THE iconic colours of two historic Barnsley regiments - painstakingly restored for generations to come after a years-long fundraising project - are now set to be displayed in the town centre church where they were originally placed a century ago, the Chronicle can reveal.
The colours of the 13th (First Barnsley) and 14th York and Lancaster Regiments were found in a cupboard in St Mary’s Church, on Church Street, in 1990.
They had been awarded 1919 after the First World War but had been forgotten and were slowly ‘turning to dust’.
That was until historian Jane Ainsworth, volunteer co-ordinator of the Barnsley Pals Colours Project, rediscovered them in 2013 while researching war memorials for her project to create a local roll of honour.
Jane felt they ought to be honoured as part of the centenary commemorations of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, because many of the Barnsley Pals were killed in action on July 1, 1916, during the First World War.
Rev Canon Stephen Race agreed and expressed his hope that they might be displayed in the chapel once again and the pair began fundraising to help protect a piece of Barnsley history.
Jane said: “The colours are a way to remember the sacrifice of the men and it’s a rule that once the colours become too disintegrated that they should be buried on consecrated ground,” said Jane.
“But when I found them I was deqtermined that they would be on display again as a way to remember our past.
“I could never have anticipated how these colours would come to take over my life for so many years.
“I’m thrilled that after being hidden away for 30 years, these sacred memorials to thousands of brave Barnsley men, whose lives were changed or sacrificed by fighting for their King and country, have now been framed and returned to the chapel where they were laid up together 100 years ago.”
A silk Union Flag was awarded to the extant battalions of Kitchener’s New Armies after the Armistice as King George V decided they ought to be recognised for their loyal service.
They had not received them when first created, as battalions of the Regular and Territorial Army were, because they were temporary.
The 13th (First Barnsley) Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment (13th York and Lancaster), who formed part of the Army of Occupation after November 11, 1918, were presented with a silk Union Flag on February 19 in northern France which became ‘colours’ when consecrated.
As the 14th York and Lancaster had been disbanded a year earlier and the soldiers transferred into the 13th or other York and Lancaster battalions, the colours awarded to the 13th York and Lancaster were for all the Barnsley Pals.
“The colours may not have moved very far within the church, but it has been a long journey,” Jane added.
“Inevitably, framing the colours has been expensive to do properly, so Fr Stephen and I are extremely grateful to individuals who made generous donations.
“The colours were framed by accredited textile conservators from the People’s History Museum in Manchester just before the Covid-19 pandemic last March.
“With the ongoing closure of St Mary’s for most of the last 18 months, we have been unable to celebrate this work or invite people to view the results until now.”
Dan Jarvis, Barnsley Central’s MP and a military veteran, praised volunteers’ work.
He added: “I am very pleased that the Barnsley Pals colours now take pride of place in St Mary’s Church.
“They’re a poignant reminder of the hundreds of Barnsley men - the miners, farmers, labourers and clerks - who fought in the First World War, some of whom making the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their country.
“I would like to pay tribute to Jane Ainsworth for her tenacity and hard work over the last 8 years in restoring the colours and ensuring that this piece of our shared history is preserved for future generations.”