Specialist Training for 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment- The Bomber

Image- © IWM (Q 4156) Bombing party practising throwing bombs over a traverse at the training school, Wisques, near St. Omer, 28 August, 1916.

New photo of training on grenade throwing.  A very dangerous business apparently.  Captain Lieutenant Mansergh MC bravely picked up a dropped Mills Bomb from a trench and threw it away before the fuse discharged.  On 18th August two men were killed and one died the next day during rifle grenade training. Others were wounded including Lieutenant Alan Holt MC

See Anniversary 18th/19th August 1916 Rifle Grenade Accident

Source: Specialist Training – The Bomber

Centenary of Passchendaele – Corporal 9470 Edmund Kane

Edmund Kane Courtesy sufingbabe2 on ancestry

Edmund Kane Courtesy surfingbabe2

Thirty two men from 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment were killed on the opening day of the Battle Passchendaele – 3rd Battle of Ypres.  A recent visitor to the site is related to Corporal 9470 Edmund Kane and this blog entry commemorates Edmund and the other men that fell on that day.

Edmund was born in south Manchester in the first Quarter of 1893.  His parents were William and Mary Jane Kane.  William worked in an engineering works in 1901 and the family lived at 5 Baxter Street, Hulme.  Mary Jane had been born in Canada and at least eleven children identified on Census records.  Edmund was her second eldest son.  She had been widowed by the time of the 1911 Census, when Edmund was working as a call boy in a theatre.  The family then lived at 31 Leaf Street, Hulme.  The Manchester Evening News of 24 August 1917 reported Edmund had attended St Wilfred’s School.

Based on the sequence of Edmund’s Regimental Number it is thought he enlisted in the 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment during the spring of 1915.  He was initially posted to XIX Platoon of E (Reserve) Company, although he will have probably have transferred to A, B, C or D Companies before they left for Belton Park in April 1915.  This transfer may have been later.

XIX Pln Photo

XIX Pln Photo April 1915

It is unlikely that Edmund had remained with 17th Battalion since their arrival in France on 8th November 1915, yet no records of wounds or illness have been identified.  Medal records illustrate three postings in 17th, 19th and 17th Battalions, indicating two occasions where Edmund may have been wounded. Very few of the original members will have remained at duty by July 1917.

Edmund was killed in action near Sanctuary Wood on 31st July 1917, which was the opening day of the Battle of Passchendaele.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate.

IMG_5136

Mary Jane Kane received her sons Effects.  Edmund’s medals were returned to the War Office, with a slight prospect that these may now be claimed by family members.

IMG_5126

Corporal Edmund Kane’s name inscribed on the Menin Gate

XIX Pln Roll

XIX Pln Roll

9258 Arthur Leonard Sheldon. Killed in Action 29th July 1916

Bill Edwards has a medal / militaria collection, including Arthur Sheldon’s Death Penny, British War and Victory Medals (above).  Bill has some data and asked if there is anything to add.

Pte 9258 Arthur Leonard Sheldon, 17th Battalion Manchester (perhaps ‘reserve’) Regiment. Born 1889, resided 118 Tower Rd, Aston, Warwck, then of 39 Silver St, Miles Platting, baptised (along with his brother and 3 sisters!) at St Johns (Miles Platting) 26 March 1897, then moved to 160 Varley St, Miles Platting. He would have been 24 / 25 when he enlisted. He was killed in action on 30 July 1916 and is buried in the Danzig Alley Brit Cem. Mametz, ref vii U2.

Arthur’s 9258 fits with the sequence for him enlisting in January / February 1915.  He was posted to XVII Platoon of E Company in 17th Battalion.

 

E Company was a reserve company that was mainly merged into A – D Companies when the Battalion left Heaton Park, Manchester for Belton Park, near Grantham.  The men left behind became the 25th Reserve Battalion, which was used for training new recruits and provided drafts to the 16th-19th Battalions after they left for France in November 1915.  Arthur will have been in one of these drafts, arriving in France in 1916 (No 1915 Star).

I would guess Arthur was drafted in the first few months of 1916, before the Battle of the Somme.  He probably fought at Montauban and Trones Wood.

The Battalion were resting in the original British front line on the evening of 29th July.  The moved up to Glatz Redoubt at 9.30pm before reaching assembly trenches between Bernafay and Trones Wood.  Their assault on Guillemont took place in the early hours of 30th July.

Arthur was killed on 29th / 30th July.  Records are inconsistent as the date.

Sheldon Concentration Record

Courtesy CWGC

Arthur was originally buried near the original British front line, in a place known as Squeak Forward Position.  This location and the date of 29th July on the concentration record indicate he was probably killed south of Montauban between 8.30-10 pm.  He was originally buried with Lt James Watson and Cpl E Moore.  Cpl Moore had trained with IX Pln of C Company.  The group may have been together when they were killed, indicating Arthur was possibly in C Company.  They are likely to have been killed by German shelling.

Squeak Forward Position became known as Vernon Street Cemetery.  After the war, the graves were concentrated to Dantzig Alley in Mametz, where Arthur now rests.  Half of Vernon Street’s 110 graves had been lost and these men have commemorative headstones at the back of Dantzig Alley.  Arthur is also commemorated on the family grave in Phillips Park.

Sheldon 17th Battalion Manchester Evening News - Friday 18 August 1916.JPG

Copyright British Library. MEN 18/8/1916

Officers Prisoner of War Statement. Lieutenant Duncan Blenkiron 18th Battalion Manchester Regiment

The static warfare of the Western Front was very different near the Somme River and marshes.  The British held Fargny, Vaux and Eclusier, with the French, immediately over the river to south, defending Frise.

