EVERY corner of Britain - from large towns to tiny villages - has its memorials to servicemen killed in World War One. But now a 30-year project by a dedicated researcher means that the Huddersfield district has what is almost certainly the UK's most comprehensive guide to the lives of local men who died during the 1914-18 conflict or from their wounds in the post-war years.
The 528-page Huddersfield's Roll of Honour 1914-1922 has now been published by the University of Huddersfield Press and contains biographical details of 3,439 service personnel who perished. Many of the entries include poignant material such as the texts of letters informing families that a loved-one had died on active service.
The ambitious publication has earned the praise of His Royal Highness The Duke of York - who is Colonel-in-Chief of the Yorkshire Regiment and Patron of the University. He provides a foreword in which he pays tribute to the work's author, Margaret Stansfield.
But the former nurse, who made it her three-decade labour of love to research and compile "Huddersfield's Roll of Honour", did not live to see the project come to fruition, for she died in 2012. Her husband Alan was determined to see his late wife's work made public and he consulted the Rev Paul Wilcock, a military history expert who heads the Arms and Armour Research Institute at the University.
It was quickly decided that the University of Huddersfield Press ought to publish a work that will be of massive assistance to local historians, genealogists and other researchers as well as being of interest to general readers. Paul Wilcock edited the text, provided a detailed introduction and the book has had its official launch earlier this month. The event took place in the appropriate surroundings of Huddersfield's late-Victorian Drill Hall, which has historic associations with the Duke of Wellington's Regiment and that furnished many of the Huddersfield soldiers who died on the Western Front and other theatres of war.
A personal mission
It was in the mid-1980s that Margaret Stansfield, who was from Elland, decided to find out more about the conditions her grandfather faced in the trenches of the Western Front. This initial investigation developed into a mission to document the lives of all from the Huddersfield area who died in World War One. She would dedicate the next 30 years to the task, until she had discovered all she could about 3,438 male fatalities - and one woman, Ada Stanley, from Crosland Moor, who died in 1915, having joined the Territorial Force Nursing Service.
In his introduction to the new book, Paul Wilcock described his first meeting with Alan Stansfield.
"It became clear that Margaret's work encompassed many hours spent in Huddersfield Library, along with visits to war memorials, archives and a significant series of trips to the battlefields themselves. It also became clear that this was one of the occasions when, as a university, we should support the publication, creating an enduring memorial in the year of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of what had once been described as 'the war to end all wars," he says.
In addition to biographical details, the book also contains extracts from many letters and other documents, such as missives informing families that a loved one had died at the Front. Paul Wilcock states that some of the letters, especially those from pals of a dead soldier, are often exceptionally moving.
Huddersfield's Roll of Honour 1914-1922 (University of Huddersfield Press) is priced at £20, with most proceeds going to the Poppy Fund of the Elland, Greetland and District Branch of the Royal British Legion. Copies can be ordered on line at http://www.store.hud.ac.uk/, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 01484 473838.