It’s rare for this column to chronicle the story of a Keighley soldier who finished the First World War alive.
Hartley Falkingham’s story is even more amazing because he survived a full four years on the frontline.
Hartley, who was decorated twice for bravery in combat, lived to the age of 79 and died at his home in Garforth Road, Keighley, in 1973.
Hartley was baptised at East Morton Methodist Chapel soon after his birth in 1894 and grew up in the village.
He was a 16-year-old fitter in a machine shop in 1911, but he enlisted for the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment at the beginning of 1914.
Hartley was called up for service within days of the war starting that summer, and by the time he left the army in 1919, he had reached the rank of Lance Sergeant.
According to his family, Hartley was gassed during the conflict but he had recovered enough to marry Amy Greenwood soon after returning to civilian life.
Hartley was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.
The citation reads: “Early on in the action, a platoon was held up by heavy machine gun fire.
“On his own initiative he crawled into the open, where he could reach the lines.
“While going forward he was wounded, but in spite of this he opened fire, inflicting heavy casualties and causing the enemy to retire. This enabled the infantry to advance and take their lines.”
Hartley was also awarded the Military Medal – for an unknown incident of bravery – as well as the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his service.
Hartley’s obituary was published in The Iron Duke, the regimental journal of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment in November 1973.