Sheffield newspaper apprentice was soldier in WW1 and sent dispatches back from the front

The descendant of a Sheffield journalist has relived his grandfather’s fascinating life and legacy - from Southey Green to the Somme.

By Steven Ross
Monday, 13th September 2021, 9:00 am
Sgt Major Robert L. Battersby in Afghanistan in 1919, during the Third Anglo-Afghan War.
Sgt Major Robert L. Battersby in Afghanistan in 1919, during the Third Anglo-Afghan War.

Christopher Battersby, aged 63, is the grandson of Major Robert Luther Battersby, who was an apprentice at the Sheffield Telegraph prior to the First World War and later its war correspondent during the Afghan War.

Major Battersby, of Southey Green Road, was the son of Robert Battersby, who founded The Star newspaper.

He was an artillery officer at the Battle of the Somme, the youngest Battery Sergeant Major in the war, and was later stationed in India before being sent to Afghanistan during the Third Anglo-Afghan War in 1919.

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Robert L. Battersby's obituary

Christopher said: “He had a long war, he volunteered in 1914 when he was 17 or 18. He had quite a lot of time in France – he was in the trenches from 1915-1917.

"He was at the Battle of Mons, he was quite a good runner and he ran messages from generals to the trenches. His job was to run out the cables to the front lines at Battle of the Somme in 1916."

The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest of the First World War and saw over 1.2 million deaths in less than six months. Major Battersby was gassed twice during the war and died from a long illness stemming from these attacks.

Christopher added: "I met him twice and I have really vague memories of him.

Medals awarded to Robert L. Battersby, including the Military Medal for bravery during the Somme.

During and after the war, Major Battersby also wrote pieces for The Star, one of which bemoaned the fact that common soldiers had no good liquor to drink in celebration of the armistice. Later in life he worked on newspapers around the world.

Christopher still has a book of his grandfather’s clippings and photographs, as well as a Military Medal he won for bravery at the Somme.One photograph shows Afghan tribesmen watching the British troops leave the country following Afghanistan’s independence.

Christopher added: “It says in pencil on the back, looks like they’re here to stay.

“Robert did a lot of travelling after the war and wrote articles about those trips. One particularly funny article he wrote was about a Yorkshireman visiting London and a Jamaican man offered him a strange cigarette called a refer. And he turned it down because it cost five shillings."

A piece written by Robert L. Battersby describing the armistice.
Major Robert Battersby in his soldier's uniform.