Private Allan Arthur Bell, 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment

Private Allan Arthur Bell, 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment

In 1974 Arthur Bell wrote notes of his experience in the 17th Battalion, Manchester Regiment.  Arthur was also subsequently interviewed by Martin Middlebrook on BBC Radio 4 where he recounted further experiences in the First World War  It’s fitting to follow Arthur’s original introduction of his damaged helmet:-

“It had a leather frame inside, and was issued to all of us some weeks before the big advance on 1st July, 1916.  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.  “Yer wanna be more careful” said newly promoted ex-Sergt. McM [McMenemy].  Anyhow, he gave me a new hat.

How came I to get a hole in the hat.”Steel Helmet

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Wilfred Edward Salter Owen MC – Centenary

Cover image courtesy British Libray

Wilfred Owen enlisted in the Artist’s Rifles and received his commission in the 5th Battalion Manchester Regiment.  Wilfred was attached to 2nd Battalion and was awarded a Military Cross for bravery.

Wilfred Owen wrote extensively and produced some incredible war poems that still resonate to school children and adults on the anniversary of his death.  The poems provide an insight into life and death on the Western Front and the realities for an infantry soldiers.

BIOGRAPHY

DEATH AT SAMBRE ORS CANAL “His friend 2nd Lt. Foulkes, who was wounded in the attack, said that Owen was last seen trying to cross the canal on a raft under very heavy gunfire.” Wilfred Owen Association

CONTEXT OF FINAL BATTLE “This was an enormous clash of arms involving thirteen British divisions fighting on a 20-mile front – a battle to match the scale of the ill-fated opening attack during Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916.” Peter Hart

Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame, all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime …
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, –
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

BBC

Also see BRITISH LIBRARY and WILFRED OWEN ASSOCIATION “From August 1914 from Mons and Le Cateau to the end of hostilities, the [2nd] battalion had lost 44 officers and 1121 Other Ranks dead, more than any of the other 26 battalions of the Regiment which served overseas in the Great War. Wilfred Owen was one of them.”

I realise Wilfred Owen was not connected with 17th Bttn, but wanted to share The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est, in recognition of the impression it provides to me for all men who lived and died in France and Belgium.  World leaders should continue to read this.”

2nd Lieutenant Ralph Marillier Miller and his family

Ralph Marillier Miller was the Platoon Commander of my grandfather during the Battle of the Somme.  Private Arthur Bell recounted the bravery of Ralph in his journal and these observations inspired the research.   The journal is published close to the Centenary of the Great War Armistice; a matter of days following the death of the fourth son Gerrard.  Contributions have been received from Ralph’s nephew John Margetson Place.  Significant records and photos have also been provided Ralph’s niece, Sue Butcher (nee Marillier Miller) and her husband Geoff.  We share the commemoration of these young men with their family.

Pte 8359 Herbert Victor Moores – Killed 2nd July 1916

Hebert Victor Moores was born in Ashton-Under-Lyne on 13th May 1897.  He was the son of Son of William Herbert and Mary Jane Moores and had an elder brother named Donald.

Following communication with Victoria Cross (Credit Featured Image), and with the help of Salford War Memorial and Manchester Regiment Forum, a profile is provided to commemorate Victor, as he was known in the family.

Victor was educated at Blackpool, Seedley and Manchester Grammar (1908-13) Schools and worked for Scottish Amicable Assurance Company.  Victor and Donald both played Lacrosse for the Seedley Club, where there father was Vice President of the Team.  William Moores was then running the Langworthy Hotel in Seedley.

17th Bttn B COy VIII Pln Pic

VIII Platoon Photo at Heaton Park in April 1915, featuring Donald and Victor Moores

Donald was also employed in the Insurance business.  He enlisted Number 8232 in the 2nd City (Pals) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment (later became 17th Battalion) on the date of formation as 2nd September 1914.  He was posted to VIII Platoon of B Company, which was Commanded at Heaton Park by Lieutenant John Greville Madden.

