The Morton Gymes Tragedy


The Friends of Gainsborough Cemeteries and Chapel is a small charity run by volunteers. Contact: Susan Edlington

On Friday February 19th 1915, ‘D’ Company of the 5th King’s Own Light Infantry went to a field next to the river Trent to practice raft building and crossing water. They chose a pond, locally known as a ‘gyme’, to test the raft they’d built.

The soldiers, approx 24 of them, wearing their heavy uniforms, got onto the raft and set out onto the gyme. The raft was moved with a long pole and not long after leaving the bank, something happened to the raft and it overturned throwing the soldiers into the water.

Other soldiers dived into the gyme to help save their colleagues and many more soldiers would have lost their lives if it wasn’t for these incredibly brave men. Some of them went back into the water to save others, again and again until they were exhausted.

7 soldiers lost their lives. They were:

Private Edmund Battye. Private Battye is buried in Batley Cemetery.

Private John Myers. Private Myers is buried in Dewsbury Cemetery.

Private Frederick Cooke. Private Cooke is buried in East Ardsley (St. Michael) Cemetery.

Private Alfred Bruce. Private Bruce is buried in Harrogate Cemetery.

Private William Robinson Dent. Private Dent is buried in Morley Cemetery.

Private William Atherton. Private Atherton is buried in Wakefield Cemetery.

Private Ernest Cockell. Private Cockell is buried in Wakefield Cemetery.

The tragedy shocked Gainsborough and was widely reported in the Gainsborough News, the Morley Observer, Dewsbury Reporter, The Wakefield Express, Dewsbury District News and the Batley News.

An inquest into the tragedy was started and the jury brought in a verdict of ‘accidental death’.  During the inquest the gyme’s water depth was tested. It was found to be 21 feet deep where the raft went over  and in the middle of the gyme, the depth was 32 feet.

In ‘Gainsborough’s War Story’ by Peter Bradshaw, there is a chapter about the Gymes Tragedy which gives a more detailed account of what happened. This book is available from the Friends. Please see our Publications page.

Peter Bradshaw will be writing a book about the Morton Gymes tragedy in the future.

The Friends have been in contact with Project Bugle. Project Bugle is commemorating the 1000 servicemen who gave their lives and came from Batley and Birstall. There are more details about this project on their web site.


Friends of Gainsborough Cemeteries and Chapel