Crook joined the York and Lancasters probably because he went to school
at St Peter's in York. It was the local regiment and he had been in
the CCF (army cadets),with the rank of lance-corporal, during his
time at school.
H Crook, aged 17, and head of School House at St Peter's School standing
behind the seated Headmaster S.M.Toyne
was a keen participant in school sports and extracurricular activities.
He is standing the middle row far left behind the then headmaster
sitting down with his arms crossed in 1933. John was 17 years old
and had excelled in hockey, cricket and rugby. He had also been editor
of the School magazine. In the school yearbook the following observation
was made about his rugby-playing prowess: 'Invaluable for his work
in the line-out. Good in the loose rushes, but too slow off the mark
for wing-forward play.'
H Crook, now aged 18, is slightly obscured back row far left. Norman
Yardley is the Hockey XI captain, front row third from left.
1934 he was awarded the school's Whytehead Memorial Prize for Divinity,
and the leather-bound Avon edition of 'The Complete Works of Shakespeare'
with the gilded stamp of the school's insignia and motto 'Schola Regalis
Sancti Petri Ebora Censis' is still held by his family.
H Crook, 17 years old, far left in St Peter's School Cross Country
Hallamshire Battalion was a territorial volunteer regiment and had
its origins at a meeting in Sheffield Town Hall on 24 May 1859 at
which it was agreed to form an infantry volunteer unit and by 27 June
the Hallamshire Rifle Volunteers were raised, being named after the
Saxon manor of Hallam.
were established in Eyre Street, with Mr Wilson Overend DL being elected
Major-Commandant. Drills were carried out at the Collegiate School and
Bramall Lane cricket ground.
for formation was received on 30 September and shortly after the title
of 2nd Yorkshire West Riding (Hallamshire) Rifle volunteer Corps was
officially granted. Among others to enlist was John Brown, proprietor
of Atlas Steel Works from where he raised two companies. At this time,
John Brown was building Endcliffe Hall, the future home of the Hallamshires.
In 1862, the Hallamshire Rifles were presented with Colours in the
Botanical Gardens, Sheffield, before a crowd of 12,500 spectators,
the Unit now commanded by the Earl of Wharncliffe.
the Cardwell reforms of the regular regiments of infantry in 1881, the
65th and 84th regiments of foot became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of
the York and Lancaster Regiment. On 1 February 1883, the War Office
retitled the Hallamshire Rifles as 1st (Hallamshire) Volunteer Battalion,
The York and Lancaster Regiment. Later that year the Hallamshires moved
to Hyde Park barracks where they were to remain until 1914. Annual Camp
had mostly been held locally but in 1883 it was held in Blackpool.
common with most Volunteer Battalions, the Hallamshires raised two "Active
service Battalions" for service with regular forces in the Boer War
for which they were granted their first battle honour SOUTH AFRICA 1900
- 1902. In 1900 a new rifle range was opened at Totley on land that
was purchased by officers of the battalion.
1908, on the reorganisation of the volunteers into the Territorial
Force, the Hallamshires were redesignated 4th (Hallamshire) Battalion,
the York and Lancaster Regiment TF. New Colours were presented at
Windsor by King Edward VII on 19 June 1909 and the old Colours were
laid up on 3 April 1910 in Sheffield Parish Church which, four years
later, became Sheffield Cathedral. The Colours still hang in the York
and Lancaster Regimental Chapel of Saint George.
battalion was ordered home after only a week of annual camp at Whitby
in July 1914 to prepare for war. It was to be April 1915 before the
battalion moved to France and first saw action in the Ypres salient
two months later where they were to remain, in and out of the trenches,
for six months, losing 94 killed and 401 injured.
a period of rest in the Calais area, the battalion moved to the Somme
where, on 1 July 1916, they were in the follow-up assault wave. The
battalion was like many regiments and 'Pals battalions' of the First
World War cruelly cut down in this bloody action. In the three months
they were engaged in this battle, the battalion sustained 27 officers
and 750 soldiers killed and wounded.
