EMBSAY : The Great War and its Aftermath
In July 1914 no one in Embsay-with-Eastby was thinking about war. The parish was instead being torn apart by its own little battles over parochial concerns.
The parish councillors were besieged at an open parish meeting where 6 local residents were leading a campaign to harangue the councillors concerning a raft of complaints over issues such as the lack of gas light in Eastby, access to a well at Greenbottom, the poor quality of local water supplies, the loss of the old parish map, and public access to Embsay Moor.
Within a month, these issues paled into insignificance, as the declaration of war galvanised the community into more positive action, with the local residents working together.
The first response to the war was to send our young, fit men to war, and to encourage the remaining men to ready themselves in case of German invasion. Within a fortnight of the declaration of war, Mr. Wansbrough of Embsay, had helped to establish a Home Defence League in Skipton – a sort of early “Dad’s Army” - then quickly turned his attention to setting up a rifle club at Embsay.
On 11th September, The Craven Herald called upon villages across Craven to follow Embsay’s patriotic example:
“… a strong contingent of Rifle Club members has been enrolled, and they are fitting up a miniature range in the old mill, kindly placed at their disposal by Mr. J.J. Wilkinson, of Burnside. Why should Bradley, Carleton, Cononley, lag behind. … . To the villagers named I would say, respectfully, but firmly, Wake Up!”
About 100 people came to the formal opening of the rifle range which had been set up on the ground floor of Primrose Mill (where the Primrose Glen housing estate now stands off West Lane) on Friday evening, 25th September 1914, to hear stirring speeches by ex-army veterans, including a local stalwart of the Embsay cricket club, John Throup. The men of Embsay and Eastby who had joined the club were then given their first lessons in shooting.
The Craven Herald also reported that “An outside range is also available, and can be taken advantage of on Tuesday and Saturday afternoons.” The club soon had 30 members, with Joseph Watson of Laurel Bank as the President, John Throup as Captain, and Mr Wansbrough as Secretary.
While the Craven Herald named and shamed villages such as Grassington for their poor recruitment figures, it again praised Embsay-with-Eastby as a fine example for others to follow:-
“Roll of Honour. - This village may well be proud that so many of her sons have responded to the call for recruits by Lord Kitchener. The goodly list of names below reflects creditably on the patriotism of our young men, and, we have no doubt they will display the valour which is the attribute of every British soldier when his opportunity comes to defend his King and country:
Lieut. Christopher Brown, Lieut. Wm. D. Anderton (R.A.M.C.), Lieut, R. Armstrong; regulars: Walter Jackson, Arthur Simpson, Robert Rimmer, Jonathan Thompson, A. Gauntlet, James O’Brien, Alfred Watson (Kitchener’s Army); Territorials : Wm. Scott, Jack Birkett, Edward Rimmer, John Raw, George Smith, Jacob Osborne, J.W. Phillip, John Nelson (Kitchener’s Army); Territorials: Edward King, William Rimmer, Edgar Smith, Henry Soulsby, Robert Cumberland, Harold Simpson, Richard Chapman, Robt. Jackman, Ebor Holmes (Bradford “Pals” Battalion). “ (Craven Herald, 9th October, 1914)
It’s difficult to imagine how their friends and families felt when these lads enlisted, and what effect it had on the community, to have so many of its young men go to war.
The impact of the Second World War upon the home front is well-known, but the influence that the First World War had upon local communities and civilian life is perhaps less familiar. So, over the next 4 years (2014-2018) Embsay Research Group (a team working within the Upper Wharfedale Heritage Group, based in Skipton) will be researching various aspects of life in Embsay-with-Eastby during the Great War, as well as the life stories of the men and women who served. Some of their findings will be published in the Embsay Parish newsletter.
The early months:
Remembering the Women of World War One:
Jane Lunnon, Embsay Research Group (UWHG).