The Middlebrook Guide to the Somme Battlefields-A Personal Review

I had the great pleasure to meet Martin Middlebrook at a Western Front Association in Northampton during 2015. Martin signed my new second copy of the First Day; to sit alongside the well read signed first edition copy he gave to my grandad.

I also picked up the Battlefield Guide, written by Martin and his late wife.  I thoroughly recommend this book to new visitors to the area, or those returning after many previous trips.  I’m not sure every visitor finds a section that is quite so personally intimate, but here’s mine for Martin and Mary’s thoughts on Triangle Point in Montauban:-

“This was the position reached by the 17th Manchesters (2nd Manchester Pals) in the late morning of 1 July.  The Manchester men fired on German infantry fleeing across the wide valley in front and on artillerymen trying to save their guns.  [When I got to the far end of Montauban I laid down and fired at a retreating German gun team who were dragging their gun away by a rope.  I well remember adjusting my aim for the weight of the bayonet, as taught. (Pte A. A. Bell, 2nd Manchester Pals)*] I regard Triangle Point as one of the most important places on the battlefield.  It represents the culmination of the success of the British right wing on 1 July, a success that was completely unexpected by General Rawlinson whose diary shows that he had little confidence in the 30th Division, which he nearly replaced in the line before the battle.  The unexpectedness of the success here is one reason why no immediate exploitation was attempted, even thought cavalry were available.[We had been told that if we made our three miles the cavalry would follow through with thirty miles. (Pte A. A. Bell, 2nd Manchester Pals)**]

* Pg 182 First Day on the Somme.

** Pg 287

Here’s the blurb:-

While best known as being the scene of the most terrible carnage in the WW1 the French department of the Somme has seen many other…

Source: Pen and Sword Books: The Middlebrook Guide to the Somme Battlefields – Paperback

Remembering Private John Morrissey 8734. Died 2/11/1916.

John MorrisseyJohn Morrissey died on 2nd November 1916 as a Prisoner of War in Germany.  He is buried in NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERY which includes many men who have been re interred from other previous PoW cemeteries.

Pt. Morrissey was 21 years old when he died having been born on 15/7/1895. The Service Number indicates he had enlisted in early September 1914 and records confirm he had served with B Company, having trained – alongside Arthur Bell’s brother in law, Herbert Vernon – with VIII Platoon.  The Medal Index Card confirms he entered France with the rest of the 2nd Manchester Pals on 8th November 1915; not quite a year before he died of wounds.

Documents released by ICRC in 2014 now provide further details of wounds and Prisoner of War status. These specify John was captured at Trones Wood on 8th [9th] July. He had grenade wounds to both legs and right fore arm. John was transferred through a series of German Camps returning to Ohrdruf on 21/10/1916. It. Is likely that this last transfer was to seek health care for problems with John’s wounds and an indication of his place of death.

John was the son of Mr and Mrs John Morrissey, of 3, Bank Place, Salford. John Snr was himself serving in a Prisoner of War Camp, with the Royal Defence Corps, when he received funds from his son’s estate. The family had earlier lived at 15 North George. The 1911 census records that he had worked as an office boy, aged 15/16.  He is recorded on Salford’s St Philip with St Stephen – War Memorial– The Parish where he was born.  He also has a commemoration in Weaste Cemetery, Salford

In loving memory of our Dear son John Morrissey 2nd Man Pals Died of wounds received In France Nov. 2nd 1916

Far from his home neath foreign
skies in a soldier’s grave
our dear son lies

john-morrissey
Courtesy Gerald Tiddswell,, who discovered John’s father was part of the Royal Defence Corps acting as guard in a British PoW camp.  The Friends of Salford Cemeteries Trust

Remembering 27829 Private Maurice Sugarman 17th Manchesters. Killed at Guillemont 30th July 1916. A Jewish casualty

sugarman-mMaurice Sugarman was killed in action at Guillemont on 30th July 1916.  He was originally buried alongside his comrade, Private A Clifford, in a field north of the village near the railway station.  Their remains were later relocated to Delville Wood Cemetery in Longueval, less than a mile north from the original grave.

