Military Monday Episode 2 – Remembering the 5th Battalion
By Lynsey Slater, Museums Officer for Military History
Saturday, May 21st, 1927 will ever be memorable in the Annals of the Fifth Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, for it was on that day that with Soldierly dignity we unveiled the Memorial to the 1,272 Officers and Other Ranks of the battalion who made the great sacrifice during the Great War. One of the most solemn and impressive services ever held in Doncaster took place at the Headquarters of the battalion, Scarbrough Barracks, South Parade, Doncaster, when the handsome memorial to those who fell was unveiled by the Honorary Colonel of the Battalion, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Brooke, C.M.G. D.S.O., M.P.
The Ceremony was performed in the presence of the whole battalion and a large assembly that included the Mayor (Councillor H. M. Marshall) and members of the Corporation, relatives of the fallen and ex-service men..
The Battalion at full strength paraded in the Station Square, Doncaster, and marched, headed by the Band and Buglers, via St. Sepulchre Gate, High Street and Wall Gate to Scarbrough Barracks. It was an imposing procession, nearly two thousand men, many of them old campaigners, veterans of many a battlefield, be-medalled and be-ribboned, marched in unison, through streets thickly lined with spectators, many of whom understood.
Among the several hundred ex-service men of many units who joined in the procession could be seen a gallant little band of five veterans of the K.O.Y.L.I. in the old Scarlet Uniforms so familiar in the nineties of the 1st V.B. K.O.Y.L.I. The oldest of them all was ex-Colour-Sergeant Tomlinson of Goole. Grey hairs and a stoop have come with this veteran’s eighty years, but he walked with unfaltering step and time, marching as sprightly a pace as the youngest recruit on parade. As the parade marched past the Mansion House, the salute was taken by Brigadier-General C. R. I. Brooke, C.M.G., D.S.O., M.P. and the Mayor of Doncaster who stood on the steps..
Upon arrival at the barracks, the troops lined up on either side of the Drill Hall, the civilian guests were occupying the seats. Relatives of the men whose names were inscribed on the Roll of Honour shortly to be unveiled, formed a large proportion of the gathering, some of them had travelled from places as far apart as Hounslow, Newcastle, Hull and London, but the majority were from the County of Broad Acres. They were pathetic figures in black, many of the women carrying their little tribute of flowers.
The whole service was wonderfully inspiring in character. It commenced with the singing of “Land of Hope and Glory” the lead of this and other numbers being taken by a Boys’ Choir from the Doncaster Grammar School, then followed by the Lesson by the Rev J. E. Reding : and then amidst tense silence, General Brooke drew aside the Union Jack and Curtains that covered the Memorial, saying :-
“To the Glory of God, and in honoured memory of 1,272 Officers, Warrant Officers, Non-commissioned Officers and Men of the Fifth Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry who gave their lives in the Great War, I unveil this memorial”
After the Band had played the first two lines of the National Anthem, General Brooke said :-
It was a proud privilege for him to have to unveil that Memorial. He was glad that those in authority in the battalion had decided that there in that great headquarters of the battalion a fitting and suitable Memorial should be raised in honour with those of their comrades who fell in the Great War. They well knew that in the Minster at York there was a great memorial to the men of the K.O.Y.L.I. who fell in the war, but it seemed to him, that there, in that hall, where the young men of this countryside would assemble from time to time, anxious and willing to step into the shoes of those, who, like himself and many others present, had tried to serve King and Country in their own day, and he was convinced that so long as Doncaster and the West Riding existed there would be plenty of stout-hearted men to serve in the K.O.Y.L.I. and any other Regiment that demanded their services (Applause). He would go further and he would say that no Regiment had ever been served more loyally than had the Officers who had had the honour to serve in the K.O.Y.L.I. The Yorkshireman made an ideal soldier, and the men who had served in this and other battalions of the Regiment were men who had endured in their daily occupations, during the War, many risks and many dangers. They had become inured to danger and had invariably proved themselves in the battle field, and, what was more important, in the daily task, – the terrible and dreary tasks that befell the soldier on Active Service – to be good men and true. So for a brief moment that afternoon they recalled those terrible days when they stood shoulder to shoulder in the damp trenches surrounded by unknown dangers, constantly worried in body and mind. They recalled that some 1,272 of their comrades had never returned to their loved ones.
In that cause they stood, in that cause they fell, and they venerated their names that to-day people were proud to think that so long as that building stood those names would be read by future generations and venerated throughout the ages to come.
Archdeacon F. G. Sandford, whose son, Captain C. R. F. Sandford was among the fallen of the battalion, offered the dedicatory prayer as follows : –
“To the Glory of God and in grateful memory of those who gave their lives for King and Country and a Righteous Cause, I dedicate this Memorial in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.”
The Congregation then joined in the singing of the hymn “O Valiant Hearts.” This was followed by the Prayer by the Rev. John Riddell. Then followed the benediction of the Rev. A. C. E. Gibson. The assembly then stood while the Buglers sounded “The Last Post” and “The Reveille” the service concluding with the National Anthem. Some scores of wreaths were then placed at the foot of the Memorial, many by relatives who were greatly affected by these acts of Remembrance..
Major and Quartermaster H. Barker, M.B.E., M.C., T.D., who has served with the battalion since its formation in 1908, not only designed the memorial, but undertook the task of raising the money for its erection. The building of the Memorial was executed by Sergeant-Bugler G. Bowskill and Sgt. Donald, both of the battalion, Mr H. Aspin, Doncaster was responsible for the Painting and lettering, and Mr W. H. Hirst, of Leeds for the carving of the figures and wreaths.