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Royal Irish Rifles, 1650
Private Matthew McCarrick of 2nd Battalion the Royal Irish Rifles (Number 1650) was killed on 7th July 1916.
He was born in Darwen in 1884 to Patrick and Bridget (nee Durkin) and the family are listed on the 1911 Census living at Mount Street, Darwen, and Matthew’s employment is shown as a “Plasterer”.
Matthew’s enlistment papers have not survived but we know he went to France on
25th January 1915.
The 25th Division was established in September 1914 as part of Army Order 388 authorising Kitchener's Third New Army, K3. The units of the Division began to assemble in the area of Salisbury. Early days were somewhat chaotic; the new volunteers having very few trained officers and non-commissioned officers to command them, no organised billets or equipment. Inspected by Lord Kitchener on 12th August 1915, the units of the Division crossed to France 25th–30th September and concentrated in the area of Nieppe. The 25th Division thereafter served on the Western Front throughout the war, except for a period in 1918 when it underwent a major refit and reorganisation.
As the Somme offensive moved from its early phase (designated the Battle of Albert) to the next major push (the Battle of Bazentin), the 25th Division continued to carry out operations on a small scale in the Ovillers area. Casualties were heavy, with no gains of any significance being made. Relieved by 48th (South Midland) Division during the night 16th/17th July, the Division moved to Beauval.
Matthew McCarrick has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 15 A and 15 B.
His parents would receive his 1914-15 Star together with the British War and Victory Medals.
The King's (Liverpool Regiment), 27235
Not a lot is known about Michael Mack before the war, other than that he resided at 37 Bury Street and that he was a collier at Joseph Place’s Colliery, Hoddlesden.
As a Territorial soldier, Michael was immediately called back to his unit, 4th King’s Liverpool, as war broke out, although it was not until December 1915 that Michael embarked for France. From then on, his Battalion fought in the trenches around Ypres before moving to the Somme for the major summer offensive.
By August 1916, the Battalion was fighting around Bazentin Le-Grand. On 18th August, Michael was killed. The war diary reads:
“Fine – Heavies shelling enemy’s lines – men in front trenches withdrawn to support – barrage on enemy’s lines 2.45pm. B and D Companies went over in two waves followed by “C” Company in support and “A” company in reserve. Attack held up by enemy in false line + Machine Gun Fire. 20th R. Fusiliers came up between 6 and 8pm and took over front lines and supports. Survivors of Battalion came in at dusk and Battalion was collected in trench behind supports.
Captains SIMMANCE and BECK, 2nd Lts. GAULTER. NICKALLS and REID killed. 2nd Lts. GOODMAN and GRAY missing – 2nd Lts. VARNDELL and W. IRVING wounded. 48 men killed, 148 wounded, 22 men missing. 2 men to hospital. 1 to base under age. 4 men struck off and taken on establishment of other units.
19th August MAMETZ WOOD:
Relieved by 1st Cameronians who took over the whole line – Battalion moved out at 2am. to MAMETZ WOOD – search party sent out to get in wounded and officers’ bodies – fine day – Battalion moved to position S of FRICOURT WOOD – Bn. H.Q. in woods by 9pm.”
Michael’s body was never found, but he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 1D, 8B and C.
Lincolnshire Regiment, 32878
Private Albert McGlin of the 2nd Lincolnshire Regiment (No. 32878) was killed on 4th March 1917 at Bouchavesnes on the Somme.
Albert was born on 14th February 1890 at 25 Alice Street, Darwen, the son of John McGlin and Alice (nee Holden). The family later moved to 16 Hesse Street and then 55 Sarah Street. By the time of the 1911 census he was working as a cotton weaver but later he took up employment, like two of his brothers, at Darwen Paper Mill.
In 1914 he married Elizabeth Hynes at Sacred Heart and St. Edwards, Darwen and their only child, Albert, was born the same year.
Albert’s military records have not survived but according to The Darwen News he joined the 2nd Lincolnshire Regiment in April 1916 and went to the Western Front about December 1916. He seems to have spent all his time on the Somme. After the Battle of the Somme ended in November 1916 the Germans retreated back to the strong Hindenburg line. This would straiten, and thereby shorten, the line they had to defend. It soon became clear that it was not a premature measure. The allied command planned some new major attacks in 1917, in order to keep the pressure on the Germans. It was in this attack that Albert lost his life on 4th March 1917.
According to the War Diary the 8th Division carried out an attack east of Bouchavesnes at 5.15am. The object was to gain the high ground from which the enemy had observation of the Division position. The Battalion supported the 2nd Royal Berkshire Regiment who was the assaulting Battalion. The attack was most successful and all the objectives were achieved but over 65 men were killed or wounded, including Private Albert McGlin.
Albert McGlin has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and Face 1 C. He is also remembered on the St Joseph’s War Memorial where his name is recorded as McGlynn.
The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 19221 he Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 19221
Private James Gray Mainwaring of 9th Battalion the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (No.19221) was killed on 15th July 1916.
James was born in Fleetwood in 1895 to Dennis Mainwaring and Ann Rattray, and on the 1911 Census, he is shown to be living with his grandparents at 2 Cop Lane, Fleetwood, where his employment is listed as “Marine Fireman for a Railway Company”. He subsequently moved to Turton to take employment in a cotton mill and probably went to Bolton to enlist into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.
Battle of Bazentin (or the Bazentin Ridge), 14th–17th July 1916
By 13th July the British advance had taken it to a point where it was now facing the second German defensive complex. A well planned and novel night attack on 14th July took British troops through that line but they now ran into stiffening enemy defence at Guillemont, Delville Wood and Longueval, High Wood and Pozieres. Attack and counterattack ground relentlessly on as the British edged forward.
James Gray Mainwaring has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 11 A. His next of kin would receive his 1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory Medals.
East Lancashire Regiment, 168866
Private Richard McKeown of the 1st East Lancashire Regiment (No. 16866) was killed 1st July 1916 at Mailly-Maillet on the Somme.
Richard was born in 1892 at Lancaster, the son Robinson McKeown and Ellen (nee Jacobs). By the time the 1901 census was taken the family had moved to Darwen and were living at 7 Hollins Row. The family attended Sacred Heart and St. Edward’s and Richard worked as a labourer at the Anaglypta Wallpaper Mill.
Richard came from a military family, (his father had been a Staff Sergeant) and therefore on the outbreak for the war it was not surprising for Richard, along with his two brothers–John and Henry – to enlist. He joined the 1st East Lancashire Regiment and arrived in France on 17th March 1915. Richard saw action at the Second Battle of Ypres and from there the Battalion moved to the Somme. By June they were based at Mailly-Maillet. During the afternoon of 30th June 1916 (the day before the commencement of the Battle of the Somme) saw the Battalion at rest and catching up on sleep. At 4pm. General Lambton went round the billets and wished us good luck.
During the night the troop took up their positions in the trenches. At 7.26am. six leading platoons left the trenches and took up their positions on “No Man’s Land” so as to be in line with the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers who were to attack Beaumont-Hamel. At 07.30am. the artillery lifted and the Battalion advanced in extended lines towards the German trenches. For a few moments there was silence, and then suddenly machine guns opened up from behind largely unbroken wire and cut down the attackers in swathes. Despite the heavy fire the Battalion advanced as steadily as if on manoeuvres until practically the whole of Battalion became casualties. The casualties, some 57,470 men, were the worst ever suffered by the British Army on a single day. It was during this action that Richard lost his life.
Richard McKeown has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and Face 6 C. He is also remembered on the Sacred Heart and St. Edward’s War Memorial.
King's Own Scottish Borderers, 16922
Private Richard Thomas Marsden of the 6th King’s Own Scottish Borderers was killed on the 7th July 1916 at Montauban on the Somme.
Richard was born on 25th May 1892 at 17 Queens Street, Darwen. He was the son of Joseph Thomas Marsden and Ann Yates. His father was a well-known footballer and had played for Darwen and Everton, and also, for England, against Wales in 1891. His father died when he was four and his mother remarried in 1902 to Peter Entwistle. By 1901, the family had moved to 59 Tockholes Road and Richard commenced working as a cotton weaver. He attended St George’s Church. On the outbreak of war, Richard enlisted at Darwen and joined the 6th King’s Own Scottish Borderers. He underwent training at the Salisbury Training Centre and then in September 1914 at Bordon, Hampshire. In March 1915, they moved Bramshott, Hampshire and Richard sailed with his Battalion and landed at Boulogne on 12th May 1915. The Battalion acclimatised themselves around Bailleul. Later that year, Richard took part at The Battle of Loos; this was his first major engagement. During early 1916, whilst on leave, Richard married Martha Ann Bentley at Railway Road Methodist Church.
