Cracoe War Memorial

Last summer, during a walking trip in Yorkshire, we visited the Cracoe obelisk, erected as a memorial to the men of the parish of Rylstone and Cracoe who died in the First World War, and which stands with commanding views off of Cracoe Fell in Craven, North Yorkshire.

The decision to build such a striking memorial is clear as it is visible from across the village below and as further along the ridge stands Rylstone Cross, which is similarly prominent. This was originally built in wooden form in 1783 to mark the end of the American War of Independence. It is now a popular walk to encompass the two memorials, with beautiful views across the dale.

The Cracoe obelisk, however, was not the first of the village's war memorials to be constructed in the aftermath of the First World War. On 17th June 1921 a new village hall was installed as a practical memorial for the village. The building had been acquired from one of the huts which had formed the Skipton Prisoner of War camp during the war and once was no longer required was moved to Cracoe and re-dedicated in memory of the village's fallen. It stood, and was used by the community, until 1996.

The obelisk was then unveiled in the summer of 1922, made of local gritstone and with a plaque bearing the names of the village's thirteen fallen soldiers. This was replaced after the Second World War to include three additional names.

Capt Gerald Maude (source)
The memorial was unveiled in the presence of Lieut-Colonel William W Maude who had a personal connection as the father of Captains Gerald and Michael Maude who both died during the war. The Maude family all served in the Yorkshire Regiment prior to the First World War, with elder brother Gerald stationed in India from 1911 with 1st battalion. He spent eight years there, including the whole war. In the Spring of 1919 he was hit with a bullet to the lung during conflict in Afghanistan, which he remarkably survived. However, weakened by the injury he contracted pneumonia in the Autumn and died on 5th November 1919, shortly before he was due for a year's leave to England. He is now commemorated on the Delhi Memorial.

His younger brother Michael served closer to home. He disembarked in France on 6th October 1914 and saw action at the First Battle of Ypres with 2nd battalion, before fighting in the same area again with the 9th during the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. It was here that he sustained a shrapnel wound to his thigh on 20th September. He was hospitalised and transferred back to Dover but as was all too common, he developed septicemia and died on 14th October. As he died in Britain his body was transported to his home village, where he was buried in the churchyard of St Peter's, Rylstone. [Research courtesy of John Sly, found here.]

Also buried in Rylstone is James Thomas Swales. He was an ordinary seaman aboard HMS Victory but died of an unnamed disease on 3rd July 1918. He is one of two 'Swales' men on the memorial. The other is his cousin Tom Swales, of the West Riding Regiment.

The first of the village's men to die in the war was Pte Horace Marshall. Like many in the area, he had worked locally as a farmer. He went to France with 1/6th battalion, West Riding Regiment in April 1915, a unit comprising of local territorials from across the Craven area. Within a month they fought in their first battle at Aubers Ridge before moving to the Ypres area in the summer. The 49th (West Riding) Division to which they belonged developed the trenches around Boezinge, naming them after places local to them, including Skipton Road and Huddersfield Road. In this vain, their cemetery was named Colne Valley. It was here that Pte Marshall was buried following his death on 16th July 1915. The war diary recorded that he was 'killed in the trenches' on a very wet day which saw the 'trenches in a very bad state'. It is not clear what Marshall died from, although the diary does reference trench mortar activity. There is also a slight discrepancy in the date of his death. The official one recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is 16th July, however the war diary records it as the 15th. It may be that he died on the 15th but was not buried until 16th, although this is unclear.

On the same day Pte Rhodes Spence was also injured in the same battalion. A shell explosion fractured his pelvis and femur and he was evacuated to a casualty clearing station. However, he died of his wounds on 17th July and is buried at Lijssenthoek Cemetery. It is a sad coincidence that the small village's first two deaths came in such quick succession to men of the same unit, but it is also one of the realities of regional recruiting, which saw similar incidents up and down the country. Horace and Rhodes had lived near each other, worshipped together at Hetton Methodist Church, and had gone on to serve together, before their deaths caused in that same trench in Belgium.

Rylstone and Cracoe's stories of loss are replicated in towns and villages across the country. They are not unusual, but nonetheless the deaths of thirteen young men had a large impact on the community, as demonstrated in their construction both of such a prominent war memorial and of the new village hall.


Photos are my own unless otherwise stated.

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