Inspired by interviews and notes by a member of the 2nd City Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, this site portrays the particular group of volunteer soldiers, from enlistment to their service in the Battle of the Somme. In memory of the contributor of the journal, Private Allan Arthur Bell 8055 and the Pals that served with him. Copyright Bell Family. All rights reserved. Please see acknowledgments and feel free to comment in the Guest Book or individual Posts.
19 Year old Private Frederick Whatmough died on this day 100 years ago. Records show his grave in Chippily Communal Cemetery Extension in a plot adjoining Private J Redfern of the 16th Battalion, who died on 20th June 1916.
Frederick’s Medal Index Card identifies he died, rather than being killed in action. John Hartley’s painstaking research Stockports Soldier Frederick WHATMOUGH finds Frederick drowned while swimming at Chippily. This is south east of Albert, and west of Vaux, down the river Somme. The Battalion had withdrawn from Vaux trenches the day before to a camp at Bois Celestine. Frederick was in VI Paltoon of B Company. John Hartley (see 17th Manchesters by John Hartley) recounts a letter from his OC, Captain Norman Vaudrey (see 1st July 1916 Anniversary – Officers)
“I very much regret to have to break the news to you of the death of your son, Signaller Whatmough, who was drowned whilst bathing here – a few miles behind the firing line – yesterday afternoon, June 2nd. Though a strong swimmer he must, we think, have been seized with cramp and despite efforts made by his comrades, particularly a man named Hassall, he sank and was drowned. We worked hard to recover him, but it was too late when we did. He will be buried with military honours tomorrow. Since being out here he has always been good at his work and anxious to do his duty; and a favourite amongst his comrades. As you know, he joined right at the beginning of the War, and has been with us all the time, and although his death did not actually occur in the face of the enemy, he died for his country which he served so well. We fully realise how much you will feel this blow and I hope you will accept the sympathy of the officers and men of his company.”
The Regimental Number of 8959 indicates Private Whatmough was one on the original 2nd City Pals to enlist in September 1914. He must have been 17 years old at that time. Casualties of the MANCHESTER REGIMENT 04/08/1914 to 31/12/1916 tells us Frederick was the Son of Frederick W. and Ellen Whatmough, of 9, St. Paul’s St., Stockport. Prior to hostilites, Fred had been employed by Peel Watson & Co of 6 Parker Street, Manchester. 7 men enlisted from the firm, as shown on the Roll of Honour. This includes Harry Hudson, who been at Manchester Warehouseman and Clerks Orphans’ School with Arthur Bell’s brother Douglas.
Born in Ireland, Kenneth Macardle was working for the Canadian Bank of Commerce in California at the outbreak of the war. He left his post on 18th January 1915 and returned to join the 17th Manchester Regiment. He had been employed by the Bank since February 1911. He was commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in 14th Bttn on 6th April 1915 and later took command of a Platoon in B Company. He entered France on 2nd February 1916.
Kenneth was a committed diarist and his well composed notes provide a vivid and expressive view of the events on the opening days of the Battle of the Somme.
Regrettably, Kenneth was left behind in Trones Wood when the Battalion withdrew on 9th July. His body was never found and he remains commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing.
Kenneth’s diary provides a direct source for the events of 1st July and his prose has been a further catalyst for the commitment to record and present events on the Somme. On visiting Thiepval, I have scanned the multitude of names of the lost men to identify the neatly carved name of my favourite diarist. Here’s an extract:-
“We were relieved in a hurricane of shells. We trailed out wearily and crossed the battlefield down trenches choked with the dead of ourselves and our enemies – stiff, yellow and stinking – the agony of a violent death in their twisted fingers and drawn faces. There were arms and things on the parapets and in trees. Shell holes with 3 or 4 in them. The dawn came as we reached again the assembly trenches in Cambridge Copse. From there, we looked back at Montauban, the scene of our triumph, where we, the 17th Battalion, temporary soldiers and temporary officers every one that went in, had added another name to the honours on the colours of an old fighting regiment of the line – not the least of the honours on it.”
