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

via Montauban & Maricourt Photographs then and now

Adding to the collection of then and now images, I find we have a collection showing German Infantry in occupation of Montauban in 1914-16 and later in 1918.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Young men doing their duty on the opposite of the Western Front to the Manchester Pals.  The buildings shown in the images were almost entirley demolished in the British bombardment of June 1916.  The dugout remained for the Germans to re-use after the German Spring Offensive of 1918.

104 years after the event, we have an extensive profile of the casualties at Montauban.

via Montauban Casualties 1st-8th July 1916

Lest we forget

If visitors to the site have any data to add, please leave a comment

Pte 8405 Charles Soloman Berlyne, 17th Bttn – Sound Recording

Imperial War Museum has a selection of recordings of interviews with veterans.  It’s wonderful to hear the voices of these men, and sometimes there are snippets that expand knowledge of events and conditions. Some of the details needs to be cross-checked.

Charles Soloman Berlyne enlisted on 3 September 1914 and trained with V Pln of B Coy.  He disembarked with 17th Battalion on 8 November 1915. Charles had previously been a Tailors Machinist at Homes Terry & Co.

Charles was interviewed by a family member in 1979.  Here’s some notes, but best to listen for yourselves.

Training Heaton Park, Belton Park & Salisbury Plain.

First experience in the trenches, with rats and German mortar fire.

Entraining at Amiens for the Somme. Recounting first casualties in the rear (Suzanne) after arriving on the Somme, including some of his friends.

Also recalls German attack (in Frise) and staying in the line for 10 days.

Using Gas helmets. Training for the “Big Battle”.  Copied the layout and practising (attack). Recalls further supplies and longer artillery barrages.  Germans had best positions. British always observed. Aeroplanes shooting down balloons.  Also shooting machine guns from German Planes at them.

Interview sadly tops before the Montauban assault on 1st July 1916.

Noting from Service Record.  Wounded in July 1916. Posted to 24th Bttn in 1917 and GSW Rt Knee at Bullecourt 31/7/1917. Discharged with SWB & Pension in August 1918. Lived at 101 Cranworth St, C on M.

Pte Albert Hurst has a much more extensive recording.  He was the last surviving member of the Manchester Pals and his testimony has been used extensively in this research. Albert Hurst recording August 1990

PS My Grandfather’s (Pte 8055 A A Bell) 1976 interview with Martin Middlebrook is held in the archive, but it has BBC Radio 4 copyright and it’s not on line.  I have a copy and can share further details if anyone is interested.

Awaiting Commemoration – L/Cpl 55044 Arthur Cole, 22nd Manchesters & Pte 42331 Frederick Lilleyman 2/7th Bttn. Died from TB 19/01/1920 and 06/05/1921. Wellingborough Cemetery

A satisfying search for non-existent Headstones

By strange coincidence two Great War soldiers of the Manchester Regiment are buried in the same cemetery at Wellingborough in Northamptonshire.  Both men are awaiting adjudication to see if they will be granted War Grave status. Records indicate both Frederick Lilleyman and Arthur Cole were transferred to the Manchesters after training with the Northamptonshire Yeomanry and Regiment.

Private 55044 Arthur Cole had enlisted in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry on 16 November 1914.  He had previously worked as a Labourer in a timber yard.  Disembarking in France on 12 November 1917, Arthur was transferred to 21st Battalion Manchester Regiment four days later and moved to Italy soon after. Appointed Lance Corporal, Arthur was posted to 22nd Battalion in September 1918.  He was wounded in October 1918 and returned Home in February 1919.  Arthur was discharged on 28 February 1919.

Arthur died from Tuberculosis (TB) & Meningitis on 19 January 1920, aged 24.  The TB was attributed Arthur’s Army service.  Arthur passed away at his Uncle James home at 18 Regent Street, Wellingborough. His parents Priscilla & John Ambrose Cole lived at 30 Winstanley Street, Wellingborough.  Their younger son Frank had been killed in 1918 serving with 5th Northamptonshire Regiment.  Arthur is buried in unmarked plot E.224 in Wellingborough (Doddington Road) Cemetery.