After the Battle of Loos, the Battalion was in action in the Battle of the Somme. In the opening phase of the Battle of Albert, (1st–13th July 1916) the French and British assault broke into and gradually moved beyond the first of the German defensive systems. For the British, the attack on 1st July proved to be the worst day in the nation's military history in terms of casualties sustained. On the first day, British forces at the southern end of the British line made an impressive advance alongside the French Sixth Army, capturing the villages of Montauban and Mametz and breaking through the enemy's defensive system. On 3rd July the 9th (Scottish) Division the reserve of XIII Corps on 1st July, occupied Bernafay Wood east of Montauban, while the 19th (Western) Division took La Boisselle on the second attempt. An attack by the 12th (Eastern) Division on Ovillers, north of the Albert–Bapaume road, was a failure. The following day the 9th Division occupied Caterpillar Wood to the west of Montauban. The progress of XV Corps at Mametz Wood was not so easy. The Germans had abandoned the wood on the first day but had reoccupied it on 4th July when the British made their first efforts to take it. It was during the action around the village of Montauban that Richard lost his life.
Richard Thomas Marsden has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and face 4 A and 4 D.
George Massey was born 12th August 1883 and he was baptised 9th April 1884. His parents were Richard and Ellen and, at the time of his birth, they were living on High Street, Darwen.
By the time of the 1901 census, the family were living at 73 Duckworth Street, and the census records show that George had three brothers and two sisters. George was 17 years, his brother John, 15 years, Harry was 13 years, Alfred 8 years, Eliza 3 years and Margaret was a one month old baby.
By the time of the 1911 census George was married to Mary and they had two daughters, Nellie aged four years and Eliza aged three years. The family lived at 5 Peel Street, Darwen.
Before enlisting George was employed at India Mill and attended Holy Trinity Church and he and Mary had another child prior to the War.
George enlisted in 1914 and left for France 15th July 1915 and landed at Boulogne, The Division engaged in various actions on the Western Front including in 1916; The Battle of Albert, and The Battle of Deville Wood.
On Saturday 12th August 1916 an announcement was placed in “The Darwen Gazette” "Lancashire Fusilier Missing ".
The report told how Mrs Massey of 3 Hanover-sister had received the information from the War Office that her husband Private George Massey of the Lancashire Fusiliers had been missing since an engagement on the 7th ult. He was thirty-two years old. His body was never found. He is commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial; The Somme, France, Pier and Face 3 C and 3 D.
He received The Victoria Medal, The British War Medal and the 1915 Star.
Royal Irish Regiment, 8515
William was the son of John and Charlotte Medcalf* of 8 Windsor Road. He was born in 1894, and was one of six children: Ethel, Ellen, Charlotte, James and Harry.
William Metcalf was an “overlooker” at Bottomcroft Mill, Darwen, and attended St Cuthbert’s church where, at one time, he was a member of the choir.
Willam enlisted on 3rd September 1914, into 2nd Royal Irish Regiment. Following extensive training, William was sent to France on 14th June 1915, and he was promoted to Lance-Corporal on 1st July 1915 and to Corporal on 5th September 1915. He was killed in action exactly two years after his enlistment.
A letter was received by his parents from a Lieutenant who wrote “he was respected by all and greatly admired by me. He died doing his duty and a better and more noble death he could not have wished”
The War diary reads:
2nd September: received orders from 47th infantry brigade for the attack on Guillemont.
3rd September: at 12.25.p.m the battalion advanced to the attack on Guillemont and sunken road, which latter was their final objective. The battalion went over the parapet with their pipes playing and the men went forward in excellent order. The final objective was within our hands by about 3.p.m. and the line was at once consolidated and held despite three counter attacks. The casualties in the day’s fighting were heavy being 14 officers and 311 other ranks.
William Metcalf has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 3 A.
*The Newspaper gives William’s name as Metcalf but all other sources say MedCalf.
Lieutenant Frank Norcross of the Manchester Regiment was killed 31st July 1916. He was 19 years old. Frank was born in Darwen during 1897. He was educated first at Darwen Secondary School and later at Manchester Grammar School where he won an entrance scholarship in Classics to study at New College, Oxford in December 1915. He at once left school where he was trained in the first officers Cadet Battalion, Denham Buckinghamshire. He was nineteen years of age. His parents Mr. and Mrs. James Norcross, formerly of Darwen, resided at 1 Lynton Road, Heaton Moor, Manchester.
The following report appeared in “The Darwen News” Saturday August 19th 1916:
“Lieutenant Norcross will be well remembered by his school friends in Darwen. To Mr. Norcross who for many years was cashier at the Darwen branch of the Manchester and County Bank, and prominent in various local circles – and Mrs Norcross and family every sympathy will be extended in the anxiety which must have been caused them by the report that their son is missing”.
Frank was killed near Trones Wood as the Battalion was sent to clear the woods. He has no known grave but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and Face 13 A and 14 C.
East Lancashire Regiment, 15552
Private George Pickup of the 11th East Lancashire Regiment (No 15552) was killed on 1st July 1916 at Serre on the Somme.
George was born on 10th October 1889 at Higher Marsh House Farm, Darwen. He was the son of John Pickup and Ann (nee Doig). His father played an imported part in the civic life of Darwen and was a former Mayor of Darwen. The family were connected with Duckworth Street Congregational Church and George was a member of the Sunday School cricket team. He was in partnership with his brother at Progress Mill; they were cotton manufacturers.
On the outbreak of war, George was one of the first to answer the call and enlisted in the 11th East Lancashire Regiment (Accrington Palls) at Accrington in early September 1914. On 23rd February 1915, they moved to billets in Carnarvon and training commenced. In May, they moved to Penkridge Bank Camp, Staffordshire and came under command of 94th Brigade in 31st Division. Later in July, the Regiment moved to Ripon and, in August 1915, they were adopted by War Office and moved to Salisbury Plain during September 1915.
On 19th December 1915, they sailed from Plymouth for Egypt and landed at Alexandria on 1st January. Whilst in Egypt they were responsible for guarding the Suez Canal. From Egypt the Battalion moved to France during March 1916 and landed at Marseilles for service on the Western Front. They first saw action in the Battle of the Somme. On the first day of the Somme 1st July 1916, the 31st Division was deployed to attack the village of Serre and form a defensive flank for the rest of the British advance. The 31st Division's attack on Serre was a complete failure, although some of the Accrington Pals did make it as far as the village before being killed or captured. One of the Battalion's signallers, observing from the rear, reported "We were able to see our comrades move forward in an attempt to cross No Man's Land only to be mown down like meadow grass. I felt sick at the sight of the carnage and remember weeping."
Approximately 700 men from the Accrington Pals went into action on 1st July; 585 men became casualties, 235 killed and 350 wounded in about half an hour. It was during this action that George lost his life.
Whilst on active service George was a frequent letter writer and his parents became concerned they had not heard from their son. Fearing the worst, they sent letters to various military hospitals seeking news on their son. On Monday, 31st July 1916 they received a letter from Private J. Baron, George’s friend, who was in a Liverpool hospital. It was through this letter they learnt of their son’s last moments. In the letter Baron writes “Your dear son was killed by shrapnel about 8.20pm. on July 1st. He also had a bad wound upon his leg. He was along with two other comrades in a shell-hole about 95 yards off our own lines, when a shell burst behind us.” The following day George’s father, also with his uncle, visited Baron and they learnt that Private Pickup was badly shot in the leg and he crawled to the shell-hole, and it was in the evening of the same day that he was killed. It would be another nine months before George’s parents were officially notified of their loss.
George Pickup has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and Face 6 C. He is also remembered on the Duckworth Street Congregational Church’s (now Central United Reformed Church) War Memorial.
East Lancashire Regiment, 12314
Benjamin Pomfret, born 1892, was the second son of John Thomas and Lydia Pomfret. He enlisted at the beginning of the war and was sent to the front with the 2nd East Lancashire Regiment on 5th January 1915. Before the war, he attended St John the Evangelist Church, Darwen and was a fire beater at Almond’s Paper Mill. He was reported as wounded in the hands and was posted missing in October 1916. It was not until May 1917, however, that his parents were informed of his death.
The War diary of 23rd October 1916 reads:
“A dull misty morning, zero hour was postponed until 2.30p.m.
At 11.45 a.m. our heavies commenced to drop very short, one 8 inch shell falling in battalion HQ and others along rainbow trench, doing much damage to our trenches. In spite of repeated appeals, shells continued to drop short until 2.10p.m. Battalion HQ was forced to evacuate the only dugout in the trench, and move about to avoid being blown up. At 2.30p.m. The assault was delivered under cover of our artillery barrage, ‘fixed’ and ‘creeping’. The men advanced with the greatest gallantry and were at once in the German trenches. No precise news of what occurred reached Battalion HQ when it became clear from the somewhat conflicting reports that the attack has succeeded in carrying the enemy trenches with the exception of the point at junction of sunray and cloudy trenches, which turned out to be not an isolated enemy post but part of their main front line.
Between 5 and 6pm. The enemy barrage was intense along the rainbow trench line. HQ had again to evacuate the dugout as it was frequently struck and the single entrance faced the enemy – it consisted only of 8 steps.
Rain came at about 7p.m. which rendered the work very difficult. The night was particularly dark which also hindered matters and the communications, always bad, had been rendered much worse by the enemy’s heavy shelling.
