Book planned for village heroes

Howard Roberts from Altofts is reaearching all the people from the village who died in WWI.
Howard Roberts from Altofts is reaearching all the people from the village who died in WWI.

An in-depth study into every soldier from Altofts who died in the First World War is being researched for a new book, with hopes it will be ready for Remembrance Day next year.

Retired engineer Howard Roberts has been busy compiling details of the 71 fallen since November 2013.

The race is now on to have the book finished in time for 2018, which will mark exactly 100 years since the conflict finished.

The 74-year-old said: “I thought I could get it all sorted for 2014 but it’s a lot more work than I thought, I’ve never done anything like it before.

“Only recently have I been able to find some information on the last soldier.

“It’s been quite frustrating at times but it has been satisfying.”

The idea came to Mr Roberts when the line ‘we will remember them’ - from the famous poem, For the Fallen - was read out during the Remembrance Day service at Altofts four years ago.

His wife, who sadly passed away in 2015, encouraged him to put pen to paper to ensure they would not be forgotten.

He has since trawled the Wakefield Express archives, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, genealogy sites and even tracked down distant relatives to help piece together snippets of detail into the lives of each serviceman.

For those who died in the trenches, in many cases it is not known how or exactly when they died, but he has been able to find some background details into their lives. Interestingly, not all died among the mud and bullets of the front-line.

He found one who drowned in the desert and was buried in Basra and another who died aboard a ship that exploded while it was still in port in Kent.

One was a member of the RAF, which was only formed in the final few months of the war.

Mr Roberst said: “A lot of the soldiers came from the mines and there were some who were not conscripted who chose to go. The most harrowing part was discovering all of those who left wives and small children, it must have been horrendous.”

Mr Roberts says the book is 80 per cent written and he is now seeking a publisher.

After costs have been covered, any profit will be donated to the Royal British Legion.

He is also seeking any photos of the soldiers.

Anyone with photos can call Mr Roberts on 07443 939374.