Siblings: John, James, Clara, Edward, Lawrence, Arthur
Occupation: Yarn labourer, mohair (1911)
Rolls of Honour:
Regiment: West Riding
Nathaniel Bather was the son of Thomas & Margaret Bather of Woodbottom, Baildon. He enlisted in the West Riding Regt on 2 September 1916.We are fortunate to have two long pieces from Nat published in the Shipley Times & Express that give a vivid picture of life as a Tommy.The first is from 29 June 1917:Mr Arthur Watkins of Shipley Glen and Commercial Street, Shipley, has received an interesting letter from Pte N Bather of Baildon. The writer says: We have just come out of action. We went in last Thursday morning at 3 o’clock. Our lads, the West Ridings, went over to Fritz with two new footballs which the captain had bought.We had a real signal to start us off. That was the blowing up of Hill 60. When that hill went up it buried thousands of Germans. It was an awful sensation. The earth rocked, then it bounced you off your feet, the artillery opened out and there seemed to be thousands of guns
going at the same time. What with the hill and the guns, it was all like fire. I think it was the biggest bombardment there has ever been so far in this war. We were laid on the parapet ready, and as the hill went up we went off and we were not long before we had got the object we had to take. Where Fritz got to I don’t know for we did not take a big lot of prisoners.TerrifiedOn our front they must have been buried but you could see a few moving as fast as their legs could go home. They were doing half an hour in twenty-five minutes.I took two prisoners down; one was a big chap and the other was wounded. They were terrified. They did not half praise our artillery. It was murder, they said, and that it was time the war “napood.”They were of the opinion that the English would win and that they would not have any country. The Kaiser, they said, must have been “kidding” them for they had been
told that England had been blown up.I had a rather important job, carrying messages for the officers etc, and you are exposed to everything at this job. I was buried twice with earth from two shells but came out without a scratch. I was, however, like a chimney sweep. It’s a funny situation but you soon get used to it. It was a big success for the Yorkshire Regt. Fritz had held the position for two years and he knew it was coming off so was ready for us. But our artillery was fine. They simply blew his trenches to smithereens.There were plenty of souvenirs, more than one could carry. I went into Fritz’s dug-out and found a loaf and I had a small tin of sardines which I had saved for the occasion. After we had consolidated I sat down and enjoyed Fritz’s bread.There was nothing lacking either on the part of officers and men. They were simply great.
We had a Church of England preacher wounded and he was a fine fellow too. He volunteered for stretcher bearing and he was taking a case across the top when he was hit.I think he had one thigh fractured and the other broken. PainOne of the stretcher bearers came for me to help him in so as to get him into safety. He did not want us to touch him as he was in such pain but we got him under cover and I think he deserves a medal, poor fellow.In fact I think nearly every lad deserves one. God knows they did their work well. They all knew the duty they had to perform and they soon had Fritz “mopped up.”We have some lovely weather here. It is very hot but we would enjoy it much better if we were on Baildon Moor or the Glen ‘baht tat.’I think the war will be over before this time next year but the lads out here say “the last seven years will be the worst”!
The second piece, from 9 November 1917 describes fighting at Passchendaele:It appeared in a column of letters from soldiers thanking the people of Baildon for sending them parcels. Most were just a short thank you and general appreciation of having some cigarettes to smoke but Nat wrote more:I received your parcel all right and in good condition and I can assure you they came in very handy where I am.I quite enjoyed them and I thank you and all those who are taking part in this good work for your kindness. It shows that we are not forgotten by those at home.We are having some awful weather here at present. It has rained three or four days. It is up to the knees in mud and water, legs and feet get soaked and feel like lead.One gets marched to a place, gets ground sheet down on to the grass and tumbles off to sleep for perhaps a couple of hours, then wakes up starved to death and has to run about to get warm.The other night we got into a tent but when we woke up in the morning we were flooded out. It was dark at night when we had got in and when we came to look there were no pegs at the bottom of the tent.Then ‘old Fritz’ comes over every night knocking one up with his bombs. You can hear his ‘planes over you when in the camps. He never misses, weather permitting.Of course, this is all in the game and one gets used to it. You never know to ten minutes how it is going to be.But he is getting some ‘stick.’ Whatever objects we go for now we get. The prisoners are coming in galore. They are stored nicely in the cages.
We shouted to some of them and asked them if they were winning. They laughed and said, ‘No, we are glad to get out of it.’On one charge, we got Fritz back a mile but we lost some good lads, I am sorry to say. Fritz put some terrible barrage up with his artillery. We had not gone two yards before the lads were dropping on either side of me. It was like trying to dodge the rain, dodging the shells.But his infantry put up a terrible show. They downed their arms and gave themselves up to us.We took the object we had to take then dug in. I mean those who were lucky enough to get there. We were then holding the front line. It was like a living hell. There were two Shipley lads in the same battalion as me but a wee bit higher up in the same trench. They were seated together talking when old Fritz dropped a shell in the front line between them. It took a foot off one of them. The other – Bonas of Shipley – lost both feet. They laid there a while until there was chance of getting them away and in spite of the thoughts and the pain they must have undergone, they were both very cheerful. In fact, they smoked cigarettes while they were laid there waiting.I see by the Shipley Times that one of them, Bonas, has since died. He stood his pain like a hero. He was a lucky man who got through without a
scratch. I was hit with a bit of shrapnel from a shell myself. It found a good billet, though – where I sit down. I am going to have it out in a day or two. It will be the only souvenir I have got this time over, for it took all one’s time to look after one’s self.The officers have laughed many a time over it but I am very glad to get out of this.Then we came down the line a bit for a rest. I shall not forget the Sunday. A preacher came to see us. He asked us to a service and if there is a chance of getting a bath or of going to a service you can depend upon us being there.About thirty of us attended. We each had a hymn-book and chose our own hymns. ‘Jesu lover of my soul!’ was one. We held this service in front of our own guns and Fritz was shelling us all round at the same time. But we got through all right.Then the chaplain prayed for each one of us for we were going into the line that same night.It will be a blessing when this thing is over for man was never made to stand up against such things as the enemy use.The shells come over like an iron foundry at times. They make a hole one could build a house in but we have old Fritz by the toes now.I believe we could have his peace terms but we must be on the right side of the fence when it comes to peace.He will be bound to have our terms at the finish or our sacrifice will have been in vain.At the same time, we are still longing to get back. Our artillery are nearly wheel to wheel and they will blow the Hun out yet.