Skip to content

Search our stories

Lieutenant Hefford William Ernest Ainley
First World War Army United Kingdom
By Philip Duggan

United Kingdom

Lieutenant Hefford William Ernest Ainley
View record on CWGC

Hefford William Ernest AINLEY was born on 26/6/1883 in Kirkheaton, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. His parents were John Shaw AINLEY, a worsted cloth manufacturer, (11/8/1855 - 3/3/1933) and Emma Louise COCKING, (12/10/1857 - 16/1/1940).

He was the oldest of 4 children: Gladys Lillian AINLEY, (17/8/1885 - 2/8/1935). Eric Edwin AINLEY, (29/10/1888 - 30/5/1975). Katherine Mildred AINLEY, (3/2/1895 - 9/5/1989). Hefford was christened in the Parish Church at Kirkheaton on 2/8/1883.

Hefford's Grandfather, Hefford AINLEY (8/1/1824- 9/10/1909) was a prominent figure in the Huddersfield textile community.

Together with William Henry LORD, he purchased a dye house, land and cottages in Shop Lane, Kirkheaton. The site was developed and the textile mills were known as “Ainleys Mill” or “Shop Lane Mills” - producing worsted cloth.

By 1871 the company employed some 46 people on the premises, and 50 ‘home workers’. His two sons, Joseph and John Shaw AINLEY became partners in the business. The two sons continued running the business for a short while after the death of their father, but then sold it to Broadhead and Graves in around 1910. The mills were then referred to as “Kirkheaton Mills”.

When Hefford died in 1909 The Huddersfield Examiner 16/10/1909 wrote a full column about him, entitled “Death and funeral of Mr Hefford AINLEY. Sketch of his life”.

Hefford William Ernest AINLEY came from a prosperous family: in 1891 they were living at The Dene, Lane Side, Kirkheaton. The census records the family had a cook, housemaid and a governess to look after the younger children.

In 1901 Hefford aged 17, was Boarding at Giggleswick School, Giggleswick, near Settle, North Yorkshire. While there he complied a scrapbook about Kirkheaton, and the Grammar School which is currently at the West Yorkshire Archives, - Huddersfield Local History Library.

In 1899 he won the Midsummer Examination Science book prize while in Lower Fourth (The book awarded - “Darwin - Life”). From about 1906-1909 he was a member of the Freemasons - Lodge of Harmony Huddersfield. In 1911 the family with 2 servants were living at Martin Bank, Moldgreen, Huddersfield, a house with 11 rooms.

Hefford now aged 27, was described as a “Fancy Vesting Manufacturer. Eric his brother was a student in Civil Engineering.

Initially Hefford, worked as a woollen manufacturer at the Mill owned by his Grandfather, and then with Messrs John TAYLOR Ltd. Woollen and Worsted Manufacturers, Colne Road, Huddersfield.

On 26/12/1912 Hefford registered an International Patent for “An Improved Method of and Apparatus for the Generation of Combustion-products Under Pressure for Driving Turbines and other Fluid-pressure engines”.

On 23/1/1913, Hefford at the age of 29, married Constance Haigh HOPKINSON, (17/10/1884 - 5/7/1970) at The Baptist Church, New North Road, Huddersfield. She was the daughter of the late Joseph HOPKINSON J.P., founder of the engineering works in Huddersfield. His address at the time was given as Martin Bank, Huddersfield. Gladys Lilian AINLEY, John S. AINLEY, and Lawrence Haigh HOPKINSON (Brother), were the witnesses. They had a daughter - Sheila Anne (9/5/1915 - 28/7/2010). They were then living at ‘Overstrand’, Sunny Bank Road, Edgerton, Huddersfield.

He enlisted in the local Artillery Brigade, and on 26/7/1915 applied for an appointment to a Temporary Commission in the Regular Army. He was commissioned 2nd Lieut. in the Royal Field Artillery in July 1915 and was promoted Lieut. on 4 /10/1916. He served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from the following December with ‘A’ & ‘D’ Batteries of the 168th Brigade Royal Field Artillery.

On the night of the 2nd / 3rd February 1917, his Brigade was in the Courcelles - Hébutern - Puchevillers area in France. Hefford and a Captain Charles NORMAN, of the North Irish Horse, attached to the R.F.A. were sharing a Bivouac, behind the wagon lines. It was constructed of timber, corrugated iron and canvas. During the night this building caught fire.