Rations and water failed to reach us. The collection and evacuation of the wounded was very difficult.”
It was in this assault that Benjamin was killed. He has no known grave, but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6 C.
Middlesex Regiment, G/11118
Corporal John Stephen Proctor of 2nd Middlesex Regiment (No. G/11118) was killed on 23rd October 1916.
He was born in Keighley, Yorkshire in 1897 but on the 1911 Census he was recorded as living with his grandparents in George Street, Darwen. He worked as a van boy for the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway.
His enlistment papers show Stephen and Eleanor, his grandparents, as next of kin (with whom he had lived since birth), and a younger brother Frederick. His grandparents inherited his estate following his death. His Army records show that he was 5 feet 7 inches tall with sallow complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. These records also indicate that he was employed as an Engine Cleaner.
The War Diary shows:
“MEAULTE Oct. 20th 3 am
Battalion paraded and marched to TRONES WOOD where it encamped.
TRONES WOOD Oct 21st
Battalion remained in TRONES WOOD where it prepared for action. The following officers were wounded whilst visiting the trenches: 2nd Lieuts. R.S. HARRIS and C.H. RICHARDS.
TRONES WOOD Oct 22nd
Battalion paraded and marched up to SPECTRUM TRENCH on N36.b. The following were the dispersion of coys.: Front Line “A” on right, “B” on the left. Support “CC on right “D” on the left.
TRENCHES Oct 23rd 2.30pm
The Battalion attacked as mentioned above. The attack was entirely successful except that the left flank of the Battalion was left exposed (owing to failure by the next Brigade.) and a new line was established about 200 yards beyond the old hostile front line. The Brigadier complimented the Battalion on its success. Casualties – Officers killed: 2ndLieut. F.O. KEMP, 2nd Lieut. L. W. SMITH, 2ndLieut. G. HALL.
Officers wounded: 2ndLieut. (T/Capt.) H.C. HUNT M.C., 2ndLieut. K.L.N. McCULLOCH, 2ndLieut. A.L. ST. JOHN-JONES.
Other Ranks: killed: 62, wounded 117, missing 47. Total 2 26.”
John Stephen Proctor has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 12 D and 13 B.
His grandparents received his 1914-15 Star and British War and Victory Medals.
East Lancashire Regiment, 7262
Private Thomas William Proctor of the 8th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment (Number 7262) was killed on 15th July, 1916. Thomas was born in Burnley in 1880. The 1911 Census records that he lived with his wife Emily and three sons at 1 Black Horse Court. At this point in time he was employed as a coal miner.
His enlistment papers have not survived but the medal rolls show he went to France on 1st August 1915.
An extract from the War Diary:
“14 July 1916
At 3.0 am Lt. MacQueen took out a patrol of 6 Grenadiers 1 Platoon and Lewis Gun Section and advanced about 500 yards from our Front Line towards POZIERES and consolidated existing trench there. 2ndLieutenant. Lightbown A. at the same time took a reconnoitring patrol out to the old German gun position at Point 97 about 200 yards from POZIERES-LIZIERES line which was afterwards held by 2ndLieutenants Dunmall and Speak 6 Grenadiers 1 Platoon 1 Lewis Gun Section. At 4.0pm Lieutenant. MacQueen’s party was relieved by 2nd Lieutenant. Stout with 6 Grenadiers 1 Platoon 1 Lewis Gun Section. At 7pm 2nd Lieutenant Stout with his party attempted to enter POZIERES. This party arrived at the barrier on the POZIERES-ALBERT road where 3 Germans were seen. Two were bayoneted by our men but the third escaped and gave the alarm. Our party then had to retire receiving very heavy casualties from Machine Guns situated in the houses and orchards around POZIERES.
15th July 1916 Pozieres
At 9.20am after heavy bombardment of POZIERES for one hour, the Battalion led a Brigade attack on the village: A and B companies in the Front Line and “C” and “D” companies in support. Owing to Artillery Barrage and Machine Gun Fire the battalion was unable to achieve its objective but was joined by other units of the Brigade and consolidated existing trenches to East and South East of POZIERES. At 5.00pm a further bombardment of POZIERES was carried out and the Battalion with remainder of the Brigade attempted another assault on POZIERES at 6-8.00pm. This assault was again held up by Machine Guns and the wire not being cut in the hedges surrounding the village. The Battalion handed over the trenches to the 10th Battalion. Loyal North Lancashire Regt. at 2.30am and proceeded to Trenches in Close Support. Casualties: Officers Killed 1, Wounded 8. Other Ranks Killed 56, Wounded 276, Missing 33.”
It would be many months before his death was confirmed and as Thomas William Proctor has no known grave he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 6 C.
At the end of the war his widow would receive his 1914-15 Star and British War and Victory Medals.
7th King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, 30231
Private James Rainford of the 7th Battalion (No. 30231) was killed 13th November 1916.
He is listed on the 1911 Census at Blackhorse Court with his wife Elizabeth Emma (Grime) whom he had married at Darwen at St John’s in 1909.
Originally, James served in the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (Number 13201), with whom he first went overseas.
The 1st Battalion the Lancashire Fusiliers was in India in 1914. The Battalion returned to England in January 1915 and moved to Nuneaton, where they came under orders of 86th Brigade, 29th Division. On 16th March 1915 the Battalion sailed via Egypt and landed Gallipoli 25th April 1915.
A year later they were evacuated to Egypt and eventually landed at Marseilles in March 1916.
It is not known when Private Rainford was transferred to the 7th King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment following his stay in hospital as his service record has not survived.
This extract from the War Diary:
13th November 1916
The 39th Division with the 56th Brigade on the right took the offensive, the objective of the former being the fortified village of ST. PIERRE DIVION and the HANSA LINE, and the latter the continuation of this line from R14 C2.1 to R21 a 06. (Ref. Map 57 DSE 1/2000).The attack of the 56th Brigade was carried out by the 7th East Lancs Regiment on the right and the 7th North Lancs. on the left with 7th Kings Own in close support, distributed as shown above.Zero hour was 5.45am.At 7.50am “D” Coy. Kings Own was placed at the disposal of the O.C. 7th North Lancs. and at 8.30am “B” Coy Kings Own was placed at disposal of O.C. 7 East Lancs Regiment.
“C” Coy. Kings Own was moved up from SCHWABEN into BAINBRIDGE TRENCH to replace them.“D” Coy. Was pushed up on to the right of the North Lancs. line and occupied the C.T. R20 a 5.9- R20 a 2.7.
“B” Coy. Was first placed in support in STUFF TRENCH, our original front line, two platoons being ultimately pushed up into LUCKY WAY in support of the 7th East Lancs Companies holding the new front line.
“D” Coy. Pushed a patrol up BATTERY VALLEY from R20 a 8.7 to R14 c 8.0 and finding this occupied took over the position and spent the night and part of the day 11/11/16 in digging a chord from R20 a 5.9 to R14 c 8.0.
The rest of the Battalion was used for carrying purposes During the whole of the period 5am 13th November 1916 until 8 pm 14th November 1916 when orders were received for the Battalion to sidestep to the left and take over the HANSA line from the 118th Brigade of the 39th Division.”
James Rainford has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial 5 D 12 B.
His widow would receive his 1914-15 Star and British War and Victory Medals.
11th Lancashire Fusiliers, 7350
James Chadwick Richmond, born 1892, was the son of John George Richmond and Alice Chadwick, of Hollins Grove, Darwen. James was one of three boys and the family were cotton weavers, although John was a joiner.
James joined the war effort in October 1914 with the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers. They had formed at Codford in October 1914 and came under orders of 74th Brigade, 25th Division. Following a long period of training, the Battalion landed at Boulogne on 25th September 1915.
By 1916, the Battalion had worked hard at learning its craft, in preparation for the Somme Offensive. On 5th July, 74th Brigade was detached for duty with 12th (Eastern) Division at La Boisselle, where it took part in an attack on Ovillers. Divisional HQ moved to Henencourt on 8th July, and the following day, 25th Division took over the front held by 12th (Eastern) Division.
As the Somme offensive moved from its early phase (designated the Battle of Albert) to the next major push (the Battle of Bazentin), the 25th Division continued to carry out operations on a small scale in the Ovillers area. Casualties were heavy, with no gains of any significance being made.
It was on 8th July that James was killed. His body was never found. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 3 C and 3 D.
Cheshire Regiment, 28771
John Riding of the 9th Cheshire Regiment (Number 28771) was killed on the 8th July 1916 at the Battle of Albert.
He was the son of Francis Frederick Riding and Rachael (nee Bryan) and married Emma Dalton at Holy Trinity in 1908. He is shown with his wife and child on the 1911 Census at Brook Street, Darwen, where his trade was shown as Labourer.
