Historian tells tales of Horsforth men who fought in First World War

Wharfedale Observer: Mark Saville, project manager of Horsforth’s WWI 100 Years Project, holding a portrait of the Belgian King Albert,  presented to the town by Belgian refugees Mark Saville, project manager of Horsforth’s WWI 100 Years Project, holding a portrait of the Belgian King Albert, presented to the town by Belgian refugees

Eyewitness accounts from Horsforth men who fought in the First World War will be presented in a new book.

The stories of some of the men who joined up will be retold in the book, which is part of a commemorative project to mark the centenary of the conflict.

Records from the Wharfedale Observer form the cornerstone of the research which has been carried out by Horsforth historian Mark Saville.

The project, which is being funded with a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, will allow people to learn about the names on the town’s war memorial. It will tell the stories of some of the 1,517 men and 24 women who joined up.

It is being organised by Horsforth WWI 100 Years - a specially-formed group whose members include Horsforth Museum, Horsforth School, and the Horsforth branch of the British Legion.

Group chairman Stephen Brown said: “My interest started about five years ago when on business in Europe, I decided to look for the names of Horsforth men on the war memorials. I didn’t know anything about them – no-one did anymore. Slowly I’ve pieced together their backgrounds and actions they were involved in. Since then relatives have been in touch providing more information.”

Project co-ordinator Mark Saville added: “It is a very large and complex project using a wide range of resources that will retell how Horsforth men were deployed all over the world; one was an air ‘ace’; others were in submarines and some were prisoners of war – they all had a story to tell, and now, for the first time, all these eyewitness accounts are being recorded and being placed together.”

“The Wharfedale Observer’s papers for 1910-1924 are a cornerstone for the project and it is thanks to the reporters, at that time, who went out to interview soldiers, publish letters and report on council meetings – without which this project would have been impossible.”

Along with the stories of Horsforth men, Mark has also used eyewitness accounts from Ilkley and Otley men who served with them to portray some of the battles, including Mons, Jutland, the Somme, and Dardanelles.

In addition to the book, the project will include a website with names of those who died, and a self-guided trail of buildings in Horsforth connected with the war – such as those used to house Belgian refugees.

A total of 72 refugees stayed in Horsforth from October 1914 to February 1919. One family lived at 9 Town Street – now Cafe Marinetti. As a mark of their gratitude, the refugees presented Horsforth with a portrait of the Belgian King Albert, which now hangs in the town’s museum.

The project will also include a week-long exhibition in November with workshops for school children, and the re-dedication of the Stanhope Drive memorial road, which has 201 trees – one for each of the fallen.

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