“A molten sun slid up over a plum coloured wood, on a mauve hill shading down to grey. In a vivid flaming sky, topaz clouds with golden edges floated, the tips of shell-stricken bare trees stood out over a sea of billowing white mist, the morning light was golden. We trudged wearily up the hill but not unhappy. All this world was ever dead to Vaudrey and Kenworthy, Clesham, Sproat, Ford and the other ranks we did not know how many. Vaudrey used to enjoy early morning parades. Clesham loved to hunt back in Africa when the veldt was shimmering with the birth of a day.”
Kenneth’s father, Sir Thomas Callan Macardle, K.B.E., D.L. was the Irish brewer and proprietor of Macardle-Moore & Company Ltd of Dundalk. Ireland. Macardle was knighted (Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his contributions to the war effort, particularly in supplying grain and ale to the war effort. Kitchener Letter. See http://soldiersofthequeen.com/blog/category/uncategorized/page/7/
Kenneth’s mother, Minnie Ross Macardle was English. Her father, Lt. Col. James Clarke Ross had served in the Scots Greys. (courtesy Who’s Who)
Part of Minnie and Sir Thomas’ tragic loss is shown as their thoughts will have developed from hope to despair in their correspondence held in the Imperial War Museum – Catalogue P210.
Initially, Adjutant Major C L Macdonald wrote to Sir Thomas with a glimmer of hope and real admiration for Kenneth on 14th July.
“I regret very much too have to inform your son has been missing since the recent fighting in Trones Wood. The wood changed hands…it is possible he was captured…it is impossible to build on this hope. The wood was shelled so heavily…it was almost impossible for anyone to live in it….Whether captured or killed, he will be a very great loss to the regiment. I assure you there is not a braver or more gallant officer living. After the capture of Montauban, when the Battalion went back into action for the second time, your son, in spite of his junior rank, was put in Command of a Company [A Coy], and he handled his Company with great skill and dash…I shall miss him greatly…I had become very much attached to him…Whether alive or killed in action, I shall always be proud to have known him, and I assure you you may be very proud to have so gallant a son.”
Acting 17th Battalion Commanding Officer, Major J J Whitehead’s letter on 17th June gave a strong indication to Kenneth’s parents that he may have been captured by the Germans.
“…I saw him in the wood about 1.30pm and when I gave the order to withdraw…he failed to rejoin – this was about 3 pm. I waited myself with a few men to cover his retirement, up to 5.15 pm, but as the enemy began to counter attack, can only assume that he was taken prisoner. He was a most promising officer…I miss him very much indeed.”
The finality of Kenneth’s demise was concluded from one of Arthur Bell’s comrades in III Platoon, who had been captured with Lieutenant Humphrey. The Red Cross Zurich wrote to Sir Thomas on 6th October with the report. “…Communication from Private Arthur Watts, No 8941, A Comp.. 17th Manchester Reg:-“I saw Lt. Macardle badly wounded in Trones Wood on 9th July 1916, when I saw him I took him to be dead, as he had been lying on the top of the trench for 2 hours without moving but I could not say for certain if he was dead.” Signed Pte Arthur Watts, Prisoner of War at Dulmen.”
The Macardles had four children including Kenneth and a daughter, Dorothy; who became a renowned Irish Republican author. She was imprisoned on more than one occasion but – like her brother – continued to write in adversity. The siblings may not have shared the same ideals if Kenneth had survived to discuss them. John Ross Macardle received an MC for service with the RFA. Donald joined the Army but was invalided.
