Rhodes Lister


Corporal 113220, Q Special Coy 189th Company, Royal Engineers

Died of Wounds 20th July 1917 aged 26

Buried Etaples Military Cemetery, France

Son of Henry and Susannah Lister

Lived 31, Francis Street, Heckmondwike

Rhodes was born on 26th May 1891 in Millbridge, Liversedge. He was the second son of Henry Lister and Susannah Hutchinson nee Herd who had married on 5th November 1887 at St Peter’s Parish Church, Birstall. Henry Lister was a Foreman at Firth's Axminster Carpet works. By 1901 the family had moved to Omar Street, Heckmondwike and they attended the Wesleyan Chapel at Greenside.

Rhodes first attended Millbridge National School in Holme Street, Liversedge, under the Headmastership of Thomas Irish. In 1903 he won a foundation scholarship to attend Batley Grammar school, where he remained until September 1909 when aged 18, he returned to the Millbridge School as a Student Teacher. He took exams in Leeds and in October 1910 was appointed Assistant Master at Battye Street Council School, Heckmondwike. Rhodes then went to St John’s College at York before being appointed to the Central Provided School in Birstall as Assistant Master, where he taught for four years.

By April 1911 the family had moved to 31, Francis Street, Eighty Houses, Heckmondwike. His elder brother, Dempster, had then married in March 1913 and started a Baker and Confectionary business. When the war commenced he was therefore in a reserved occupation.

Following the first use of Chlorine gas by the Germans, on 22nd April 1915, the British decided to follow suit and formed special gas companies of the Royal Engineers, calling for chemists and physicists and technicians from industry to carry out this new form of warfare. Rhodes was one of at least four local men with some knowledge of chemistry who were enrolled into the 189th Field Company, the Chemists’ Corps of the Royal Engineers in August 1915. They received their training at Chatham in Kent, before he had short home leave, when his mother gave him a pocket Bible. Rhodes travelled to France on the 6th September 1915, commencing work immediately.

On 13th October 1915 Rhodes was in action at Hullock, “when, after his work during the gas attack was over, with great courage and devotion to duty, he went over the parapet and brought in a wounded soldier of the Black Watch while under heavy fire”, becoming Heckmondwike’s first winner of the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was granted three days special home leave on 21st February 1916. There being no suitable London Ceremony, he was presented with his award by Major Wayne on February 24th at the Halifax Barracks, in the presence of old campaign soldiers of the “Duke’s” and the Band of the 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment and watched by his parents and younger sister, Mary.

During his visit home, he also visited the headmaster and pupils of the Millbridge National Junior School, the Wesleyan Chapel and the Sunday school. The Wesleyan Guild held a reception to congratulate Rhodes on the distinguished honour the King had conferred upon him. He was presented with a Nickel Silver-plated cigarette-case which was embellished with a picture of a horse, it's rider taking a hedge, symbolic of what Corporal Lister had achieved in the trenches.

On 21st July 1916 the Leeds Mercury newspaper reported that Rhodes had been wounded by an exploding shell, fracturing his elbow. He was repatriated to a Bristol hospital until it healed. On returning to the front, he continued to write many letters to his family, his old schools and to his many friends. The psychological toll of being under fire in the trenches and the loss of so many of his friends was added to when his cousin, Private Brook Lister of the 13th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, died in a field hospital on 27th January 1917 whilst on the Somme. Brook Lister is remembered on the Spenborough Memorial as his family address was Sydney Street, Union Road, Liversedge.

Rhodes was seriously injured on the night of 14th July 1917. He was transferred from the Ypres area, by casualty train, to the 20th General Hospital close to the coast in France for assessment, treatment and possible evacuation to a hospital in England. In a letter received by his parents on the 21st July, he told them “that he had shrapnel injuries to his back and nose, but that he was comfortable”. Official notification was then received by telegram that he had died on 20th July. This was followed by a letter from the Matron of the hospital, “regretting that as he was here for such a short time, it was impossible to get you over to see him. That he had left no message as he was unaware that he was dying”.

Rhodes was buried on 22nd July in Etaples Military Cemetery, near Le Touquet, France. His Commonwealth Headstone was inscribed “They shall hunger no more and God will wipe away all the tears”. The Bible in which these words were marked was returned to his mother, who wore mourning black for the remainder of her life.{KH-088}

Medals: DCM, Victory, British, 15 Star

Commemorated: on Heckmondwike Green Park and Vellum Roll; Batley Grammar School Memorial; George Street Chapel Memorial; St Saviour’s Parish Church Memorial; the family headstone in Heckmondwike Cemetery.

It is not uncommon for a particapant of The Great War to be remembered on more that one war memorial, Rhodes is one of these. Please follow the link below to view other information about him.


Documents: “Heckmondwike at War” by Louis Ackroyd published 2000.

"Batley Lads - Grammar School Roll of Honour" by Philip L. Wheeler et al published 2014. ISBN 978-0-9931318-0-6

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