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The Fallen of Kirkby

William Sykes

  • Son of David and Elizabeth Sykes of Marshside.
  • Private, 2066, 1st/4th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.
  • Killed in Action 15th June 1915 near Rue d’ Ouvert, aged 22.
  • Commemorated on Panel 5, Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France, and on a plinth, probably the remains of a cross, in St Cuthbert’s old churchyard.

William Sykes was a Sunday School and Choir member, and a regular communicant at church. He worked for Furness Railway as a clerk before the war, but for some reason he is not named on the company’s war memorial at Barrow Station. His father, David Sykes, worked in the quarry as a slate loader. David and Elizabeth had five children, of which William was the oldest, the others being David, a clerk in Vickers’ shipyard, Richard and Ethel. John Knight Sykes, born in 1899, had died at 11 months. All the children had been born in Kirkby, and the family had been living at Friar’s Ground in 1901, but by 1911 they were at Marshside. (David died in 1939 aged 77, and Elizabeth died in 1945 aged 74; both are buried in St Cuthbert’s churchyard.)

William Sykes enlisted in Lancaster and was in A Company of the 1st/4th Battalion of the KORLR (the same Company as Addison Bell of Copp, an apprentice slate river at the quarry). The Battalion left England in May 1915 and went into the front line at Le Touret on 14th June, for an offensive on 15th during which Sykes must have been killed, though his body was not found. He was reported wounded and missing in the North Western Daily Mail of 5th November 1915, and was among the five casualties given the first memorial service of the war at St Cuthbert’s Church on 9th January 1916.

News Report

“January 15th 1916: Memorial Service. On Sunday morning last a memorial service was held at St Cuthbert’s Church for the five Kirkby men who have fallen in the war. Their names are Roger Preston, Richard Knight, William Sykes, William Nicholson Brockbank and John Wilson. There was a good congregation. The Vicar preached an appropriate sermon.”

Le Touret Memorial

The memorial at Le Touret in the Pas de Calais, France, commemorates more than 13,400 British soldiers who died between October 1914 and September 1915, and who have no known grave. This part of the Western Front saw heavy fighting in the first year of the war, and Panel 5 of the memorial carries the names of three men from the Kirkby area: Mark Grigg, William Sykes, and Addison Bell of Lowick who worked at the quarry in Kirkby.

The memorial is within the Le Touret Military Cemetery on the south side of the Béthune to Armentières road, the D171, 1km on the Armentières side of Le Touret village. The memorial was designed by John Reginald Truelove and takes the form of an open loggia surrounding a courtyard, with the names listed by regiment on panels in the walls of the court and gallery.

Kirkby Casualties Mark Grigg, and William Sykes, and Addison Bell of Lowick, are all named on Panel 5 of the Loggia, seen in the background of this photo
Kirkby Casualties Mark Grigg, and William Sykes, and Addison Bell of Lowick, are all named on Panel 5 of the Loggia, seen in the background of this photo

Le Touret is one of the most beautiful of the many beautiful war cemeteries, maintained so well by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Mature trees surround the perimeter, and there are fields on three sides beyond. The rows of gravestones are gently curved, rather than straight, and the loggia is classically appropriate. Seats form part of the design by the architect, Mr Truelove: no doubt they have been appreciated by relatives visiting family members’ graves since 1918.

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