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Remembering a brave Cononley soldier
11:21am Monday 2nd June 2014 in News
AS thunderous shells rained down turning the battlefield into a quagmire and machine gun fire raked the ground cutting a swathe through the advancing men, one of the victims was Cyril Lee.
He was hit in the legs. The German machine gunners preferred to pepper the ground at knee level and above, thus disabling the advancing troops.
Sergeant Lee, of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment, fell at Bullecourt in no-man's-land on May 14, 1917, an horrific landscape where not a building or a tree was left standing and hardly a square foot was spared a shell hole.
It was here that Cyril, the first local lad from Cononley to volunteer for the conflict in September 1914, lay with a severe wound in his right leg, the rain pouring down on the already saturated ground.
His comrades, in the nearby trenches, were unable to reach him, held back by the fierceness of the German fire.
When he was eventually rescued, his wound was so severe, surgeons had to amputate his leg. But it wasn't enough. Cyril had spent too much time without medical help - four days and five nights - and he eventually succumbed to pneumonia.
At home in Cononley, his wife was pregnant. Cyril was never to see his son.
His great nephew Robert Lee, who lives in Poole in Dorset, reminds us that his death was marked in the Craven Herald on May 18, 1917.
The reporter wrote that Sergeant. Lee passed his school life at Cononley National School, and was noticed there as a particularly sharp boy, which may account for his early promotion in November 1914 to Sergeant.
He was formerly a member of the Primitive Methodist Chapel choir and also for several years played in the Cononley Brass Band.
He was the secretary to the Cononley Football Club, and was married to one of the daughters of Mr Dobson, the engineer, at Airedale Mills, and special constable for the village.
Previous to enlisting he was employed by Messrs Barker and Billsborough, Airedale Mills, Cononley.
Mr Lee said: "He was born in 1891 and is shown on the 1911 census as living at 24 Aire View, Cononley.
His brothers, John, Fred and Ernest, also volunteered and John, my grandfather, almost died from influenza and Ernest was caught in a gas attack which affected his health for the rest of his life.
"It was discovered that Fred, who was a bugler, at only 16 years old was underage and so discharged, only to volunteer again when he was old enough.
"At the time of Cyril's final departure to France he left behind his pregnant wife, who gave birth to a son he never saw.
"Fred and John returned to Cononley where they lived for the rest of their lives, Fred on Main Street and John at 14 Aire View, which he shared with his wife Annie. "They went on to have a son, my father, who they named Cyril who subsequently volunteered, aged 18, at the outbreak of WW2, joining the RAF and serving throughout the war. He now lives in Bournemouth and celebrated his 92nd birthday last January."
Sergeant Lee's memorial service was held at Cononley Primitive Methodist Chapel on Sunday, June 19, 1917.
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