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Museum of the Manchester Regiment


History


Regular Army 1914 - 1919

1st Battalion Manchester Regiment

August 1914 in Jullundur, India as part of the Jullundur Brigade of the 3rd ( Lahore ) Division. 29th August sailed from Karachi for Europe, arriving Marseilles 26th September 1914. Active service on the Western Front. 20/21st December 1914 - Givenchy. March 1915 - Neuve Chapelle. 26th April 1915 - 2nd Battle of Ypres. 10th December 1915 embarked Marseilles for Basra on 8th January 1916. March 1916 - Dujailah Redoubt. El Hannah - April 1916. Kut-al-Amara - 1917. March 1918 to Baghdad. 31st October 1918 in Palestine. Sergeants of the 1st & 2nd Bn’s in 1919

2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment

August 1914 at the Curragh Camp, Ireland. 17 August landed at Le Havre as part of 14 Brigade, 5 Division. They proceeded through Rouen and Amiens to Le Cateau and then to Landrecies. The situation was vague, but rumours regarding the German approach were to some extent substantiated by orders from Corps that the 5th Division, with the 3rd, was to hold the straight reach of the Mons-Conde Canal, running due west from Mons. The battalion dug in by the Hainin River, but later in the afternoon the troops forming the canal salient at Mons fell back because of the German penetration near Obourg.

The battalion performed much useful work with there machine-guns and held their line until they were instructed to fall back on prepared positions north of Wasmes. The retreat continued congestion with refugees on the roads holding up the troops so much that delaying action had to be fought. At Le Cateau their historic stand was made, against the orders issued by the Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force.

It was a bitter battle against heavy odds and casualties ran up into alarming figures as strong German columns pressed forward against the whole front. In the afternoon the retirement began again. The Manchesters had lost 14 officers and 339 other ranks killed, wounded or missing. The battle had been hard but the resumed retreat was worse, for the men were utterly worn out. To add to their misery a steady rain set in and continued through the night.

The retreat continued to St Quentin, Pentoise, Crepy en Valoiss, Sablieres, Nantouil, crossing the Marne at Esbly, until they were only 15 miles from Paris at Tournan. It was here that the long retreat was ended. The following day, shortly after dawn, the advance began. After two days marching the Marne was crossed again at Saacy, and on the plateau near Le Limon the advance guard of the brigade, with 2nd Manchesters at the head, met heavy artillery and rifle fire

The offensive at Ypres began at the end of October, and the 5th Division was again in the thick of things north of la Bassee. Battalions were often detached for a day or so and sent to any division or brigade that needed support during the offensive, but by the end of November the different units were with their own brigades again.

At the beginning of December 1914 the 2nd Battalion went into the trenches east of Wulverghem. The division now holding a line from La Petite Douve in a northwest direction up the slope to the Wulverghem-Mesines road and to the east to Hill 75, covering a front of about 3,500 yards.

The weather was wet and cold, and the trenches were knee-deep in mud and water. It was difficult to carry out operations for everywhere the land soon became a morass. It was in these conditions, with many men falling down with trench fever, that the battalion spent their first Christmas Day of the war. It was a quiet day, for there seemed to be an understanding on both sides that there should be a cessation of hostilities. In the mud and slush the men spent a peaceful twenty-four hours.

During the early part of 1915 the battalion was not engaged in operations on any very large-scale but in April it moved to the Ypres area where it was engaged in the three weeks fighting around Hill 60. Then for three months, without relief, held the landmark known as the 'Bluff'. At the end of July the division moved to the Somme where the battalion spent 87 days in the trenches and was then transferred north to the Maricourt area.

By March 1916 the French had begun to feel the heavy pressure at Verdun, and it was decided that new sectors of the line should be taken over by the British to release French troops for the northeastern front. During June 1916, German pressure increased and preparations were made for an Allied attack at the western end of the long front line. 2nd Manchester 's had been in billets at Bouzencourt and were moved up on 27 June in readiness for the action that was planned for the following day. However the weather was so bad that the attack was postponed but, when it was made, it was the opening day of the Battle of the Somme.

