By Jane Ainsworth
I was delighted to hear from Bill when Duncan Rogers, my publisher at Helion & Company, forwarded an email to me from him on 12 July. Bill had read my book – Great Sacrifice: The ‘Old Boys’ of Barnsley Holgate Grammar School in the First World War.
He was interested in some details I had discovered that were new to him and the photograph of his grandfather’s first cousin, George Braham. He also wanted to pass on some additional information about the family.
I had made contact with relations of 20 ‘Old Boys’ while researching Great Sacrifice and I have become friends with several of them, who supported me at book launches and my Somme Centenary Commemoration. I hoped that when my book was published by Helion other relations would get in touch and Bill was my first new contact.
I responded in detail to Bill on 13 July to say how thrilled I was to hear from him, how interested I was in the information he sent to me and how much I was looking forward to sharing more details …. Tragically, I learnt that Bill died suddenly early morning on 15 July. I will never know whether he read my email, but I do hope so to know just how grateful I was to him. As and when Great Sacrifice is reprinted, I want to include the details about George and the Braham family that Bill provided as a tribute to him.
George Braham was born in 1886 in Hoyland – coincidentally where I was born – and he was the fifth of nine surviving children of Daniel and Annie Braham. George was Assistant Schoolmaster at Worsbrough Dale National School when he enlisted in the 12th Battalion (Sheffield City) of the York and Lancaster Regiment. He was one of the many men killed in action on 1 July, 1916 and who is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
I was aware that Daniel Braham was a Stationary Engineman in a Colliery but not which colliery until Bill enlightened me. He was at Rockingham Colliery, where his older brother Samuel also worked, having moved from Garforth Colliery. “This may have been at the encouragement of their eldest Brother Williamwho became some kind of coal agent for Newton & Chambers/Thornecliffe Collieries who sank the Rockingham shafts”.
I was shocked to learn that George had witnessed a horrific incident in 1896, when he was only nine years old, and I searched for details as reported in the newspapers. On 11 May 1896, TheYorkshire Evening Post told the story in an article headed ‘Bravado and Death: A Barnsley Lad’s Fateful Freak’ while Sheffield Evening Telegraph called it ‘Schoolboy’s Fatal Folly at Barnsley.’
Samuel Braham, aged 10, had taken his father Samuel’s dinner to Rockingham Colliery on 22 April accompanied by his cousin George. While crossing the yard, Samuel boasted that he could stand under the archway while the corves passed through from the colliery yard to the chemical works. The train of corves caught Samuel and dragged him along the line for a considerable distance before it stopped. Samuel was admitted to the local Beckett Hospital but died of his injuries on 9 May.
Two days later Sheffield Daily Telegraph reported the Inquest, at which George gave evidence. There was only nine inches between the wall of the bridge and the full corves and Samuel was caught under the wheels of the second corf. He suffered a fractured arm and damage to his leg, which was aggravated by old grease that led to his death 17 days later. The verdict was ‘Accidentally Injured.’ I can only imagine the pain Samuel felt and the impact of such a dreadful tragedy on George.
I had included brief details of the education and war service of brothers Ernest and Arthur, who had both attended Barnsley Holgate Grammar School, but Bill kindly elaborated on the rest of the family and I was keen to learn more from the records he had found.
William Henry was living in Sales Street, Hoyland Common, with his wife and children by 1915, when he volunteered under the Derby Scheme. He was called up in 1916 and went to France in 1917, serving with 12th and 13th Y&L. “He was wounded in March 1918 and served at home until the end of the war”.
Archibald also served in 12th Y&L but “was pulled out and served most of the war as a batman for officers attached to various HQ units. In that he was lucky, as it meant he was not in the active unit on 1st July. Pre-war he lived at home and was a draper at Butterfields in Barnsley”.
Edith “qualified as a nurse in Bradford but was working in London before joining QAANS. She served in Aldershot before being sent to France where she ran a ward. After the war, she remained on the reserve list until she married and moved to Australia”.
Ernest became an Anglican shortly before the Second World War “and ended up in one of the parishes in Duxford from where he became chaplain to RAF Duxford. His wife is buried there and shortly after he headed off to Gosport to teach and preach as well as lecture in Philosophy at what is now the University of Southampton. His son, J R D Braham, joined the RAF before the war and went on to become one of the most decorated RAF officers of all time as well as being fighter ace.”
I regret that I didn’t have the opportunity to tell Bill how George Braham has been remembered in Barnsley for the Somme Centenary. I made sure that his details were in the special Somme Centenary wraparound for Barnsley Chronicle on 1 July and I asked for the photograph in Barnsley Archives to be used in the Council’s temporary memorial sculpture for Barnsley men who died on 1 July. Sadly, despite agreeing to do so, they failed to use this and another two photos of my ‘Old Boys’, adding silhouettes instead.
My own event at Silverwood Scout Camp was inspired by the many ‘Old Boys’ of Barnsley Holgate Grammar School who served on the Somme.
I included George’s photograph in my display with brief information and a copy was on the altar in the beautiful outdoor chapel, where I held the Remembrance Service. I was pleased that people who attended this commemoration told me that it was a fitting tribute to all involved.
Bill Braham – a friend by Charles Singleton, Editor at Helion Books
I only knew Bill a short time, maybe three-and-a-half years. However, in that time, I grew to see him as a friend and always looked forward to meeting and chatting with him at Pike and Shot Society events and other socials. Regular discussions and chat on the phone and through Facebook showed me just what a knowledgeable and generous man he was. His commentary and banter were the perfect companions in what were fast becoming annual trips out to civil war sites around Shropshire and curry nights in Wolverhampton. Although I will sadly not be the Editor on his planned book on the Battle of Worcester, I have the honour of having knowing Bill, a true gentleman and scholar. Thank you Bill.