is described as "wearying routine of six days in the line followed by
six days in reserve" saw the battalion at Nieuport where they had the
dubious honour of being subjected to the first use of mustard gas sustaining
some 288 casualties in the last two weeks of July 1917. From here, it
was back to the Ypres salient where they suffered further heavy casualties
in the German spring offensive of 1918. In the final Allied Advance
to Victory, the Hallamshires were ordered on 13 October to reach the
line of the river Selle which was supposedly undefended on the western
bank. They advanced across open ground without artillery support to
find strongly defended enemy positions. They achieved their objective
but with only 4 officers and 240 men present of the 20 and 600 who had
started the advance.
last action of the war was 28 October 1918 when Commanding Officer,
Lieutenant Colonel D S Branson was severely wounded. His father was
Commanding Officer when Douglas Branson joined the Hallamshires in
1910. He commanded the battalion from 1917 to 1925, became Honorary
Colonel in 1940 (succeeding his father), and continued until 1965
by which time he had been knighted for his service to the Territorial
Army, been ADC to four monarchs and won the MC and three DSO's in
ten months in the First World War.
battalion returned to its new Headquarters at Endcliffe Hall in November
1919. In 1924, in recognition of their war service, King George V
decreed that the "4th" be dropped from the title and henceforth they
should be known as The Hallamshire Battalion.
between the wars saw many changes. It was 1938 before the battalion
said goodbye to its horses and the Vickers and Lewis machine guns
were withdrawn. Bren light machine guns and Boyes antitank rifles
appeared followed by tracked Bren Gun Carriers. In 1939 the battalion
went to camp in the Isle of Man, only to be mobilised on their return.
moving to Thirsk racecourse, the battalion took part in the ill-fated
Norwegian campaign where they were ashore for all of twelve days. Although
they saw limited action, the only casualties were on the way home when
one of the ships in the convoy was sunk by German aircraft killing thirteen
and wounding eleven.
battalion spent the next two years "defending" Iceland before returning
to Scotland for garrison duties and to prepare for the invasion of
North West Europe. The Hallamshires landed in France on 9 June 1944
and moved into the front line four days later. Twelve days later the
Hallamshires were involved in the attack on Fontenay-le-Pesnel against
the 26th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. The attack was successful but
at the expense of 123 members of the battalion killed or wounded.
Former members of the battalion at that time would celebrate the victory
as the Fontenay Club in the decades following.
Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, April 1944
is in the middle, back row. The officer seated second from the left,
front row in glasses, is Captain Douglas Bell- A British Olympic athlete.
He died from wounds received while in action in Belgium. He shot in
the stomach while crossing a canal, and did not recover while in hospital
is John Crook's original handwriting on the back of his copy of the
battalion officers' photocall. This is his record and identification
of his fellow officers at Hopton Camp.
main published history of the Normandy to Arnhem campaign was written
by Brigadier Trevor Hart Dyke. It would appear he completed his manuscript
in 1946. The book contains a battalion photograph taken shortly before
D-Day that features John on the back row in the middle. Hart- Dyke
had been 'drafted in' as the battalion's CO during a training camp
at Inveraray, Scotland in 1944.
Trevor Hart Dyke. At the front centre with moustache and flat cap.
Commanding Officer of the Hallamshires in Normandy 1944.
a sense he brought about a 'management takeover' transferring in majors
and other officers he had served with in other regiments. This meant
that by the time the Battalion carried out its final training for
Normandy at Hopton Camp near Great Yarmouth in March/April 1944 John
Crook was in an officer group virtually unrecognisable from the battalion
which had served in Norway and Iceland.
is difficult to understand what kind of relationship Captain Crook
had with Hart Dyke. Hart Dyke's book gives the impression he had 'favourites'.
