Men of Worth - Brothers killed in same conflict

Keighley News: Herbert Wood from  Keighley, was put forward to receive a posthumous Victoria Cross Herbert Wood from Keighley, was put forward to receive a posthumous Victoria Cross

The Keighley News today begins a weekly tribute to the bravery of district residents during the First World War.

We will showcase the stories of courageous members of the armed forces, unearthed through research by Keighley’s Men of Worth group.

Denholme engineer Hartley Wood lost his sons Herbert and Harry within 14 months of each other while fighting the Germans.

Hartley’s loss may have been lessened by hearing that Herbert was recommended for a Victoria Cross following the incident that claimed his life.

And Harry, according to a letter written to his father by comrade Joseph McKniff, died a “glorious death”.

Herbert enlisted in the Army in October 1914, serving as a rifleman with the Prince Consort’s Own. A former pupil of Keighley Trade and Grammar School, he could also speak Russian and German fluently.

Herbert’s father received a letter in July 1915 signed by half-a-dozen comrades telling how Herbert had been posted as missing, presumed dead, a few days previously.

The letter stated: “Herbert formed one of a party of bomb-throwers, who took a leading part in the attack in which we captured a portion of the German trench.

“At times the situation was critical, and it was then he seemed to stand apart.

“The barrier officer killed, he took charge, urging the men on, rallying them when they wavered, constantly exposing himself on the parapet, the better to direct the fire.”

Herbert was wounded early in the day but stayed at the front, and was asked to continue after the rest of his company was relieved.

He was declared dead on July 6, at the age of just 24, and was recommended for the Victoria Cross. He was posthumously awarded the Military Medal and was mentioned in dispatches.

Herbert’s younger brother, Henry, known as Harry, had become a rifleman with the First Surrey Rifles only one month before his brother’s death.

Another former student of Keighley Trade and Grammar School, he was a professional fighter, well known in Keighley, Newcastle and London boxing circles. He was killed in action at the age of 24, leaving a widow and son.

Harry’s comrade, Joseph McKniff, also from Keighley, wrote to Hartley about Lance Corporal Wood. He said: “I could not pay a last tribute better than by letting his many Keighley friends know of his glorious death.”

l Contact David Knights at david.knights@keighlenews.co.uk or on (01535) 606611 if you have a Great War story to tell from your family history.

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