Lieutenant Colonel Luxmoore, commanding the battalion, wrote: 'I was sent for by Brigade Headquarters and was ordered to take the battalion to the left and hold the Leipzig Salient, the edge of which had been captured. By this time our own trenches had been battered, the enemy having brought up their guns again and opened a heavy bombardment. On both flanks of the Leipzig Salient and in the rear of it were Boches. The salient was one mass of dead and dying; we had little ammunition and no one knew when the Boche would counter-attack. It was getting dark, so that all I could do was to get what men I could, relieve the other brigade and hope for the best'.

In the morning the Germans made a counter-attack on the advanced positions held by the Manchester 's, but they were by then ready for them and drove them off. They were relieved that night by the Highland Light Infantry.

These operations came to a temporary close toward the end of October and, in spite of initial losses, the attacks had been a success and a wide semi-circle of country had been wrested from the Germans. There was still another attack to be made, to push back a wedge of the enemy line. This developed into what became known as the Battle of the Ancre, the name of the river that bisected the Allied line. Again the 2nd Manchester 's played a prominent part. To quote Lieutenant Colonel Luxmoore: 'They were formed up correctly and just before zero hour some snow began to fall; they went over the top punctual to the second'.

Conan Doyle wrote: ' Two companies of the Manchester's sustained upon this day the loss of half their number as they lay, an abject lesson in patient discipline, in the muddy bottom of a shell-swept ditch'. Later he writes of the second attack: 'The Manchester 's even penetrated to the second line of trenches and sprang into them, but the fatal lack of bombs tied their hands, and a counter-attack of the Germans retook the position. In the meantime the position of those Manchester 's and Yorkshiremen, who had gone forward as far as the second trench, and were exposed without bombs to a bombing attack, was very serious. They had taken a number of prisoners and some of these they managed to send back, but the greater part of the British were bombed to pieces, and all died where they fought or were taken by the enemy.

Early in April 1917 the battalion came into action again. The objectives were Selency and Francilly-Selency. Punctually at zero hour the line advanced to the attack and was immediately met by heavy rifle and machine-gun fire. This came principally from the high ground to become known as Manchester Hill. Second Lieutenant Taylor, who was in command of two platoons of 'A' company successfully attacked and captured four machine guns and then a further two machine guns in an adjoining trench.

The attack on Francilly was successful but when the advance was continued 'C' Company and a part of 'B' Company suddenly came across a battery of 77mm field guns on the low ground NE of the village which was firing at point blank range. Captain Gerald Glover, attacking both in front and on the right, captured the battery after a hand-to-hand fight with the remaining gunners. An escort was left with the guns, the advance resumed, and Selency, about 1,250 yards beyond Francilly-Selency was captured at 6 am. Both Major Glover and Lieutenant Taylor were awarded the Military Cross for their actions that day. Private C E Overton, signaller of 'A' Company was recommended for the Victoria Cross but was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Later in the year the battalion took over part of the Nieuport coast defences. Fighting, although constant and tiring, was not intense. Shortly after this there were, in the Nieuport dunes area, no fewer than 13 battalions of the Manchester Regiment.

For the 2nd Battalion the war ended with the action at the crossing of the Sambre and Oise canal. The canal was some 70 feet wide, bank to bank, except at the locks, with an average depth between 6 and 8 feet. All the bridges had either been demolished or prepared for demolition. In addition to the obstacle offered by the canal itself, the Germans had inundated the low ground on both sides and much had been turned into a swamp.

Success depended upon obtaining complete superiority of fire over the enemy holding the eastern bank of the canal and arrangements were made for the crossing by the infantry to be covered by a powerful artillery barrage and smokescreen. The area where the Manchester's were to cross continued to be swept by enemy shell and machine-gun fire and it seemed impossible for anyone to survive on the canal bank. However 2nd Lieutenant Kirk paddled across the canal on a raft and engaged the enemy with a Lewis machine-gun.

This brave action cost him his life but it enabled a bridge to be erected and two platoons of the battalion succeeded in crossing. (Kirk was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for this gallant act.) Unfortunately the bridge was almost immediately destroyed by shellfire and the undertaking had to be abandoned. The remainder of the battalion were able to cross the canal at Ors, where eventually a bridgehead was firmly established.

