Buried: SW part of graveyard, St John’s Church, Baildon
Address: 1 West Grove, Westgate, Baildon
Parents: Clara Watson and step father, Ben Watson
Siblings: Harry; step-sisters Dorothy and Annie
Organisations/clubs: Member of Baildon brass band
Rolls of Honour: Baildon Methodist Church
Regiment: Royal Field Artillery
Sam Moxon Gelder D.C.M.
We are fortunate to have many articles about Sam Gelder from the pages of the Shipley Times & Express. At the time of the 1911 census, Sam was living at 1 West Grove, Baildon, with his mother and step father, Clara and Ben Watson, together with his brother Harry and step-sisters Dorothy and Annie (pictured right with Sam). 15 year old Sam was working as a doffer.The first article we find is a thank you letter from September 1915 for a parcel from the people of Baildon: ‘It’s a treat to smoke an English cigarette,’ he wrote, adding that he and Fred Light had seen a number of Baildon boys and ‘had a happy party.’But two weeks later, on 10 October, 1915, he painted a much tougher picture of life at the Front: ‘I am afraid we find the life rather on the
rough side. Our sleeping apartments are very primitive, the walls being composed of sand bags, while the roof is made up of a waterproof sheet and odd bits we have picked up in the ruined villages round about.‘The most striking thing I have met with out here - and I have travelled a good number of miles – is the fact that the churches appear to have been singled out for the most wanton damage. In one town, whilst the church was in absolute ruin, houses in the neighbourhood were scarcely damaged.‘Another peculiar thing is that whilst churches are everywhere in ruins, the crucifixes are in the majority of instances intact. I can only remember one case where the crucifix was damaged and even then it was the thief on the left side of the Lord who had had his head blown off. There they stand as if God defies the Germans to destroy them.
‘The poverty of the people out here would easily shame the slums of some of our large cities. It is a common thing to find four or five families living in a little house that has, by some chance, escaped the German shells. The children, too, seem to be very delicate and half starved to death. These people are suffering from the results of the war and you in England ought to be thankful that the war is out here.‘It is not pleasant thing to be a witness of all the ruin and poverty but we are hoping for the time when we can pay the enemy back in his own coin. Day and night we can hear the guns roaring and after dark the sky is lit up with flashes from the guns. Whilst I am writing this letter, the Germans are bombarding a town just in our rear and we can hear the shells quite plainly as they fly over our heads; somehow, we never trouble about them.’
Thanks to Tish and Michael Lawson for their help in this research
In September of 1917 there was mixed news – Sam had been awarded a medal for heroism but he had paid a severe price.‘Pte Samuel Gelder, son of Mrs Watson, Browgate, Baildon, has been awarded the D.C.M. which was presented to him on Wednesday at Ripon.‘Pte Gelder is only 21 years of age and has been invalided home with his health shattered.‘He enlisted at the beginning of the war, being then employed by Mr John Riddihough, wool merchant, Horton Lane, Bradford. He was connected with the Wesleyan Church at Baildon and a member of the Baildon Brass Band.’The following week, we learn that even Sam’s homecoming hadn’t gone smoothly:‘Gunner Sam Gelder, Royal Field Artillery, a winner of the Distinguished Conduct Medal, who has been discharged from the service owing to wounds, has returned home after having taken part in an interesting gathering.‘Along with a number of other soldiers who have covered themselves with glory on the battlefield, Gunner Gelder received his decoration at the hands of Lieut General Sir John G Maxwell, who
paid a visit last week to a Yorkshire training centre.‘The inhabitants of Baildon had made full preparation to give him a real hearty welcome on his arrival home.‘A vehicle was sent to Shipley Station to meet him and the Baildon Band had arranged to ‘play him home’ but unfortunately owing to some delay in the train service his arrival was late and meantime the crowd gathered to welcome him dispersed.’But the villagers quickly made suitable arrangements to welcome their hero home:‘The Baildon Brass Band gave a choice selection of music in the Market Square on Saturday evening and at the conclusion a collection was made in aid of a public testimonial for Gunner Samuel Gelder who was recently presented at Ripon Camp by General Maxwell with the D.C.M.‘On Sunday evening an excellent concert was given in the Picture House by Miss Irene Hamilton (soprano), Miss Ciara Baxendall (contralto), Mr Douglas Hamilton (tenor) and Mr Alfred Morrell (accompanist).‘Mr H Metice was the elocutionist in the unavoidable absence through
indisposition of Mr Cannon Dalby, whilst the Baildon Orchestral Society, consisting of 28 performers under the conductorship of Mr A Carpenter gave a number of capital selections.‘Each of the artistes received were encored by a large and appreciative audience.‘During an interval Gunner Gelder was presented with a purse containing £7 2s 6d – the proceeds of the Brass Band’s meeting on Saturday evening – and also a silver cigarette case subscribed for by the committee and promoters of Sunday evening’s concert, Messrs H Robinson, J Dyson and W Halliday.‘The gallant soldier in a neat little speech thanked those who had contributed to his handsome present and told of the pleasure experienced by our gallant lads at the front upon the receipt of a parcel of comforts from home.‘The proceeds of Sunday evening’s concert are to be devoted to augmenting the Baildon Soldier’s and Sailors’ Comforts Fund. The event was well patronised.’In November of 1917, the newspaper reported:‘Gunner Sam Gelder, D.C.M. had a
rousing reception from the scholars when he visited his old school on Tuesday afternoon.After a few words of welcome and congratulations from the head master, Mr T Morgan Jones, Miss Butland, the senior assistant, presented him with a wallet and silver matchbox on behalf of the teachers and scholars.In returning thanks, the brave gunner related a few of his experiences at the front and exhibited souvenirs which he had brought back with him.’Sam died as a result of his wounds in July 1918 and is buried in St John’s Church graveyard.