Raymond Algeno Hirst


Gunner 1931, 2nd West Riding Brigade, Royal Field Artillery

Died 23rd January 1916 aged 24

Buried Heckmondwike Upper Independent Chapel

Son of Walter and Hannah Hirst

Lived 6, Garden Street, Heckmondwike

Raymond Algeno Hirst was born on 27th July 1891 in Roxborough, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only son of Walter Hirst and Hannah Naylor.

Walter and Hannah had married in the Dewsbury area in 1877 and by 1881 they were living in Staincliffe. Walter was employed as a Card Cleaner and Hannah as a Spinner in a woollen mill. Two years later a decision was made to emigrate and they sailed on board the “Pennsylvania” to Philadelphia, arriving on 30th August 1883. They settled in Roxborough where Raymond was born. He was baptised aged 6 weeks on the 11th of September 1891 at St Timothy’s Protestant Episcopal Church, Roxborough. However, six months later, on the 24th April 1892, Raymond’s father Walter died aged 36.

Hannah returned to Heckmondwike with her young son, marrying Alfred Newsome in 1907. He was a widow who had one daughter Annie and a son Archibald (Archie). The couple with the two sons were living at North Street, Heckmondwike by 1911.

Raymond was educated at Heckmondwike Secondary School under Mr Cargill and he attended the Upper Independent Chapel, where he was a valued member of their choir, cricket club, Sunday School and Young Men’s Guild.

Raymond served his apprenticeship as a Typesetter at the office of the Heckmondwike Herald newspaper. A few months before war broke out, he had taken a job on the staff of the Ossett Observer run by Messrs Senior and Co Ltd as a Linotype Operator and was engaged to be married to Miss Roberts of Spark House, Cleckheaton. Raymond had also served for four years as a member of the Territorial Forces at Heckmondwike, being attached to the local battery of the 2nd West Riding Royal Field Artillery. He had completed his service two years before war broke out, but rejoined his battery in January 1915 when he enlisted in Bradford and was drafted to France in the April.

Archie also served in the war. He enlisted in August 1915 and was sent with the Army Service Corp., to Dar es Salaam, East Africa. He survived the war and returned to the family home at Garden Street, Heckmondwike in May 1919.

A Roll of Honour of the members who were serving in the armed forces, was kept at the Upper Chapel and the Editors of the chapel magazine responded to requests by the soldiers to keep them in touch with one another. This was achieved by mailing them a monthly edition of the “Active Service Magazine” produced by the young men’s guild. Each edition contained the current addresses for their serving friends, newsletters sent by the men from the front, messages from the Minister and news of the local war effort.

Photographs of 148 of the Upper Independent Chapel men serving in the forces were eventually mounted into oak frames, 12 men in each and one frame of four. The first seven frames were exhibited at an event held on 24th April 1917 at the chapel. Raymond Hirst’s and Archie Newsome’s photographs were placed next to one another.

At Ypres on the 20th December 1915, Raymond sustained a severe shrapnel wound to the spine. He was transferred to the King George Hospital in Lambeth, London for surgery and care. His mother, stepfather and fiancée were able to visit him and may have been with him when he died on Sunday 23rd January 1916.

A large Military funeral was held on Wednesday 26th January 1916 in Heckmondwike when thousands of people lined the roads from Church Street to the Upper Independent Chapel where a service was held. The Band and 360 men of the 3rd/ 2nd West Riding Brigade of Royal Field Artillery stationed at Bradford and led by his former Territorial Commander, Major Priestley, led the procession. The coffin, wrapped in a Union Jack was carried by six comrades to the horse drawn gun carriage and then transported to the chapel for a service. He was then interred with full military honours, a gun salute being fired over the grave.

The gravestone records “Raymond A. Hirst only son of Hannah and the late Walter Hirst, wounded in Ypres December 20th 1915, died in London, January 23rd 1916 aged 24 years. He nobly did his duty. Also Hannah, wife of Alfred Newsome who died December 5th 1918 aged 64 years.

Medals: Campaign and Silver War Medals

Commemorated: Heckmondwike United Reform Church Memorial, Green Park Memorial and the Vellum book. Also the St Saviour’s Memorial now held in St James’ Church.{KH-074}

Raymond is also remembered on the Ossett History website, follow this link to view him.

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