When it comes to loss of life in service to one’s country, one Barnsley school paid far more dearly than any other.

During World War Two, 98 pupils from Barnsley Holgate Grammar School tragically lost their lives when they went to fight for their country.

The names of the former pupils who made the ultimate sacrifice were unveiled on an impressive memorial board within the school on Armistice Day 1948 and have been solemnly recited to pupils each anniversary since.

When the school closed in 2012, the brass-panelled wooden plaque was rescued from demolition and placed in storage beneath Barnsley Town Hall.

Jane Ainsworth alongside many others from the public and private sector were unwilling to let these names be forgotten, and have worked to get the memorial returned to public view at Shaw Lane Sports Club, just yards away from its original home.

Ian Harley and Melvyn Lunn at the Memorial Board in Shaw Lane
Ian Harley and Melvyn Lunn at the Memorial Board in Shaw Lane

Now, thanks to the work of locals Ian Harley and Melvyn Lunn – former pupils of Holgate Grammar School themselves – a research project called the Holgate Hundred Heroes has been underway to discover the full names and stories of all those on the board.

Ian said: “We are now almost 100 per cent certain that our identifications are correct but the work has been difficult and would have been completely impossible had not the Barnsley Chronicle kindly granted us unfettered access to its wartime issues.

“The board only features surnames and initials, so actually tracking down many of these men has been harder than you may think.” Including issues with finding names, the duo came across some other difficulties, such as five people who should appear being strangely absent, and two being named who shouldn’t have been listed at all.

Only six are left to be identified and plans are in place to make an addendum board to correct these past inaccuracies while preserving the original memorial.

Over the course of the next two months the Chronicle will be highlighting some of the names and stories of those on the board, leading up to its formal rededication on November 9, 75 years after its original presentation.

From members of the Dambuster Squadron, to numerous victims of a horrific training accident, the Chronicle will be doing its best to represent these brave men who went to fight for our country.

Ian added: “We are grateful to the Chronicle for printing some of our research in the run-up to the 75th anniversary of the original unveiling of the plaque and hope its readers will appreciate being able to read about the stories of the brave men of Barnsley who answered their country’s call to arms and sacrificed their lives for ours.”

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