“The general said he would soon knock the Manchester out of Us”
Manchester Pals at Heaton Park in early autumn 1914
“Well, it was an adventure… prior to it.. I went walks of… five or six miles each way for one or two days… I thought … ‘if the enemy can do it, so can I’. And, I think that was the spirit of a lot of us. Preparing myself for joining the forces, I deliberately undertook one or two long walks, thinking that ‘as an army marched on its stomach’, there was be no doubt it, would be required to do a lot of marching.”(2)
The 2nd City Battalion Commanding Officer delivered a speech to his new troops, in the days before they moved out of the City for training. Assembled at the Hyde Road Barracks Lieutenant Colonel Johnson addressed the men on 15th September “Remember you are now soldiers…and face the work before you with a good will and determination. You are members of a very distinguished regiment – the old Manchesters – and I am sure you will add to its glory.”
The 1st and 2nd Pals were originally based at home in the Municipal Heaton Park. The conversion of enthusiastic clerks and warehouseman into a fighting force began when the 2nd City Battalion formed up in Manchester and marched out to Heaton Park on 19th September. No 1 Company (Possibly A Company) had marched out from Hyde Road to prepare the camp on the previous day, along with all of the NCOs of the Battalion. Lieutenant Heyworth was in Command of the fatigue party. Subsequent press reports illustrated the increasingly
boggy conditions in the park, due to persistent rain, alleviated by the YMCA, who had erected a marquee for the troops to read, write and play games. The kit list for the march out to Heaton Park from the Artillery Barracks was published in the Manchester Evening News on the previous day.
The 1st City Battalion (16th) had arrived in the Park in the previous week.
Experienced commercial managers, former territorials, natural leaders and some older men found themselves swiftly promoted through the Non Commissioned Officer (NCO). Advertisement were also made for retired NCO’s to return to serve, in order to train Kitchener’s force.
For example 33 year old Percy Amos became Lance Corporal (L/Cpl.) less than three weeks after enlistment, Corporal (Cpl.) in early 1915, Lance Sergeant (L/Sgt.) on 1st August 1915 and Sergeant (Sgt.) before the end of that month. Sergeant Bert Payne of 16th Battalion had a similar swift promotion through the ranks. He was given immediate charge of his tent because of Territorial experience. “This tent was all J & N Phillips where I worked; and there were of course the young ones and the older ones. And the older ones were my bosses. And of course I immediately became their bosses.” (IWM Interview) The NCO ranks were stiffened by a number of ex-soldiers, commonly veterans of the Boer War.
“It took us thirteen months to get out of England into France. And during that time a lot of changes took place. They – our officers – had to be trained, as well as us and; it was a lengthy process. “ (1)
The 17th Battalion Officers were generally young men with a public school education and many had graduated university. The Battalion Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. H A Johnson was Gazetted from commanding the 14th Battalion on 1st September. He had retired from the 4th Manchesters in 1912.
A Public School Battalion had been formed of professionals and students by the University, Grammar School and Officer Training Corps. Many of these men were promptly commissioned, although not necessarily with the City Battalions.
A further Pals Battalion had been formed by employees of Manchester Corporation. After debate relating to possible amalgamation with the Black Watch, these men were posted to the City Battlions, with a number joining the County Pallatine Royal Engineers.
The Officer in Command of A Company was Captain (Capt.) Edward Lloyd. Capt. Lloyd had transferred from 2nd Battalion; having served in the Boer War, receiving a Distinguished Conduct Medal. He had been stationed at the Regimental Headquarters at Ashton prior to the war. Prior to his command, Edward Lloyd was initially Quartermaster Lieutenant, with responsibility for the formation of the new camp. His brother in law was Captain Walkley, who was chief recruiting officer for the Manchester area.
The earliest civilian Officers to volunteer were initially commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants – Geoffrey F Potts, Norman Vaudrey and solicitor’s clerk Alan Thomas S Holt on 28th September 1914. JNW Sidebotham Leslie Brian Humphries (both 3 Oct), Thomas Etchells (6 Oct) and L W Huntington (13 Oct) followed soon after. Thomas Etchells was transferred to 26th Bttn Royal Fusiliers and later promoted to Lt Col and was awarded an MC for action at Flers.
