Hefford William Ernest Ainley (1883-1917)

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.


Hefford Ainley was born on 26 June 1883 in Kirkheaton, the son of John Shaw Ainley, a worsted cloth manufacturer from Lepton, and his wife Emma Louis, and christened in the parish church on 2 August.

Theirs was a prosperous family: in 1891 they had a cook and a housemaid living in, along with a governess to look after Hefford and his sister Gladys Lillian who was then five, and his brother Eric Edwin who was two year old.

The 1901 census found Hefford boarding with dozens of other young men, mainly from the north of England in Giggleswick School, that establishment in North Yorkshire that exists to this day.

At some point during his youth, Hefford compiled a scrap-book about Kirkheaton and its grammar school and this is now in the care of the West Yorkshire Archive Service at Huddersfield Local History Library.

By 1911 John Ainley had retired and Hefford was described as a "Fancy Vesting Manufacturer" at the age of twenty-seven. At first he had worked for the mill established by his grandfather but by the time he joined the army he was working for John Taylor Limited on Colne Road.

Like his brothers and one sister he was unmarried and lived at home, a house of eleven rooms, at Martin Bank, Moldgreen. A fourth child had left home. Unlike many of their contemporaries in the small houses off Acre Street, Lindley, daughters did not work. Eric, however, was a student of civil engineering. They employed two live-in servants.

Hefford was not single for much longer. In early 1913 he married Constance Hopkinson, daughter of the late John Hopkinson, founder of the engineering works in Huddersfield and by the time he joined the army they were living at Coverstrand, Sunnybank Road.

A daughter, Sheila, was born in the spring of 1915.

No doubt they counted their neighbours, the Crowthers in Viso House further along Sunnybank Road, who were also woollen manufacturers, among their friends. Leslie Taylor Crowther, ten years younger than Hefford, served in the Duke of Wellington's and died in June 1915, some 18 months before Hefford.

Enlisting in the local artillery brigade, Hefford was commissioned 2nd Lieut. in the Royal Field Artillery in July 1915 and was promoted 1st Lieut. on 4 October 1916.

The Puchevillers British Cemetery lies in a small village about 19kms north of Amiens in the area of the River Somme.There are 1756 men buried there, many from the 3rd and 44th Casualty Clearing Stations that operated there between June 1916 and March 1917. Hefford died on 4 February 1917 from pneumonia and shock as a result of burns received two days earlier; he had been sent back from the front line to rest and while sleeping in a dugout covered with corrugated sheeting that he shared with another officer it caught fire. He was injured rescuing the other man from the flames.

Hefford's major wrote of the "high esteem and personal affection" in which he was held by both men and fellow officers.

Hefford's will was listed in the official Index of Wills: he left effects to the value of £6193 9s 7d. Just below, the estate of another soldier, Tom Ainley of Dewsbury[1], a private in the Yorkshire Light Infantry, who also died in France, is listed. He left a total of £70 16s 4d to his father.

Like his neighbour Leslie Taylor Crowther, Hefford is remembered in St. Stephen's church and he is also remembered in the memorial in St. John's Old Churchyard, Kirkheaton and at Giggleswick School.

Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922

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

AINLEY, HEFFORD WILLIAM ERNEST. Lieutenant. 168th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. Born 26.6.1883 at Kirkheaton. Son of John Shaw and Emma Louisa Ainley of Martin Bank, Somerset Road, Huddersfield. Attended Giggleswick School. Worked as a woollen manufacturer, first at the mill established by his grandfather, Mr Hefford Ainley, and then with Messrs John Taylor Limited, Colne Road. He married the daughter of Mr Joseph Hopkinson and lived at ‘Overstrand’, Sunnybank Road, Edgerton, and had one child. Enlisted 25.7.1916. Buried PUCHEVILLERS BRITISH CEMETERY. Grave location:- Plot 3, Row C, Grave 4.
ROH:- St. Stephen's Church, Lindley; memorial in St. John's Old Churchyard, Kirkheaton.


Huddersfield Weekly Examiner (09/Feb/1917):

Died on the night of Sunday 4.2.17 from pneumonia supervening on burns. Lieutenant Ainley had gone behind the wagon lines for rest and was sleeping with a few fellow officers in a bivouac of timber, corrugated iron and canvas. During the night this building in some way caught fire. The other officer was overcome and rendered insensible whilst Lieutenant Ainley who dragged his friend to a place of safety was badly burned about the hands and feet and also about the head. He was removed as quickly as possible to a Casualty Clearing Station and every attention was paid to him. He appeared to be progressing very favourably with the burns but pneumonia set in and he passed away very quietly on Sunday as stated.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

  • regiment: Royal Field Artillery
  • died: Sunday, February 4, 1917
  • age: 33 years
  • record ID: 510708



Notes and References

  1. No relation.