Joseph Thomas Pratt
Date of birth: 1880
Date of death: 8.6.1917
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of the late William and Rachel Pratt, husband of Amelia May Winter (formerly Pratt) of Broughton’s Yard, Ferrybridge
Service number: 19611
Thomas was enlisted into the 8th (Service) Battalion of the K.O.Y.L.I. which was formed at Pontefract in September 1914 as part of K3 and attached to 70th Brigade in 23rd Division. Moved to Frensham and then to Aldershot in December 1914. Moved on to Hythe in February 1915 and Bordon in May.
Between 21st and 26th August 1915 the Division landed at Boulogne and proceeded to the concentrate near Tilques.
On 5th September the Division was attached to III Corps and moved to the Merris-Vieux Berquin area, where trench familiarisation began under the tutelage of the 20th (Light) and 27th Divisions. The Division took responsibility for a front line sector for the first time nine days later, taking over between Ferme Grande Flamengrie to the Armentieres-Wez Macquart road. CIII and CV Brigades RFA were attached to 8th Division for operations in connection with the Battle of Loos. At this time, 23rd Division was holding the front at Bois Grenier. It remained in this area for a considerable time.
The Division was relieved after a lengthy five month spell in the front line by 34th Division, between 26th January and 8th February 1916. After a certain amount of confusing movement, Divisional HQ was established at Blaringhem and the units concentrated around Bruay.
On 3rd March 1916 orders were received to relieve the French 17th Division in the Carency sector. The front to be held was between the Boyau de l'Ersatz and the Souchez River, including the posts on the Notre Dame de Lorette hill behind. Artillery was positioned in the area Carency - Ablain St Nazaire - Bois de Bouvigny, an exposed position in which it was subject to severe shelling. In early March many former miners were withdrawn from the ranks to establish a Tunnelling Company of the Royal Engineers. Relieved by 2nd Division between 12th and 19th April and withdrew to Bruay area. Moved back into the Souchez-Angres front 10-13th May.
The 8th KOYLI were involved in the Flanders Offensive [7th June to 10th Nov 1917] opening with the Battle of Messines. Planned by Sir Hubert Plumer and resulted in a complete success for the 2nd Army, which he commanded.
In the first days of June, from a camp near Ouderdom, the 8th KOYLI moved up the battle concentration area for the Messines offensive. There were five days of bombardment prior to the attack. Mines at Hill 60 and The Caterpillar were fired at Zero Hour and were the signal for the assault. Hill 60 and the "Caterpillar" would be the northern section of the mine battle on June 7, 1917. The Caterpillar was the name coined for the meandering hill on the south side of the railway. On aerial photographs it resembled a caterpillar on this hill, hence the name.
At 3.10 AM on June 7th, 1917, 19 mines were detonated by the British to launch the Battle of Messines. The average mine contained 21 tons of explosive and the largest, 125 feet beneath Saint-Eloi, was twice the average at 42 tons. The combined force of the explosions was supposedly felt in England. As remarked by General Plumer to his staff the evening before the attack:
“Gentlemen, we may not make history tomorrow but we shall certainly change the geography”.
The craters from these and many other mines on the Western Front are still visible today.
The first objective was Image Trench and part of Illusive Trench in the enemy's front line, the second being Image Crescent. The 8th KOYLI moved in rear along a tunnel towards Hedge Street, emerging at the Winnipeg exit. The Battalion then moved down the front line trench into Living Trench. About 2 hours after Zero hour they advanced to their assembly positions in Image Reserve. After they had captured their objectives Image Crescent was consolidated under the protection of Lewis Gunners, while bombing parties were immediately pushed forward up the communicating trenches.
In the 4 days June 7th - 10th the Battalion had 250 casualties in other ranks. Joseph Thomas Pratt died on 8th June 1917 in the above action and he has no known grave, his name being on the (Ypres) Menin Gate Memorial as John T Pratt.
His name is also commemorated on the Ferrybridge War Memorial and also on the Memorial in St Andrew’s Church, Ferrybridge but again his name is given as John T Pratt.
Pontefract Advertiser 18th August 1917:
“A FERRYBRIDGE SOLDIER KILLED
The news of the death of Private J T Pratt, of Ferrybridge, has been officially confirmed, it being stated that the sad event occurred in Belgium on June 8th. Formerly a workman at Fryston Colliery, he enlisted in November 1914 and has seen a heavy share of the fighting in Belgium. He leaves three children – two boys and a girl – the eldest of whom is only seven, with his widow.”
Pontefract & Castleford Express Roll of Honour 17th August 1917
“PRATT – BAILEY – TAYLOR – MILLER
In loving memory of my dear husband Pte J T Pratt, KOYLI, of Ferrybridge, killed in action 8 June 1917.
Also my dear brother-in-law L/Cpl H Bailey died from gas 19 December 1915.
And Pte H Taylor died somewhere in France 1 July 1916.
And Pte F Miller drowned at Athlone, Ireland whilst serving King and Country 22 December 1916.
May their reward be as great as their sacrifice. From the sorrowing wife Milly Pratt.”
Joseph’s connections with Brotherton are on his mother’s side. Her maiden name was Cook and there were families of this name at least as far back as 1720 when Elizabeth Cook married Thomas Thorpe. However, links can only be verified as yet back to the later 1700’s.
Joseph’s father was William D Pratt born in Stockton on Forest, York about 1850. He married Rachel Cook on 25th February 1878 at St Andrew’s Church, Ferrybridge.
In 1881 the Census shows that they had 4 children but the eldest 2 were born some time before the marriage - the eldest when Rachel was only 15 - so, she either married very early or William had been married before. Whatever the explanation the children present were John William (born 1873 in Halifax), Elizabeth Ann (1875, Thornton), Emily (1878, Wheldale) and Joseph Thomas (1880, Brotherton). The birth places of the first two children tend to suggest that William had been married previously. At the time of the census they were living in Wheldale and William was employed as a ‘Farm Labourer’.
The family cannot be located in 1891 but in 1901 they were residing in Holmfield in Ferrybridge. Several other children had been born in the interim. These were - Ada (1883, Brotherton), Mary L (1887, Brotherton) and Jessie (1897, Leeds). There is no evidence that the family actually lived in Brotherton and it may be that Rachel went ‘home’ to have some of her children and, indeed, her brother Isaac was still in the village with his family in 1901. William seems still to be working on a farm but as a ‘Horsekeeper (Groom)’ whilst Joseph was by then a ‘Carter on a farm’.
On 16th November 1903 24 year old Joseph married Amelia May Jones, widow (nee Wright). By 1911 they were living in Broughton’s Yard, Ferrybridge and had a daughter called Lillian May aged just 1. In the same household were his sister and husband - Ada and Harry Taylor with their children Daisy Alice (4) and William Henry (2). Joseph was employed as a Colliery Teamer - presumably with horses - and Harry was a ‘Bank’s man’.
Amelia May Pratt remarried Arthur Winter in the first quarter of 1918 and their marriage was registered at Pontefract.