Ten teachers and pupils of Merchiston College in Edinburgh were commissioned to the Manchester Regiment. Arthur Bell’s Platoon Officer Commanding (OC ), Robert Forbes Mansergh was a 2nd Lieutenant (2nd Lt.)who had been a pupil at the school. A Company 2nd in Command, Captain (Cpt.) Fearenside had been a Classics Master at Merchiston. Cpts. Kenworthy and MacDonald were also former teachers who were part of the Battalion. Lieutenant (Lt.) Madden and 2nd Lts. Cameron, Harris, and Kirkwood had also been masters or pupils. It is believed that the former Languages Master, Cpt. Elstob, of the 1st Pals, may have led the Edinburgh men to Manchester, joining up with his childhood friend Captain Hubert Worthington.
Edmund Fearenside also had connections with the City having been Captain of Cheshire Rugby team. John Madden, Frederick John Gordon Whittall (Worcester College, Oxford) and Stanley Kenworthy had also represented Cheshire XV.
Captain MacDonald had been a pre-war Territorial Officer (unattached) serving as Captain in Merchiston OTC since April 1913. Lieutenant Madden and Rupert Edward Roberts (16th Bttn) were also Territorials, serving as Captain and 2nd Lieutenant in the OTC.
The connection of public school boys and their masters extended to St Bees School in Cumberland. Captain. Stanley Kenworthy had been a pupil at St Bees and he was joined by Science Master, Captain Reginald James Ford in 17th Battalion along with 18 year old 2nd Lt. Richard Wain in A Company and three other pupils or Masters from the school. Richard Wain joined the Battalion in Suzanne with 2nd Lieutenant Robert Calvert (below) on 12th March 1916. 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Nanson also served with the 17th, Commissioned on April 21st 1915. He had been a pupil as St Bees and Mostyn House. Captain Ford had been a pre-war Territorial Officer (unattached) and Lieutenant in St Bees OTC, receiving his commission in May 1913.
It also seems the Service Battalion Officers may have had connections through University. For example Commanding Officer, Colonel Johnson had attended Trinity House College, Cambridge. Captain Madden had attended Pembroke College, along with Gerald Levinstein, while former Charterhouse School (1904-1909) pupil, Captain James Sidebotham had received his MA at Clare College. Captain Rupert Roberts (16th) had previously attended Jesus College.
At Oxford, Edmund Fearenside had won a Rugby Blue for Oxford in 1903, as a member of Queen’s College. A number of Edmund’s Queens College contemporaries would also serve with him in the 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment. This included his fellow Merchiston Master and rugby player, Stanley Kenworthy, who matriculated at Queen’s in 1903. Other Queen’s Graduates were William Harrington Hulton Dawson and Reginald John Ford, who had entered Queens in 1906. Prior to hostilities Reginald had been a master at St Bees School and Officer in the Officer Training Corps. Reginald Alfred Whittle left Queen’s to be commissioned in 1917. He received an MC in 1918, serving with 16th Battalion.
Discipline took hold and the military unit began to take shape.
“The first six months we were told we were “Rookies” training, at the end of which crimes were washed out – even the great one of insubordination. We picked up soon enough the disciplinary priorities, the meaning of fatigues and the various bugle calls.” (1)
In the first few weeks of service, the Pals had worn civilian clothes for training.
Press cuttings © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
New uniforms were then supplied by the business community of Manchester before the Army provided khaki uniforms after almost six months service. The men were proud of their Battalion which received the Tram Guard uniforms in early October 1914. Bert Payne (IWM interview} described these developments “We had what you would call today… denim…blue drill. Then we got a blue uniform…we were called the tram drivers because of the blue uniform and the red stripes down it…The Post Office and tram drivers had all this materiel and we had the Glengerry Cap. Then ultimately we got our khaki.”
“We had beautiful blue melton uniforms provided by the City and once in the space of a few minutes had orders to change into Khaki, change into Blue, and change into fatigue dress. Fortunately, that day, I was doing fatigues on C.B. [Confined to Barracks] so did not need to change at all. Of course there is no leave when you’re C.B. “(1)
Elements of independent minds still remained. Examples of infringements leading to C.B. punishment have been found in the Service Record of former warehouseman from Hulme, 8396 Henry Brumfitt. Private Brumfitt was penalised ten days C.B. for ‘Breaking out’ of Heaton Park Camp for the precise period of 2 days 12hrs 55 minutes. Henry was in Arthur Bell’s Platoon and one imagines other men were found guilty of similar infringements.