His nickname was 'Dark Night' and Hallamshire officers were initially
wary of going into battle with him. His ruthless 'culling' of the
previous officer corps had left the survivors with somewhat apprehensive
seemed peremptory and had something of a volatile temper. The atmosphere
was not helped with the apparent tension between Hart Dyke and Brigade
headquarters after the landings on 9th June. Brigadier Dunlop, who
had had a distinguished service during the First World War, drove
himself too hard and was unable to get enough sleep. At the height
of the fighting he had to return to England exhausted.
are many accounts and testimonies that point to Hart Dyke proving
himself as one of the most effective infantry battalion COs in North
West Europe. He won the respect of officers and other ranks. He learned
the lessons of leading men in battle the hard way and it could be
argued that these experiences may well have softened the hard and
sharp edges of his personality.
Hallamshire shoulder badge worn by battalion soldiers in the Normandy
Dyke makes no mention of John Crook
in his descriptions of actions and skirmishes in which "D"
company shined during June 1944. This became understandable when months
of research eventually established that John Crook joined the Battalion
in the line on 29th of June after the first phase of the dramatic
Fontenay battle was over.
Dyke's narrative does stray in some significant details from the official
War Office records available at the Public Record Office in Kew. Some
of these records were completed by Hart Dyke himself and so have greater
historical 'primary source' value. Reliable information can also be
gleaned from 146 Infantry Brigade's War Diary where there was a bigger
contextual picture of the activities of the Hallamshire Battalion
and a larger infrastructure of signals and intelligence.
are signs in Hart Dyke's personal narrative of the strain he had to
bear before, during and after the
battle for Vendes on July 16th.
was clearly worried about the impact of nearly 3 weeks of bombardment
on "D" company which remained in slit trenches at the head
of the British Army's frontline. He was also angry that he had been
ordered to lead a frontal attack on Vendes in broad daylight with
no tank support.
was the first time he had ever been action. Men in these circumstances
have to make sense of frightening and emotional events. A commanding
officer knows that what he decides can save or cost lives.
was not the first time Hart Dyke had been ordered to deploy his Battalion
in a formation and action that was virtually hopeless. Prior to Fontenay
the entire battalion had been formed up in open and exposed fields.
Had the attack gone ahead they would have been slaughtered. Fortunately
the attack was called off.
operation planned for July 16th was full of hazards and Hart Dyke
had pleaded for tanks or a 'flanking attack.' They were turned down.
heavily depleted platoons of "D" company commanded by Lieutenant
John Crook and Captain Colin Mackillop were to support the attack
by "A" and "C" companies that had got bogged down
throughout the morning just outside Vendes and at a neighbouring farm.
Germans remained ensconced at Vendes and in the deep and excellent
cover that rubble and high ground could provide throughout the battle.
Even at the height of the British attack they had between 30 and 40
men defending Vendes with a Tiger tank at the crossroads in front
of the church. In fact their positions had been reinforced with many
machine gun placements before Major Nicholson used his radio to ask
Hart Dyke to send reinforcements.
is the information provided by the POWs debriefed by intelligence
officers after the battle. In fact "D" company under the
command of Captain Mackillop and Lieutenant Crook reached Nicholson
under intense fire faster than it had taken Nicholson to get to the
same position with his soldiers in front of Vendes earlier in the
"D" company's efforts enabled Nicholson and the remainder
of his company to retreat and it was "D" company that held
back the German counterattacks.
trail for John Crook's continuing involvement with the Hallamshires
has been disclosed as a result of cooperation by the Ministry of Defence
which has kindly released all the papers relating to his war service
and clarified the meaning of bureaucratic acronyms and expressions.
is now clear John Crook continued serving as a front line infantry
officer with the Hallamshires through July, August and early September
when he was injured in a motorcycle accident. In the preparations
for the attack on Le Havre he had to travel at high speed on a motorcycle
through surrounding woods and on rough ground and it was while doing
this that he lost control and collided with a tree.
was evacuated in the wounded list to a hospital in Wakefield. He embarked
from France on 10th September and reached England the following day.
