Otley First World War letter writer had long links to Wharfedale area

Wharfedale Observer: Cyril Longstaff's letters to his mother Cyril Longstaff's letters to his mother

The chairman of the Wharfedale Family History Group has turned super sleuth to find out more information about an Otley man and his letters home from France in the First World War, which featured in last week’s Gazette and Observer.

Lynda Balmforth read with interest the story about Cyril Longstaff who wrote the letters to his mother, Mrs Longstaff, who lived at 7 Hamilton Terrace in Otley. The letters have been handed to the Gazette and Observer by a local resident who has had them in her possession for a number of years and wishes to reunite them with his family.

Lynda said: “As I have a copy of a letter my grandfather sent home to Halifax from the front to his sweetheart who became my grandmother (which is very special to me), I decided to don my Miss Marple hat and try to find out more about Cyril in the hope that more information may bring someone forward to claim these special letters.”

She discovered the Longstaff family at the address mentioned in the letter in 1911, including father Benjamin, aged 57, born in Otley, mother Elizabeth, aged 48, born in Norwich, Norfolk, and children Charlie aged 24, Edith aged 19, Cyril aged 15 and Florence aged 11, all born in Otley.

Cyril’s letter home in 1918 mentions writing to a girl called Florrie, who in all probability was his sister.

Lynda explained: “I did find some details of Cyril’s war record but here his full name is used, Henry Cyril Longstaff.

“His regimental number was 18902 and he became a L/Cpl with the 9th W.Riding Regiment. He went to France in 1916 and was wounded. ‘GSW, Buttocks and Face’ (gunshot wound).”

He survived and received his war medal and victory medal in 1921.

Henry Cyril married in Wharfedale in 1921 to Mary A Day. (Registered as ‘Wharfe District Registered Building’.)

Lynda said they had two children; Eileen M Longstaff 1922 in Wharfedale and Francis C Longstaff registered in 1926.

“Francis C Longstaff married Mena N Collins in Wharfedale in 1946 and had four children all registered in Wharfedale; Peter 1949, John F 1951, David 1958 and Elizabeth 1962.

“There are two marriages in Wharfedale for Eileen M Longstaff, in 1941 to John W Jackson with four sons but all registered in Heywood, and then 1947 to Arthur Willby and one daughter registered in Wharfedale in 1955, Annette Willby.

Lynda said Henry Cyril died in Wharfedale in 1969.

She hopes this information helps to reunite Cyril’s letters with his family.

If you believe you have a connection, contact news editor Claire Lomax on (01943) 607022 or on the e-mail below.

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