Private Frederick Creer was found to be drunk on Camp on 13th October 1914. Under the eyes of Sgt Major Harry, he then broke out of the Guard Tent (See Photo below) when a prisoner. The Sentence is unclear because Pte Creer was discharged in January 1915 as unlikely to become an efficient soldier. This was due to joint problems, rather than discipline.
A few months after the formation of the Pals Battalions, an invitation was made to encourage men with practical trade skills to join the commercial men. Most of the men were in their late teens, twenties or early thirties. Probably the eldest men in the Platoon was Ernest Kemmery, who was almost 38 when he enlisted in January 1915. Ernest was a gardener before he joined the Pals and married to Mary Elizabeth Kemmery. They had a son Sydney, born on 1902 and lived at 7 Wilton Street, Whitefield.
“Throw a lot of clerks and countermen into a complex organisation like an army, with only a few ex-Boer War men, and where are you? No wonder an invitation was issued to bakers, candlestick-makers and coppers to join up.”
Many policemen joined the Pals in late January 1915. These men regularly included retired soldiers who promptly secured promotion as senior NCOs.
Private 9311 Albert Hurst joined E Company in March 1915. This was a fifth Company that was subsequently merged into A-D Companies; with Albert serving in B Company. Albert was a public school boy and son of a solicitor who had been an apprentice engineer. He clearly respected the the older recruits and the clear distinction of his upbringing from other men in E Company did not interfere with his friendship with the men. He noted three miners in his hut from Tyldesley. Joseph Farmer 9313 went on to win the Military Medal. With the consecutive number 9314, Richard Owens will have enlisted with Joseph and Private 9356 William Grundy wa another collier from Tyldesley. William enlisted on 16th March and trained in XIX Company. Another miner ‘Cooke’ may have been Corporal A Cooke 8497, who probably enlisted on 3rd September 1914.
The Military qualities and suitablility of the spring 1915 volunteers was not always ideal. Many were discharged after a short period of servive.
Some ‘men’ were found to have made a misstatement of their age and were discharged, pending their 18th birthday. Private 9373 enlisted on 17th February and was discharged eight days later, aged just 14 years and 9 months.
A large group of spring 1915 volunteers were discharged at Heaton Park due to health conditions. These included heart conditions, hernias and inadequate physical development. Other men continued to serve for a further period and later transferred to 25th Battalion before discharge; some also 69th Training Reserve. Some of these men re-enlisted and served overseas with other Corps and Regiments.
The Service Record of CQMS Frederick Jones shows prompt promotion of this carpenter due to his maturity and Military experience.
The middle class men had been reticent to enlist in August 1914, due to their concerns about the prospect of mixing with the working class comrades. Such boundaries were certainly been crossed in early 1915, although the Pals Battalions still retained their original character.
The Pals unity with their City status is certainly evident. It appears Service Battalion men felt a higher status and intelligence in comparison with their regular army counterparts. Scout Sgt. Payne of the 16th Manchesters summed up the Pals pride and spirit. “…every man was so keen and so intelligent. For the man in the ordinary army I suppose it was just a job for them, but our men were really civilians turned into soldiers and every man was really each other’s friend…You could say we were gentlemen who lived as gentlemen.” (Michael Stedman – Manchester Pals & IWM interview). Arthur Bell reinforced the distinction of the City Battalions.
“One veteran told me there was nothing in the old days to match the parade dodgers and rule twisters of these boys. Would a country lot have learnt the whole game as quickly? The General said he would soon knock the Manchester out of us, no doubt succeeded in a way, but I’ll bet they learned in twelve months as much as the Victorian layabouts learned in twice that time.” (1)
The General intending to knock Manchester out of the Pals may have been Brigadier General Caunter of Western Command. He inspected the City Battalions in their new uniforms at Heaton Park on 22 October 1914. The image of the officers shows that many officers were still waiting for their own uniforms.
General Sir Henry McKinnon C-in-C Western Command also inspected the City Battalions at Heaton Park on 1st December 1914. The 1st & 2nd City Battalions had previously displayed manounvres and paraded in front of the Lord Mayor of Manchester at Heaton Park in November 1914.