Private 42331 Frederick Jasper Lilleyman served overseas with 2/7th Battalion.  He had previously been employed as a Shoe Clicker enlisted on 8 December 1915.  There is evidence Frederick had enlisted in the Northamptonshire Regiment under the Derby Scheme and called up to train with their 3rd Battalion.  Frederick was transferred to the Manchesters having disembarked in France in February 1917.  He was discharged on 22 January 1918.

Frederick Lilleyman died from TB on 6 May 1921, aged 39. He is also buried at Doddington Road Cemetery, Plot E.65 with no headstone.  Frederick’s widow was Kerenhappuch Lilleyman of 79 Great Park Street, Wellingborough. A pension was refused as they had married after discharge. Frederick was the son of Frederick and Mary Ann Lilleyman.

IFCP have applied commemoration. Research with Manchesters Forum.

Not Forgotten approx 100 years after their deaths.

Unforgotten Casualties of the Manchester Regiment

As part of the research for the non-commemorations I had hoped to visit the known burials to record the current headstones and consider any changes that may be undertaken by Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Due to the limitations on travel, my first inspection was at Wellingborough.

We arrived at Doddington Road with the hope of photographing the headstones, without fully reviewing my earlier notes and I also forgot my Poppy Crosses to pay respects.  The position of plot numbers was broadly identifiable and it became clear that neither burial has a headstone. Nevertheless, this was not a fruitless journey.

The Council cemeteries are managed by Wellingborough Norse and their staff have been incredibly helpful.  Jayne Draper had previously emailed the plot numbers for Arthur and Frederick.  I checked the emails and found that both men had unpurchased graves and Jayne had advised this probably meant they had no Headstones.

During my somewhat pointless wanderings – looking for Headstones that aren’t there – one of the Cemetery staff drove by in his digger and waved.  I acknowledged and was pleased to see him park up and walk back to me.  After explaining my quest he kindly called up Jayne, who drove over to assist.

Jayne opened up the Cemetery Office and showed me the plans, clearly identifying the plots in the Sixth Row of Block E.  Frederick’s grave is number 8 and Arthur’s at 24.

The two local staff at Doddington Road also viewed the plans and we walked over to the adjoining Block E and we specifically identified the plots for our Manchester Regiment soldiers; confirming Jayne’s advice that there are no Headstones or current markers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In instances where burial plots cannot be clearly identified for new commemorations, CWGC seek consent from living family members to erect a new War Grave Headstone.

If family members are not found, a Special Memorial will be erected (There is no commemorative Screen Wall in Wellingborough) with a similar Headstone, with superscript “BURIED ELSEWHERE IN THIS CEMETERY”.  Arthur Cole and Frederick Lilleyman have waited a 99-100 years for commemoration and I have a new quest to find living relatives to consent to a Headstone on their respective plots.  If this is unsuccesful, I am sure Jayne and her team will find a suitable place (possibly near the office) for the Special Memorials.

This Post is written in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis.  The welcome, interest and assistance from the Wellingborough Norse staff is fully ackowledged.  The team are doing a wonderful job with numerous funerals and grieving families.  I am indebted to them and feel they are a huge credit to their town.  The burials of the two Manchester Regiment men are in safe hands.

Thank you Wellingborough Norse.


My father is a dedicated steam railway enthusiast.  Our family spent many happy days chasing trains that had just departed and seeking lines that confounded him.  My 18 year old daughter assisted in the grave search at Wellingborough and would probably prefer steam railways.




Awaiting Commemoration – Pte 33217 George Thomas Nichols, 27th Manchesters. Died from TB 03/06/1920. @infromthecold1

Private Nichols had been a Builders Labourer when he joined 27th Battalion at Ashton on 14 February 1916.  He was discharged on 20 June 1916.  George died from TB aggravated by service and Laryngeal Exhaustion on 3 June 1920.  He is buried in an unmarked grave at Delph Independent Chapelyard.  His widow Mary lived at Bell Yard, Delph, Saddleworth. The couple had five children.