The 9th Cheshire’s were part of 58th Brigade who captured La Boiselle on 4th July. They had assembled along the railway embankment south of Albert on 1st July 1916 and on the 2nd July the Commanding Officer received orders to attack the German front line without delay. Twenty minutes later the majority of the men went over into the crater and German front line adjacent. On arrival a report was received that there were already too many men in the German line and “C” Company was kept back to reinforce, in the crater. Communication was established with O.C. companies. At about 4pm. orders were received from the Adjutant, who was still in the old front line, that the Battalion would attack La Boiselle and bomb through it, blocking and clearing out all dugouts.
In this opening phase, the British assault broke into and gradually moved beyond the first of the German defensive complexes on the Somme. Success on the first day in the area between Montauban and Mametz led to a reduction of effort to that area, for the initial attack was defeated with huge losses north of Mametz. There was a stiff fight for Trones Wood and costly, hastily planned and piecemeal attacks that eventually took La Boiselle, Contalmaison and Mametz Wood.
Private Riding is included on the Battalion’s listed of killed, wounded and missing men between 1st and 4th July 1916, but presumably he was not confirmed as killed until the 8th July.
He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 3 C and 4 A .
His widow would receive his 1914-1915 Star and British War and Victory Medals.
8th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, 21681
George Roberts, born 4th January 1898, was brought up by his widowed mother, who by 1911 was running a small local grocery shop. He attended St John the Evangelist Church, Darwen and he is commemorated on theis war memorial. Before the war broke out, George was a cotton weaver and lived at 15 Holker Street.
A boy soldier, on enlistment, he lied about his age stating that he was 19 years when actually he was only 16 years. He would not have been sent abroad until he was 19 years old. He had managed to enlist into the 8th Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment on 9th November 1914, before being transferred to the King’s Own Royal Lancaster’s.
After arriving in France, the Battalion was sent to the Somme in preparation for the Summer Offensive on 1916.
On Wednesday 16th August 1916, the British were part of the successful assault by the French. Whilst the French were capturing over 2 miles of German lines on either side of Maurepas, our troops pushed forward their lines towards Guillemont, both west and south-west of the village. The British also won and established an advance of 300 yards on the northward facing front of high (Foureaux) wood.
It was in this fight that George Roberts was killed. He was only eighteen years old when he was killed and should not have been at the front at all. His pension was awarded to his mother. Worse still, he has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and Face 5 D 12 B.
16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps, C/1405
Rifleman Christopher Rostron of the 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps (No. C/1405) was killed on 15th July 1916 at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge on the Somme.
Christopher was born on 30th October 1896 at 51 Radford Street Darwen. He was the son of Christopher Rostron and Elizabeth Ellen (nee Marsden). The 1901 census shows the family living at 4 Cobden Street, Darwen but they later they moved to 17 Springfield Street. Christopher attended Holy Trinity Church (now St Peter’s) where he was a member of the Church Lads’ Brigade and he was also a Sunday School teacher. He worked at Carr’s Mill as a weaver. Around 1910, he joined the local Territorials and gained the rank of Corporal.
He enlisted at Darwen when he was nineteen and joined the 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps. It is unclear as to when he moved to France. The 16th Battalion was part of the 100th Brigade, 33rd Division, and they were involved in the Battle of the Somme. The Battalion was involved in the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, 14th- 15th July, 1916 and in action around High Wood. The French name for the wood was Bois des Foureaux (now Bois des Fourcaux). The 100th Brigade attacked with the 9th Highland Light Infantry on the left, in the front line, the 16th King’s Royal Rifle Corps being in support. The Highland Light Infantry were held up from the start by enfilade fire from High Wood. The Queen's reached the enemy's wire, and found it uncut. The 16th Battalion was then put in to fill the gap between the two Regiments. They advanced 1,000 yards over the open and lost heavily. The Battalion behaved most gallantly in this, its first big fight, and eleven Military Medals were awarded to NCOs and riflemen for their conduct in the attack. It was during this action that Christopher lost his life.
Christopher Rostron has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and Face 13 A and 13 B. He is also remembered on the Holy Trinity Church’s war memorial.
Royal Irish Regiment, 972
William Thomas Seddon of the 2nd Royal Irish Regiment (Number 972) was killed on 5th July 1916.
William was born in Darwen in 1872 and he married Margaret Ann Leaver in 1891. On the 1911 Census they were living with their family at Old Lane and William is shown as a labourer at a Brickworks.
His enlistment date is unknown but on the 8th July 1915 he went to the Balkans theatre of war with the Royal Irish Regiment, (possibly the 5th Service Battalion), sailing from Liverpool to Gallipoli via Mudros. The Battalion landed at Suvla Bay on 7th August 1915. William came home later in the year suffering from dysentery. Following this illness he was posted to the 2nd Royal Irish Regiment in France.
Between 2nd and 4th July, Fricourt was captured and the 7th Division inched forward. On these days the 7th Division pushed forward in the enemy trench complex and materially assisted in the eventually successful attack of 17th (Northern) Division that captured Fricourt on 2nd July. Two batteries of XIV Brigade RHA under command of 7th Division moved up into Queen's Nullah and began firing to cut the barbed wire defences in front of Mametz Wood. At 3pm on 3rd July, patrols were reporting that Mametz Wood was empty of German troops. This was not entirely true.
2nd Royal Irish Regiment and 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers of 7th Division's 22nd Brigade were ordered up to occupy a line on the southern edge of the wood, but it was not until dawn on 4th July that they were fully in position. During the night, a detachment of 55th Landwehr was discovered in the wood by a patrol of the 2nd Royal Irish Regiment and driven off.
On the 5th July a rain-delayed attack to capture Mametz Wood, Wood Trench and Quadrangle Trench took place at 12.45am. 2nd Royal Irish Regiment and 1st Royal Welsh Fusiliers of 7th Division's 22nd Brigade, together with 9th Northumberland Fusiliers and 10th Lancashire Fusiliers of 52nd Brigade of 17th (Northern) Division, formed the assaulting force.
Quadrangle Trench and Shelter Alley were gained but the Irish were held up by uncut wire and enemy counter attack. Mametz Wood and Trench remained in German hands. Meanwhile, ground conditions were deteriorating due to heavy rain and the British right was waiting for the French, who could not be ready for the next phase until 8th July.
Private William Thomas Seddon has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 3 A. At the end of the war his family would receive his 1914-15 Star and British War and Victory Medals.
Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), 20876
Lance-Corporal William Henry Goodwin Shaw of the 9th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (No. 20876) was killed on 18th July 1916 at Longueval during the Battle of the Somme.
William was born on 9th April 1889 at 2 Punstock, Darwen. He was the son of John James Shaw and Harriet (nee Orme). There is circumstantial evidence that John James Shaw had changed his name from John W Goodwin when the family moved to Darwen around the time of William’s birth. Following William’s birth the family moved to 4 Marsh House Lane and then later to 56 Redearth Road. By the time the 1911 census was taken William was working as a carter for Darwen Corporation and he was living at 12 Nancy Street. When he enlisted in 1915 he was living at Tockholes Conservative Club.
William sailed with his Battalion and landed in France on 2nd October 1915. He took part in the Battle of Loos which was the largest British offensive mounted in 1915 on the Western Front. From Loos that Battalion moved to the Somme. The Battle of the Somme had opened on 1st July 1916 and, on the 13th, the Battalion took up positions near Longueval, ready for an attack at dawn the next morning. They attacked at 3.25am capturing their objectives. There were many wounded, but fatalities, at 35, were comparatively light. The next time there were any deaths was on the 18th, when the Battalion was again in trenches near Longueval. The War Diary notes that they were "heavily shelled all day and night. Casualties heavy." Another 17 men were dead. One of the dead was William Henry Goodwin Shaw. His family were informed that he was missing and believed killed in mid-October 1916 by which time they were living at 14 Watery Lane, Darwen but it was not until January 1917 that there were officially notified of his death.
William Henry Goodwin Shaw has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 4 D.
8th Border Regiment, 16251
Private Benjamin Shuttleworth of the 8th Boarder Regiment (No. 16251) was killed on 5th July 1916 at the Battle of Albert on the Somme.
Benjamin was born on 4th September 1894 at 9.55am and his twin brother, John, was born five minutes later at 9, Cup Lane (now Bog Height Road), Darwen. They were the sons of Henry Shuttleworth and Betsy Ellen (nee Pomfret) and were baptised at St Cuthbert’s Church, Darwen on 30th September 1894. When the 1911 census was taken, the family had moved to 490 Blackburn Road, Darwen and Benjamin was working as a weaver at Messrs J and L Ward’s, Moss Bridge Mill. He attended Earcroft Sunday School.
Benjamin attested on 2nd November 1914, joining his regiment at Carlisle on the following day and he was posted to the 8th Battalion on 12th November 1914. His army record gives his height as 5ft 4ins, weight 128lbs, chest 33½ins with 3ins expansion and he had a fair complexion. He spent time at Aldershot and on 17th July 1915 was confined to barracks for five days for appearing unshaven on parade. On 10th September 1915, he appeared on parade with a dirty rifle and this time he was confined to barrack for seven days. Along with his Battalion, he was sent to France and landed at Boulogne on 26th September 1915.
