Silsden family paid a heavy price for their wartime service

Joe Bancroft

Sam Bancroft

Fred Bancroft

First published in News by

MANY Keighley district families made sacrifices during the war, but some suffered particularly devastating losses.

The Bancrofts, from Silsden, saw five of their eldest sons sent to fight. Two of them were killed.

A performance in memory of the family's ordeal, called The Path Across the Heather, will be staged in Silsden Town Hall Hall tomorrow and Saturday. (August 8 and 9)

The parents of the soldiers were John Henry Bancroft and his wife, Agnes. Jarlath Bancroft, who researched their lives, said: "It’s hard to imagine what must have been going through their minds as they received the many letters from their sons when they were away, then the letters all families dread, informing them about the deaths of their two sons."

Of the sons who served, John, born in 1897, was the luckiest, surviving the conflict unscathed.

Sam Bancroft, born in 1890, joined up in 1914.

In a February 1916 letter to his family, he wrote: "How long do you think the war is going on? We know that the Germans are getting worse off, so let us hope that before long they will give it up as a bad job."

In October 1918, he was fatally injured. He left behind a wife and a baby daughter.

Joe Bancroft was born in 1892 and went to France in April 1915.

In May 1915 he wrote: “We got through the big battle all right. We were kept in the reserve trenches all night and the next day, then they took us up to the front when the battle had been on all day.

"In the morning our trench was shelled and we had two killed and some wounded. The guns started at five in the morning and the noise was enough to make anyone deaf."

He later won the Military Medal, but was killed in May 1918, aged 25. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal posthumously.

As if losing two of their sons was not enough, the Bancrofts endured having two other sons injured.

Willie Bancroft, born in 1899, was wounded in April 1918, while Fred Bancroft, born in 1896, was wounded in the Battle of the Somme.

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