Very little is known about Maurice’s life, but the photo places a face to his name.  As one of the few Jewish men to be killed serving with the Battalion, there are also some extra resources to address.  It is certainly uncommon to see a Star of David on a 17th Battalion grave.

Maurice was born in Manchester in the 4th Quarter 1895.  His parents Abraham and Jane had both been born in Russia and it seems the initially Registered their second son’s name as Barnet. The 1901 Census changed this to Morris Barnet and Maurice in 1911.  There were six children in the family.

DCIM100MEDIA

Courtesy Manchesters.org

Abraham was a silverware shopkeeper and absent from the family home on the 1911 census.  It is possible he was then resident in New York. Maurice was then working with his brother David, as waterproofer, at a garment maker.  The family lived at 278 Rochdale Road.  Maurice’s home address was given as 142 Elizabeth Street, Salford in later records.

Soldiers Effects records show Abraham received his son’s estate, including a War Gratuity of £3.  This sum indicated Maurice had enlisted at some stage between August 1915 and February 1916.  The Medal Roll confirms Abraham will have received a Victory Medal and British War Medal; but not a 1914/15 Star, for men embarking overseas before January 1916.  Provisional assessment of the Regimental Number of 27829 indicates Maurice enlisted in the Regiment in August 1915, went overseas at the end of June 1916 and then joined the 17th Battalion in France in early, as part of a draft of reinforcements to replace the losses at Montauban and Trones Wood.

Maurice took part in the assault on Guillemont, assembling overnight on 29th July and advancing in the second wave of the assault, in the misty dawn of the next morning.  Records show he was originally posted missing and then presumed dead.  His original burial was not in the area of the Battalion’s attack and he was most likely collected by burial parties two months after his death, when the German Army was finally levered out of the village.

Records have been found that indicate Maurice’s sister Carrie Annie named her second son Maurice.  She had married in North Manchester Synagogue in 1914, where Maurice is not mentioned on the War Memorial. Carrie’s home address was 18 Woodland Terrace, Broughton.  More data may be found from family records.

sugarman-clifford-cr

CWGC record showing original burial location

Anniversary 12th October 1916 – Flers Losses for 17th Manchesters

17th Battalion Manchester Regiment on the Somme

AIF Cemetery, Flers. Courtesy CWGC AIF Cemetery, Flers. Courtesy CWGC

On 12th October 1916, the 17th Battalion took part in a disastrous assault on German positions north of the village of Flers.  Some advances were possible, but all progress was conceded in the face of relentless machine gun defences from the German Marines.  Arthur Bell – who provides a large part of the narrative on this site – was wounded at Flers and in common with many of his peers, his active Service ended on this day.   The anniversary also marks the end of the Battalion’s main action for the year.  They want on to further significant deeds in 1917.

The majority of 17th Battalion’s casualties in the summer of 1916 had enlisted into the Manchester Regiment during 1914; or early 1915. The troops  who were killed, wounded and captured in the assaults in July 1916 left very few ‘original’ Warehouseman and…

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Anniversary 11th October 1916 – 17th Manchesters, Flers | 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment on the Somme

Percy Howard Jones

Sgt. Harry Guthrie. Courtesy Tony Bowden - Manchesters Forum

Sgt. Harry Guthrie. Courtesy Tony Bowden – Manchesters Forum

Guthrie HS MM 17-26327 Sgt

Guthrie HS MM 17-26327 Sgt

The 2nd Manchester Pals and the other men of 90th Brigade had been away from the front line after the actions on July 1916.  The battle of the Somme had continued in their absence and they were cal…

Source: Anniversary 11th October 1916 – 17th Manchesters, Flers | 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment on the Somme