Captain NORMAN was overcome and rendered insensible. Lt Ainley dragged Captain NORMAN to a place of safety. Lt. AINLEY was severely burned about the hands, feet, and head. Reports say he was removed quickly as possible to No. 3 Casualty Clearing Station and every attention was paid to him.

Initially he appeared to be progressing very favourably with the burn injuries, but sadly Pneumonia set in and he died very quietly on 4/2/1917. T

he admissions register for the C.C.S. record thier admission on 3/2/1917, and both entries are annotated “DEAD”.

The war diary for the Brigade records the incident - however the entry at 4/2/1917 records (probably incorrectly) that “Lt. AINLEY of A/168 died from rheumatism caused by severe burns through hut catching fire”.

On 10/2/1917, a telegram was sent to Constance: “Deeply regret to inform you that 2nd Lt. H.W.E. AINLEY R.F.A. 168 Bde. died from burns accidental February fourth. The Army Council express their sympathy” Captain NORMAN also succumbed to his injuries, and died a few days later on 12/2/1917. Both men were buried at Puchevillers British Cemetery. Lt. Hefford William Ernest AINLEY in plot III.C.4.

The inscription on his headstone added by his family reads: “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him ISA 11.2”

A Court of Enquiry was held ‘in the Field’ on 9/3/1917 by order of Lt. Colonel R. FITZMAURICE, R.F.A. Commanding Officer 168th Brigade R.F.A. into the circumstances of the fire on the night in question causing the deaths of Captain NORMAN and Lt. H.W.E. AINLEY, and the loss of the Officers kits in that fire.

8 witnesses were called to give evidence one being re examined.

An interesting comment made to the enquiry was made by one witness: Captain W. R. BROWN - 168th Brigade R.F.A went to visit Lt. AINLEY at No. 3 C.C.S. On 3/2/1917. He was conscious but dazed. He stated that he had gone to bed the night before and left 2 candles burning on the table for Captain NORMAN. He had no idea how the fire started.

It was Captain NORMAN’S habit to read in bed at night. He was a particularly drowsy person and would drop off to sleep at anytime even in a lull in a conversation.

The conclusion was that the Court, was of the opinion that it was not possible to ascertain the cause of the fire, owing the the two principle witnesses being dead. All reasonable precautions against fire seemed to have been taken.

The court is also of the opinion that the kits of the officers were destroyed in the fire. 

On 23/2/1917 Hefford’s Father John Shaw AINLEY wrote to the secretary of war. He reported to them that his brother had been incorrectly named as 2nd Lt. Instead of 1st Lt. Having seen this in a “Roll of Honour” notice in the Yorkshire Post and in the telegram sent to Constance.

The concern of his father was the possibility of this error effecting any pension due, his medals, and any Memorial to the fallen.

On 27/4/1917 a letter was sent to Constance informing her of the outcome of the Court of Enquiry.

On 18/7/1917 A claim was made against the estate of Lt. AINLEY by his former groom Dvr. L/29235 Ernest L.O. JESSOP R.F.A. for an amount in Francs for cleaning materials for which he was out of pocket. No kit or personal effects survived the fire. The Probate dated 14/5/1917 recorded total effects of £6193.9s.7d to his wife Constance. She also applied for a widows pension.

At some stage Constance requested a photograph of her husbands grave from the Imperial war Graves Commission which was sent to her.

Constance never remarried and in 1921 is recorded as a visitor with their daughter at 1, York Road, Harrogate.

In 1939 they are recorded as living at 19, Lucy Road, Harrogate. Constance still recorded at this address died on 5/7/1970. Her effects were £51,600.00.

For his service in the First World War, Hefford William Ernest AINLEY was awarded the British War and Victory Medals.

His wife was also sent the memorial plaque and scroll. The medals and plaque were proudly displayed in a fine quality leather folding display frame.

Hefford's Major wrote of the "High esteem and personal affection" in which he was held by both men and fellow officers”.

Huddersfield Weekly Examiner (9/2/1917) reported: “Died on the night of Sunday 4.2.17 from pneumonia supervening on burns. Lieutenant Ainley had gone behind the wagon lines for rest and was sleeping with a few fellow officers in a bivouac of timber, corrugated iron and canvas. During the night this building in some way caught fire. The other officer was overcome and rendered insensible whilst Lieutenant Ainley who dragged his friend to a place of safety was badly burned about the hands and feet and also about the head. He was removed as quickly as possible to a Casualty Clearing Station and every attention was paid to him. He appeared to be progressing very favourably with the burns but pneumonia set in and he passed away very quietly on Sunday as stated.”

