The Great War had a devastating effect on Sheffield. Hundreds of the city’s young men were slaughtered on the first day of the disastrous Somme offensive.
A shocking German Zeppelin raid dropped death from the skies above Sheffield in September 1916.
Church Rolls of Honour and War Memorials still bear their names but their stories are largely forgotten, until now. ʻ
Long Shadows over Sheffield unearths some of the most jaw-dropping tales of the men who willingly gave up their civilian jobs to make the ultimate sacrifice for King and Country.
Graphic newspaper reports, many from The Star, are mixed with rare photographs and a Sheffield soldier’s personal war diary to provide a memorable tapestry of hardship, heartbreak and horror that was the result of the Great War which began a century ago. ʻ
The book - now available from The Star shop in York Street - has been painstakingly written and researched by Chris Hobbs and Matthew Bell, the critically acclaimed authors of Sheffieldʼs Shocking Past.
Publisher Neil Anderson today writes exclusively for The Star to tell how his own great-grandfather survived the Somme and why it is important to tell other local stories in this year marking the 100th anniversary of World War I.
Neil writes: “As a child I still remember the long shadow cast by the Great War over the family home in Fir Vale, Sheffield.
Though I ended up as a successful author and publisher, the Coningsby Road resident wasn’t renowned for books.
In fact it had just one.
But it spoke volumes of the horrors the city suffered at the hands of the Great World War.
Covenant With Death was John Harris’s harrowing account based on the history of the Sheffield City Battalion - the band of brave men that answered Kitchener’s call and volunteered for duty.
My great grandad, Harold Hickson, was one of the first to sign up.
He was one of the lucky ones. Though wounded, he survived the bloodbath that was the Battle of the Somme; arguably the biggest disaster in British military history that wiped out a large percentage of the Sheffield men that worked together, trained together and then died together.
As war dragged on it got to a point that Harold was one of the few men remaining from the scores that originally left the Fir Vale area of Sheffield to enlist.
The whole street used to dread his letters arriving home as it was always bad news.
Author John Harris was the only person he ever truly opened up to about the horrors he’d witnessed in France. Harold’s memories made up a large part of the book.
I still have Harold’s signed copy. It’s a family heirloom.
But with every Sheffielder that fought in the Great War now dead, there’s only memories and war memorials to remember them.
That’s why I was only too pleased to work on Long Shadows Over Sheffield - a new book that tells long forgotten stories of soldiers from the city.
It has been compiled by Chris Hobbs and Matthew Bell who wrote the fabulously researched Sheffield’s Shocking Past - parts one and two.
They both have their own direct links with Sheffield in the Great War.
Chris Hobbs still cherishes the bible that sat in his grandad’s tunic pocket when he was shot.
There was no miracle for Clem Hobbs - the bullet passed straight through the bible into his chest but, amazingly, it didn’t kill him.
Chris Hobbs said: “My grandad was a former miner that endured a catalogue of injuries including being shot through the face and suffering a scalded calf. He was finally discharged in 1918 as he was no longer physically fit enough for war.”
The duo spent the past year unearthing some of the most jaw-dropping tales of the local men who willingly gave up their civilian jobs to make the ultimate sacrifice for King and Country in a bid to ensure their stories aren’t forgotten.
From the 67-year-old Sheffield resident who became one of the oldest men to die in the war, to the 15-year-old from Nether Edge whose fascination with the sea led to his death in battle.
They revisit the night when Sheffield found itself on the front line when a German Zeppelin dropped death from the skies in September 1916 causing shocking loss of life in the Burngreave area of the city.
The raid caught the air raid wardens totally off guard.
They were at a knees up in the Grand Hotel on Leopold Street.
The killing was indiscriminate - women, children and men all died, many as they lay in their beds.
The suffering didnʼt end with the cessation of hostilities. Survivors – including three of the cityʼs holders of the Victoria Cross – relived the unspeakable carnage for the rest of their lives, whilst the grief of wives and parents is laid bare in previously unpublished correspondence.
Though Matthew Bell’s grandad was too young to fight he too did his bit. “ My grandad, Stuart Taylor, was just 14 when he began working for Shardlow manufacturing crankshafts. I still wear the gold wristwatch he was awarded for his 50 years’ service.”
Graphic newspaper reports are mixed with rare photographs and a Sheffield soldierʼs personal war diary to provide a memorable tapestry of hardship, heartbreak and horror that was the result of the Great War which began a century ago.
The book is available from The Star Shop at just £12.95 or from www.acmretro.com
* Read a FREE chapter from the book now on line at www.acmretro.com/longshadows