By Dennis French
Sunday July 28, 1912. Lancashire invades Yorkshire.
Unprecedented in the annals of Craven since the Scottish raids, 9734 officers and men, 295 horses, 129 vehicles and 44 guns crossed the border into Craven on Sunday.
They arrived in special trains at Gisburn, Skipton, Elslack and Gargrave, a fantastic piece of organisation by the Midland Railway and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, something virtual impossible today. Nearly fifty special trains were run.
Soldiers of the Manchester Regiment, from Patricoft, Leigh, Wigan, Blackburn Burnley Nelson and Colne, Royal Signals and Field Ambulance from Manchester, Bolton and Burnley, and many others arrived in pouring rain and thunderstorms for their annual summer training camps at Skipton, East Marton and Gargrave.
It was a brilliant piece of organisation sadly marred by tragedy, when on the following day a group at the East Marton camp, sheltering from a thunderstorm, were struck by lightning, resulting in the death of Private Hutton from Darwen.
He was taken to the mortuary at Skipton and later his remains were carried on a gun carriage from the mortuary to Skipton station prior to a military funeral in Darwen. A tragic start.
The camp at Gargrave was situated on the hillside overlooking Coniston road bridge but no doubt many of the fields between there and the Anchor Inn were used. The wet start is vividly apparent from the many photographs that have come to light. One subtitled “fishing for fine weather at Gargrave ” sets the scene. A comment on the back of one card says “we are camped amongst the mountains”.
Sadly these men would suffer heavy casualties in the war and few would survive the four years of fighting. These photographs of life in the Gargrave camp are dedicated to those who gave their lives in that great struggle.
The photographs below are from the collections of Dennis French, Mrs Caroline Thompson, Martin Thompson (no relation) and Ben McKenzie. No doubt many others exist in private collections. Requests sent to the Manchester Regiment Archive as yet remain unanswered.