ON April 9 and 10, 1918, the 14th battalion Duke of Wellington regiment, trying to stop the German advance at Erquinghem, a village on the French-Belgian border, came under fierce fire from enemy posts just 50 yards away.

There were many casualties, including all but one of the company’s stretcher bearers. The remaining one, Arthur Poulter, continued alone. He later described how, on the first day, he went out 10 times to carry back the wounded over 500 yards. The only shelter was behind the wall of a tiny ruined chapel.

During their recent pilgrimage to France and Flanders, members of Bradford World War One Group visited a memorial to Arthur, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his heroism. “Among the men wounded was John Leonard Metcalfe, a former pupil of Bradford Grammar School. He was brought in from where he fell, but died the following day at a Casualty Clearing Station,” said Bradford WW1 Group president Tricia Restorick. “Members of the group agree with a suggestion made by Nick Hooper, researcher of BGS pupils in the First World War, that John Metcalfe was probably rescued by Arthur Poulter.”

The citation for Arthur’s Victoria Cross demonstrates his sheer determination: “Again, after a withdrawal had been ordered, Pte Poulter returned in full view of the advancing enemy and carried back another man left wounded. He bandaged up over 40 men under fire. His conduct throughout the whole day was a magnificent example to all ranks. This very gallant soldier was subsequently wounded when attempting another rescue in the face of the enemy.”

Arthur survived the war. When asked about his feat, he attributed his strength to his pre-war civilian job as a drayman at Timothy Taylor’s brewery in Keighley. “The brewery supplied bottles of ‘Poulter’s Porter’ for the WW1 Group to toast Arthur’s heroism and to remember the loss of John Leonard Metcalfe and dozens of other Yorkshiremen,” said Tricia. “Poppies were laid by Robert Poulter, of Guiseley, whose great-great-grandfather has the same name as Arthur (although there’s no certainty it was him).”

The WW1 Group also visited a little chapel in Serre, home to a piece of Bradford stone on which are carved the words: “And Lo a mighty army came out of the North.”

The Bradford Pals memorial looks out to a windswept cemetery on the Serre Road, between Serre and Hebuterne, where so many men from our district lost their lives. Two years ago Bradford WW1 Group unveiled the Pals memorial at the Serre chapel. The ceremony, on November 19, 2016, the centenary of the end of the Battle of the Somme, followed the Telegraph & Argus appeal Honour the Pals, which raised more than £5,485, match-funded by Bradford Council, for the memorial. Bradford WW1 Group organised the inscription, transportation and installation of the 1.5-ton stone, donated by Fagley Quarries.

At this month’s ceremony a wreath from the Lord Mayor of Bradford, Councillor Zafar Ali, was laid by WW1 group founder Geoff Barker, and a wreath from the city’s Mechanics Institute – the recruiting station for the Pals in 1914, now home to the WW1 Group – was laid by Tricia.

“The ceremony was organised by French veterans in remembrance of their battle in June, 1915, which resulted in even greater losses than the Pals suffered 12 months later, on July 1, 1916,” said Tricia. “In the days after the opening of the Battle of the Somme, British troops, whilst recovering the bodies of West Yorkshire men who fell, also came across French soldiers who had died a year previously. They were given a proper burial in the French cemetery, whilst our men were interred in Serre Road No1 British Cemetery.”

Added Tricia: “The Pals memorial stands in a magnificent position overlooking the fields where the Pals’ trenches were. The local mayor, M. Jean-Luc Tabary, recently planted five shrub roses in front of the stone. About 100 people attended the ceremony, all eager to meet up with old friends from Bradford in this spirit of shared remembrance.”

The group also visited the grave of another Bradford Grammar School pupil, Second Lieutenant John Robertshaw, one of 50 men killed by a German shell on May 6, 1917.

The group also visited Gavrelle and Oppy. “In 1917 Bradford Pals were engaged in the Battle of Arras. Just before this attack, three men – Walter Kellett, Cyril Burgoyne and Sam Tweedale – were killed in a rest area behind the lines when a shell landed on their tent,” said Tricia.

“Also buried in the cemetery on Bailleul Road are West Riding Artillery men Edgar Willman, a former pupil of Marshfield School, and Jim Whaites, of Thompson Street, Shipley.

In August 2017 an ‘In Memoriam’ silk ribbon, found in an old book, was featured in a T&A article. The name on the silk is ‘Jim, dearly loved husband of Hilda Whaites’. Jim was killed in action on April 17, 1917, aged 29.

Hilda chose this poignant verse for the bereavement silk: “In a far distant land though his body may rest, far away from the ones he loved best, still deep in my heart, his memory I’ll keep, Sweet is the place where he lies asleep”.