As the December edition of the Hallam News goes to press, the whole country is commemorating the end of World War One. Peter Wolstenholme, a parishioner of St Joseph’s in Handsworth, looks back on the life and service of his father, Private WRJ Wolstenholme.
William Reginald Joseph Wolstenholme of St Vincent’s Parish, Sheffield, enlisted in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) on 31 January, 1916 and was posted to Pontefract. He was then posted to the Somme on 2 February, 1916 as 27184 Private Wolstenholme, KOYLI 9th Battalion, D company, starting over two years active service on the Somme.
He said conditions on the Somme were horrendous, often waist deep in liquid mud having to bury the dead in the walls of the trench due to heavy German gunfire. They would advance, take German positions then under counter attack fall back, many times finding themselves back in their original trenches.
Occasionally two privates were ordered to “Go over the top” at night, one with Mills bombs (hand grenades), the other with a rifle. They crossed No Man’s Land, one lobbed grenades into the German trenches, the other covering with his rifle. One night Private Wolstenholme had Mills bombs in one pouch and his steel glasses case in the other pouch. His companion said he had a premonition and asked Private Wolstenholme to swap the pouch contents over. He did and, as he stepped over the lip of the trench, his chest pouch was hit by a German sniper bullet that embedded in his glasses case, saving his life.
On 18 September, 1918, Private Wolstenholme was recommended for Gallantry in the field during a German counter attack.
Private Wolstenholme returned to England and married Elizabeth Theresa Metcalf (our Mom) at St Vincent of Pauls, White Croft, Sheffield on 28 October, 1918. Sunday, 28 October, 2018 was the centenary of their wedding.
They lived in Hawley Street before moving to the new Manor Estate, where they attended Mass in an old army hut on The Manor Fields. St Theresa’s School opened in 1929. Mass was celebrated in the school hall until St Theresa’s Church was opened in 1938.
William Wolstenholme was a member of the SVP. Also each Saturday he collected a large bundle of Catholic papers from the Repository on Norfolk Row, to be sold at the back of church after each Mass. He was awarded the Benemerenti medal for services to the church in 1958.
Following Demob in 1919 he was employed by Sheffield Education Committee as a Child Attendance Officer, better known in Sheffield as “School Bobbies”. When the Manor Estate was built he covered all schools there including St Theresa’s.
He attended St Theresa’s until his death on 25 January, 1979. I, Peter Wolstenholme, am the sixth of their seven children.