The Manchester Regiment Group’s albums on Flickr project for collating grave photographs continues to produce fresh information and background on the men who fought in the 17th Manchesters. Robert Ramsey helps illustrate the men who joined in the Battalion during mid July 1916 as drafts to replace extensive losses from Montauban and Trones Wood. The date on the Grave inscription is inaccurate as confirmed by this research:-
Robert attested 10379 in the Royal Fusiliers on 5/12/1914, as part of Lord Kitchener’s recruitment drive. He had been a Labourer, resident at 119 Marks Road, Romford with his wife Daisy and daughters Dorothy & Florrie. His Mother, Elizabeth and Father, William lived at 50 Willow Street, Romford. The couple had seven other children.
Following basic training with 7th Battalion at Hounslow, Robert went on to serve in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He arrived (probably Galipoli) with 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers on 10/5/1915. He returned Home wounded on 5/12/1915; and following treatment in the York Military Hospital, Robert spent Christmas at home with his family on furlough from 21 to 30/12/1915. On 9/2/1916, Robert returned to hostilities with 8th Battalion in France. He received a Gun Shot Wound in the arm on 11/4/1916 and returned Home on Hospital Ship St David, arriving 4/5/1916 and received treatment in Huddersfield War Hospital. There was a Court Martial – sleeping on duty – at this stage and Robert’s sentence was commuted and he was required to return France with 5th Battalion, where he arrived posted to 32nd Battalion on 28/6/ 1916. Having arrived at Infantry Brigade Depot, Etaples the next day, he was then attached to the 17th Manchesters as part of a draft of 438 troops who arrived on 12/7/1916. In common with many of the July draft, he was then transferred to the Battalion – 43365 – on 1/9/1916.
Evidence of other men who were attached to the 17th Manchesters*1 indicates Robert will have taken part in the assaults at Guillemont (30/7/1916) and Flers where he will have joined the assault on 12/10/1916 and was wounded again on 14/10/1916.
After recovery in France, Robert was then wounded, serving with D Company at Neuville-Vitasse, as the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line. The Medical Records suggest Robert was wounded at Neuville Vitesse on 5/4/1917, but the War Diary reports the Battalion at Blairville on this date. Robert was hospitilised in Wimereux before evacuation to Britain on Hospital Ship Princess Elizabeth, arriving 12/4/1917 when he was admitted to the Norwich & Norfolk Military Hospital with Gun Shot Wounded and internal haemorrhage.
After treatment for 5 days, Robert succumbed to his wounds during an operation on 18th April 1917. He is buried in Romford Cemetery.
After Robert’s death, Daisy remarried and she went to live with her daughters at 14 McAlpine Street, Anderston, Glasgow.
Many men from Royal Berkshire Regiment were attached to the 17th Manchesters in mid July 1916 and went on to fight at Guillemont on 30/7/1916. This research has led to the identification of CHRISTIAN GRAYSMITH who died in the assault posted as 32nd Royal Fusiliers, but recorded by CWGC as attached to 17th Battalion. 19 year old tea packet from Blackfriars, Christian was originally buried on the battlefield close the railway line leading east from Trones Wood, before his remains were relocated to Serre Road in the 1920s. His Medal Roll confirms arrival in France on 28/6/1916 in the same group of reinforcements as Robert Ramsey. The Roll also confirms attachment to Manchesters.
DoB 26/2/1988. Marriage to Daisy Catherine Box 5/6/1910. Daughters Dorothy Violet (DoB 12/7/1911) & Florence Esther (DoB 24/7/1913)
1. Service Record
3. Medal Roll
5. 17th Battalion War Diary.
The original headstone that was replaced by the featured image in 2016.
