Bill Sykes - The Early Years
Eric (Bill) Sykes was born in the small town of Longwood,
Huddersfield, in the West Riding of Yorkshire on the 14th
of December 1925, though his British Armed Forces records
will contradict that statement and give a different date
of the 14th of December 1924---but that is another story.
On top of Longwood Edge, facing across the valley towards the radio/television
antennas at Holme Moss was a terrace of six houses located upon Edge Terrace
and my mother and father lived in one of those houses next to my grandparents,
and it was at that location that I came into this wicked world.
My father served with the KOYLI Regiment for a number of years in far away place
such as India and the Far East and was wounded several times during the battles
of the First World War in France at such places such as the Somme, Ypers, Mons,
and maybe others.
I attended a local all boys school in Longwood, Huddersfield,
named Goitfield, (Goitfield school which was opened in 1884,
and accommodated 317 students, is now an old peoples home),
and I was pretty active in all kinds of sports, both as a
player and a spectator. I loved to play football and cricket,
and played both games for my school, and of course in my
early teens I supported professional football at Huddersfield
Town, and rugby league at Fartown, and other locations such
as Bradford Northern, and whenever I could Yorkshire cricket
In fact I was very much a sports fanatic.
I enjoyed walking the fields and streams of the area and
tramped the moors whenever I could and of course I supported
all sporting events that were available within the realms
of my meager resources from a daily paper route. I also cycled
many miles to set up a tent and camped upon the moors in
all kinds of weather, a regular outdoors person one could
My father died in 1938 at the early age of around 50 years---his
death probably accelerated by his WWI wounds, and was quickly
followed two years later by the death of my mother
who was several years his junior. So this youngster of 14
years of age, and his sister two years younger, were left
orphans of the storm and farmed out to relatives.
My father and mother are buried together in the grounds of
Parkwood Methodist Church located in Leymoor.
Would you believe
that such a headstrong young daredevil free spirited young
kid who feared nothing except the wrath of his sports/athletic
teacher, whom incidentally he revered for his footballing
and cricketing skills, would end up a few years later joining
the British Armed Forces under a falsified birth certificate?
Of course you would, as that would be his way out of a potentially
dismal future possibly working for the rest of his life in
some local woolen mill.
Fortunately I was a reasonably bright young person and soared
through the notorious Eleven Plus exam with reasonably high
marks and was destined for a place at a local Grammar school
but the deaths of both parents put a halt to that due
to lack of finances. I even took an entrance exam for a local
college and received a substantial bursary but even that
was beyond my meager means, so what better escape from an
uncertain future than to join His Majesties forces, which
I never really regretted.
By the way--believe it or not--as a young person I even sang
in the Parkwood Methodist children’s choir so I couldn’t
have been such a bad kid---somewhat headstrong maybe but
not totally undisciplined---and I had the survival of the
fittest attitude which was going to stand me in good stead
a few years later when I was a prisoner of war in Germany---but
that is another story.
In my early teens I was a devotee of the theatre
both legitimate and vaudeville and spent my hard earned money
visiting the Huddersfield Theatre Royal, the Huddersfield
Palace, the Bradford Alhambra, the Dewsbury Empire, etc,
whenever I could scrape up enough money to purchase seat
in the gods. So life was not as bad as one would have expected
it to be---and as the song would say !Don’t cry
for me Argentina".
Eric (Bill) Sykes. (Southern California).