Anniversary 18th/19th August 1916 Rifle Grenade Accident

Rifle Grenade Training © IWM (Q 5355)

Rifle Grenade Training © IWM (Q 5355)

While the 17th Battalion was based at Bethune, various specialist training took place.  Arthur Bell recounted the dangers associated with his role of a bomber.

160819 Rifle Grenade Accident

“At a lesson some  time later, conducted by an officer of our own [Lieutenant Alan Holt], a similar accident occurred with rifle grenades, lives were lost (three I think), and the lieutenant himself was injured in the foot.”

Shaw R MEN 28.8.1916


Privates Robert Shaw 8857 and Joseph Wilcox 8930 died on 18th August 1916.  Alan Armstrong 9168 died the next day.

Joseph Wilcox of I Platoon was the son of Hannah Wilcox, of 241, Manchester Rd., Walkden, Manchester.  He was 22 when he died and he is buried next to Robert Shaw in Bethune Town Military Cemetery.  Robert Edward Shaw  of II Platoon is buried next to Joseph.

Alan Armstrong was 29 when he died.  He was the son of Emily Armstrong, of 18, Yates Terrace, Calrows, Elton, Bury.  Alan is buried in Chocques Military Cemetary.  Chocques was at one time the headquarters of I Corps and from January 1915 to April 1918, No.1 Casualty Clearing Station was posted there.  The Manchester newspapers confirmed Alan’s treatment there.

Private Harold Bretnall  of III Platoon had been promoted to Lance Corporal on 8th August 1916.  His service record shows he was accidentally wounded on 18th August.  Harold had been trained at the Trench Mortar School in December 1915, which makes it likely he was part of fatal accident during rifle grenade training.  After initial treatment in the field, Lance Corporal Brentall was transferred to Wimereux Hospital later in August and then returned to Home Depot in Manchester in September 1916.

Private Harry Hudson of D Company was another man presumed injured in the accident.  Harry was a former pupil of Arthur’s school Manchester Warehouseman and Clerks Orphans’ School

Lt Alan Holt recovered and was awarded a Military Cross for his actions at Heninel in April 1917.


War Diary

Casualties of the MANCHESTER REGIMENT 04/08/1914 to 31/12/1916

Artillery Support 30th July 1916

 Battle of Pozieres Ridge 23 July - 3 September: An 18 pounder gun, its crew stripped to the waist in the sunshine, putting over curtain fire from the Carnoy Valley near Montauban. Battle of Pozieres Ridge. 18 pdr. Putting over curtain fire or barrage. Carnoy Valley, near Montauban. 30 July 1916.Q 4066

 An 18 pounder gun, its crew stripped to the waist in the sunshine, putting over curtain fire from the Carnoy Valley near Montauban 30 July 1916 IWM Q4066

I found this photo on the IWM Site.  18 Pound Artillery had an effective range of three miles and a well trained crew could fire thirty rounds per minute.  Guns at Carnoy Valley were within range of Guillemont and no other assaults were taking place in the area on 30th July.  Therefore, it is likely these men were assisting 90th Brigade in their attack on Guillemont.

The photograph shows men in the heat of the day and it is assumed this would have been around midday, or later.  As such, the support to the infantry had to be necessarily limited to the Western side of Guillemont village.  The 2nd Royal Scots Fusiliers had advanced to the centre of Guillemont, alongside the 18th Manchesters.  Communication with Brigade HQ in Trones Wood and 16th / 17th Manchesters to the east of the village had been broken by the German bombardment and machine guns – limiting the prospects of British bombardment without hitting their own troops.  For more details see Guillemont | 17th Manchester Regiment on the Somme

XIV Pln D Coy Photo - Book of Honour

Remembering 9348 CQMS Frederick William Jones Killed in Action 29/30th July 1916

XIV Pln D Coy - Book of HonourCompany Quartermaster Sergeant Jones enlisted in the 17th Battalion on 23rd February 1915. This was during the drive for further recruitment when the Pals Battalions were seeking a fifth E Company. Recruitment was opened up to men with skills or trades suited to Army life. This was a significant extension to the original requirement of being a clerk or warehouseman.  His Service Record helps build a picture of the men in his Battalion.