The following extract is from Huddersfield's Roll of Honour:

1914-1922 (2014) by J. Margaret Stansfield: AINLEY, HEFFORD WILLIAM ERNEST. Lieutenant. 168th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. Born 26.6.1883 at Kirkheaton. Son of John Shaw and Emma Louisa Ainley of Martin Bank, Somerset Road, Huddersfield. Attended Giggleswick School.

Worked as a woollen manufacturer, first at the mill established by his grandfather, Mr Hefford Ainley, and then with Messrs John Taylor Limited, Colne Road. He married the daughter of Mr Joseph Hopkinson and lived at ‘Overstrand’, Sunnybank Road, Edgerton, and had one child.

Enlisted 25.7.1916. Buried PUCHEVILLERS BRITISH CEMETERY. Grave location:- Plot 3, Row C, Grave 4. 

Lt. Hefford William Ernest AINLEY is also commemorated on the following Rolls of Honour and Memorials Du Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour. Part 3. Giggleswick School Roll of honour. Huddersfield Roll Of Honour. Royal Artillery Roll of Honour. Officers Died in the Great War. Giggleswick School Library Memorial. Giggleswick School Chapel Memorial. Giggleswick School Book of remembrance. St. Stephens Church, Lindley. AWAITING PIC XXXXXXxXXX Kirkheaton Parish Church, Kirkheaton - however, he is not listed on the Kirkheaton War Memorial. Family Grave Penrith Old Cemetery, Beacon Edge, Penrith. HOPKINSON (wife) family grave, Edgerton Cemetery, Cemetery Road, Huddersfield.

Other family members:

Eric Edwin AINLEY, his older brother, also served in the First World War. Appointed 2nd Lt. 1/5th Btn. West Riding Regiment T.F. 29/8/1914, Lt. 26/1/1916, Captain 1/6/1916, transferring to the East Riding Fortress Royal Engineers T.F. 3/1/1918, he served in France from 14/5/1915 and Salomika until discharge.

He received a penetrating bayonet wound on 2/7/1916 while serving in France - accidental. He was awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War and Victory Medals.

He married Minnie Dorothy SHARP, on 27/4/1917. The went on to have 2 children. The eldest being Eric Stephen AINLEY who initially joined the Royal Artillery No. 1483641, and was discharged to Commission 29/11/1940.


Born on 16 May 1879 at Glengollan, Fahan, County Donegal, son of land proprietor Thomas NORMAN DL JP and Annie Norman (nee Norman). He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry on 17 July 1903, transferring to the newly formed North Irish Horse in July 1908.

He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant on 6 February 1909, and Captain on 22 April 1913. He married Helen Frances Mary MILLER (11/8/1891 - 19/9/1918), at Derry Cathederal, Derry, Ireland on 14/11/1912.

On 20 July 1914 he left the North Irish Horse and became a Captain in the 5th Reserve of Cavalry. He was a deputy Lieutenant and a Justice of the Peace for the County Donegal., and acted as High Sheriff of the county in 1910.

On the outbreak of war he was attached to the 9th (Queen’s Royal) Lancers, going to France at some stage prior to 22/23 November 1914. On 14 February 1916 he joined the 5th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry. He was later attached to the Royal Horse Artillery. On 12 February 1917, while serving with that regiment in France, he was accidentally but fatally injured He was aged 37.

His estate of £100.00 was left to his wife, Helen. Captain NORMAN was buried at Puchevillers British Cemetery, Somme, France, grave III.B.10. The gravestone inscription reads: “One of many who perished not in vain as a type of our chivalry”  

His brother-in-law, Lieutenant Joseph Ewing Bruce MILLER of the 5th attached to the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, was wounded at Festubert on 9/5/1915, but died of his wounds on 2/5/1915. He was 20 years old.

NORMAN’s wife, Helen Frances Mary NORMAN. (nee MILLER ), died aged 27,on 19/9/1918, at 2, Haddington Terrace, Dublin, from Influenza - 8 days and Pneumonia of the left lung. She left an estate of £15.00 to her sister-in-law Helen Stewart MILLER.

Captain Charles NORMAN is also commemorated on the Great War Memorial, St Columb's Cathedral, Londonderry, and his on wifes grave at Derry City Cemetery, Londonderry.

Image: Lieutenant Hefford William Ernest Ainley (copyright unknown)