In late December 1915, he suffered from a displaced cartilage in his left knee and he returned to England on the S.S. Copenhagen. Before returning to France, he spent ten days (15th–24th) January 1916 with his family at 490 Blackburn Road, Darwen. On 25th February he embarked on the S.S. Golden Eagle from Folkestone and arrived the following day at Etaples, France. His Battalion was part of the 25th Division which, in 1916, was concentrated around Nieppe and saw action in 1916 on Vimy Ridge. On 6th June 1916, Benjamin was complaining of a loose body in his left knee for which he required treatment; six days later, however, he re-joined his Battalion. The Division then moved to The Somme in late June 1916 and saw action in the Battle of Albert where Benjamin was killed.
Benjamin Shuttleworth has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6 A and 7 C
The report of his death in “The Darwen News” mentioned that Benjamin had three brothers serving, two (William and Harry) being in India and the other (John) in Egypt. The following year his twin brother, John, would be killed on the Somme and his name would also be added to the Thiepval Memorial.
His father received the 1914-1915 Star on 21st May 1921 and the Victory & British War Medals on 17th December 1921.
East Lancashire Regiment, 201518
Private John Shuttleworth of the 1st/4th East Lancashire Regiment (No. 201518) was killed on 3rd June 1917 at Havrincourt, north of Epéhy on the old Somme battlefield of 1916.
John was born on 4th September 1894 at 10am and his twin brother, Benjamin, was born five minutes earlier at 9 Cup Lane, (now Bog Height Road), Darwen. They were the sons of Henry Shuttleworth and Betsy Ellen (nee Pomfret) and they were baptised at St. Cuthbert’s Church, Darwen on 30th September 1894. When the 1911 census was taken, the family had moved to 490 Blackburn Road, Darwen and Benjamin was working as a weaver at Messrs. J. and L. Ward’s, Moss Bridge Mill. He had previously been employed at Messrs. Catlow’s Anchor Mill as a warehouseman. He attended services at St. Chad’s Mission Church, Earcroft.
John enlisted and joined the 3rd/4th East Lancashire Regiment (No. 4048) in August 1915 and the Regiment went to Egypt in January 1916. In Egypt, he served at Kantara on the Suez Canal and saw action at the Battle of Romani between 3rd to 5th August 1916. The Regiment had to operate in heavy sand in mid-summer heat, and with insufficient water many men fall victim to thirst and the blazing sun. Romani was an important victory, because from there the British forces pushed a railway and water line across the Sinai Desert that would enable an assault with the intention of clearing Palestine. The East Lancs’ were involved as advance guards as the building moved forward as far as El Arish. A decision, however, had been taken to restructure the force in Palestine, and, in consequence the Division was ordered for the first time to the Western Front. All units embarked at Alexandria by the end of February 1917.
On arrival in France, and, after being re-equipped for trench warfare in very different conditions to those the men had experienced in Egypt, the Division entered the line at Epehy, as part of III Corps. in Fourth Army. They remained in this area, soon moving to Havrincourt where they remained until 8th July. These positions faced the formidable German Hindenburg Line in front of Cambrai.
It was here that John lost his life on 3rd June 1917 but his body was never found.
John Shuttleworth has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6 C. The report of his death in “The Darwen News” mentioned he had had two brothers; one serving in India and the other training on Salisbury Plain. The previous year his twin brother, Benjamin, had lost his life on the Somme and his name is also recorded on the Thiepval Memorial.
The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 14526
John Horsfield Simpson of the 7th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment (Number 14256) was killed on 23rd July 1916.
He was baptised at Farrington St. Paul on 10th November 1895, the son of Robert (a Bricksetter) and Emma (nee Bretherton). On the 1911 Census the family are living at Charlotte Street, Turton where Robert is a Stonemason and John a Piecer at the Cotton Mill.
John went to Bolton to enlist into the Loyal North Lancashire regiment on 4th September 1914 and was initially posted to the 9th Battalion. He returned to England in December 1915 to be treated for a gunshot wound to his right thigh and on returning to France was posted to the 7th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire, part of the 19th Division.
The 7th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment had landed at Boulogne on 17th July 1915. A year later they were involved in the Somme battles from early July 1916, including the capture of the village of La Boiselle on 4th July. They went on to fight at High Wood 20th–25th July and the Battle at Pozieres.
The 7th were involved in heavy fighting at Bazentin le Petit and Mametz Wood between 23rd and 27th July, and the casualties for the four days totalled 11 Officers and 290 Other Ranks.
John Simpson has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 11 A.
At the end of the war his parents would have received his 1914-15 Star and the British war and Victory Medals.
Border Regiment, 25580
Lance-Corporal Ernest Smith of the 11th Border Regiment (No. 25580) was killed 19th May 1917 at the Operations on the Ancre and the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line in 1917.
Ernest was born on 22nd August 1891 at 13 Ellen Street, Darwen, the son of George Smith and Jane (nee Holden). Ten years later the family had moved to 7 Woodville Terrace, Darwen and when the 1911 census was taken he wasworking as an assistant grocer for the Co-operative Society. The family attended Bolton Road Congregation Church.
In 1916 Ernest joined the 11th Border Regiment and arrived in France during September the same year. The Battalion would remain on the Western Front for the rest of the war. At the end of The Battle of the Somme in November 1916 the Germans retreated back to the strong Hindenburg line. This would straighten, and thereby shorten, the line they had to defend. It soon became clear that it was not a premature measure. The allied Command planned some new major attacks in 1917, in order to keep the pressure on the Germans. It was during the Operations on the Ancre where Ernest lost his life.
Ernest Smith has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and Face 6 A and 7 C. He is also remembered on Bolton Road United Reformed War Memorial.
Northumberland Fusiliers, 16/1491
Joseph William Standen, born in 1890, was the son of William and Mary Standen. By 1901, his father had passed away, leaving Joseph and his brothers Frank, Bernard, George and Charles with his mother, who had moved in with her sister, Ellen Wadsworth.
Joseph was an educated man, and unlike many other men of the time, went to college – St. Mary’s, Hammersmith. He was in the middle of his studies when war started.
Joseph enlisted into A Company, 16th Northumberland Fusiliers, which had been formed by Newcastle and Gateshead Chamber of Commerce at Newcastle. Following training at Catterick and Codford, the Battalion was sent to France at the end of 1915 and immediately began trench familiarisation, gaining valuable experience before the major assaults in July 1916.
It was here, on 1st July 1916, that Joseph was killed, as the Battalion was sent in to attack the Thiepval ridge. This battle was costly, and Joseph was killed in the firefight. He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 10 B, 11 B and 12 B.
King's Shropshire Light Infantry, 17844
Private John Stuart of 5th King's Shropshire Light Infantry (No. 17844) was killed on 16th September 1916 East of Flers on the Somme.
John was born in 1886 at Rochdale, the son of John Thomas Stuart and Ellen Jane (nee Starkie). By 1911, John had moved to Belthorn and was living at 37 Top Fold and later in the same year he married Alice Lomax at Immanuel, Oswaldtwistle. They had two children John, born 1912 and William born the following year. John was employed at a weaver at N. and J. Eccles’s Waterside Mill.
On the outbreak of the war John enlisted at Darwen and joined the 5th King's Shropshire Light Infantry. The Battalionwas part of the 42nd Brigade in 14th (Light) Division and John arrived at Boulogne on 5th October 1915. By the time John had joined the Battalion in France they had already been involved at The Action of Hooge, in which the Division had the misfortune to be the first to be attacked by the flamethrower.
By July 1916, they were on the Somme in 1916 and John saw particularly heavy fighting at Delville Wood in September 1916. The Battle of Flers-Courcelette began on 15th September 1916 and the 14th Division had to attack to the East of Flers with the objective of cutting a hole in the German line by using massed artillery and infantry attacks. This hole would then be exploited with the use of cavalry. The battle went on for one week and it was significant for the first use of the tank in warfare. On 15th September the Battalion was ordered to advance two hours after “zero” until they reached a road running east out of Flers (this now the site of Bull’s Road Cemetery). They were enfiladed by machine gun fire and were unable to advance so consolidated just south of Bull’s Road. It was on the following day that John lost his life.
John Stuart has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 12 A and 12 D. He is also remembered on Belthorn’s War Memorial.
1st King’s Liverpool Regiment, 29954
Lance-Corporal James Sumner of the 1st Battalion the King’s Liverpool Regiment (Regimental Number 29954) was killed on 8th August 1916.
He was born in Preston in 1879, the son of Richard Sumner and Margaret Crowley, who were married at Preston, St John in 1877. James is shown on the 1891 Census with his parents who were living at Ward Street East.
James married Ellen Wood on 3rd August 1908 at St James’, Over Darwen and by the 1911 Census the family were living at Holden Fold with four children. James states he was born in Preston and gives his trade as Blast Furnace man.
Battles of the Somme:
The 1st Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment were part of the 2nd Division, 6th Brigade of the Army and took part in most of the major actions on the Western Front, including the battles around the town of Albert, one of which was Delville Wood, between 15th July and 3rd September 1916.
