This is Cavendish Road, across from my house. In this very house the Normansell family lived. 102 years ago a 27 year old Captain from the 13th York and Lancaster Regiment left this house, having recovered from wounds recieved in action at Neuve Chapelle, bound once again to his unit in France, never to return home. The Captain’s name was Jack.
The Normansell Family has been well documented in the town’s history books, and local historians have mentioned them, therefore I will be brief. Jack’s Grandfather who died in 1875, was a prodominant member of the South Yorkshire Miners Union. He helped create and build the Yorkshire Miners Headquarters on Huddersfield Road, and was made Secretary. It is still in use today albeit in a small capacity. Famously it was used as the Headquarters of Arthur Scargill’s flying pickets during the Miners Strike of 1984-85.
Jack was one of 4 children, the only boy. His sister Margaret Anne had died aged 7 months. His Father Joseph, was a Glass Bottle Manufacturers Representative, the Trade Union link still ran through the family. Jack himself left Grammar School at 16, and for two years worked for the Local engineering company Qualter, Hall. At 18 he won a Mining Scholarship in Sheffield, and was on the verge of becoming a Colliery Manager when War broke out.
Jack joined the 1st Barnsley Pals (13th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment) in September 1914, one of the first NCO’s, first as a temporary Second Lieutenant, slowly rising through the Ranks as the War progressed. His attention to detail during Training at Newhall Camp notably gained him great respect and adoration. By June 1916 he was a Captain. His mining skills, and the mining skills of his battalion were put to good use as they were ordered to assist the Tunnelling Companies of the Royal Engineers, In the preparation of digging deep mines before the “Big Push” on the Somme.
Jack was lucky to survive the carnage of the 1st July 1916, unfortunately almost a month later at Neuve Chapelle in action he was not so lucky and recieved rifle grenade wounds to his face. He was diagnosed with Sepsis and in panic was sent home, after first recovering in Chelsea Hospital in London. It was there he rested and recovered slowly. He got engaged to Ruby, the daughter of a local dentist who lived just a couple of hundred yards from him.
By January 1917, Jack had recovered enough to return to his Unit. On March 10th 1917, close to where his Pals had fallen on 1st July 1916, he too died of wounds recieved in Action. He alongside the remains of his once proud Battalion was following the German Withdrawal from the Somme Battlefield at Pusieux au Mont to the Hindenburg line when he recieved his fatal injuries. He was carried to Beaumont Hamel Advanced Dressing Station where he died. Orignally buried at Beaucourt Cemetery he was transferred to Serre Road Number One, very close to where he was stationed on July 1st 1916. He remains there to this day.
As one of the Original Pals of 1914, Jack Normansell’s death brought great sadness to the town, he according to the local paper died “Honourably in the defence of his country”. When his Parents died they mentioned him on the family headstone in Barnsley Cemetery, but they also left an everlasting tribute to their only son.
In St Mary’s Church Barnsley a window was paid for and dedicated to Jack by his Grieving Parents, it is a three panel window of St George, Michael the Archangel and St Martin of Tours, his feast day being on the 11th of November. It wasnt until last year at Serre Road Number Two Cemetery that I realised that I lived so close to a man that that given his life when he was at his prime. How can I not remember a man like him.
And the earth abideth forever