Loss of father and son at The Battle of Passchendaele recalled

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A descendant of a Wakefield father and son who perished together in the Battle of Passchendaele has spoken of her emotion when she stood on the spot where they fell a century ago.

Author Rebecca Lisle is the great-granddaughter of Harry Moorhouse, who was killed within minutes of his son, Ronald, on October 9, 1917.

Ms Lisle, who lives in Bristol, attended this week’s Passchendaele centenary commemorations, in Belgium, where Harry and Ronald’s names are inscribed on a wall at Tyne Cot cemetery.

They are just two of the thousands of men whose bodies were unable to be recovered from the treacherous battle-churned mud.

Ms Lisle said: “The most moving part of the event was on Monday, when we were taken to the place where Harry and Ronald were killed.

“Today it is a beautiful stretch of farmland and the watercourse where so many men drowned is just a small stream.

“It is almost impossible to imagine what it was like a century ago and what happened there.

“What a terrible waste.”

Harry, 48, an acting lieutenant-colonel in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and Ronald, 22, a captain in the same regiment, died within an hour of each other as the father left the trenches to search for his gravely-wounded son.

It may well have been too late by the time Harry found Ronald but he never got to know, for he was killed by a sniper’s bullet before he reached his son.

The Moorhouse family lived in Flanshaw and owned Flanshaw Mills. The telegram informing Susannah – Harry’s wife and Ronald’s mother – of their loss said: “Their majesties deplore the death of these two brave officers and desire me to convey to you their sincere sympathy with you in their sorrow.”

Later that month, the pair were remembered at a service in Wakefield Cathedral.

Ms Lisle added: “Harry and Ronald have always been regarded with great reverence in our family.

“My grandmother had photographs of them on the wall and kept Harry’s dress uniform and cap on a clothes stand. She also had the badges and insignia which had been cut from his uniform.

“My mum, who was a student at Leeds College of Art in the 1940s, was one of the first people to wear a T-shirt.

“It was Harry’s silk vest.”