Ernest Mettrick (1888-1918)

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This page is part of a project by David Verguson to research the lives of those who appear on war memorials and rolls of honour in the Lindley area.

Ernest Mettrick and his brother, Sykes, were both killed during the First World War.

Biography

While the Mettricks were not unique in Lindley in loosing two sons but it was unusual.

Robert Mettrick came from Holmfirth and in 1911 there were relatives still living down the Holme Valley.

Sarah Hannah Moore, was seven years older than Robert when they married in the summer of 1882. She came from Lindley so perhaps they settled in the village to be near her family. Their first child, Sykes, arrived two years later.

For whatever reason, they stayed in Lindley, living in Wellington Street in 1891, by which time they three more children: Foster was four, Ernest only two and Edith, new-born. Albert was born on 10 September 1895 and when he was baptized at the Zion Chapel on Lidget Street in January 1897, the Mettricks were living at 95 Baker Street. By 1910 they were at 22 Oakes Road, a house Robert owned.

Sykes joined the Zion Church Sunday School in 1889, Ernest in 1892 with both leaving in 1896 to attend Oakes Board School, where Sykes proved to very able: 1896 he passed into the Sixth Standard after a special exam, one of the few entered from Oakes.

Robert was a worsted weaver. When he left school, Sykes also went into the textile industry and eventually became a weaver like his father. Ernest also became a weaver and their sister Edith, a warper. Foster became a grocer's assistant at 14 and by 1911 was described as a shop assistant with the Co-operative Society. Interestingly, at 15, Albert was described as a "student".

In the early summer of 1908 Sykes married Sarah Ethel Shaw, a mender, of Primrose Hill, at the High Street Chapel in Huddersfield.

By 1911 Sykes and Sarah were living in a three-room house on Quarmby Road, a good walk from the family on Oakes Road. He seems to have moved further down the road by the time he enlisted. Sykes was working as a pattern weaver at Martin's mill on Plover Road, so the address would have been convenient. In his spare time, as well as singing in the Thorncliffe Chapel choir, enjoyed Gilbert and Sullivan and played the piano.

In the spring of 1912, Sykes became a father when his daughter, named Phyliss, was born.

On 26 August 1911 at the Wesleyan Chapel on East Street, Foster married Hilda Bottomley of Rock Road, Birchencliffe, whose father was a stonemason. A son, Robert after his grandfather, was born at about the time the war began and another in 1921.

Ernest was by then working at B. Crosland & Sons at Oakes, not far from the family home and on 26 July 1913 also at the East Street Chapel, he married Sarah Elizabeth Kellett, a mender, from Daisy Lee Lane, whom he may have met visiting his cousin, Thomas, who lived in the same terrace as Sarah. Unlike his cousins, Tom worked at Sykes's and did so until the 1960s.

Ernest and Sarah had a son, baptised Albert, in September 1916.

Until the War, the Mettricks had done well — unlike many other families, they had lost none of their children prematurely. The five rooms Robert and Sarah shared with three sons and a daughter - now that Sykes had moved out — may seem cramped by modern standards but they had more space than many in Lindley.

Sykes initially had a low regimental number (8096) but in fact was not called-up on 22 November 1916. Both he and his brother put their names forward under the Derby Scheme and Ernest was conscripted eight days later on 30 November. In fact, Ernest's final Service Number was only a few digits higher than his brother's. By this time, Sykes was already at Clipstone Camp.

Training at the vast camp in Nottinghamshire was not something Sykes felt suited for as he wrote in letters home, making no mention of his brother. It is possible that they could have just not had the opportunity to meet up.

Life was not made easier at the camp by the bad weather and Sykes soon succumbed like everyone else to the "Clipstone Cough". On the bright side, fellow recruits "from Halifax, Bradford, Huddersfield" in his hut made life a bit more fun The food was "very fair" and could be supplemented by luxuries from home or bought at the YMCA hut and the Soldiers Rest. He also managed a trip into Mansfield where he saw a play though would have preferred a "musical comedy".

He could not get home for that first Christmas and his wife wrote saying how lonely she and Phyliss were.

After this preparation they would be allocated to different units as needed. The 2nd Battalion was a regular unit in France from August 1914 and would have suffered high numbers of casualties. Ernest was probably sent as a replacement early in 1917.

Ethel and young Phyliss visited Sykes at Clipstone in February 1917 before he sailed for France at the end of the month.

Sykes was reported missing in early May 1917 and in October Ethel received a letter from Sykes' sergeant describing how he had seen Sykes fall when the platoon were pulling back after a failed assault. This had been on Easter Tuesday, 10 April. The sergeant pointed out that Sykes never seen a German or even fired his rifle at the enemy.

Since he has no known grave, Sykes is remembered on the Arras Memorial in the Pas de Calais and in St. Stephen's church and on the plaque that once stood in the Thorncliffe Street Methodist chapel in the centre of the village where he had been a member of the choir, as well as at the Methodist Church on East Street.

One can only imagine the suffering of the Mettrick household when they received news of Sykes death: Ernest was still at the Front. Their worst fears were realised a year later when, during the German spring offensive that reversed the Allied gains of the previous years, Ernest was killed. He too has no known grave and is remembered with his brother at Arras and in St. Stephen's and on the plaque in East Street Methodist Church. They are both also remembered on the family stone in top right-hand corner of the Methodist churchyard on East Street, where we can see that their mother died in 1931.

Sykes's widow, at least, would have received an allowance, probably of 25/- per week. There is no evidence that either she or Ernest's widow. Hilda, ever re-married.

The youngest Mettrick boy, Albert, served in the Royal Navy in the War and in early 1923 married Louis Iredale and the couple moved into a house owned by her father on Burn Road.

Like his father, Albert, who became a civil servant, was passionate about education and insured his children got a good education. Robert, who died in 1934 and was buried at the East Street Chapel, would have been pleased with educational achievements of all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, some of whom have attended Oxford or Cambridge universities.

Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922

The following extract is from Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922 (2014) by J. Margaret Stansfield:

METTRICK, ERNEST. Private. No 235211. 2nd Battalion Duke of Wellington's Regiment. Born Oakes 19.5.1888. Son of Robert and Sarah H. Mettrick, 22 Oakes Road, Lindley. Educated Oakes Council School. Attended the Thorncliffe Street Wesleyan Church, Lindley, where he was a member of the choir. Employed by Messrs B. Crosland and Sons of Oakes. Married, with one child. Enlisted 30.11.1916. Came home on leave at the beginning of March 1918. Returned to France and was reported missing, presumed killed, on 28.3.1918. Has no known grave. Commemorated ARRAS MEMORIAL TO THE MISSING.
ROH:- St. Stephen's Church, Lindley.
Brother of Private SYKES METTRICK reported missing, 10.4.1917.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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