, also from Idle. Later he worked for Alderman Dickson of Idle. At the outbreak as a reservist Bateson was called up on 27th August (Bradford Roll of Honour) into the 2nd Battalion of his former regiment the West Yorkshires. This was part of 23rd Brigade, 8th Division which returned from Malta in September. It landed at Le Havre on 5th November 1914 but Bateson went to France on 19th March 1915 as Private 10905 (Medal Index Card). In the first week of June 1916 2/West Yorkshire was holding the front near the town of ALBERT (Somme, France). Bateson’s death was recorded as having occurred on 6th June and he was buried in AVELUY COMMUNAL EXTENSION CEMETERY. The battalion’s War Diary records no casualties for that day, so it is likely that Bateson was wounded in the events of the previous day: "Quarry Post shelled early in the morning & the artillery was very active most of the day. At 11 p.m. our artillery co-operated with the artillery of the 34th & 32nd Divisions who both made raids. Our trenches were fairly badly shelled in retaliation & there were 11 Casualties."
There are two 2/West Yorkshire burials of 6th June in this cemetery which was located by a dressing station. Presumably during the night of 5th-6th they died of wounds or were dead when they reached the aid post.

Bateson’s death was reported in the Shipley Times & Express Friday June 23rd 1916: "Sgt Bateson Whitfield is reported to have been killed by shrapnel and the news, which reached Thackley on Sunday, was conveyed in a letter from a comrade of the deceased. He was 32 years of age and married. His wife resides at 7 Moorside Place, Springfield, Idle. Sgt Whitfield was the sone of Mr and Mrs Edward Whitfield of 24 North Street, Thackley. He first joined the army at the age of 18 but was “bought out” by his parents. He ultimately joined the Army Reserve in Bradford and on the outbreak of the war he was called to the colours, his regiment being the 2nd West Yorkshire. Before being called up, Sgt Whitfield was employed as a builder by Alderman Albert Dickinson of Idle. His last letter to his parents was dated May 21st. A younger brother, Pte Hubert Whitfield, is in France with the Royal Engineers. He is 27 years of age and went out in May last year."

A memorial service for a number of local men, including Bateson, was held at Idle Primitive Methodist Chapel on July 9th 1916. The Committee of Thackley Cricket Club wrote a letter of condolence to Edward Whitfield and his wife. After the war Bateson’s widow chose the inscription for his gravestone. His brother Bill (William Edward Whitfield) made his only post-war overseas trip to visit his brother’s grave in 1969, obtaining a passport specifically for the occasion. Bateson is commemorated in Britain at Holy Trinity Church Memorial Lych Gate and the on the village War Memorial in Idle churchyard.


Name of contributor(s)

Liz Hall

Subject of the story/individual the object(s) relate to

Bateson Whitfield

Date(s) the event(s) in the story took place


Location(s) where the event(s) in the story took place

France, Aveluy


Letter and photos

Community Collection Day

City Hall, Bradford (02/02/19)

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