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

Remembering Private Frederick G Crowe – 17th Manchesters. Died 26/9/1916



Private Frederick Guest Crowe 8488 died in the Lazarette Prisoner of War Camp on 26th September 1916, aged 24.

Frederick was a former pupil of Manchester Grammar School and accountant’s clerk, enlisting in A Company of the 2nd City Battalion with Arthur Bell on 3rd September 1914.  The Roll of Honour shows he trained with I Platoon.

I Platoon of 17th Battalion from Book of Honour. Courtesy

I Platoon of 17th Battalion from Book of Honour. Courtesy

Frederick had been born in Kendal, Westmorland in 1894 and lived with his parents in Cheetham Hill when he enlisted.   Private Crowe’s father, Oswald Byrne Crowe, M.A. (Civil Engineer), and Sarah Crowe had two other children; daughter Matilda and a younger son, Randal Byrne Crowe.  Randal 301085, served with the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and was awarded a Military Medal.  Following promotion to Lance Corporal, Randal was killed in action four days before the Armistice on 7th November 1918.  He is buried at GHISSIGNIES BRITISH CEMETERY

Frederick’s Service Record survived the blitz.  He was hospitalised at Heaton Park with Laryngitis and disciplined for ‘Not complying with an order’.  This was witnessed by Lance Sergeant Alfred Norbury* and resulted in 5 days Confined to Barracks, as awarded by Captain Lloyd.  In common with the majority of the Battalion, Frederick entered France on 8th November 1915.

The Service Record also recites the sorry times for Frederick’s mother.  Sarah Crowe received notice that he was missing on 7th August and record of his capture seems to have arrived in October 1916 – after Frederick had died.  Corporal J. Green of the Northumberland Fusiliers and Sergeant J Higgins of the East Lancs. Regiment both wrote to Sarah in October 1916 informing her of the death of her son.  She lived at 81 Bignor Street, Hightown, Cheetham Hill.

German records are translated and show that Frederick had been captured on 9th July 1916 – the day of the disastrous withdrawal from Trones Wood .  The Manchester Evening News** reported he lay wounded for three days before being picked up by Germans and taken to Dulmen Camp.  The German documents show Frederick had died of wounds in the groin.  He died at 8am on 26th September 1916 and he was buried in Ohrdruf Camp Cemetery with Military Honours.  After the War, Frederick was exhumed and re-interred in NIEDERZWEHREN CEMETERYin Hessen, Germany.

*Lance Sergeant Alfred Norbury 8245 also trained with I Platoon.  Alfred was wounded in the assault on Montauban as recounted by Arthur Bell

“The next casualty I remember, although there must have been many on the way, was Sergeant N. (Norbury) shouting “elbow” in a very queer tone, just as we jumped into and out of the trench – by now we were in open order.”

Alfred recovered and was discharged in October 1917.

**MEN Article source Bernard on Great War Forum.

90th Company, Machine Gun Corps at Montauban

Historians from Oxford Preparatory School have recently published a letter  from Captain Leslie Grundy of the Machine Gun Corps during the assault and defence on the First Day of the Somme.  He confirmed the position of a row of artillery guns in front of Oxford Copse on the evening before the Big Push.

More importantly we learn that the detachment of 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment retired from Triangle Point at 7am – holding out for three and a half hours.  It also seems the lives of these men was saved by the 90th Machine Gun Company, who covered their withdrawal to a shell hole from the German Infantry counter-attack.

The draft post became too extensive and a little off topic, so here’s a more detailed account in the Battlefield Sleuth Series. Machine Gun Corps at Montauban

Q 1419

IWM Q 1419

Here’s Skipper’s report – Whilst we have learnt much from the newspapers about the ‘Big Push’ on the Somme, it is not the same as hearing from someone in the thick of things. Capt. Leslie Grundy (late of York &a…

Source: July 27th 1916 | The Skipper’s War

Remembering Private James Appleyard – 17th Manchesters 22/9/1916

James Appleyard Courtesy CWGC

James Appleyard Courtesy CWGC

Private James Appleyard. Courtesy Tony Bowden, Manchesters Forum

Private James Appleyard. Courtesy Tony Bowden, Manchesters Forum

Today is the anniversary of the death of Private James Appleyard.

James had joined Manchester Police in June 1904 and worked in the Didsbury Division.  His Police Number was D218.*  In common with many Manchester Policemen,  James had enlisted in the Pals Battalions in late (25th) January 1915.

The Roll of Honour shows James had been promoted to Corporal by March 1915.  He is included in the photograph of B Company’s V Platoon.

Records show James had been wounded in the assault at Montauban on 1st July 1916, at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme.  His burial at home suggests James had been evacuated from France and died from his wounds in a British Hospital.

V Platoon, 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment from Book of Honour. Courtesy

V Platoon, 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment from Book of Honour. Courtesy

*Police service record and casualty data courtesy Mack of

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