Private Lionel Edwin V. Straw, 8329, 4th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own)
Lionel Edwin V. Straw was born in August 1889, the second son of Arthur Straw and Harriet Annie Place who married at Swinton, near Rotherham on 24th October 1887. By 1891 Arthur, a labourer in a brewery, Harriet with their two children, Lawrence Arthur (born summer 1888) and Lionel Edwin were living at 31, Alverthorpe Road, Wakefield. Arthur was born in Swinton, Yorkshire and Harriet’s hailed from Ilfracombe in Devon. According to the Census Lionel was born in Ossett, although it has not been possible to discover his birth registration.
By 1911, Arthur and Harriet had eight children, but sadly one had died before that year. Lawrence was most probably serving with the British Army, but the other surviving six children (five born in Wakefield and only Lionel born in Ossett) were living at 29 Quebec Street, Wakefield with their parents. Harriet Annie was a teacher of piano and like his father and a younger brother, Lionel was working as a labourer in an iron foundry.
On the 25th November 1911 at Wakefield Cathedral Lionel, aged 22 years and a machine glass worker, married 20 year old Amy Siddle. Lionel's address was given as 25, New Row, Storrs Hill Ossett and Amy’s home was at nearby Back Albert Street, Ossett. The couple had their only child, a daughter, Edith Eva May Straw who was born at Wakefield on the 27th February 1912.
Only about 33% of WWI army service records survived a Luftwaffe attack on central London in September 1940. Lionel’s record was one of those that did survive. On the 8th August 1914, just four days after Great Britain declared war against Imperial Germany, Lionel Straw, aged 24 years and 360 days was medically examined, declared fit and on the 10th August 1914 at Leeds he enlisted in the Army for six years.
He joined the 4th Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) and thus became Private 8329 Lionel Edwin Straw. He was 5’ 6” tall, weighed 137 lbs with hazel eyes and brown hair with no distinguishing marks. Just 318 days after enlisting, Lionel was discharged from military service on the 25th June 1915 on the grounds of "being no longer physically fit for War service". His character on discharge was "good". He did not serve overseas and consequently was not awarded any service medals. His address on discharge was 11 Dow Place, Moor Crescent, Hunslet, Leeds.
Above: Dow Place, Moor Crescent, Hunslet, Leeds pictured in 1959. On the left are numbers 7 to 13, three back-to-back terraced houses with ginnels between numbers 7 to 9 and 9 to 13, allowing access from Dow Place. On the right are numbers 1 to 3, two through terraced properties. At the end of number 7's garden (visible on the right) are small structures possibly built to house outside toilets and middens shared by the houses. On the right are the blind backs of numbers 12 to 14 Cross Monkton Street. Photograph courtesy of Leodis Photographic Archive.
Straw's next of kin was named as his wife, Amy, who by the 2nd January 1915, was living with their daughter, Eva, at 43, Thornton Street, Kirkstall Road, Leeds. The service record also records an address Portcatho, Nr. Falmouth Cornwall. In early 1915 Amy was having problems with the Army Office regarding the 17s 6d Separation Allowance due in respect of herself and Eva. This caused her to need to send her marriage certificate and Eva’s birth certificate to the authorities. The problem was resolved in July 1915 and about the same time Lionel was granted a pension of 12s 6d per week.
Lionel Straw died of consumption (tuberculosis) on the 2nd April 1917. Lionel, a soldier, aged 27 years, was buried at Leeds (General) Cemetery on 5th April 1917 at plot number 6182 which contained the remains of 33 men, women and children. The official record1 indicates his occupation as a soldier and his address as 29, Jermyn Street, Cornwall.
Private 8329 L. Straw has a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Alternative Commemoration at Leeds Lawnswood Cemetery where he is remembered on Screen memorial 2, Panel 5.2 During the First World War, the major hospitals in Leeds were the 2nd Northern General with 1,800 beds and the East Leeds War Hospital with 1,900. Leeds was also one of the principal hospital centres in Yorkshire during the Second World War. Leeds (Lawns Wood) Cemetery contains 138 burial of the First World War, 88 of them forming a war graves plot in Section W. As these graves could not be marked individually, the names of the dead are recorded on a screen wall.
The rest of the First World War burials and all of the 67 Second World War burials are scattered throughout the cemetery. A further screen wall bears the names of 105 casualties of both wars buried in Leeds General Cemetery, where their graves could no longer be maintained. In all, there are now 222 First World War casualties and 91 from the Second World War commemorated in the cemetery. The cemetery also contains Leeds (Lawns Wood) Crematorium, where there is a memorial to 94 Second World War casualties whose remains were cremated.
Lionel is also remembered on the Leeds Roll of Honour3 where his entry includes “D .a.Dis” indicating that he died after discharge.
There is a death record for an Amy Straw, aged 38 years, recorded at North Leeds in early 1932. The age of death coincides with the Amy Straw in this biography. In 1939, Lionel’s and Amy’s daughter, Eva Edith May Straw, aged 27 years, was described as incapacitated and living in the West Riding Mental Hospital Wakefield. Eva died in summer 1963, aged 50 years. Her death was registered in Wakefield.
Lionel’s elder brother, Lawrence Arthur Straw, was born in summer 1888 in the Barnsley area. Lawrence enlisted at Dewsbury and joined the Household Cavalry and Cavalry of the Line Regiment in the 18th (Queen Marys Own Royal) Hussars as a private with service number 5015. It has not been possible to trace his whereabouts in 1901 or 1911. His army service record has not survived but his service number with the Hussars suggests that he enlisted between February 1899 and August 1900.
Lawrence’s Medal Card confirms that he was indeed serving in the Army by the day Great Britain declared war on Imperial Germany on 4th August 1914.. He embarked for France and Belgium on 15th August 1914 as part of the first wave of British soldiers, The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) who came to be known as "The Old Contemptibles" .
Lawrence Arthur Straw was killed in action on the 9th May 1915 in the Battle of Ypres 1915 (Second Ypres) whilst serving with his regiment in the 1st Cavalry Division. He will have fought in battles at Mons, Le Cateau, The Marne, The Aisne and First Ypres. He was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals and also the 1914 Star (The Mons Star) for serving his country overseas in a theatre of war between the 5th August 1914 and 22nd November 1914. Only 378,000 of the 1914 Star were issued.
Lawrence Arthur Straw is remembered at the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial on Panel 5 and also, next to his brother, Lionel, on the Leeds Roll of Honour.
We are indebted for additional research by Andrea Hartley, Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA), who first brought this brave Ossett soldier to our attention.