Opposite was the German held village of Curlu and a large marshy meander of the river, known as Trafford Park.  The British held outposts in Trafford Park and regularly faced aggressive patrolling from German Infantry.  The British also patrolled the marshes on punts, otherwise used for duck shooting.  The area is overlooked by a chalk escarpment forming a tranquil bowl.  It is beautiful and very much worth visiting. See

German Trenches on 19th January 1916. Credit Mcmaster.ca

German Trenches (red) on 19/1/1916. The Germans advanced and took the village of Frise on 29/1/1916. Lt Blenkiron was captured in the former French trenches. Credit Mcmaster.ca

Reports my Arthur Bell and 2nd Lieutenant Callan-Macardle have been reported in Maricourt Defences.  The Germans started an offensive on the Kaiser’s Birthday.  The Manchesters were holding defences and the 18th Battalion sent a patrol to investigate the changing situation.  Here’s there report:-

Source: Lieutenant Duncan BLENKIRON. The Manchester Regiment. | The National Archives

Statement 7th November 1918. 2nd Lieutenant Duncan Blenkiron.  Captured at Frise, near Vaux 29th January 1916.. D Company of 18th Battalion Manchester Regiment. 90th Brigade of 30th Division.  Repatriated 21st October 1918.  Arrived England 23rd October 1918. Address at 65 Oakley Square, London NW1

STATEMENT regarding circumstances which led to capture:-

Sir,
For a few days (almost 1 week) before my capture I was assistant Scout Officer  & used  to patrol the English section of the Marshes in front of “VAUX”; four hours by day & four hours by night.  On the night of the 28/1/16 & almost 11-30 pm I patrolled the English section of the marshes returning @ almost 2 AM on 29/1/16.  On returning I received orders from my Adjutant to the effect that “I was to get to FRISE at all costs, & all possible speed & find out from the French, if they were expecting an attack, & any other information.”  I proceeded with the Patrol to “Frise”, but on nearing the French Trenches, I ordered the men to take cover with the exception of Cpl Squibbs [10790 Francis Leopold Squibbs of D Coy](who was acting as a guide, as I had not been in the French sector before) & Pte Whitworth [9942 John Ernest Whitworth of A Coy] who spoke French very well.  We three went on, & into the Trenches, only when we were well inside did we discover we were surrounded by Germans.  We were challenged in French & were told that all was well to proceed in.

I am Sir
Your obedient Servant

D Blenkiron Lt

The War Diary reported the remainder of the Patrol of 30 men waiting for 5 hours before returning to Vaux.  Lieutenant Blenkiron and two other men were prisoners of war for the remainder of hostilities.  Duncan Blenkiron was repatriated prior to the Armistice, due to a stomach ulcer.

 

 

A/Captain John Oliver McElroy 18th Battalion Manchester Regiment. Captured at Polderhoek 14th December 1917

Source: Captain John Oliver McELROY The Manchester Regiment. | The National Archive

L/Cpl Alfred Ridge

L/Cpl Alfred Ridge

This Statement concerns the OC of B Company of 18th Battalion, recounting his capture.  My grandfather’s cousin 1095 L/Cpl. Alfred A Ridge was captured and died from his wounds in January 1918. Alf  was posted to A Company which lost numerous men in the action and John McElroy’s Statement throws more light on events:-

PoW Statement A/Captain John Oliver McElroy 2nd January 1919

“Captured at Polderhoek Chateau [Ypres] 14th December 1917.  Acting Captain with B Company of 18th Battalion Manchester Regiment, part of 90th Brigade in 30th Division.  Repatriated 27th November 1918 and arrived in England 3rd December 1918. Address at Karkallas, Bunninadden, Co. Sligo.

STATEMENT regarding the circumstances which led to capture:-

My Battn held a sector of the line at Polderhoek Chateau about 900 yards in length, the Coy under my command was in the centre, my fighting strength was about 50 rifles and we held from 200 to 300 yards of line, the enemy were from 25 to 40 yards away.  There was no wire in front of our line nor was any available for us to put up.

At about 2 AM on the morning of the 14/12/17 I received a message from Battn HQ stating that the Enemy would attack either during the night or early morning.  I visited the posts in my line and saw that everything possible was done to meet the attack.

At 6 AM the enemy attacked fire was immediately opened upon him and two line of the Enemy who were advancing towards us were smashed.  I sent up 2 S.O.S. signals both failed to work till quite close to the ground I had no telephone.

Some minutes after the attack started I heard a cry on my left saying the enemy were in the trench.  I yelled “bomb them out” at the same time a few of my men left the trench I ordered them back and proceeded up the trench to my left to see what had happened there at this time a few bombs were thrown into the part of the trench I was in by the enemy one of whom I shot.

On passing round a bend in the trench I was confronted by two of the enemy who covered me with a revolver and rifle they ordered me to walk past them when I then found that the post I was to visit was already in the enemy’s possession and the men either killed or taken prisoner including my Coy Sergt Major [CQMS 10867 Joseph O’Connor?] and a Machine Gun Team.

I did not expect to see this post captured or the enemy between me and it.

J O McElroy A/Capt
Manchester Regiment
2/1/1919″

At least fifty members of 18th Battalion were captured in the action, the majority of which were posted in A Company (Alf Ridge).  John McElroy’s B Company was immdeiatley to the right of A Company in a line that was also weakly defended.  John McElroy was repatriated in December 1918.  He was then posted to 3rd Battalion in Cleethorpes.  John contracted Influenza and died in a Grimsby Hospital on 4th March 1919. See Capt John Oliver McElroy (1882 – 1919) – Find A Grave Memorial and Bank of Ireland where John had been employed prior to his Commission in April 1915.

The War Office wrote to John’s mother after his death to confirm that he was not at fault for his capture.  He was buried in Ireland where he is commemorated by CWGC