A free weekend on a well known family history website led to a chance identification of a second family member who lost his life in World War I. The Bell name was very common in Manchester and I had not previously been able to cross reference one of Arthur Bell’s cousins with any particular Herbert Bell. I then recognised this Roll of Honour (RoH) record with the 48 Renshaw Street address – where Arthur Bell’s sister had lived with her Aunt Isabella in 1911. Here’s my attempt to help remember Herbert:- Herbert was born in Manchester on 2nd April 1893 and was christened in Holy Trinity Church, Hulme soon after. His father William had married his mother Mary Jane Henshall in Holy Trinity, on 19/1/1889 as witnessed by his brother Richard; Arthur Bell’s father. William’s father, Andrew is noted to be a Mechanic and he was probably living with Andrew at 48 Phillips Street. Herbert was their second son. Elder brother William Henry had been born in 1891 (went on to be a Lieutenant in RGA). Younger sister, Edith was born in 1903. William is noted as an Assistant teacher in the Baptism record and 1901 and 1911 census when the family lived in 16 Phillips Street and 29 Beresford Street respectively. By 1911, Hebert was an 18 year old Clerk working in a Home Trade Warehouse. Later newspaper reports indicate Herbert had been employed in Granby Shirt Company in Altrincham, prior to enlisting in Salford. As a man with half dozen family members who joined the Manchester Regiment, it is not known why Herbert chose the Lancashire Fusiliers as a Private – 2344 – with whom Herbert arrived with the 1/7th Battalion in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force in Egypt on 3rd November 1914. Unconfirmed thoughts suggest Herbert may have been a pre-war Territorial soldier. The LF Medal Roll suggest Herbert was renumbered in early 1917 as 280493.
The 1/7th LF were part of the East Lancs Division and entered Gallipoli in 1915. At some stage after 4th July, Herbert was wounded (Wounded list published 7th July). The War Diary for 5th July describes the principal action in the period “The Turks attacked on both flanks, but were driven back with heavy loss. We again relieved the 8th LF in the firing line.” He was evacuated to Egypt and spent time in the Lady Douglas’s Convalescent Home in Alexandria. The extracts of his letter illustrates the good treatment he received and some indication the “Turkish Delight” he had experienced in the Dardanelles. The Manchesters and their Division returned to Europe in August 1915 and it is anticipated Herbert was posted to the Machine Gun Corps after his recovery. He was latterly posted to 155th Company of the Machine Gun Corps and allocated number 59137. The 155th Brigade had arrived in Gallipoli with the 52nd (Lowland) Division in June 1915 and they withdrew to Egypt in January 1916. 155th Brigade include Territorial Battalions of the 1/4 & 1/5th Royal Scots Fusiliers and Kings Own Scottish Borderers. After time spent in Cairo, the Brigade moved to the Gaza Defences of Palestine in 1917. Herbert Bell was killed on 6th June 1917 after the second battle for Gaza. He is buried in Gaza War Cemetery.
Herbert’s Effects were left to mother and father, along with a large share to his fiance Edith Cox. His grieving father arranged the inscription on Herbert’s grave “He nobly fell at duty’s call.He gave his life for one and all” The extensive Obituaries in the Manchester Evening News in 1917 and anniversary 1918 illustrate the loss to family and friends. William and Mary Jane Bell’s testimony to their son is repeated:- Some day we hope to meet him,Some day, we know not when,To clasp hand in the better land,Never to part again. Herbert’s younger sister Edith and brother Will remembered their brother and reference is made to ‘sisters’ little Marie and Alice.*1 Edith wrote on the first anniversary of Herbert’s death:- One long, sad year has passed awaySince our great sorrow fell,Yet in our hearts we mourn the lossOf one we loved so well. Herbert’s Brother Will was serving in France, Commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery when he wrote:- He nobly fell at duty’s call.He gave his life for one and all,A loving brother, good and kind,A beautiful memory left behind. Herbert’s ‘broken hearted sweetheart’,
Courtesy Ibrahim Esam Jaradah
Edith Cox remained deeply grieving when she wrote for the anniversary:- I that loves you sadly missed you,As it dawns another year,In my lonely hours of thinkingThoughts of you are ever near. Writing from 48 Renshaw Street*2 Herbert’s aunt’s Mary Ann (Polly) remembered him with her sister Isabella Ridge who was grieving her own son Alfred Ridge (18th Manchesters)The supreme sacrifice – his bright young life. The message also refers to Cousins Edith, Bessie and Frederick Foulkes (21st Manchesters) Aunt Ethel (Unidentified) and Uncle Joe (in France) also paid their respects along “May his reward be as great as his sacrifice” with Aunt Ria and Uncle Will (in Palestine). This was probably William Foulkes.