17th Bttn B Coy VIII Pln

The minimum age for enlisting was eighteen, so Victor waited until March 1915 to attest as number 8359 in the 17th Battalion – presumably claiming to be at least two months older than his actual age.  Victor was posted to B Company and trained at Heaton Park with his brother Donald was part of VIII Platoon.

The 17th Battalion in France in November 1915 and defended tranches near the Somme River and villages of Maricourt, Vaux and Suzanne.  Victor had two weeks leave at home in Seedley at the end of June 1916.  He then returned to France and rejoined his Pals, preparing for the great advance.

The Battalion took part in the opening day of the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916.  Advancing from Maricourt to liberate the fortress village of Montauban, the Battalion then secured the defences and held back two German counter-attacks.

Manchester Evening News 10 July 1916

Manchester Evening News 10 July 1916 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Victor was reported to have been killed by a shell in the action, aged 19.  He is commemorated at St Luke’s Church in Salford, where the plaque specifies 2nd July as his date of death; although other records indicate 1st July.  The 2nd July date would indicate that Victor had succeeded in the advance to Montauban and was probably killed on the next day, when the German artillery made sustained attacks on the Manchester men, as they endeavoured to gain cover in the ruins of the village.  B Company was posted to the east of the village defences, under the command of John Madden, who was then a Captain and received a Military Cross for the action.  In common with most Other Ranks from the Battalion, Victor’s remains were not identified after the War and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Memorial Plaque at St Luke's with All Saints Church, Weaste, Salford. Credit Victoria Cross

Memorial Plaque at St Luke’s with All Saints Church, Weaste, Salford. Credit Victoria Cross

William Moores received his son’s effects, including funds of £16 14s 6d.  William will also have received Victor’s 1914/15 Star, Victory Medal and British War Medal.  WIlliam entered into correspondence concenerning recovery of Victor’s possessions, left at Lark Hill Camp, prior to embarkation and Suzanne, before the advance.  His letter of 27 May 1917 showed anger and distress:-

“Surely your Department has had time to these details. His original effects were left at Larkhill…and….the rest camp, before he was allowed to be murdered at 19 years of age….I have no token of his…Perhaps you can give me some satisfaction to soothe me, or shall I agitate.?”

Detailed reports and explanations were provided, including one from the Battalion Commanding Officer, yet no further effects were found.

William’s trauma can be seen on notes on the Service Record including his comment that despite efforts to educate Victor at Manchester Grammar Shool:-

“…he might just as well have been a wastrel by the way he was treated.”

Donald Moores did not go overseas with 17th Battalion and was posted the 25th Reserve Battalion, at Altcar, on 8th November 1915.  He was then posted to 1st Garrison Battalion on 1st February 1916 and served in India from 25th February 1916.  He was diagnosed with chest complaints at Allahabad in July 1916, returned Home and was discharged with sickness on 25th July 1917. He was suffering from Pleurisy and Bronchial Catarrh. Donald received a British War Medal and Silver War Badge for his Service, along with a Pension for his ill-health.  He later lived near Lytham and continued to have chest problems.

Manchester Evening News 02 July 1918

Manchester Evening News 02 July 1918 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

See Salford Advertiser/Salford Reporter entries: 15/07/16

img_7679.jpg

Possibly Donald and Victor sat together in their Platoon photo.

Pte 9327 George Lauchlan Dean. Died of wounds 12th September 1916

George Dean was the son of Tom and Annie Dean, of 21, Ashfield Rd., Rusholme, Manchester. He had been born in Manchester on 22/7/1897 and was 19 years old when he died. Tom was a printer.

Kenworthy The Sphere 26.8.1916

Kenworthy The Sphere 26.8.1916 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Captain Stanley Kenworthy’s Service file includes a paper from the War Officer recording George as the informant “Before we reached the first German line, I saw Capt. Kenworthy – fallen – he wasn’t dead then. I was close to him…. a little later I heard a messenger come up to Lieut. Whittall and say the Capt. was dead — and he was to take command of the Company. We held Montauban” George is identified as a member of D Coy in Fulham Military Hospital and the report is dated 14th July.   George’s statement indicates he had been part of the the Battalion as they liberated Montauban and he was probably wounded in the subsequent 36 hours as the Manchesters defended the village against counter-attacks and continuing German bombardment.