Lieutenant Wilfred Owen MC was killed on the canal bank that day as was Captain Angus McKenzie and twenty-two other ranks. Three officers and eighty-one other ranks were wounded and eighteen non-commissioned officers and men were missing. The battalion went into billets at Sambreton on the 6th. Five days later the war was over. At 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month it was learnt that an armistice had been declared and the Great War was over.

The battalion finished the war at Sambreton, south of Landrecies.

3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion The Manchester Regiment

Mobilised at Ashton under Lyne in August 1914. To Humber defences. In October 1914 to Cleethorpes. During the latter part of March 1916, Air Raid warnings were given every night, hostile aircraft being seen and heard on several occasions. On 31 March 1916 the warning was given and, at about 1.30am on 1 April, Zeppelin L22 commanded by Kapitanleutnant Martin Dietrich was seen approaching Cleethorpes from a S-Easterly direction. His intention had been to attack London and East Anglia but due to engine problems he aborted his original intention, now intending to attack Grimsby docks. Searchlights from the Taylor 's Avenue battery locked on to the L22 and the anti-aircraft gun at Waltham Wireless Station opened fire, upon which the Zeppelin commenced to drop bombs in the open country. Having passed over Cleethorpes, it dropped a flare which fell on the river end of the pier and turning back over the Railway Station, dropped three bombs which hit the Baptist Chapel, the council office at the corner of Cambridge Street, the third falling in Sea View Street.

The last two caused damage only to property but, unfortunately, the Baptist Chapel was being used as a billet in which 70 men of "E" Company, who had arrived the day before and called up under the "Derby Scheme" were accommodated. Men of "A" Company were using some shops adjacent to the Chapel as billets.

The first bomb, falling on the slate roof of the Chapel, detonated on impact and took effect immediately. Approximately half the roof was demolished, a large part falling into the building in which the men were standing-to. The upper part of the wall and the copingstone off the North end were thrown on to the corrugated iron roof of the shops in which the men of "A" Company were quartered.

As the night was intensely dark and no lights could be shown owing to the fact that the Zeppelin was still dropping bombs in the fields around Humberstone, rescue work was carried out under very trying conditions. The Town Hall and Yarra House were used as dressing stations as the accommodation afforded by the Regimental Medical Inspection Room, was inadequate.

Doctors, members of the VAD and Ambulances were on the scene in a very short time and by 4.30am the killed and wounded had been removed. It would be impossible to give too much praise to the members of the VAD. Here were a number of women who had made themselves proficient in first-aid during their spare time, but who probably had never had to bandage a bad case, suddenly called upon to deal with the most horrible wounds imaginable. Yet never for a moment did even the youngest of them falter, but went straight to the case nearest her hand with a coolness and thoroughness that might have been expected of an Army Nurse of many years standing.

It was indeed a fine example of pluck and grit that was shown by these women. The total casualties were 31 killed or died of wounds and 51 injured or wounded. The names of the dead are as follows:

  • 33055 LCpl J Swift
  • 32323 LCpl C Heynes
  • 30358 Pte W Ball
  • 34637 Pte A Beaumont
  • 32338 Pte Beardsley
  • 8779 Pte S Bell
  • 2425 Pte W Bodsworth
  • 30117 Pte T Brierley
  • 34521 Pte WH Brown
  • 34619 Pte E Budding
  • 32194 Pte F Chandler
  • 32997 Pte J Chandler
  • 34618 Pte J Clowes
  • 34633 Pte H Cuthbert
  • 30241 Pte F Dimelow
  • 34625 Pte J Corfield
  • 30401 Pte T Diveney
  • 32215 Pte AE Downes
  • 34620 Pte R Fox
  • 32034 Pte W Francis
  • 32263 Pte T Hannan
  • 33107 Pte P Harrison
  • 30126 Pte W Hetherington
  • 32278 Pte T Pierce
  • 27724 Pte J Radford
  • 27902 Pte N Ramsden
  • 30179 Pte J Russell
  • 32275 Pte T Tomkinson
  • 27951 Pte J Wheeler
  • 34639 Pte W Wild
  • 27537 Pte A Wood

On Tuesday, 4 April 1916, twenty-four were buried in Cleethorpes Cemetery. five deceased were taken to their home towns by their relatives.