The development of this website has created some charming moments and Highlights. I remain moved by the help received from a young man in Gaza, who provided the photos of Herbert’s grave. Ibrahim Esam Jaradah works for CWGC in the Gaza strip and kindly took the photos the day after my request on twitter. Ibrahim’s twitter explains his perspective in the continuing pride in his family’s work “It’s an honor to Jaradah family to be in a work team of the #CWGC in Israel and Gaza since the establishment and till now, some of its members earned MBE title.”
This site is not a voice for current world affairs, or my own views on issues in Palestine. However, the news of recent missile strikes close to Herbert’s grave is a firm reminder of the daily tensions faced by Ibrahim and his family 100 years after my distant cousin was fighting there. Ibrahim placed a poppy wreath on Herbert’s grave for us:-
Courtesy Ibrahim Esam Jaradah
NOTES *1 The 1911 census confirmed only three siblings, meaning Alice and Marie must have been spiritual sisters, in laws or nieces. *2 48 Renshaw Street was the Foulkes family home in 1911. Polly and Bella Bell were younger sisters of William Bell. *3 Cousin Ethel and Joe (in France) have not been identified at 48 Renshaw Street. Neither has Aunt Ria and Uncle Will (in Palestine) of 81 Palmerston Street, Moss Side. Probably William Ewart Henshall and Maria Henshall who lived at the address in 1911. Uncle Will was Mary Jane’s brother and Herbert’s aunt.
William Henry Bell was Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery 17/12/1917 and demobiliesed 25/10/1919, following which he relinquished his Commission on 1/4/1920, retaining the rank of Lieutenant (LG 13/12/1920). William was a Cadet at No 2 RGA Officer Cadet School, Maresfield Park, Sussex from 18/7/1917. He had previously served as a Gunner 292476 with 125th Heavy Battery RGA, which has served in France from April 1916. He enlisted on 29/5/1915. The 125th Heavy Battery was raised with the Manchester Pals as part of 30th Division, although arrival & service in France was separate. They took part in the great bombardment of the German trenches prior to 1st July 1916 and the maintained the advance through hard fought territory including Mametz and Montauban.
The Historical Record for the Battery notes “Our stay in this part of the line [Savy] which lasted until May 31st war remarkable for the number of men sent home to train for Commissions. Gunner Johnson left us for that purpose at Liancourt, B.Q.M.S. Hill and Staff Sergeant Saddler Boone at Vaux and others were Sergeant Wheeler, Bombardier Baker, Gunners Bell and Newman.”
Records show William’s address with his mother at 29 Beresford Street, Moss Side and show his last unit as 260 Siege Battery. He had been a clerk prior to enlisting with W Ramsden, Painter & Decorators of 70 Spear Street. William was educated at Ducie Avenue Higher Grade School, Greenheys.
XX Platoon Photo in Spring 1915. Individuals are not identified. Courtesy Book of Honour
Percy Grundy was one of the 17th Battalion casualties who has not been readily apparent in records, being shown as serving in the Labour Corps or 3rd Battalion Manchester Regiment.
Percy died on 1st February 1919, aged 42. He is buried in COLOGNE SOUTHERN CEMETERY with the inscription “At Rest” paid for by his father. This post remembers Percy alongside other Pals in the 2nd City Battalion.
CWGC records show Percy served with 3rd Battalion Manchester Regiment and transferred to (432349) 212th Area Employment Company, Labour Corps. This was part of the Army of occupation, formed as a condition of the Armistice. His Victory & British War Medals were issued to Labour Corps roll but the 1914/15 Star was issued on the 17th Manchesters roll, noting arrival in France on 25th December 1915. Neither Medal Roll indicates when the transfer to the 3rd Battalion or Labour Corps took place. The initial posting to 3rd Reserve Battalion in Cleethorpes is quite likely to have followed his wounding or sickness in France.