The other General intending to knock Manchester out of the Pals was probably Lord Kitchener, who addressed the City Battalions at a parade in Albert Square in March 1915. It may also have been General Sir Henry McKinnon who reviewed the 1st Manchester Brigade in December 1914. Another major parade and display was held in Heaton Park and fortunately retained on film by British Pathé
There’s no doubt the people of the City will have been proud of their men on parade in front of Lord Kitchener on 21st March 1915. Albert Andrews in 19th Battalion recounted “The streets of Manchester were crowded to see us do the march past from the camp five miles away to the Manchester Town Hall. The streets were lined people and the City itself was packed. It was quite a great occasion for Manchester that day.“
As the austere military lifestyle took hold, we find a common quest for creature comforts. It seems the troops had some support during increasingly challenging times.
“A word must be said about the Y.M.C .A. who along with other organisations which came to our help, particularly in France, made the burden of training very much easier and happier altogether.” (1)
Heaton Park was originally a tented camp. Each of the City Battalions occupied their own section. 17th Battalion was to the north, close to the lake and St Margaret’s entrance. As time passed, sanitary facilities improved.
A summary of the men’s perception of their new military life is provided by an extract of the November 1914 magazine from Arthur Bell’s former school. Great thanks to Charlotte Dover of Cheadle Hulme School – previously the Manchester Warehouseman & Clerks Orphan’s School.
We are indebted to the Head for the following extracts from letters sent to him by Old Boys:-
Emrys Edwards (Signaller, 2nd C.B.M.R.) [2nd City Battalion Manchester Regiment] now at Heaton Park, describes life in camp:- “Six o’clock in the morning: a faint sound of a bugle; it seem to be a long way off, but as sleep leaves us the bugle sounds nearer and nearer until it seems to be in your very ears. Suddenly bustle takes the place of quiet. Blankets are thrown off and shaken. Beds are folded up into a minimum space with the blankets placed upon the beds. Each day one man has to take the position of servant to the tent – the Tent Orderly; he first sweeps the floor and tidies up for tent inspection. 6.45: Fall in for parade, which consists of a mile double round the park, and Swedish drill; return to camp about 7.40. The soldiers’ favourite bugle call sounds at 7.45; the cook-house for breakfast when five out of the eleven men in a tent go for the rations – bread and butter, bacon or sausage, and very welcome too, as all the men after the early and heavy work will eat almost anything. After breakfast, we have a short rest until 8.45, when we are off to the parade ground – more drill. 12.45: Dinner is served, sometimes cooked well, other times not so well – a lot depends on the weather. In wet weather the fires are very obstinate, and the food will get smoked. However, it’s all in a soldier’s life.
Squad drill and rifle drill in the afternoon and a night parade from 6.30 to 7.30, when outpost and picket duty is the work taught; sometimes a route march for two hours varies the monotony. Last post sounds at 10 o’clock, and by 10.30 all the camp is asleep. By the way, the beds are not so soft as we were used to at the good old School: a straw palliasse on a wooden floor is hardly a luxury; but no complaints are made.
We hope to be ready at an early date for service.” ‘
Emrys Edwards was one year senior to Arthur Bell when they boarded at the school in the first few years of the 1900s. Emrys trained with IX Platoon of C Company. He had been employed at J Dilworth & Sons since leaving school and lived at Harpurhey. Arthur Bell’s introduction to Army life was was more limited.
“One of the first things I remember was a very rough and ready arrangement [toilets] in the open on bench-like structures at Heaton Park, with no cover. When we transferred to other quarters in the Park things improved. When doing our physical jerks in the morning we had to be kept going at the double those winter days in 1914/15. The Cheetham Hill baths were open to us – free. I think. “(1)
Anticipating the onset of winter, there was some debate (MEN 26/09/1914) about reloaction to Liily Street, Miles Platting. The popularity of Heaton Park was mantianed with the construction of new huts in the Autumn.
Albert Hurst described the spartan, but reasonable nature of the huts. Each housed 50 men with the Sergeant having a partitioned area. The beds were 6″ high trestles with 3 planks. Each man had 2 or 3 army blankets and pillow bag that was stuffed with straw to make a pillow.