Delville Wood was fought over countless times and became a charnel house, choked with the dead of both sides. At the end of operations in which the 1st Battalion had been engaged on the 8th/9th August 1916, the casualties were numbered at 15 Officers and 235 Other Ranks killed, wounded or missing.
James Sumner has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Pier and Face 1 D, 8 B and 8 C. Although his enlistment papers have not survived the medal rolls show his widow would have received his 1914-15 Star together with the British War and Victory medals.
Private Ernest Taylor
East Lancashire Regiment, 20473
Private Ernest Taylor of the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment (No. 20473) was killed on 1st July 1916 in the area of Beaumont-Hamel.
Ernest was born at Edgworth, the son of Samuel and Esther Taylor formerly of Radcliffe. The family are together on the 1901 Census at Thomasson Fold in St Anne’s Parish, Turton.
Ernest married Mary Nairn in 1908 at St Cuthbert’s Church, Darwen, but she is not with Ernest and young son James on the night of the 1911 Census.
The Darwen News
9th September, 1916 carried the following report.
"An intimation has been received at his home, 15 Finch Street, that Private Ernest Taylor, of a Lancashire regiment, is dead.An intimation has been received at his home, 15 Finch Street, that Private Ernest Taylor, of a Lancashire regiment, is dead. He took part in the “big push” in July, and was then reported missing. Twenty-six years of age, he leaves a widow and one child. He enlisted early in the war, and had been some time at the front. Two other brothers are also serving".
Ernest Taylor is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial and has no known grave. His next-of-kin would have received his British War and Victory Medals.
‘Soldiers Effects’ say he had completed a will showing the sole legatee as his father Samuel.
7th King’s Own Scottish Borderers, 15608
Lance-Corporal John Taylor of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers (No 15608), was the son of George and Ann Taylor of 2 Cambridge Street, Darwen. John is shown with his family on the 1911 Census and he was employed as a miner. He married Margaret Morrall later in the year on 15th July at St James’, Over Darwen, where he had been baptised on 29th December 1889.
On 28th May 1916 the Battalion was in Bethune and merged with 8th Battalion to form 7/8th Battalion. They took part in the Battle of Pozieres 23rd July to 3rd September 1916.
The 7th/8th Battalion were in trenches around Martinpuich (east of Thiepval) from early August 1916 before retiring to bivouacs near Albert on 19th.
Lance-Corporal Taylor is recorded as having been killed on 15th August 1916, aged twenty-six. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 4 A 4 D.
He was awarded the 1914-15 Star and the British war and Victory Medals.
1st East Lancashire Regiment, 21836
John Gerald Taylor was the son of John Taylor, a pawnbroker. He was a first grade student and at the time of his enlistment was studying for the civil service examinations with the intention of making this his career. The family attended St. Johns church, Darwen and John Gerald is commemorated on the Church’s War Memorial.
John enlisted into the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment, joining at age eighteen years in late 1914. Following training, John joined the Battalion in late 1915, and began trench familiarisation. Throughout the summer of 1916, John would have suffered alongside his comrades as the Battalion was ravaged in the initial assaults on 1st July.
It was at the Battle of Le Transloy, on 18th October 1916, that John was killed. The War diary states:
“At zero hour 3.40 a.m. the weather conditions were appalling, pitch black, extremely cold and pouring with rain. 3 waves advanced under cover of the barrage. C company on the left had les boeufs/transloy road to guide it, a company in the darkness went too much to its right and got somewhat mixed up with 1st rifle brigade. Machine gun fire was opened by the enemy immediately the first wave advanced, and severe losses were incurred. Owing to the tremendous shell fire concentrated on the enemy trenches for some days past it was extremely difficult to tell where rainy and dewdrop trenches were, but from the distance traversed, the first 2 waves must have got past these trenches. No organised lines held by the enemy were met but heavy machine gun and rifle fire was directed on our wave’s front and flanks, and owing to the absolute darkness it must have been impossible for any officer or N.C.O. to organise the digging of any advance posts at the limit of the advances.”
John has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6 C.
East Lancashire Regiment, 18832
John Leach Taylor of the 1st East Lancashire Regiment (No. 18832) was killed on 1st July 1916 at the Battle of Albert on the Somme.
John Leach Taylor was born on 20th October 1893 at 31 Nelson Street, Darwen, son of John Leach Taylor and Ellen (nee Norris) and be was baptised at St Cuthbert, Darwen on 9th November 1893. He attended Holy Trinity School and later worked as a weaver at Carrs Mill. By the time the 1911 census was taken the family had moved to 24 Belgrave Road.
On the outbreak of the war John enlisted, first joining the 3rd East Lancashire Regiment (No. 18832) but was soon transferred to the 1st Battalion and arrived in France on 26th March 1915. The 1st East Lancashires along with the 2nd, 4th and 5th South Lancashires all took part in heavy fighting in the course of the Second Battle of Ypres, which opened on 22nd April with a German offensive using poison gas for the first time. For the next month the four battalions struggled desperately to defend the Ypres Salient, wearing improvised cloth masks soaked with urine as partial protection from the choking gas. Fighting was particularly severe around Shell Trap Farm, where the 1st East Lancashires were supported by the 4th and 5th South Lancashires – the Warrington and St Helens Territorials.)
After the Battle of Ypres John found himself taking part in the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. At 7.30am on 1st July 1916 the artillery lifted and the British infantry, including the 1st and 11th East Lancashires, advanced in extended lines towards the German trenches. For a few moments there was silence, and then suddenly machine guns opened up from behind largely unbroken wire and cut down the attackers in swathes. The casualties, some 57,470 men, were the worst ever suffered by the British Army on a single day. Out of 700 officers and men of the 1st Battalion who went into action, only 237 were present to answer their names when the roll was called, while the 11th Battalion lost 594 killed, wounded and missing out of the 720 in the attack. John was one of the many who lost his life on 1st July 1916.
After the war his parents received his medals – the Victory & Birtish War Medals and the 1914-1915 Star.
John Leach Taylor is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme (Pier & Face 6C), and has no known grave and he is also remembered on the war memorial at St Peter’s Church (formerly Holy Trinity Church).
1st East Lancashire Regiment, 22514
Born in Oswaldtwistle in 1895, Albert Thompson was the son of John William Thompson and Mary Ann Smith, of 5 William Street, Darwen.
A working family, Albert was one of five children, all working in the dirty industrial jobs that were typical of the time; cotton weavers, coal miners and paper mill work. After finishing at St. James School, Albert was employed as a “piler” at Almond and Co. Branch of the Wall Paper Manufacturers Ltd.
Albert enlisted into the East Lancashire Regiment, initially joining the 6th Battalion as they were sent to Salonica. After a brief respite, Albert was reposted to 1st Battalion, based in France, and arrived in time to join the Somme Offensive on 1st July.
At 0730 hours on 1st July 1916 the Artillery lifted and the British Infantry, including the 1st and 11th East Lancashires, advanced in extended lines towards the German trenches. For a few moments there was silence, and then suddenly machine guns opened up from behind largely unbroken wire and cut down the attackers in swathes. The casualties, some 57,470 men, were the worst ever suffered by the British Army on a single day.
On the far left of the British attack the 11th East Lancashire’s (the famous ‘Accrington Pals’) assaulted the village of Serre, while a mile to their South the 1st Battalion (the old 30th Foot) attacked to the north of Beaumont Hamel. Despite rapidly mounting casualties, the East Lancashire’s moved steadily forward, as if on parade, until they melted away under the fire. Small parties of both Battalions entered the German trenches, but they were never seen again.
Within a few hours The East Lancashire Regiment suffered more casualties than on any other day in its long history. Out of 700 officers and men of the 1st Battalion who went into action, only 237 were present to answer their names when the roll was called, while the 11th Battalion lost 594 killed, wounded and missing out of the 720 in the attack. This memorable devotion to duty is commemorated in the Regiment annually to this day, most notably by a Service in Blackburn Cathedral.
Albert has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and Face 6 C.
2nd Cameronians, 17287
Private John Thornber of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (No. 17287) was killed 14th April 1917 at Villers Guislain, on the Somme.
John was born on 10th May 1885 at Brunswick Street, Darwen and he was baptised at Holy Trinity, Darwen on 10th June 1885. He was the son of Andrew Thornber and Elizabeth Ann (nee Roberts) and was known as Jack by his family. The 1901 census shows that the family were living at 12 Ross Street, Darwen and John was working as a cotton weaver. In 1906 his father died and his mother remarried in 1912 to Alfred Riding. Alfred was connected with Holy Trinity Church. In 1908, John married Florence Robinson at Holy Trinity, Darwen and they had two children - John (1909) and Norman (1910). The 1911 census shows the family were living at 14 Naples Street, Darwen and John was still working as a cotton weaver. Later he became a “back-tenter” at Spring Vale Paper Mill.