The Roll of Honour shows Percy trained with XX Platoon. This was part of E Company, which became the 25th Training Reserve Battalion for those men that stayed in Manchester when the majority of the Battalion left for Grantham in the late spring of 1915. Many men were also transferred in to A to D Companies at this stage, but it is anticipated Percy stayed behind, or he would most likely have arrived in France with the Battalion on 8th November 1915.
Percy was the son of Samuel and Mary Ann Grundy, of 32, Tewkesbury Drive, Sedgley Park, Prestwich, Manchester. He was born in Salford in 1878 and the family lived at 130 Broughton Lane, Salford in 1881. In 1911 Samuel lived with his elder brother George and family at 22 Coudray Road, Southport, employed as a trading clerk, West Africa.
Five Historic Archives
Four French Deaths;
Three Shot at Dawn;
Two Football Games
and a Horse left in the German Wire.
The poppies in the Tower of London, my family visit to the Warhorse show and BBC’s Our World War series have provided a resounding success in recognising the anniversary of the Great War. As a WWI researcher, it’s been easy to find fault in publications or programmes. In an effort to avoid being sniffy, I concluded that it was best to accept the spirit on these media and appreciate that the current generation of British people are engaging with the subject on numerous levels. This piece reflects on the direction of the media’s presentation.
The buffeting from crowds of people walking through the City of London on a Saturday afternoon in November confirmed our society’s continuing recognition of the War. I visited with one of my daughters to see Alfred Ridge’s Poppy in the sea of 888,246 and I imagine other people had their own agendas, or were solely spectators. As a football fan, I know the common spirit of a crowd – or indeed a mob – and found
Alfred Ridge – Harlebeke New British Cemetery
the effervescent Poppy experience unforgettable.
Further unreserved Anniversary success was the digitisation of records and fresh publication on line. Archive material from numerous sources can now be accessed at relatively low cost. Highlights for 17th Manchesters research in 2014 have been Red Cross Prisoner of War ICRC Digitised Records War Office Medal Rolls; Soldiers Wills for some men; War Diaries at the National Archive; extended data available on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission CWGC site.
As we approach the second year of Centenary and anticipating the Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in July 2016, some reservations are developing.
The first is the romanticisation or of war. The remarkable story of the 1914 Christmas truce have been lost to popularisation of the media’s obsession with football – particularly the controversial Sainsbury’s advert and factually incorrect dreams. No confirmed sources indicate there was any pretence of a match between German and British troops. There was a kick-about in at least two locations, but the shaking of hands, sharing food & drink and genuine shared experience of a temporary peace are the principle issues that should be remembered.
The second concern is the application of 2014 moral values on our ancestors. I watched the Private Peaceful play with my family and found the presentation of war horrors to be well balanced with the plot associated with a Shot at Dawn (SaD) case. The engagement of the audience was remarkable for itself, but particularly with the number of Primary School age children and teenagers who were engaged throughout.
Regrettably SaD cases seem to be highlighted in every other media opportunity e.g. The Village & Our World War. I accept this is an issue for moral interpretation and I have specific regret and sadness for the three men of the 18th Manchesters who were executed for cowardice. However I feel this 2014 moral question now eclipses the principal issues of hostilities. My grandfather was wounded leaving the same trenches, on the day one of the 18th Battalion SaD men absented himself from duty at Flers. Rather than judging the SaD morality, I always feel the slaughter of hundreds of men on that day may have been a little more significant at the time. Let’s also remember 8135 Harry Evans who was killed that day, along with Grandfather’s School friend 8132 Leonard Edmondson; his neighbour 8241 Alec Mitchell and 8474 Hubert Craig who had served in III Platoon with Grandad since 1914 Anniversary 12th October 1916. I realise the personal connection with these casualties relates to a specific private interest. However, I see no media reflection on the scale of casualties.