IFCP have applied commemoration. Research with Manchesters Forum.

Not Forgotten 100 years after his death.

Unforgotten Casualties of the Manchester Regiment

Awaiting Commemoration – Pte 38697 John Ashworth, 23rd Manchesters. Died from TB 30/05/1920. @infromthecold1

Private  Ashworth was probably a Derby Scheme man when he enlisted in 23rd Battalion on 12 December 1915.  He has previously been a Mule Piecer in a Cotton Mill.  John was posted overseas with 23rd Battalion but later transferred to 2nd Battalion. He was discharged unfit 31 July 1918.

John Ashworth died from TB attributed to his service on 30 May 1920, aged 30.  He is buried in Oldham (Chadderton) Cemetery. The son of Robert and Mary Ashworth, 47 Featherstall Lane, Oldham.

IFCP have applied commemoration. Research with Manchesters Forum.

Not Forgotten 100 years after his death.

Unforgotten Casualties of the Manchester Regiment

Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial – 1st July 2016. By Emily Bell

A special picture of the Menin Gate by my daughter.  The images shows the scene on 1st July 2016.  We’d woken up on the Somme, followed the footsteps of the Pals at Montauban and I’d driven up to Ypres in time for the Last Post.  This was the first time I’d seen Pte Arthur Bell’s inscription on the KORL Panel.  The whole experience was overwhelming and  learned that you shouldn’t take on too much in a short period. [Not forgetting how very fortunate I am to do all this].

The sun was setting in the north and the Menin Gate had never looked to magnificent to me.  Emily’s artwork does it justice.


Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial

Documentary – First Day of the Battle of the Somme

This is an excellent documentary and embraces the terrible reality of the slaughter in  opening of the big push.  I watched about 10 years ago and remained unprepared for the overwhelming scale of the losses and horror faced by the volunteer army.

My research has taken me to these locations and I’m now too familiar with the experiences of our forebears.  Seeing this portrayal is now a raw experience, but incredibly worthwhile.

The programme is especially relevant as it features events of 22nd Manchesters, especially Captain Charlie May and Sergeant Richard Tawney.

I’ve read a little about Richard Tawney and feel he was a giant if his generation.  I also recommend Gerry Harrison’s book on Charlie’s diaries.

The success at Mametz (Spoiler Sorry) was emulated by 16th, 17th, 18th & 19th Battalions, next door at Montauban.  21st were also with 22nd Bttn at Mametz, with 20th nearby at Fricourt.  That’s @ 7,000 men from one City!  I wish this had been mentioned, as they all gained their objectives, at tremendous loss.  Albert Andrews features in the film and he was 19th Manchesters – not 22nd.  Valid criticism, but still immense appreciation for the makers of this film.  Greater respect to the men – on both sides of the line – who fought, fell or survived on 1st July 1916.

Awaiting Commemoration – Pte 3184 Thomas Fitzpatrick, 2nd Manchesters. Died from Bilharzia 23/01/1920.

Pte Fitzpatrick enlisted in 4th Bttn on 27/10/1914, aged 35y 3m.  He served overseas with 2nd Bttn from 21st April 1915.  He returned Home on 20th June 1915 and had a kidney operation in hospital, prior to discharge due to Bilharzia on 29th July 1916.  The Bilharzia had been contracted in S Africa, while Thomas had served with the Leinster Regiment in 1906. The Pension Record questions whether the disability was aggravated by service and the response if “Yes by active service in the war”.

Thomas died from Bilharzia in Manchester Central Hospital on 23rd January 1920, aged 40.  Thomas was buried in St Joseph’s (Roman Catholic) Cemetery, Moston, Manchester on 29th January 1920. His grave number is 1038.

His widow Beatrice received a Pension.  130 Pearson St, Miles Platting.  They had one son, Thomas.    Thomas Snr was the son of Michael and Mary Ann Fitzpatrick of Queens County, Ireland.

IFCP have applied commemoration.

Not Forgotten 100 years after his death.