photo courtesy of Jofen
Date of Death:01/07/1916
Regiment:King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Cemetery:Euston Road Cemetery,Colincamps
Samuel Halkyard was born in 1883 in the County Durham mining village of Sleetburn.His parents were William, a coal miner originally from Dukinfield, and County Durham native Elizabeth. It was a large family and Samuel was one of thirteen children.
Samuel's siblings were John, Mary, Isabella, Sarah, Adam, Violet, Albert, Robert,Thomas,Amos,Florence and Hilda. Samuel's parents had for a short while lived together in Oldham before Samuel's birth and they returned to the area, this time Royton, in the 1890's when Samuel would have been in the 9 to 13 age range. At the time of the 1901 census Samuel was with his parents at 2 New Mill and working in one of the local cotton mills. His father was still a coal miner. Living next door was brother John, also a miner, and his wife and son.
Samuel did eventually follow in his father's footsteps and take up a career below ground and by 1907 was working as a miner in Castleford. On Christmas Day of that year at the age of 24 he married 17 year old Florence Chatsworth at All Saints Church in that town. A daughter, Elizabeth, followed the year after. Their second child, Samuel, was born in 1910 by which time they had moved to Sunderland. He had taken work back in Yorkshire by 1912 when his third child,Florence,was born in Pontefract. A move back to nearby Castleford followed. Samuel's father William passed away in 1913 in Oldham aged 66.
According to the Oldham Chronicle Samuel enlisted in the army before the outbreak of war. He did so in Castleford and was to become a member of the 12th Battalion of the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. The 12th KOYLI was formed in September 1914 as a Miners Battalion after the War Office had given the West Yorkshire Coal Owners Association authorisation to raise a unit. Three of Sam's brothers also enlisted in the 12th KOYLI - John, Albert and Adam. John was also living in Castleford at that time while Albert and Adam were residents of Oldham.
After initial training in various spots in Yorkshire the 12th KOYLI were allocated to the 31st Division as a pioneer battalion.Pioneers were involved in road making, demolition, digging trenches, converting newly won positions along with working on railway embankments, constructing barbed wire obstacles, bridge building and tree felling. The battalions were also equipped and trained as conventional infantrymen and during the course of the war there were many occasions when they had to ditch their tools and fight off enemy attacks.
The Battalion left Yorkshire in October 1915, moving to the Salisbury area before embarking for Egypt on December 6th. John Halkyard was not amongst them as he had been hospitalised with health problems and would shortly after be discharged from the army as being unfit for further service. The three remaining Halkyard brothers were only in Egypt for a couple of months before the battalion moved to France as part of the massive buildup ahead of Britain's planned massive 1916 summer offensive.
On July 1st 1916 the men of the 12th KOYLI were to be involved in the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. At the northern end of the main British attack 31st Division's 93rd and 94th Brigades were tasked with the capture of the heavily defended village of Serre. Prior to the assault, saps had been dug out into no man's land to within 30 or 40 yards of the German frontline. As soon as the infantry had taken their first objectives the men of 12th KOYLI's B & C Companies were to turn the saps into communication trenches by extended them up to the freshly captured German trenches. A & D Companies were to establish strong points in these German trenches. The men were equipped similarly to the infantry battalions but with an additional pick or shovel to carry.
Like many other places along the battlefront that morning the attack at Serre in the face of overwhelming enemy artillery and machine gun fire was a catastrophic failure. The infantry battalions of the 93rd and 94th Brigades suffered horrific losses and the 12th KOYLI following up behind them were to take many casualties themselves. The survivors had to rebuild trenches that were crumbling under artillery fire, take forward supplies of ammunition, dig new trenches and then later to help in trying to bring wounded men to safety. A roll call was taken at 16:30 and 197 officers and men were reported as killed, wounded or missing. Samuel Halkyard was one of those killed.