The Military Funeral was very impressive. The Massed Bands of the 3rd Bn Manchester Regiment, 4th Bn Manchester Regiment and the 3rd Bn Lincolnshire Regiment took part. The 24 coffins were carried on eight motor lorries, draped with the Union Jack and covered with wreaths and other floral tributes received from the General Officer Commanding and Staff, Officers and Ladies of The Regiment, the several Sergeants Messes, all Companies of the Battalion, Regiments, Batteries and Schools of Instruction in the Command, Members of St Peter's Church and Baptist Churches, the Hebrew congregation of Grimsby and Sisters of Brighowgate Hospital and numerous friends in Cleethorpes, Grimsby and vicinity.

There were present about 70 mourners of the deceased, followed by the whole of the 3rd Battalion Manchester Regiment and detachments of the 4th Battalion Manchester Regiment, the 3rd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, Royal Navy, VAD, the General Officer Commanding and Staff, the Cleethorpes District Council, Cleethorpes tradesmen and friends.

The 24 coffins were laid in two long graves, adjoining each other in Cleethorpes Cemetery, one for the Church of England and the other for the Roman Catholic deceased. No 2425 Pte W Bodsworth, who died from injuries on 4 April 1916, was interred two days later in the same grave with full Military Honours and his funeral was also largely attended. No 34625 Pte J Corfield died on 6 April 1916, his body being removed to his hometown by relatives.

On the 9th March 1918, a massive white stone memorial cross was unveiled in Cleethorpes Cemetery by Brigadier General CB Westmacott, ADC, Commanding No 2 Section Humber Garrison, in memory of the NCOs and men who were killed in the air raid. On arrival at the Cemetery, the Battalion was formed up in two sides of a square, the Guard of Honour in front of the Memorial.

Brigadier General Westmacott then made an address, stating the event, which the Memorial had been raised to commemorate, announcing the sources from which the necessary monies had been collected and thanking the persons who had helped in many ways. George Moody Esq, JP Chairman of the Cleethorpes Council replied. The Memorial was then unveiled, the Buglers sounding the Last Post. A large number of relatives and friends were present.

In addition to the Memorial in Cleethorpes Cemetery, a Commemorative Brass Tablet was unveiled on 13th October 1918, in St Michael's Parish Church, Ashton-under-Lyne, by Lieut Colonel H Kendall Oram.

This ceremony, attended by a number of Officers, including Lieut Colonel HL James CB, Commanding Depot and Lieut Colonel CM Thorneycroft DSO Commanding 3rd Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, Warrant Officers, NCOs and men of the Manchester Regiment, relatives and friends of the deceased and sympathisers, was of a very impressive nature.

In a brief and moving speech Lieut. Colonel H Kendall Oram recounted the story of the raid. He also stated that the money for the Memorial had been subscribed by Officers, Warrant Officer, NCOs and Men of the 3rd and 4th Battalions of the Manchester Regiment. By local Football matches, concerts etc and by generous help from the inhabitants of Cleethorpes. Special thanks were due to Mr Moody and the Cleethorpes Council for their assistance, the Grimsby Town Football Committee for the loan of their ground and to Mr Brockway for the use of the Empire Theatre, also to Mrs Ellis and the VAD Nurses of the St Aidans Hospital, not only for their quick and indispensable help on the night of the raid, but for their untiring work on behalf of the soldiers stationed in this district.

The battalion remained in the Humber Garrison until the end of the war providing reinforcements for all active battalions of the Regiment and defending the Lincolnshire coast. In March 1919 it moved to Blackdown, near Aldershot. The residue of the battalion was absorbed on 9 July 1919 into the Home Service Detail of the 1st Battalion. On 10 July the headquarters of the 3rd Battalion moved to the Depot at Ashton under Lyne where the battalion was officially disembodied.

On Sunday 1 April 2001 a Chapel in the Cleethorpes Baptist Church was dedicated as the Manchester Chapel in memory of the 32 soldiers killed when the building was bombed 85 years earlier. Members of the Manchester and Ashton-under-Lyne branches of the Regimental Association attended and the Rev David Wiseman, Rector of Ashton-under-Lyne took part in the service. Captain Robert Bonner, Regimental Councillor, thanked the Cleethorpes community for their remembrance and cut the ribbon at the entrance to the Chapel.

4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion The Manchester Regiment

As the 3rd Battalion but stationed at Riby, Tetney and Grimsby.