Newly Commissioned Subaltern Nash spent a fortnight in Heaton Park, in May 1915, just after the Brigade had departed for Belton Park. Lt. Nash’s Diary confirms the continuing improvement in the camp as it became a training Battalion for reinforcements. He was cordially received by officers including Robert Calvert and noted “the troops were very cared for; they slept on paliasses and bed boards and had separate rooms for meals and recreation…hot and cold showers.”
Military discipline became more pronounced, but the men still found time and energy to horse around in their spare time.
“We were all showing our prowess in the hut one evening in England…I did the trick where you hang by the legs under the horizontal bar, give a sudden kick and arrive all standing on the floor. It was one of the solid cross-beams of the hut that I kicked from, and I landed on my knees and toes!
When I went sick in the morning the M.O. [Medical Officer] gave me M&D, so I sought an interview with the Captain – it was a Divisional march that day and Captain L [E Lloyd] said he could do nothing for me. “About turn”! Smartly of course, like a true soldier, but even if I had not seen through the trick – I could not have done it. I could only get on one of my boots. So the troops marched off without me, and I was open to all the penalties the Army imposes for insubordination.“(1)
M&D means Medicine – for a cure – and Duty to prevent malingering. Commonly the medicine was a laxative to discourage the soldier from returning to the M.O. The MO was probably former Manchester Grammar pupil Lieutenant Francis Statham Fletcher Lieut F S Fletcher. A former student of Manchester University (1887) and Cambridge, Fletcher was later promoted Captain. He stayed with the Manchesters until May 1916 and spent the majority of his career specialising in obstetrics. He lived at 31 Searsdale Road, Victoria Park when he received his medals in 1922. The other possible M.O. was Lieutenant Arthur Greg.
The comparative comfort of hutted accommodation in their home City was proven by a later reflection of apparent luxury of side board for a bed in France.
“The only other acrobatic incident I remember was one in France in a very crowded billet when we were about to kip on the floor. I did a complete somersault to avoid dropping on another man who was in my way. I had the whole of the top of a sideboard to myself that night! “(1)
The requirement for cleanliness and personal hygiene seems a common thread. One assumes military discipline wasn’t needed to seek these high standards.
“I was crimed several times for “not shaving” although I never missed. Ass that I was, I continued using the army-issued “cut throat” razor, which was pretty hopeless. Had I acquired a “safety” razor, which was then coming along, the story might have been different. Later, when in a Red Cross hospital in England, I won such a razor in a whist drive. If I am ever in similar circumstances in a future incarnation I shall know what to do. Would not I just! “(1)
We can only imagine the puffed out chests and ram rod backs as the men paraded through their City.
“When marching, through the streets or otherwise, we often burst into song, good for our spirits as well as those in the populace. An American in our Platoon, when we were going up Cheetham Hill Road, got himself into the records by saying to a girl with a pup in her arms “I wish I was that goldurned dawg.” Another of his sayings, which I am sure he will remember, was to the French people at the billet “Avez vous pure clay”. He was, and is, now in the States, a very handy man. “(1)
It is likely the American was Arthur Edward Bennett of III Platoon. While Pt. Bennett had been born in Denver, Colorado, census records confirm him to be a British Citizen with Mancunian parents, who had returned with their family to live in Salford. No other men with links to the USA have been identified.
“While at Heaton Park we had week-end passes galore. Only Guard, or C.B., and maybe special duties prevented us from going home on leave. The beauty of it was that a legal gent in one of the battalions had taken up the matter with the Colonel [Lieutenant Colonel H A Johnson], with the result that a few weeks after leaving the Park, and before going overseas, each of us had a nice little sum paid to us being “Ration Money” for those week-ends on leave. “(1)
All four City Battalions marched to London Road Station on 24th April 1915, joining eight special trains for Grantham. Cheering crowds saw them off.
For a recent interview concerning training at Heaton Park, please see Manchester Pals in the News on BBC Radio
A memorial plaque was erected on the perimeter wall of Heaton Park by the Lancashire & Cheshire Western Front Association . It was unveiled on Tuesday 7th September 1993 by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Parish, commanding 5th /8th Battalion The King’s Regiment The event was witnessed by 9311 Private Albert Hurst of B Company of 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment almost 70 years after he had enlisted at the St Margaret’s entrance of the Park. Albert also provides significant contributions to this site.
For some further contemporary images, see Heaton Park, Manchester – Then and Now
Also see the 1914 Christmas Card