Siblings: Charles, Mary, Maden, Alice, William, Eva, Annie, Mary, Frank
Occupation: Grocer’s asistant
Rolls of Honour: Eccleshill, Park & St Luke’s
Regiment: West Yorkshire
Cyril Syyles was born in 1896 the eight of ten children of Samuel and Martha Ellen, nee Holt.Samuel died in 1899 aged 49 years and in 1901 Martha Ellen is shown as a widow and head of the household. By 1911 Martha Ellen was living with her children at 80 Mount Street and Cyril, at 15 years of age, was working as a grocer’s assistant.Cyril enlisted on the 6th of August 1916 as Private 263031 in the 1/6th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales Own).He appears in British Army Service
Records as a patient in the No.22 General Hospital at Dannes Camiers during the Battles of Passchendaele which took place between the 12th of October to the 10th of November 1917. He is recorded on the 29th of October as being still dangerously ill in 22 and on the 1st November 1917 as “chest dang.”, dying at 12.30pm on that day. Whether his death was caused by a chest infection or wounds received in battle is not known.Cyril is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery. During the
First World War the area around Etaples was the scene of immense concentrations of Commonwealth hospitals which could deal with 22000 wounded or sick. The cemetery contains 10,771 burials.He left his effects to his mother Martha who received £3.1.0d on the 27th of February 1918 and £1.11.0d on the 25th April 1918. However his War Gratuity went to Miss Edith Hawley who received £14.0.0d on the 11th December 1919.
Researched and written by Jean Britteon, to whom many thanks
As with his brother Charles, we are fortunate to have some of Cyril’s letters which they passed on to the Shipley Times & Express. The first was published on 14 May 1915:‘I am now in a village that has been shelled and the sights are awful. We get amongst all kinds of regiments here and among them are the famous Ghurkas.We are having plenty of work at present and when the public at Bradford get to know what their
“fighting 6th” has done they will be proud.What surprises me is that such a lot of our chaps are not joining the colours. If they could only see the long thin line of khaki out here that needs reinforcing they would soon enlist and fight for their country.Some of them would perhaps be glad if the German brutes got into England and gave them a taste of what they have given Belgium. If they don’t enlist we shall do our best to stick it and overcome the
foul fiends. I’m going to try and account for at least two dozen.’In a later letter he says: ‘We have now moved up towards Belgium and the country here is lovely. I will tell you how I enjoyed the trenches. It was night when we went in and the bullets were whizzing all around us and just for a few minutes I felt excited. I could only tell I was in the firing line because of the noise.I think most of the Germans kept
their head down because I only saw one and he was knocked over by one of our corporals.About dinner time the next day they commenced to shell our headquarters and the noise was simply deafening. Our maxims came into play so you can just imagine the uproar of it all.One curious thing about being out here is that it makes one prize England more than one did when at home.
On 9 July 1915 they reported on letter which was written on his 9th day in the trenches. They were then up to their knees in mud and as it was raining heavily, they were wet through to the skin. The night previous he had just dropped off to sleep when he was awakened for further duty and during the heavy bombardment which followed six men were killed and many injured.He has had several narrow escapes from being hit but so far has come through safely.Instead of the Lusitania disaster making them downhearted it has made them more determined than ever to overcome the foe. They are determined to stick to it to the last and though it is just hell during a bombardment they prefer to face it rather than let the German fiends come over to England.Writing later he says: “Before we came into the trenches this morning we were shelled out of our billets and had to take to the dug outs. Pieces of shell wounded eleven men.
“Allan Noble has joined the bomb throwers and is attached to the Grenadier Guards. I have seen quite a number of Eccleshill lads out here but have not had the privilege of speaking to them. I am most grateful for the parcels I have received and I should be glad if you will send me the Times & Express every week.”*Allan Noble was an Eccleshill lad who had joined up at the same time as Cyril and Elkanah Ramsbottom. Another local soldier, Fred Cordingley, had mentioned seeing Cyril in the distance in June and that he looked “as fit as a fiddle”A week later it was Ramsbottom revealed that Cyril had been wounded and had also been the bearer of sad news: “I have been to see Cyril Styles several times and the other day he gave me the cutting out of the newspaper telling about my brother’s death at the front. “It is hard lines for him after going through the biggest engagements to be snapped off by a German sniper.“
On 20 August 1915, the newspaper carried another article, with Cyril again critical of stay-at-home young menWe have not much time for letter writing in the trenches as the Germans take a lot of watching. They are up to all sorts of tricks and we have to be on constant readiness.Up to coming to this part of the line we have been in the front and reserve trenches 32 days and are still awaiting the chance of a good sleep with our clothes off.Burning liquidLast week I saw the Germans make an attack on our right with burning liquid. It was just at daybreak and the sight was splendid in one way for it lit up the sky for miles.
It was not as terrifying as you might suppose as it is fairly easy to get out of the way. In the attack I witnessed only one man was slightly injured.I don’t think people in England realise how this war is being fought. Some, I suppose, think that we are meeting the Germans every day but that is quite wrong for we have been three months and never seen one.This is not one of those swift wars that Germany has previously gone through; it is a war of attrition and it is quite likely we shall want more men still to bring us through victorious.These slackers who stand at street corners with a cig in their mouth or play dominoes in a pub had perhaps be better looking inside a recruiting
office or they might be getting orders they don’t like.Shot downIt is hard lines to see comrades shot down on either side of you and think that their lives might have been saved if more of those shirkers in England had been helping to make munitions.Trench duties are not altogether dull for there are often things to smile at. Only yesterday the Germans sent a hundred shells over and the only casualty was that of a young lady in the village behind our trenches.When we take our places in the front line we generally come in for a warm reception from bombs and trench mortars. The latte is a terrible shell and very deceiving in its flight for it looks as if you were
going to run into it but it swerves to the left and misses you altogether.The gasses liberated from bursting shell are only injurious to the eyes but I have had a little taste of the other kind and want no more.We are practically safe from its poisonous effects by being provided with smoke helmets and respirators.Last week, while in the reserve, I had the opportunity of attending a drumhead service conducted by a Wesleyan minister. We sang a few of the old favourites and every now and again there was the roar of a big gun which shook the place where we were standing.The service, which concluded with the singing of ‘Fight the good fight with all thy might,’ was just splendid.
It was 22 October 1915 before Cyril describes how he was injured. Perhaps he’d intended to hide the fact from his family and only explained after Elkanah Ramsbottom ‘let the cat out of the bag’ or this might have been a second woundingHe says: ‘When hit I was returning from hospital and making my way back to the trenches. I had got in the middle of a big field when the Germans started shelling us. I was just dropping down when something hit my leg above the knee and it felt like the kick from mule.‘I managed to get into an ambulance waggon but on arriving at the hospital I had to be assisted inside. The wound is not serious and I am making good progress. Our chaps who are in the trenches are close up to the Frenchmen and in one part of our line
the Germans are only 15 yards away. Bombing goes on day and night.‘You will probably have read the good news in the paper lately and it is our opinion that there will be more to follow. We had a service on Sunday which was much enjoyed. While we were singing ‘Fight the good fight’ we could distinctly hear the big guns booming.One of the astonishing things out here is that farming goes on as usual. The people work very hard on the land though they live close to the firing line.‘The weather out here is bitter cold and when we get up in a morning it just looks like winter. There have already been several cases of frost bite. I should like to say how grateful we are for what our country and our patriots have done for us while we have been fighting the foe.’