His mother Elizabeth was living in Oldham by this time, probably at the home of Samuel's brother Adam, and received a letter from a Sergeant Major Henry Appleyard:
"Dear Mrs Halkyard, I am just writing you a few lines on behalf of the 10th Platoon, C Company, and of myself. It is with deep regret I have to inform you of the death of your son, who was killed on July 1st (Saturday morning). Sam was me of my favourites, one of my best, and was well respected by everyone in the company. Furthermore he was living the life of a Christian. He went into the fight with a good heart, and did his duty like a hero. I hope you will accept my deepest sympathy in your great trouble, and my Gods blessing rest with you and your family"
The Oldham Chronicle reported that Albert Halkyard was in hospital with shell shock and Adam with rheumatic fever.
It's not known what happened to Samuel's widow Florence but their son Sam went to live with Isabella Halkyard on Rochdale Road, Royton. Isabella was by now Isabella Hartley as she had married James Hartley, the brother of Abel Hartley, in 1904.
Over the following years the below 'in memorium' notices were posted in the Oldham Chronicle:
30th July 1917
In loving memory of a dear son and brother,
Private Samuel Halkyard,KOYLI who was killed in France July 1st, 1916.
Also of a dear husband and father, William Halkyard, died April 21st 1913
we often breathe their names,
And often shed a tear,
But we leave them in God's keeping,
And trust we'll meet some day.
From Mother, Sisters and Brothers
29th June 1918
In loving memory of a dear brother and dad,
Private Samuel Halkyard,KOYLI,
who was killed in France July 1st 1916
"Thy will be done"
From his sister Bella and little son Sam
5th July 1919
In loving memory of our dear brother
and dad,Private Samuel Halkyard KOYLI,
killed on the Somme July 1st 1916
True remembrance lasts for ever
From his sister Bella and son Sam
Rochdale Road, Royton
It's not known what became of Samuel's widow Florence or his mother Elizabeth - although we do know that the latter moved to live with her daughter Isabella in Royton. Isabella died in 1968 aged 87 and is buried in Royton Cemetery. Of Samuel's three children - Sam died in 2000 and Florence in 2005, Elizabeth's date of death is unknown.
The other men of the 12th KOYLI listed as having been killed on July 1st 1916 were:
ABLE MATTHEW Private 12/1359
ANDREWS JAMES 23 Corporal from Rothwell
BINKS ALBERT Private 12124
BIRBECK ROBERT Private 12/1417
DARNBROUGH THOMAS Private 12/1261
DEWS HERBERT 23 Private 1558 from Ossett
DUNN JOSEPH Lance Corporal 12/128
FINNIGAN JAMES 25 Private 12/1474
FORREST THOMAS 32 Lance Corporal 12/648 from Stoke-on-trent
FOSTER ERNEST 21 Private 1504 from Wakefield
GEARY BENJAMIN Private 12/1878
GILBERT HAROLD Lance Serjeant 12/375
GREENHOUGH ARTHUR Private 12/104
HALSTEAD FRANK Private 154
HEAPS SAM 29 Private 12/1018 from Batley
HEWITT ALBERT Private 1427
HOLMES ERNEST Private 12/583
HOLMES FRED 31 Private 12/1464 from Rotherham
HORTON ARTHUR Private 12/1424
HUDSON BENJAMIN 26 Private 12/656 from Kippax
KAYE JOHN 28 Private 12/15 from Wakefield
LAPISH GEORGE 22 Private 12/178 from Wakefield
LEEK GEORGE 29 Private 12/591 from Normanton
MARSHALL JESSE Private 12/1037
OUTRAM JOHN Private 12/932
RAMSDEN DAVID 29 Private 12/1057 from Dewsbury
RANDLE JOSEPH Private 12/1298
RYAN GEORGE Private 12/1469
SCHOFIELD FRANK Corporal 12/219
SMITH CHARLES Private 12/860
SMITH JOHN Private 12/1063
TAYLOR JOHN 39 Private 12/1420 from Batley
TOMLINSON JAMES 23 Private 12/608 from Normanton
WALSH FRANK Private 12/228
WEATE JOHN 21 Lance Corporal 12/1093 from Wakefield
WELCH JAMES 20 Lieutenant from Southend
WHITE HENRY Private 12/877
WRIGHT FRANK Corporal 12/229