On the outbreak of the war John was living at 9 Wellington Fold, Darwen and in December 1914 he enlisted and joined 9th Service Battalion Scottish Rifles. This was part of 28 Brigade of the 9th Division. He was a member of the Lewis-gun section. John arrived in France on 12th May 1915 at which time he had made his last Will. It is interesting to note that two other Darwen men enlisted with him in the same battalion - Harry Risby (No. 17286) of Redearth Road, Darwen and Joseph Bell Holding (No.17289) of 29 Devon Street who was killed at La Bassee in May 1915. He saw action at the Battle of Loos and was wounded on the Somme in 1916.
At some point John transferred to 2nd Battalion (“B” Company), which was part of the 23rd Brigade of the 8th Division, and he was with them until his death at Villers Guislains. The action in which he was killed was part of the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line. The War Diary records the events of 14th April 1917 as:
“Villers Guislain; “B” Coy was to co-operate in the attack of the 2nd Devons against the village, two platoons of A Coy under the command of Lieutenant G. P. Thornton having first established themselves in front of Bois Gauche about three hundred years west of Villers Guislain.
At dawn the attempt was made and failed, the troops of both battalions being held up on the thick belt of wire by rifle and machine-gun fire. They were driven back, the 2nd Battalion of the Regiment on the left of the Devons losing two other ranks killed and fifteen other ranks wounded, one of whom died soon afterwards. That evening the battalion withdrew into 23rd Brigade reserve in Lieramont.”
An obituary notice was published in “The Darwen News” mentioned he had three children but research to date has only been able to find births for two children. It also recorded that two of his brothers were also serving. One contracted fever at Salonika, and the other was in France. Three brothers-in-law were also soldiers, one of whom had been wounded.
John Thornber has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 4 D. It is also remembered on the Holy Trinity’s war memorial.
John’s great-grandson, Ian Thornber, has a brass cross on a multiple mahogany plinth. On it are two names, Private J. Thornber and Private J. Riding.
Lancashire Fusiliers, 5867
Anthony Townsend was born in 1881, the son of Simeon and Ann. He married Mary Clegg in 1905 but by 1911 they had no children. The 1911 census shows the couple living at 12 Ellen-street, Darwen. By profession Anthony was a coal miner, and, at some point, he worked for Messers. Place and Son’s.
Anthony enlisted into the 11th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers on the outbreak of war, August 1914, and was sent to France on the 25th September 1915.
The 11th Battalion was formed in October 1914, part of Kitchener’s 3rd Army and came under orders of the 74th Brigade, 25th Division. They landed in France on the 25th September 1915 and were concentrated in the area around Nieppe. They afterwards served on the Western Front.
By 1916, the Battalion had worked hard at learning its craft, in preparation for the Somme Offensive. On 5th July, 74thBrigade was detached for duty with 12th (Eastern) Division at La Boisselle, where it took part in an attack on Ovillers. Divisional HQ moved to Henencourt on 8th July, and the following day, 25th Division took over the front held by 12th (Eastern) Division.
The Division was in action at The Battle of Bazentin.
The Battle of Bazentin was a subsidiary attack of the Somme Offensive, and having captured Mametz Wood on 12th July, the British moved onwards toward High Wood in a continuation of the push through German lines. The Battle of Bazentin Ridge ran from 14th–17th July 1916 and comprised part of the second phase of the Somme Offensive. It was during this action that Anthony lost his life.
The Darwen News of 26th July reported:
“Private Anthony Townsend of Marr’s Hill, is reported missing since the 15th inst. He enlisted in August 1914 and has been at the front about 12 months. About thirty-five years of age he formally worked for Messer’s. Place and Son’s, and was a collier.
Anthony Townsend has no known grave and is remembered on Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 3 C and 3 D.
7th East Lancashire Regiment, 1232
John James Waddicor was born 24th October 1896. He was the son of John and Sarah Ann Waddicor of 22 Blacksnape Road, Darwen.
His father worked in cotton spinning and his mother was a cotton weaver. His parents married at St. John the Evangelist, Darwen 21st July 1896. Like his parents, John became a cotton weaver before the war started.
John enlisted into the 7th East Lancashire Regiment in 1914, and following extensive training, he was sent to France in 1915 with the Battalion. After getting accustomed to trench warfare, the Battalion was moved to the Somme Region, in time for the Somme Offensive. John survived throughout all the Battles of the Somme, and moved North with the Battalion to defend the lines around the Ancre Heights. It was here that John was killed, 13th November, 1916.
The war Diary reads:
"On the night of November 12th we took over Stuff trench once more, the companies being in the same order as in October. Our role was simple in theory but difficult to execute; we had to form the pivot for the whole of the attack north of the Ancre. “D” Company had to advance only 50 yards on the right and some 150 yards on its other flank. The other companies on the left advanced correspondingly to a greatest depth of about 400 yards. The assault was timed to start at 5.45a.m.
"The morning broke with a very heavy mist which did not lift until nearly ten o'clock, so that it was very difficult to see five yards ahead at any time during the first two hours and not much better until it lifted altogether. At 5.20a.m. we crawled out of the trench and lay down among the shell-holes about 20 yards in front. The two companies were distributed in two lines at intervals of about a dozen yards. Every endeavour was made to set the men facing in such a way that if they advanced in a straight line they would achieve the wheeling movement desired. We had barely seen to this when the barrage started and the attack began.
"This was our first experience of following a barrage. However, in a very few minutes we found that the difficulty lay in restraining the men from walking into it rather than in keeping them up to it. The barrage was timed to move forward very slowly, which no doubt was essential, for the troops on the left had very rough ground to cover and a considerable way to go, but it proved most irksome on the right.”
John James Waddicor has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6 C.
Private Jonathan Walkden of the 17th Lancashire Fusiliers (No. 14120) was killed 22nd July 1916 at Guillemont on the Somme.
Jonathan was born 5th May 1896 at 42 Heys Lane, Darwen. He was the son of Jonathan Walkden and Ada Elizabeth (nee Nelson). The couple had twelve children (three died in infancy). The 1901 census shows that the family were living at 3 Punstock and ten years later they had moved to 2 Redearth Mount, Darwen and Jonathan is shown to be working in a cotton mill as a warehouse lad. By 1914 they had moved again to 5 Back Noble Street at which time he was working at Darwen Paper Mill. The family were connected to Duckworth Street Congregational Church (now Central United Reformed Church) and he was a member of the Church Boy Scouts.
Soon after the outbreak of war he enlisted and joined the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers which was a Bantam Battalion so Jonathan was no more than 5ft 3ins tall. His brother, Thomas, also joined the same Battalion and his father the 2nd Cheshire Regiment.
The 11th Lancashire Fusiliers was part of the 104th Brigade, 35th Division. After early training near home, the units concentrated in June 1915 in North Yorkshire. Divisional HQ was at Masham and units were at Roomer Common, Marfield, Fearby and Masham. In August 1915 the Division moved to Salisbury Plain, HQ being set up at Marlborough. Over the next few weeks moves were made to Chiseldon and Cholderton. In late 1915, orders were received to kit for a move to Egypt but this was soon rescinded. On 28th January 1916 the Division began to cross the English Channel and by early on 6th February all units were concentrated east of St Omer. The Division then remained on the Western Front for the remainder of the war and took part in the The Battle of Bazentin Ridge which was part of the Battle of the Somme. Following this on 20th July the 35th Division was to attack and take trenches between Maltz Horn Farm and Arrow Head Copse, preliminary to the general attack on Guillemont and on the rest of the German second position. After a thirty-minute bombardment to cover a French attack on the right, which was then cancelled. Two companies of the 105th Brigade, attacked against massed machine-gun and artillery-fire and were shelled out of the few parts of the German front line they reached; an attack at 11:35am by a battalion of the 104th Brigade also failed. The Fourth Army artillery began to register targets (firing ranging shots) on 21st July but poor visibility, made aircraft observation impossible at times. Co-ordination of the combined attack, proved impossible for the three armies and the 35th Division and 3rd Division attacked Guillemont early on 22nd July and were repulsed. The bombardment for the series of attacks due on 22nd /23rd July, began at 7:00pm on 22nd July, which alerted the Germans but the non-moon period was expected to protect the British infantry. It was during this action that Jonathan lost his life.
Jonathan Walkden has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 3 C and 3 D.
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11th Lancashire Fusiliers, 6493
Private William Walker of the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers (No. 6493) was killed on 16th July 1916 at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge on the Somme.
William was born on 28th August, 1881 at 9 Albert Street, Darwen, the son of William Walker and Betsy (nee Kirkham). The family later moved to Watery Lane and, by 1901, they had settled at 28 Woodville Terrace. The 1901 census shows William working as a labourer at a pipe works and by 1914 he was employed by Messrs. Place and Sons at their Eccleshill Pipe Works as a kiln carrier. He attended St. Barnabas Church.
On the outbreak of war he enlisted at Darwen in September 1914 and joined the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers. The 11th Lancashire Fusiliers joined 74th Brigade, 25th Division. The Division assembled for training in the area around Salisbury. They proceeded to France on the 25th of September 1915, landing at Boulogne and the Division concentrated in the area of Nieppe. In January 1916, William was wounded but he rejoined his regiment in May and was involved in the defence of the German attack on Vimy Ridge in May 1916. The Division then moved to The Somme and joined the Battle just after the main attack, with 75th Brigade making a costly attack near Thiepval on the 3rd of July. The Division was in action at The Battle of Bazentin.
