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9th Battalion Post 1945

The following is an extract from 'Voluntary Infantry of Ashton-under-Lyne 1859-1971' by Capt R A Bonner.

Demobilisation began in October 1945 and it was whilst in Austria that orders were received for the battalion to return to the UK, to Lancashire and home to Ashton-under-Lyne. Demobilisation was completed by January 1946. So ended the active service of the 9th Manchesters. 

Service which, since 1939, had taken the men of Ashton to France, Belgium, Iceland, Scotland, Shetland, Orkney, North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Greece, back to Italy and finally Austria.

The author of the 46th Division history concluded his epilogue with the thoughts of many:

My dreams are of a field afar
And blood and smoke and shot.
There in their graves my comrades are,
In my grave I am not.

For their services during the war the long-serving Territorials of Ashton-under-Lyne were awarded the Battle Honours of :

North West Europe 1940 --- Defence of Arras --- Ypres-Comines Canal ---Italy 1944
Gothic Line --- Monte Gridolfo --- Coriano --- San Clemente --- Gemmano Ridge
Montillgallo --- Capture of Forli --- Lamone Crossing
Defence of Lamone Bridgehead --- Rimini Line --- Montevardo – Cesana

The Ninth was not disbanded for long. At the end of 1946 the Territorial Army was reconstituted and on the 1st May 1947 returned to life under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Glover TD MP who had previously served during the war as a Major with 7th Manchesters. Initially the battalion’s role was that of a machine-gun battalion and on the 1st May was redesignated the 42nd Lancs. MG Battalion.

Having been the 9th Manchesters for so many years the change of title did not meet with favour by anyone in the battalion. Great concern was expressed that this could mean reduced connections with the Manchester Regiment. Happily they were reprieved in early 1948 to that of a normal infantry battalion under their traditional title. This was a source of great satisfaction to all ranks, both serving and ex-members.

Unfortunately all these changes since the reforming of the Territorial Army had led to much confusion. Time had been lost, recruiting discouraged and training seriously hampered. However a very different spirit was now being shown and good progress was being made for full advantage of the training facilities which would be available at annual camp, to be held at Altcar, near Liverpool.

To start with the Territorial Army was to be composed almost entirely of volunteers, supported in a training role by NCOs and Officers of the regular army. It was anticipated that in 1950 the conscript soldier with reserve liability would be arriving to spend some 5 1/2 years in the TA as part of his obligation, and hopefully many would stay on voluntarily.

On the 1 June 1948 the battalion provided a Colour Party and escort of 6 officers and 46 other ranks to attend the parade of all battalions of the Manchester Regiment at Dunham Park, Altrincham, when Queen Elizabeth visited the Regiment in her first official visit as Colonel-in-Chief. Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Glover commanded the Ashton detachment, with Captain Charles St J Wallis as Adjutant and a Colour Party consisting of Captain G. A. Bell, Captain W. E. Pobjay, Lieutenant R. G. Armstrong, Lieutenant E. D. Pilkington, Regimental Sergeant Major E. C. Seymour and RQMS H. Chapman. It was a memorable occasion. Major J. E. Rogerson commanded the detachment of officers and cadets from the 9th Cadet Battalion.

The Corps of Drums, 16 strong, was reformed in January 1950 under Drum Major Aldridge. An unsolicited testimonial to their enthusiasm was given in the form of a letter of complaint in the Reporter from a student at the Art School located next door to the Armoury. In it he complained that it was almost unable to study at nights with the banging of drums and the ‘blaring’ of bugles in the Armoury.

Annual camp in May 1950 was held at Castle Martin in Pembrokeshire, where the Ninth trained with the Staffordshire Yeomanry and 252 Field Regiment Royal Artillery in an ideal training area. The strength of the battalion was 170 all ranks, including 11 members of the permanent staff and 9 officers.