George had originally joined IXX Platoon of E (Reserve) Company and must have been transferred to D Company before he disembarked in France on 8th November 1915.

MEN 21.7.1916

MEN 21/7/1916 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

MEN 21st July 1916 reported “IN HOSPITAL. Manchester “Pals” Private George Dean, 21, Ashfield Road, Rusholme, severely wounded. He is an old Dulcie Avenue boy, and employed by Messrs, Barlow and Jones, Limited.”

MEN of 16th September 1916 recorded “ROLL OF HONOUR….DEAN. – On the 12th September, at the Fulham Military Hospital, from wounds received in action on July 1st, aged 19 years, Private GEORGE DEAN, Manchester Regt., the dearly-loved elder son of Tom and Annie Dean, 21 Ashfield Road, Rusholme. Internment at Birch Church, Rusholme. September 16th. ‘I am ready’ “

MEN 16.9.1916

MEN 16.9.1916 © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

George’s younger brother was Arthur Kenneth Dean. In common with George, he was too young for overseas Service. George was still 18 at Montauban, below the minimum age of 19.

He died on 12th September and was buried at BIRCH-IN-RUSHOLME (ST. JAMES) CHURCHYARD. He is now Commemorated on the Southern Cemetery Screen Wall, although it’s possible his addendum entry has not yet been added.

Not Forgotten

Barlow & Jones Roll of Honour

G Dean noted on the Barlow & Jones Roll of Honour

Who Do You Think You Are? Lee Mack

Last Night’s Episode featuring Lee Mack is worth watching on catch-up.  Lee’s Greandfather was an original member of the 17th King’s Liverpool Regiment (1st Liverpool Pals) and Prof Peter Doyle gives some good background of the Pals movement – albeit not mentioning the 30th Division neighbours in Manchester.

Best of all Lee walked north from Maricourt to Montauban.  He then visited the Manchester and Liverpool Pals Memorial, where the historian advised that ‘other Battalion’ entered the village, without mentioning which Regiment they were from.  Lee did read the inscription though.

I realise I’m being oversensitive, because the producers couldn’t add too much detail, without losing some of the personal impact of Lee’s recognition of his Grandfather’s involvement.

Robert Mayson Calvert Killed in Action 9th July 1916. 17th Manchesters

Photo Credit RBL

2nd Lt. Robert Calvert. The Times 21.7.1916

The Times 21/7/1916.

Memorial Plaque in St Michael’s Church.  Burgh by Sands, Cumbria. Robert was originally educated at Carlisle Grammar School 1903-1910.   In common with a large group of 17th Bttn Officers, Robert was also St Bees Old Boy (1910-14) and was a Hastings Exhibitioner at  Queen’s College, Oxford (1914-15).

He was  killed at Trones Wood on 9th July. Robert’s body was eventually recovered and he is buried at Serre Road Cemetery No2.  In common with at least three other members of the Regiment, Robert had originally had a battlefield grave in the south west corner of the wood, close to the point where Trones Alley had entered.  His exhumation record from 1929 indicates Robert’s remains were identified with the help of his pipe.  Kenneth MacArdle’s final contribution described Robert in his diary as “Calvert – a student of classics lately from St Bees in Cumberland, with bored looking wrinkles on his forehead and an inability to pronounce his “R”s which he substitutes with “W”s. He was meant for the Civil Service but makes a good enough soldier and is as comic as a clown with a tired resentful expression.” (Thanks to John Hartley) Robert Calvert had been an accomplished scholar, as a Hastings Exhibitioner at Queens College, Oxford. His parents were Robert and Fanny Calvert.  A Major L Calvert  finally arranged the inscription on Robert’s memorial “Remembered at his home, Burgh-by-Sands, Cumberland”.

In one of last letters to a school friend, Robert quoted Aes Triplex, by Robert Louis Stevenson “Does not life go down with a better grace foaming in full body over a precipice than miserably struggling to an end in sandy deltas?” 

As suggested in St Bees Roll of Honour, this might stand as his epitaph.

Not Forgotten.