Conisbrough and Denaby Main

Conisbrough War Memorial – Image by Barrie Dalby


The First World War had an impact on communities throughout Britain. These brief stories feature a volunteer, a soldier who won the highest award for valour, a man whose principles led to him refusing to take part in the war and the important role of women on the Home Front.


William Henry’s headstone at Warloy-Baillon Cemetery. By kind permission of Barrie Dalby

William Henry Crabtree was born on 10 December 1889 and lived at 29 Highfield Road, Conisbrough. He was employed as a miner at Cadeby Main Colliery and enlisted in September 1914 in the 8th Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment.

On 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, he sustained stomach wounds and was taken to a casualty clearing station at Warloy-Baillon where he died on Monday 3 July. He is buried in the village’s Communal Cemetery.


Westfalite Factory staff February 1916. Conisbrough & Denaby Main Heritage Group

The British Westfalite National Trench Warfare filling Factory on Denaby Lane, Denaby Main was set up by the Ministry of Munitions. Known locally as the Powder Works, it was operational by Westfalite Factory staff February 1916.

The factory was largely staffed by women and girls who worked long hours filling Stokes mortar shells. Many of the National Factory premises had inadequate safety equipment and there was a danger of explosions as well as exposure to dangerous chemicals.


Brocklesby family, Spring 1915. John is standing in the back row, second from right. Reproduced with the permission of Special Collections, Leeds University Library and Mary Brocklesby. LIDDLE/WW1/CO/011

John Hubert “Bert” Brocklesby was born in Conisbrough and was a teacher and Methodist lay preacher. His Christian faith led to him claiming exemption from service as a conscientious objector but his application was refused.

John was sent to Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire then transported to France, court-martialled and sentenced to death. This was commuted to 10 years in prison. He returned to Conisbrough on his release before going to Austria and Russia with the Quaker organisation, the Friends War Victims Relief Committee.


Laurence Calvert King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Museum

Sergeant Laurence Calvert V.C. was born on 16 February 1892 and lived at 19 Beech Hill, Conisbrough. He was employed at Cadeby Main Colliery as a haulage hand and joined the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

On 12 September 1918 in an attack at Havrincourt, France, he captured two machine gun teams single-handed, bayoneting three enemy soldiers and shooting four. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, the Military Medal and the Belgian Order of Leopold. He died in Dagenham, Essex in 1964.