In a typically self-effacing manner he would tell his sons that drinking
Calvados might have hindered his ability to steer around an oncoming
tree, a story which should be taken with a pinch of salt as it would
seem most Normandy veterans would divert discussion about their war
experiences with jokey tales of champagne and consumption of French
wine and liqueurs.
the fact that front-line British Army infantry officers had a one
in five to ten chance of surviving action during Normandy, the accident
probably saved his life.
John Crook's evacuation, the Hallamshire battalion was involved in
the capture of the docks at Le Havre before the Germans could destroy
the vital installations. Between the 10th and 12th of September, they
captured 1,005 prisoners, three Dornier flying boats and a submarine.
September, the Hallamshires crossed the Antwerp-Turnhout canal and
for his part in a subsequent action, Corporal John W Harper, who was
in 'C' company was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. During
the winter months, the battalion served in the Nijmegen salient and
participated in the attack on Arnhem in April 1945, their final action
in World War II.
months had seen the battalion suffer 158 killed and 689 wounded.
battalion came home in 1946 where it reformed in 1947. In 1950, the
role was changed to a Motor Battalion equipped with armoured half-tracks.
Each company was attached to an armoured regiment. National servicemen
arrived the same year and for five years the Hallamshires trained in
their armoured infantry role before reverting to traditional infantry.
saw the Hallamshires celebrate their centenary in style with a parade
in Sheffield, a service in the Cathedral and hospitality being offered
by the Officers and Sergeants at Endcliffe Hall and by the City to
the battalion in the Town Hall. In 1964 the Hallamshires paraded in
Norfolk Park to be presented with new Colours by the Earl of Scarborough.
The old Colours, in service since 1909, were laid up in St John's
saw the beginning of the last chapter in the Hallamshires' service with
the formation of the Yorkshire Volunteers, to which the Hallamshires
provided a company, and the reduction of the role of the battalion which
was finally reduced to a cadre of eight men in 1969. This cadre expanded
in 1970 to form a company in the 3rd Battalion, Yorkshire Volunteers.
changes to the Territorial Army saw the demise of the Yorkshire Volunteers
and the loss of the Hallamshire companies. The last colours of the
Hallamshires are now in the ballroom at Endcliffe Hall alongside a
mural depicting the capture of Fontenay.
regimental museum is now based in Rotherham at the Department of Libraries,
Museum and Arts, Brian O'Malley Central Library and Arts Centre, Walker
Place, Rotherham S65 1JH. The museum was reopened in March 1985 after
the transfer of regimental collections from Sheffield the previous
regiment's principal recruiting areas were Barnsley, Rotherham and
Sheffield. The museum traces the history in chronological order from
the time of the 65th and 84th Regiments of Foot (beginning 1758) until
the regiment's dissolution in territorial army cuts in 1968. Displays
include uniforms, campaign relics, weapons, regimental campaigns and
a revolving display of around 1,000 medals including 9 Victoria Cross
museum is currently undergoing refurbishment and upgrading with National
Lottery funds and is expected to reopen early in 2005.
Central Library has copies of Hart Dyke's book 'Normandy to Arnhem
A Story of the Infantry' as well as the three volume official Regimental
history. The Imperial War Museum also contains photographic and document
collections relating to the Battalion's campaigns and actions.
2001 Don Scott published an excellent history of the Hallamshire Battalion
during the Second World War. 'Polar Bears From Sheffield' was published
by Tiger & Rose Publications and was being marketed by the York
and Lancaster Regimental Association.
book telling John Crook's story in greater detail is being written
for publication in the near future. If this country were involved
in any large scale conflict in the future, it highly likely that the
Hallamshires would be reconvened as a territorial battalion recruiting
service men and women from Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham.