Rifleman Herbert Wood MM

A white circle with a glove crossing it's fingers and the words: Made Possible with Heritage Fund.This man is a candidate for addition to Keighley's Supplementary Volume under the proposal to add further names in 2024, the centenary of the original roll of honour.
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Supported by the National Lottery's Heritage Fund, our project intends to submit about 120 names for peer review to add them to the book which is kept at Keighley Library. The unveiling of the book with it's new names is planned for November 2024, 100 years after the unveiling of the original war memorial.

Rifleman. 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade. Service No: S/7377.

A black and white portrait photo of a man facing the camera. He is wearing a heavy fur coat and hat.

Herbert Wood, probably taken when he was working in Russia.

Early life:

Herbert was born on 7th October 1890 in Grünberg, Danzig, in Prussia. His parents were Hartley Wood, and Anna Wood née Shulz who had been married at St, George's Church in Berlin on 1st May 1889.
Herbert had a younger brother John Henry (Harry) born 28th April 1892 and a sister Gertrude Elsa born 21st September 1894 and a younger brother Frank, born in 1896. Their father Hartley was an engineer by trade.

Herbert received his preliminary education at Grunberg, in Prussia, and later at Berlin.

Sometime in the next few years Anna must have died. Hartley moved back to the UK and the children became naturalised British Citizens in 1896.

The next record we found was the 1911 census. Hartley who was originally from Colne, Lancashire, was living at 33, Ann Street in Denholme and was a widower aged 46. He was a mechanical engineer employed as the chief engineer at Denholme Mills. His daughter Gertrude was aged 16 and boarding with Mr and Mrs. Watson at 12, William Street, just a short walk away from Hartley.
George Watson was a fish merchant on his own account and his wife Mary Maria assisted with the business. Gertrude may also have been working for them, keeping house while they were at work.

Herbert and his brother Harry were living in Keighley during the 1911 census, they were boarders with the Lowler family at 28, Parson Street in Keighley. Both Herbert and Harry had served with the Keighley Territorials for three or four years during this period.
Work-wise, they were both apprenticed with Messrs. Darling and Sellars as tool fitters aged 21 and 18. Herbert was then appointed with the Kitson Lighting Company at Stamford in Lincolnshire and later he was employed with the Morgan Crucible Company. He was working for them in Russia before the war, at Moscow and Petrograd.

War service:

At the outbreak of war Herbert was in Petrograd and with about forty other men, he volunteered for active service and sailed from Petrograd to Newcastle in October 1914. He was put on active service and was at the Thames and Medway defences at Sheppey, and on Whit-Monday he went out to France, disembarking there on 25th May 1915.
His brother Henry was also a "Keighley Terrier," and was well known in boxing circles. He is also serving in the forces, having enlisted in the 1st Surrey Rifles.

Herbert was 'mentioned in despatches' for gallant and distinguished service in the field. This was recorded in the London Gazette dated
Herbert was killed in action on 6th July 1915 whilst taking part in an attack on German lines. He was 24 years of age when he died.

Keighley News report 15th April 1916, page 8:

Mr. Hartley Wood, engineer at Denholme Mills, has received a communication from the War Office informing him that his son, the late Rifleman Herbert Wood, of the Rifle Brigade, who fell in the fighting at Hooge, on July 7, 1915, was mentioned in a despatch from Field Marshall Sir John French, dated November 30, 1914, for gallant and distinguished service in the field, and that they wished to express the King's high appreciation of his services.
In August last a letter was received from the Rifle Record Office, enclosing a card from the Commanding Officer of the late Rifleman Wood and Brigade Commander, testifying to his gallant and distinguished conduct, and saying that he upheld the high tradition of the regiment to which he belonged. Letters of sympathy have been received by Mr Wood from the French and Russian Embassies in London, and also from the British Embassy in Petrograd. The letter from the latter Embassy, dated February 2, states: "No-one who is interested in the deeds performed by the Petrograd contingent can fail to be stirred by the tale of heroism and devotion which is told by those of your son's friends who witnessed his bravery and cool headedness."

Keighlian Magazine dated July 1917:

Mr Hartley Wood, engineer at Denholme Mills, has received notification from the War Office that his eldest son, Rifleman Herbert Wood, 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade, was killed in action in France on July 6 Last.
Rifleman Herbert Wood was but 24 years of age. He was born in Germany, his mother being a German lady. He received his preliminary education at Grunberg, in Prussia, and later at Berlin, and when in his teens spent two years as a student at the Keighley Trade and Grammar School. He was well known in Keighley, for he served his apprenticeship to engineering with Messrs, Darling & Sellers prior to taking up an appointment with the Kitson Lighting Company, Stamford, Lincolnshire, and later with the Morgan Crucible Company in whose interests he was in Russia at the outbreak of war, having been there for three years at Moscow and Petrograd, During the time he was in Keighley he was a member of the Keighley Territorials for three or four years. His brother Henry was also a "Keighley Terrier," and is well known in boxing circles. He is also serving in the forces, having enlisted in the 1st Surrey Rifles.
At the outbreak of war the deceased soldier volunteered for active service along with about forty others in Petrograd, and they were brought over to this country via Archangel, reaching Newcastle in October last. Rifleman Wood was put on active service immediately after joining, at the Thames and Medway defences at Sheppey, and on Whit-Monday he went out to France. He had often refused promotion. The esteem in which he was held and his gallantry as a solder are clearly shown in a letter which his father received, signed by half a dozen members of the Petrograd contingent, under date July 11, 1915. The letter states: "It is with extreme regret that we have to acquaint you that your son Herbert,
our friend, has been posted as missing. We have waited a few days in the hope of gathering some definite information, but inquiries have been made at all dressing stations in the neighbourhood of last Tuesday's action and through every possible source, but we have been reluctantly compelled to abandon the hope that he has survived. 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. The portion was extremely difficult on the left where the Germans were in possession of the continuation of the same trench, and it was the bomb-throwers' part to hold this. 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. Early in the day he was wounded, but stuck on, and at night, when the company was relieved, he was asked to stay, which he did.
To of us having to leave with the company were the last to see and speak to him. His name was taken not only by our own officer, but also by an officer of another regiment, and we have been informed that he was recommended for the V.C., an honour which we, in common with the whole battalion, consider his heroism more than merited.
His loss is deeply felt by everybody, for he was a great favourite, while we, his friends, have lost a brother. Deeply condoling with you, and assuring you that if we hear any definite news we will, of course, immediately let you know." Rifleman Wood was an expert linguist, and could speak Russian, German, and English fluently.

Herbert has no known grave and is remembered on the Menin Gate war memorial at Ypres.
Locally he is named on the Keighlian Magazine roll of honour for the Keighley Boy's Grammar School. He is also named along with his brother Harry on the Denholme War Memorial in Foster Park at Denholme which lists the names of 55 local men from the Great War, 1914 - 1918 and five men from World War Two, 1939 - 1945.

Apart from the Military Medal, Herbert earned the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service. His war medal ribbon would also be adorned with a metal oak leaf emblem, for being mentioned in despatches.
These would have been sent to his father after the war along with a Bronze war memorial plaque and a King's certificate inscribed with his name. Hartley would have also received Herbert's remaining Army pay of £3 6s 2d on 5th January 1916 and a war gratuity payment of £3 on 8th July 1919.
In the 1921 census Hartley was boarding with James Stott at 20, John Street in Denholme.
He died aged 67 in 1930, his death was registered at North Bierley in the second quarter of that year.

Information sources:

Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths From British Consulates, 1810-1968
1911 England Census
British Army World War I Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
Keighlian Magazine
1921 Census Of England & Wales
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007

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