Library & Student Services

Remembering the Somme

You may have seen the exhibition of photographs and objects from our University’s Archive and Special Collections on display on the ground and first floors of Headingley Library commemorating the centenary of the First World War.

These have been selected to call attention to the relationship of this very particular space and the historical events of 100 years ago and on the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme our Archivist, Keith Rowntree writes of two former students who lost their lives:

‘We were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying’.[1]

The Somme Offensive began on 1 July 1916 perhaps one of the bloodiest battles in history. Many perished within the first few agonising minutes shortly after emerging from the relative safety of their trenches. At 07.30, that morning, heavy machine gun fire met the Leeds Pals as they took part in the offensive moving towards the village of Serre. As a result 15 Officers and 255 other ranks died, with many others wounded and maimed. Among those killed were Sergeant Robert Bland and Acting Sergeant Matthew Mossop. They had been students at the City of Leeds Training College around 1912-14 and keen sportsmen who played for the college rugby team. Both had enlisted in the 15th Battalion (1st Leeds), The Prince of Wales’s Own (West Yorkshire Regiment) in Leeds probably around late 1914, early 1915.

Robert Bland (15/1045) was born 1892, in Torpenhow near Aspatria, to Wilfred Bland, a Coal Miner, and his wife Annie Peat. In 1911, Robert and his family lived at Brayton Road in Aspatria. His older sister Mary Jane was also a teacher. Although his body was not recovered, Robert Bland is commemorated on the Thiepval Monument and on the City of Leeds Training College War Memorial.

Matthew Hudson Mossop (15/1027) was born 1890, in Seascale, to Isaac Mossop, a Joiner, and his wife Ann Hudson who died the year after her son was born. Matthew Mossop was a schoolteacher in Cleethorpes before he attended the City of Leeds Training College. At his death, he was an Acting Sergeant, and posthumously awarded the Military Medal. Mossop’s gravestone bears the legend, ‘One of the Original Leeds Pals’ at the Serre Road Cemetery No. 1, Pas de Calais.



Further information about the Archive and Special Collections can be found on the website, including articles and digital images.

  • [1] Private A.V. Pearson, talking about Leeds Pals at Serre in Martin Middlebrook, The First Day On the Somme, Penguin Books, 1984, p 270.

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