At a meeting of the Council of the Borough of Ashton-under-Lyne held on the 14 June 1950 it was resolved unanimously: that there be recorded in the Minutes of The Council the most sincere appreciation of the honourable record of service to their King and Country of the 9th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, and the Council requests the Battalion henceforth to march with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed on all ceremonial occasions within the Borough.

A privilege which the 9th Battalion of The Manchester Regiment was proud to exercise following a civic and military ceremony in front of the Town Hall on the 15 July. A crowd of thousands gathered in the vicinity of the Town Hall and on the route which the battalion marched from the Armoury. A special seat was provided for Ashton’s oldest Territorial, 90-year-old ex-Colour Sergeant Joseph Riley of 225 Whiteacre Road, who attended wearing the long-service medal presented to him in 1897.

After the ceremony was completed the battalion marched through the town and took up position in front of the Armoury, in thickly lined Old Street, where, as the band and drums played a fanfare, the Mayor unveiled a stone plaque at the side of the main entrance commemorating the honour given to the battalion that day.

The stone plaque is surmounted with the coat of arms of Ashton-under-Lyne with the Fleur de Lys and the Brunswick Star of the Manchesters on either side. It reads:

On the 15 July 1950
The Council of
The Borough of Ashton-under-Lyne
in recognition of
The long Association of
The 9th Battalion The Manchester Regiment
with the Borough
and in appreciation of its glorious service
to King and Country
requested the Battalion
To March with Drums Beating
Colours flying and Bayonets Fixed
on all ceremonial occasions
within the Borough

On the 22 June the battalion had received the first National Servicemen having completed their compulsory service with the regular army and who now had to serve for a further period of part-time service in the reserve forces. As a result the battalion now had 150 recruits, doubling its strength and making it the most strongly recruited battalion in the division. On the 31 July Douglas Glover relinquished command of the battalion and handed over to Lieutenant Colonel John Robinson MC. TD.

In December 1954 the parishioners of Christ Church, Waterloo, presented the battalion with a silver bugle. To be known as the Commanding Officer’s Bugle and to be presented to the commanding officer’s Drummer at annual camp. This very generous token of ‘the close co-operation and friendship which had existed between Christ Church and the ‘Ninth’ for a great number of years was much appreciated by the battalion.

John Robinson commanded the battalion from 1950 until 1955 when he was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel J. E. Rogerson OBE. MC. TD. JP. who commanded until 1960. By the autumn of 1958 the strength of the battalion was 27 officers and 500 men. Recruit training was of 42 periods duration and the two outlying companies at Failsworth and Springhead each had a recruit platoon under training. Lieutenant David Wilson was forming a pay section and the regular army presence in the battalion that year consisted of Captain ‘Sinbad’ Hall as Adjutant, WOI Benson as Regimental Sergeant Major and WOII Derek Reilley.

A ceremonial parade was to be held in Ashton in September 1958 to celebrate the golden jubilee of the Territorial Army. It had been anticipated that a crowd of some thousands would be watching the parade from the sides of the market ground. A saluting base had been set up in Katherine Street in front of the police offices in the Town Hall and 700 seats had been reserved along the front of the Town Hall for guests and old comrades of the battalion.

The morning was fine but ten minutes before the ceremony was due to begin in the afternoon there was a shower of rain. By now the battalion was drawn up on parade waiting the arrival of the Mayor and other VIPs. The shower became a downpour, turned into a thunderstorm and lightning flashed. As the rain continued incessantly the massed crowd began to thin. The Mayor, Alderman Mrs. M. MacCormack, wearing her scarlet robe, gold chain and tricorne hat carried on regardless and inspected the battalion.

As the inspection ended, the rain, which had been heavy, became torrential and sent the crowds flying, also clearing most of the occupants of the seats at the front of the Town Hall. Despite this the No 1 Guard, under Major Arthur Axford trooped the Colour through the ranks of the battalion. The ceremony drew to a close - but not the rain. The battalion marched off in squelching boots and sodden uniforms followed by the Old Comrades wearing amongst them the medals of the Boer War, WWI and WWII. It had been a memorable day!

