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William Ismay Spooner Hartley

William I. S. Hartley2nd Lieutenant William I. S. Hartley, 8th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

William Ismay Spooner Hartley was born in Ossett on 18th of May 1891. He was baptised at Holy Trinity Church on the 13th July 1891 where a few years earlier his parents William Robert Hartley (1855-1942) and Sarah Alice née Ismay Spooner (1854-1937) had their wedding banns read. Although Sarah was originally from Wakefield, they were married on the 24th April 1888 at the bride's parish church: St Mark's, Hull.

Born in Haworth, William Robert Hartley was a resident of Ossett having arrived there from Gateshead in 1887. He was also the curate of the combined parish of Ossett cum Gawthorpe.

The Hartley's first child Winchcombe Henry Howard Hartley was born in Ossett on the 20th October 1889 and was also baptised at Holy Trinity Church. The family lived at "Makaria House" which was situated on Leeds Road between Quarry House and Dewsbury Road.

In the Methodist Church St. Macarius is known for his wisdom. From ancient Greek religion and mythology, "Macaria" or "Makaria" is the name of two figures. The phrase was proverbial for those whose courage endangered them.

We know when the family left Ossett since the "Manchester Courier" dated the 7th May 1892 announced how William Robert Hartley M.A., "senior curate of the combined parish of Ossett cum Gawthorpe", was appointed vicar of Rookhope near Darlington. He was nominated by the Lord Chancellor after the death of the previous vicar, which might suggest some urgency in his taking up the position.

1895 saw the birth of a third son; George Albany Brigg Hartley and he was baptised in May that year at Stanhope. Three years later a fourth son, John Arthur James Hartley, was also born in Stanhope, but in 1902 the Reverend Hartley moved his family to Barnburgh, Doncaster when he became the vicar there. These four sons would soon leave home and go to war, but one would not return.

The oldest of the four brothers, Winchcombe Henry Howard Hartley was a bank clerk before the war. As a Gunner with the Royal Field Artillery, he was discharged from Service in June 1919 on a disability pension. His service record appears to have not survived.

The youngest son, John Arthur James Hartley was also a Gunner with the Royal Field Artillery and was also discharged with a disability. He was suffering from deafness and was released from service in February 1919. Before the war he had been assistant curate to his father and returned to his clerical duties upon his discharge.

No record of service for George Albany Brigg Hartley has been found, although it is understood that he also served. He was a bank clerk and died in 1923 in a motorcycle accident on the Great North Road near Wetherby aged only 27.

On the 1st July 1916, Lieutenant William Ismay Spooner Hartley, son of the Rev. William Robert and Sarah Alice Ismay Hartley, of The Rectory, Barnburgh, Doncaster was killed in action while serving with the 8th Battalion of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

He was 25 years old and a graduate of King's College, Oxford where he took his BA. After his graduation he became assistant master at a prep school in Brighton and later took a post on the staff of King William's College, Douglas on the Isle of Man. He had been in France only a few short weeks when he was killed on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. He is remembered in King William's College Book of Remembrance (1914-1918) but he was not named on any Ossett Roll of Honour or Memorial.

Lieutenant Hartley's service record has not survived and it is not clear when he joined the 8th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, but most likely in 1914 soon after the start of the war. The 8th (Service) Battalion of KOYLI was formed in September 1914 at Pontefract as part of the Third New Army (K3) and then moved to Frensham to join the 70th Brigade of the 23rd Division and then moved to Aldershot. In February 1915, the battalion moved to Hythe and then to Bordon. In August 1915 they mobilised for war and landed in France. On the 18th October 1915 the 8th Battalion transferred to the 70th Brigade of the 8th Division which engaged in various actions on the Western front including in 1916 The Battle of the Somme.

The Battle of the Somme was planned as a large scale British and French offensive on the Western Front to coincide with Russian and Italian offensives on the eastern and Italian fronts. It was an attempt to weaken the German forces. However, the German attack on Verdun focussed French attention away from the Somme, leaving British forces a greater role. Nine K.O.Y.L.I. battalions took part in the Battle of the Somme, including the 8th Battalion with Lieutenant William Hartley

The Somme campaign began with a week-long artillery bombardment on 24th June with the aim of destroying German lines before the "Big Push" of July 1. This push would involve attacking infantry going "over the top" through no-man's-land towards the German lines. The lines, which were well dug in with extensive trench networks and fortifications, were not as damaged by the bombardment as had been hoped and the men going over the top were met with heavy gunfire.

On the first day alone, there were 60,000 British casualties, including 20,000 dead. 1512 K.O.Y.L.I. soldiers - 89 officers and 1423 other ranks were killed, wounded or reported missing.

Donald Murray, 8th Battalion K.O.Y.L.I. gave this account in 1973 when his battalion attacked the village of Ovillers on the 1st July 1916:

"On the first day, half past seven, Mr Morris pulled out his revolver, blew his whistle and said "over" And as he said it, a bullet hit him straight between the eyes, and killed him. I went over with all the other boys. The Germans, there were supposed to be no Germans at all in their front line; we'd annihilated them according to the theory, fired at these breaches in the wire. And of course they just mowed us down. It seemed to me eventually I was just one man left."

Prior to the battle the 8th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was addressed by a senior officer, who reportedly told them: "When you go over the top, you can slope arms, light up your pipes and cigarettes, and march all the way to Pozières before meeting any live Germans."

Battle of the Sommme 1st July 1916

The senior officer was wrong and this is what actually happened:

"8th (Service) Battalion KOYLI, 70th Brigade: In action (with 8th Division) at the Ovillers spur (1st July) attacking from in front of Authuille Wood. Good progress quickly made by leading waves and German first line entered. Following waves came under heavy machine gun fire from both flanks, losing 50% while crossing No Man's Land. Close quarter fighting in German second and third lines. Withdrew to British front line during afternoon - all officers having become casualties. Regimental historian Lieutenant-Colonel R.C. Bond, D.S.O. records renewed attacks led by N.C.Os. Relieved and to Long Valley during night. Very few of officers reached the German trenches. The Germans were many times seen sniping and bombing our wounded. Survivors: the medical officer and 110 other ranks, 25 officers and 659 other ranks having gone into action."

The casualties for the 8th Battalion on the 1st July 1916 totalled 21 officers and 518 men, including 2nd Lieutenant William I.S. Hartley who was buried at Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood. Blighty Valley Cemetery was begun early in July 1916, at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, and used until the following November. At the Armistice it contained 212 graves, but was then greatly enlarged when 784 graves were brought in from the battlefields and small cemeteries to the east. Most of these concentrated graves were of men who died on 1 July 1916.

Authuile (now Authuille) and Aveluy are villages 4 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert. The Cemetery is situated in a valley half way between these two villages on the D151.

2nd Lieutenant William Ismay Spooner Hartley (1891-1916) will be remembered on the Ossett War Memorial when his name is engraved with the other five Ossett Fallen still to be so honoured.

My thanks to Anne-Marie Fawcett for her discovery and subsequent detailed research into the life and death of William I.S. Hartley.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site