Thankfully the troops returning from Afghanistan are contributing to a clear media presentation of the true factors of warfare and the recent casualties in our immediate consciousness. Kajaki is shocking, heart-warming but painful to watch, and should be compulsory viewing for GCSE students – particularly those considering a career in politics.
There seems to be no equivalent presentation of WWI. There may be a inadvertent conspiracy to focus on palatable issues or politically correct questions at cost of avoiding the enormity and horror of trench warfare. I have seen some incredibly vivid photographs of dead soldiers in the Western Front. My choice to avoid publishing may be missing some very moving material out of respect for the men concerned. However I reflect on the prospect that I’m also making the unpalatable nature of warfare more accessible.
Not wishing to be getting ahead of the media, here’s thoughts on four deaths on the Somme recounted by Scout Sergeant Bert Payne in his interviews with Lyn E Smith. Payne James Albert IWM interview In an effort to portray a more comprehensive picture, these events are now added to the static content on the site. Bert served in the 16th Manchesters in Maricourt and was wounded in the First Day of the Somme at Montauban. These places and events are almost the same as the experiences of the 17th Battalion.
Bert first describes the uncomfortable delay in recovering the body of Corporal Pickering after he had been blown out of an Observation Point onto the wire near Maricourt. He then reported the losses in the advance Montauban. “I had a boy with me…out of school for six weeks…He said ‘…I’ve arrived today’ I said ‘Hang on to me.’…He was killed. Shot down next to me”
Bert Payne was wounded in the last dash up into the village. He was hit in the face by enfilade machine gun fire “There was a big shell hole full of dead and dying and blinded. It seemed to me to be a tall man got it through the jaw. A shorter man got it through the eyes.” After recovering consciousness Bert made a temporary dressing for his wound and made his way to the rear with Corporal Bill Brock, who had been shot through the foot.
On the way back over the hard fought battlefield, Bert and Bill came across a British Soldier with terrible wounds. “ A shell had come over and hit this man. Knocked off his left arm. Knocked off his left leg. His left eye was hanging on his cheek and he was calling out for Annie… So I shot him… But it hurt me. …He was just anybody’s boy. He was calling out for Annie…His eye was hanging out pulsing. I had to shoot him… Nobody could have done anything for him. He would have died in any case. I had the courage to do it.”
Later in the interview Bert mentions his repeated thoughts about his part in the death of the young man. It clearly made a deep impression on him and probably contributed to his response to a captured German Medical Officer he came across soon after. I asked this Doctor to bind the Corporal’s foot up and he wouldn’t. I told to do it or I’d shoot him…he said ‘Blame your own government.’ He refused to bind his foot so I shot him.”
These four deaths are not comfortable to address and any interpretation relate to the complete picture and context of hostilities. Following the confused assessment of a kick about at Christmas it may be best to leave the matter for personal interpretation and not the media. However, at the end of this Anniversary year, we will must not forget unpalatable aspects of death and maiming. The generation of men that returned mainly chose not to speak about their experiences. Thanks to Bert Payne and Arthur Bell we do have some first-hand experience that we can hear. Let’s hope the media don’t fail to listen.
6330 James Albert Payne went on to live a full life being interviewed in his 94 year. After a long period of recovery he worked then worked in a Military Hospital and was discharged with a Silver War Badge in March 1918, aged 24. Bert has been one of the first to enlist in the Pals in August 1914.
Two brothers Horace and Reginald Pickering had enlisted in August 1914 and served together. Lance Corporal Horace Pickering was killed in May 1916. One can imagine the anguish of his friends and brother when Horace’s body remained above their trench, but unavailable until nightfall. Horace was buried alongside Lance Corporal Charles Johnston-who had been killed in the same bombardment- in Maricourt Military Cemetery. Their remains were relocated to Cerisey-Gailly in 1920. Brother Reg had been a singer and entertained the troops with his tenor voice. He was later wounded and returned Home, where he looked for work in music.