New Colours were presented to the 8th (Ardwick) and 9th Territorial Battalions by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, Colonel in Chief of the Regiment, on the 24 June 1959 at Audenshaw, near Ashton-under-Lyne. Lieutenant Colonel John Gunning, a regular army officer of the Manchesters, currently commanding the Ardwicks was parade commander.

It was a great family occasion. Having arrived by train at Guide Bridge Station, the Queen Mother was cheered by thousands on the short journey by road to the playing fields of the Grammar School. The Colonel of the Regiment, Major General T. B. L. Churchill, met the Queen Mother and, during the ceremony, she was escorted by the Honorary Colonels of the two battalions, Colonel Richard Martin-Bird and Colonel Harry S. Stern. After presenting the Colours the Queen Mother praised the Volunteers for their smartness on parade.

The story of their valour, said the Queen Mother was told in the battle honours inscribed on these Colours. ‘Now with the end of National Service in sight, it is of the greatest importance that the ranks of our volunteer battalions should continue to be filled by loyal and patriotic citizens. So I am pleased to know from the strength of your Battalions and from your record of service in the evening and at week-ends, that, despite the ever increasing demands of civilian life, you are setting an example of voluntary service worthy of the great traditions of the past.’

Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Axford MBE. TD. took over command of the battalion in 1960 and commanded until 1964 when he was awarded the OBE. and appointed Deputy Commander of 127 Brigade. A major reorganisation of the Territorial Army had taken place in 1960 whilst he was in command of the Ninth. Much of this was due to the coming demise of National Service, bringing with it the possibility of a dramatic reduction in the strength of the battalion. The role of the Territorial Army was defined as Aid to the civil power and support of the Regular Army in the UK. The provision of units and reinforcements for the Regular Army, particularly in the British Army of the Rhine, and lastly providing a framework on which preparations for war could be made, if required.’

A strong recruiting campaign was held in 1961, ending in early October when the Armoury was ‘thrown open’ to the public for a weekend. Exhibitions and displays of weapons, field cooking and a battalion command post were on show and created much local interest. On Sunday the 8th October the battalion paraded for the Mayor of Ashton-under-Lyne on the Market Place and was watched by several hundred Ashtonians. The recruiting campaign proved quite successful with fifty new recruits and a steady trickle of two or three enlisting every following Sunday and Tuesday

In November 1964, the Victoria Cross awarded to Lieutenant William Forshaw of the Ninth was bought at auction by a group of officers, ex-officers and friends of the battalion. A Regimental dinner was held in the Armoury on the 22 May 1965 when the Forshaw Victoria Cross and medals were presented to the Battalion by Colonel B. Robinson OBE. TD. on behalf of the donors — Colonels Sir Douglas Glover, Broadbent, Stern and Rogerson, Lieutenant Colonel Greenwood, Majors Miller and Connery; Captain Shaw, Mr. Mitchell and Mr. Howarth.

In 1967 worst fears were realised and the 8th (Ardwick) Battalion amalgamated with the Ninth, to become The Manchester Regiment (Ardwick and Ashton) Volunteers. This marriage was short-lived and further Government cuts in 1971 required this new battalion to amalgamate with the 5th (Volunteer) Battalion, The King’s Regiment, based in Liverpool. This amalgamation was redesignated as the Lancastrian Volunteers with just one company based at Ardwick Green, Manchester.

So ended more than a century of the Ashton Volunteers.

On the afternoon of Sunday the 16 July 1978 the old Colours of the 9th Battalion, presented in 1959, were laid up at a ceremony in the Church of St Michael and all Angels, the Parish Church of Ashton-under-Lyne. The service was taken by the Rev. A. E. Radcliffe. The prayers and address were giver by the ex-Chaplain of the 9th Battalion, the Rev. J. T. Annet.