LOUIS ACKROYD

Corporal 106514, Royal Engineers – 189th Field Company (Chemists Corp)

Died 3rd October 1915 aged 24


Son of Dan and Mary Jane Ackroyd

Lived 12, Rydal Terrace, Heckmondwike


Corporal Louis Ackroyd BSc was born in August 1891 the second son of Dan Ackroyd, a Woollen Mill Mechanic, and Mary Jane Ackroyd nee Schofield who were living at Popeley Buildings, Millbridge, Liversedge.  He was baptised at George Street Congregational Chapel in Heckmondwike on 27th September 1891.

Louis first attended Millbridge National School, he then graduated in 1903 to the Heckmondwike Secondary School (now Heckmondwike Grammar School).  He excelled and won the Maintainance Scholarship in 1905 and in 1909 a County Major Scholarship to attend Leeds University for three years.  His parents and three of his five siblings were living at Rydal Terrace, Jeremy Lane when his father, Dan Ackroyd, died in 1911.

Louis was a versatile sportsman who captained Leeds University at football, cricket and lacrosse.  He was amongst a number of Heckmondwike Old Scholars who travelled daily by train to the University.  He took his BSc,gaining second-class Honours in Chemistry.  Louis then won a place at Manchester University for one year where he gained his post graduate Teaching Diploma in 1913 and toured Germany, Austria and Hungary with a Northern Universities football eleven.

Thereafter he taught at Heckmondwike Secondary School for a year followed by a move to Rastrick Grammar School where he was an Assistant Master.

By the summer of 1915 the Territorials and the first of Kitchener's New Army divisions were beginning to arrive in France in strength and plans were made for a major British attack to be launched at Loos at the end of September.  Following the first use of poison gas by the Germans the British decided to follow suit and formed special gas companies of the Royal Engineers calling for graduate chemists, physicists and technicians from industry to carry out this new form of warfare.

On the August Bank Holiday 1915 Louis enlisted in London in the Chemical Corps of the Royal Engineers as Corporal Chemist in the 189th Field Company and within a week was in France.  Louis took an active part in the Battle of Loos being one of those who had to prepare the way for the infantry by the use of gas.  He had come unharmed out of severe fighting but was sitting in what was thought to be a place of safety on Sunday 3rd October 1915 when a splinter from a shell burst about 10 yards away and inflicted a wound in his neck which proved fatal the same day.

In his last letter home to his mother at Rydal Terrace, Jeremy Lane written on October 1st Corporal Ackroyd said: "We went into the trenches last Friday night, September 25th, and stayed there until the next morning.  We were right in the front line, about 200 yards from the Germans.  They were extremely quiet throughout the night but at dawn they gave us it hot.  Luckily no one in our section was hit.  After we had finished our little job the infantry mounted the parapet and charged the German trenches gaining a great victory and breaking through as you will have seen from the papers.  Since then I have been up to the trenches every day, which means a five mile walk each way.  Today we were marching up as usual when the Germans started shelling the road.  A shell burst within 25 yards of us but no one was hurt.  I have a piece of the shell.  It was too dangerous for our work so we marched back."

Tributes were paid in the local newspapers, from the Heckmondwike and Rastrick schools, Leeds and Manchester Universities and the local churches and many organisations.  A memorial service was held at George Street Congregational Chapel on the following Sunday.

Louis Ackroyd’s nephew, Dr Louis Ackroyd, published “Heckmondwike at War, 1914-1918’’ in 2000 in which he paid tribute to the men of Heckmondwike, including Louis, who lost their lives serving their country.


Medals: Victory, British and Star.

Commemorated: on Memorials at Leeds University, Manchester University, Heckmondwike Green Park and Grammar School; Rastrick town centre and Grammar School; George Street Chapel, St James's Parish and St Saviour's Churches of Heckmondwike and also in the Vellum Roll of Honour.
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