William Priestley Brock later transferred to the Labour Corps where he was transferred fit to reserve in March 1919.
16th Bttn IX Platoon including William Priestley Brock for his grandaughter Anne Wakefield (nee Brock)
How lucky am I that Grandad survived his service in WWI? This is a fundamental question that remains in the background as I learn more and report hostilities.
As a sample of Manchester Pals, I’ve used the III Platoon Roll as published in the Book of Honour. We don’t know who’s who on the majority of the Platoon photo. We do have some information on each of the individuals in the list.
Analysis of CWGC & SDGW records shows 19 of the 64 Men in III Platoon Roll died during hostilities. A little under 30% of the sample were killed or died.
In view of my wider knowledge of The Cost the proportion of fatalities was surprisingly low. Further analysis of the Roll shows a group of men that did not leave for France on 8th November 1915, who may be dismissed from a true sample of fifty five men who left England with the Pals. Part of the excluded Group includes NCOs who’d been transferred to other Battalions or Corps and another man arrived in France during 1916. However, the majority of the excluded group were not combatants. These 6 men were either dismissed as unfit or unsuitable for service, or they served as Garrison troops away from Theaters of War.
Following the revised sample, it can be seen that 19 of 55 men died who arrived in France with the Pals. The chance of survival was 65% – a little over 2/3rds survived.
III Platoon, 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment. March 1916, Heaton Park.
It was a privilege to visit Cheadle Hulme School in early September, as guests at their Heritage Day. The experience was shared with my father, who is the son of a former Foundationer of the School when it was known as the Manchester Warehouseman and Clerks’ Orphan Schools. Allan Arthur Bell attended the school in the first decade of the 1900s alongside his sister Dorothy and brother Douglas. My cousin joined us a second grandson of Arthur Bell.
The pupils, staff, friends and wider community produced an excellent and well balanced commemoration of the history of their school, especially during the period of World War One. The day started with a production introducing some characters of the school during the war period. This included the portrayal of a number of girls and boys familiar to my research and definitely associates of my grandad, great uncle and aunt. A long term research question was also answered when the production introduced the Ashworth sisters and their brother. My father confirmed the ongoing friendship with Mr Ashworth as he and Arthur Bell’s other children had always purchased sports equipment at Ashworth’s sports outfitters of Stockport when they were children. Arthur Bell was employed as a clerk in a sport outfitters in 1911 and it’s quite possible the young men worked together.
We were subsequently taken on a tour of the grounds and buildings. Highlights were the dormitory where Grandad will have slept as a boy and the indoor pool where he learned to swim. This led to his life saving award from the Humane Society of the Hundred of Salford, but also a possible explanation for subsequent generations passion for aquatic sport (missing my dad!).
A general display was provided showing the full heritage of the school. This includes the first ‘whole school’ photo in 1906/07 – including grandad and his brother or sister. The gems then kept being presented commemorating the pupils and staff during the war. The impact on the community and use of the school as a Hospital was also provided. Ultimately I had to accept my cousin and father were less enthusiastic to read every ounce of detail – more interested in eating sponge cake in the dining hall! This did provide the chance to pick up a copy of Melanie Richardson’s excellent book ‘Heads and Tales’, which provides further gems on the 150 year school history.
I hope Charlotte Dover and other members of the school community record all of Charlotte’s hard work. She has done a wonderful job and it was delightful to see that I had been able assist with one or two bits and bobs.
Congratulations to Cheadle Hulme School for their successful Heritage Day. (no marking of my spelling or grammar thanks)
Our World War first programme of the series surpassed expectations. Featuring the defence and retreat from Mons, the personal stories of the Royal Fusiliers provides a clear interpretation of events on the ground, with helpful graphics to reflect the strategic perspective. Let’s hope the vivid and accurate portrayal continues next week with the 18th Manchesters.