Arthur Bell recognised the importance of these men. “Throw a lot of clerks and countermen into a complex organisation like an army, with only a few ex-Boer War men, and where are you?  No wonder an invitation was issued to bakers, candlestick-makers and coppers to join up.”
Frederick was an experienced carpenter, who had a reference provided by Peace V Norquoy Limited of New Islington Works, Union Street, Ancoats. He had been employed with them for five years and had earlier served in the Royal Navy.
At 37 years and six months, Frederick was much older than the average recruit; with the majority of recruits being single, it was also an exception for Frederick to be married with children. He had married Nellie Shutt at Weslyan Chapel, Grosvenor Street on 15th July 1905. The couple and three children, Wilfred, Doris & Frederick William, lived at 1 Roseneath Avenue, Levenshulme. His mother Mary Fox Jones lived at 12 The Crescent, Levenshulme with younger brother Harold Thomas and Sister Constance Gertrude Jones. The elder brother Edwin Ernest lived at Bramhall.
Previous military experience, maturity and his trade experience led to Frederick’s early promotion to the post of Pioneer Sergeant. He trained with XIV Platoon in D Company. The Battalion’s assault on Montauban led to significant losses, especially among the NCOs. Frederick was promoted CQMS on 1st July, as a replacement for one of these casualties.
CQMS Jones was Killed in Action on 29th or 30th July 1916, during the advance on Guillemont. He is buried in PERONNE ROAD CEMETERY, MARICOURT. Grave registration suggests he died on 29/7/1916, which could relate the evening before the assault on Guillemont when the Battalion moved up from Cambridge Copse and assembled between Bernafay and Trones Woods. Frederick had originally been buried close to the track leading to Carnoy from Maricourt and the southern end of Talus Bois. Therefore it’s possible he was killed in the initial assembly positions at Cambridge Copse. Alternatively he may have been wounded later and there may have been a Casualty Clearing Station close to his original burial place. SDGW specifies Killed in Action, rather than Died of Wounds, but these records are regularly inaccurate. Most initial 30th July burials were more than 1 mile to the north east.
Nellie received Frederick’s Effects in September 1917. This included a tobacco pouch, Cigarette Case, wrist watch, purse, pipe and pipe lighter. Nellie thought some items were missing. The War Office awarded her a Pension of 22/ per week in February 1917.

How Second Lieutenant Donald Bell earned a Victoria Cross for his actions during The Somme (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)

Steel helmet belonging to 2Lt Donald Bell VC

Sporting stars who died during the First and Second World War – The helmet that footballer Donald Bell was wearing when he was killed

This is a great article about 2nd Lieutenant Donald Bell VC.  His award was postumous because he was killed a few days after his deeds, on 10th July 1916.  What caught my eye is the steel helmet which brought to mind a quote from my grandad.  He also had a bullet through his helmet at Montauban on 1st July 1916, but it just ‘scraped’ his head.  He then used The Steel Helmet for title of his journal for Martin Middlebrook.

“A few days after the initial advance I took my helmet to the Company QMS for renewal as it had a hole in it made by a bullet, which had caused it to roll up like the petal of a flower.”

I hope Bradford Telegraph & Argos are happy I use there photo on my About – The Steel Helmet page.

Source: How Second Lieutenant Donald Bell earned a Victoria Cross for his actions during The Somme (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)


nb Donald is not a relative, so far as I know.

South African Infantry helping Manchester Regiment casualties at Trones Wood-Anniversary 10th July 1916

Charles Johnson. March 1915

Charles Johnson. March 1915

Lt Ralph Miller Courtesy Sue Butcher

Lt Ralph Miller Courtesy Sue Butcher

Pt. Vernon Edkins - 2nd South African Infantry.

Pt. Vernon Edkins – 2nd South African Infantry.

Trones Alley

Trones Alley in Bernafay Wood

Private Walter Giddy - Courtesy

Private Walter Giddy – Courtesy

Private Allan Arthur Bell, 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment

Private Allan Arthur Bell, 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment


On10th July 1916, member of the South African Infantry helped evacuate wounded men from the battlefield between Bernafay Wood and Trones Wood.  At the same time 2nd Lieutenant Ralph Marillier Miller of the 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment led a patrol to find his severely wounded Company Sergeant Major Johnson.

My grandfather was the only volunteer from the Platoon to assist with the rescue with the Lieutenant; who was known as “Jockey” Miller.  He recounted:-
“The Lieutenant must have known where to look, for we got to the Sergt. Major without much trouble.  He was quite unconscious, hit in the face an elsewhere.  Nearby were some South African soldiers and one of them volunteered to help to carry the S.M. back to our lines. ”

Walter Giddy of the 2nd South African Infantry recounted:-
“We heard cries from the wood further down, and Geoghan and Edkins went to investigate, finding three wounded men lying down in the open. They had been lying there three days among their own dead, and had been buried a couple of times by their own shells, and the one brought in had been wounded again. They asked for four volunteers to bring in the other two, so off we went. It was an awful half hour, but we were well repaid by the grateful looks on their haggard faces.”

“Jockey” Miller was killed on 29th July after receiving a grateful letter from CSM Johnson’s father:-
‘In his [Ralph Miller’s] last letter home he enclosed a very touching letter from the father of his Sergeant-Major, who wrote to thank him for saving his son from certain death after he had lain

helpless in “No Man’s Land.”  In it the writer [Thomas Johnson] says: “We do want to tell you, for him and for ourselves, that your name will be often on our lips and always in our hearts.  Thanks are poor, inadequate things for such service as you have rendered us, but we feel that the circumstances entitle us at least to count ourselves among those who are privileged to pray that you may go through safely and be restored to your own people whole and sound.’ (Courtesy Glenalmond College)

I was pleased to meet Ralph Miller’s neace who provided a great photo of her Uncle.  I also showed her my grandad’s notes showing his respect for the young officer:-
“Brave Jockey!  Not many days after that came the report that he had got a gas shell ‘all to himself’ – killed of course.  Would he have been one of Shakespeare’s  ‘Even in the cannon’s mouth men’?”


Source: South African Infantry helping Manchesters at Trones Wood | 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment on the Somme