The Battle of Bazentin was a subsidiary attack of the Somme Offensive, and having captured Mametz Wood on 12th July, the British moved onwards toward High Wood in a continuation of the push through German lines. The Battle of Bazentin Ridge, ran from 14th–17th July 1916 and comprised part of the second phase of the Somme Offensive. It was during this action that William lost his life during a bayonet charge.
William Walker has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 3 C and 3 D.
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Private John Walmsley
1st/4th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, 5027
John Walmsley, born in 1896, was the Son of Thomas and Ellen Walmsley and he had one sister, Sarah Elizabeth. In 1901, the family lived in Lower Darwen at 18, Rakes Bridge and his father occupation is listed as an inn-keeper. There is still a public house on this site called the Hindle Arms but it is no longer open for business. By 1911, the family lived at 20, Dover Street also in Lower Darwen but his father worked as a labourer in a cleaning department. At the age of fourteen John was working as a weaver.
Prior to enlisting, he was employed by T. & R. Eccles in Lower Darwen and attended St. Edward’s RC Church Darwen. Lower Darwen Mills had been in the Eccles family since 1774 but failed in 1897. William Birtwistle formed T. & R Eccles which became the first member company of William Birtwistle Allied Mills. Spinning ceased by 1904 and by 1912 there were 1122 looms producing fancies and India trade goods.
John was drafted into the army, joining the Territorials of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment in April 1916. He would not spend a long time in training, as he arrived in France in early August.
John died on the last day of the Battle of Morval on his twentieth birthday. Having broken through the prepared lines of German defence, the British force now faced a new set of challenges as it was now fighting in much flatter, open ground and approached the distant gentle slopes of the Transloy ridges. Fighting was, as before, severe but gradually the British chipped away and pushed forward. The weather began to turn autumnal, bringing rain, making the battlefield increasingly difficult and stretching men to limits of their physical endurance.
Private John Walmsley is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 5 D and 12 D.
9th Rifle Brigade, S/9906
Rifleman George Walsh of the 9th Rifle Brigade (No. S/9906) was killed on 15th September 1916 at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette on the Somme.
George was born on 28th September 1899 at 4 Catlow Fold, Darwen, the son of Moses Walsh and Jane Babington. By the time the 1901 census was taken, the family had moved to 140 Todmorden Road, Bacup and his sister, Emma, died aged two years whilst the family were still at Bacup. The family have not been found on the 1911 census but his brother, Frederick John was a border in Middleton, Lancashire.
According to his army record he attested at Blackburn on 20th April 1915 when he gave his address as 4 Audley Range, Blackburn. George gave his age as nineteen years and seven months, but he was not yet sixteen years old and he was working as a labourer. He joined the 9th Rifle Brigade and arrived in France on 9th September 1915. He received a gunshot wound to his leg on 25th September 1915 and was hospitalised at Etaples, France. He re-joined his Battalion on 16th October 1915 and whilst on the Western France he suffered from Trench Fever on 4th May 1916 and thirteen days later he re-joined the Battalion.
George was with his Battalion and saw action on the Somme at the Battle of Delville Wood. He was then involved at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. This battle involved both French and British troops and was launched on 15th September 1916. The initial objective was to cut a hole in the German lines by using massed artillery and infantry attacks. This hole would then be exploited with the use of cavalry. The battle is significant for the first use of the tank in warfare. It was on the opening day of this battle that George lost his life. He was not yet seventeen years old.
George has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 16 B and 16 C.
At the end of the war his Aunt, Harriet Holden of 29 Everton Street, Darwen, received his war medals - Victory & British War Medals; 1914-1915 Star. In 1919 his father, Moses, gave his address as 2 Alma Cottages, Birchington, Kent. This corresponds to the information contain in the Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-19.
2nd South Lancashire Regiment, 29660
Private James Warburton of the 2nd South Lancashire Regiment (No. 29660) was killed on 21st October 1916 at Le Transloy on the Somme.
James was born at Edgworth in 1897. He was the son of John William Warburton and Mary Jane (nee Young). By 1901 the family had moved to 62 Cranberry Lane, Darwen and later to 1 Phillip Street. He attended St. Barnabas School and was employed by the Provident Co-operative Society as a blacksmith.
James enlisted at Darwen and was first attached to the Royal Field Artillery (No. 2547) and later he was transferred to the 2nd South Lancashire Regiment (No. 29660). It is unclear as to when James transferred Regiments but it is known that he was on the Somme by September 1916 and saw action at The Battle of Le Transloy. The battle began in good weather and Le Sars was captured on 7th October. Pauses were made from 8th-11th October due to rain and 13th-18th October to allow time for a methodical bombardment, when it became clear that the German defence had recovered from earlier defeats. Haig consulted with the Army Commanders and on 17th October reduced the scope of operations by cancelling the Third Army plans and reducing the Reserve Army and Fourth Army attacks to limited operations, in co-operation with the French Sixth Army. It was during this action that James lost his life.
James Warburton has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 7 A and 7 B.
11th East Lancashire Regiment, 24887
Harry Watson, born 1887, was the son of Charles and Mary Ann Watson, of 221, Olive Lane, Darwen. Harry lived with his siblings – Elizabeth, Dora and Leonard. The family were all cotton weavers, but Harry became a shopkeeper’s assistant.
Harry joined the 11th Battalion the East Lancashire Regiment in 1915, otherwise known as “The Accrington Pals”.
The Accrington Pals is probably the best remembered of the Battalions raised in the early months of the First World War in response to Kitchener's call for a volunteer army. Groups of friends from all walks of life in Accrington and its neighbouring towns enlisted together to form a battalion with a distinctively local identity. In its first major action, the Battalion suffered devastating losses in the attack on Serre on 1st July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme. The losses were hard to bear in a community where nearly everyone had a relative or friend who had been killed or wounded. Although the Battalion was to fight again, its “Pals” character had been irretrievably lost.
It was in this battle that Harry was killed, July 1st 1916, along with over 500 others. He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and Face 6 C.
7th East Lancashire Regiment, 6476
Lance-Corporal James Irving Whalley of the 7th East Lancashire Regiment (No. 6476) was killed on 25th July 1916 on the Somme.
James was the son of James Whalley and Elizabeth Tonks and he was born on 4th September 1897 at 17 Sunnybank Street. At birth he was named “James Irving” but later he seems to have just used the name “Irving”. At the time of the 1901 census he was living with his parents at 17 Sunnybank Street, Darwen. His younger brother, Jack, was born in 1905 and following this birth his mother was admitted to Whittingham Hospital and his father died three years later.
Prior to the war James worked as a weaver at Messrs. Ward’s Mill. In 1915, he enlisted into the East Lancashire Regiment 3rd Battalion and later he transferred to the 10th Battalion and finally the 7th Battalion. He was promoted to Lance-Corporal. The East Lancashire 7th Battalion was involved in the Battle of Pozieres Ridge which was a two week struggle, 23rd July–7th August 1916, for the French village of Pozieres and the ridge on which it stands, during the middle stages of the 1916 Battle of the Somme. It was during this conflict that James lost his life, “killed in action” on 25th July 1916. His brother, who lived at 4a Harwood Street, was informed of the death.
James has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, 6 C. He is also remembered on the Redearth Road Primitive Methodist Church memorial.
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8th Border Regiment, 16181
Private Percy Noble Jester Whiteside of the 8th Border Regiment (No. 16181) was killed 5th July 1916 at Aveluy Wood, part of The Battle of Albert.
Percy was born on 6th January 1888 at 21 Lower Cross Street, Darwen. He was the son of Nicholas Porter Whiteside and Jane Alice (nee Hill). The family later moved to 30 Sarah Street, Darwen and, by 1911, Percy was living at 51 Newton Street, Darwen. He was a keen cricketer and well-known in the Darwen Cricket League and worked as a weaver at Union Street Mill. In 1912, he married Lily (Nee Eccles), the widow of Robert Bond at St John’s, Darwen and they lived at 2 Gadfield Street. They did not have any children but Lily had two children from her previous marriage; Ada, born 1903, and Robert, born two years later.
When war was declared Percy attested on 28th October 1914 and joined the 8th Border Regiment at Carlisle on the following day. His medical record gives his height as 5ft 4ins, weight 138 lbs, complexion fresh; eyes green, hair: black.
In early 1915, the Battalion moved to Aldershot for Brigade training, where the men learned the arts of soldiering in large formations. Having completed this training it was time for the 8th Border to move for service overseas in the war zone, after a spell of leave at home they gathered at Codford Camp and prepared to travel to the Western Front.
They left Aldershot on the 25th September 1915, arriving in France on the 27th, at the Port of Boulogne. On arrival in France, they travelled by train to Hazebrouck, marched to Strazeele and took lorries to Nieppe then marched on to Le Bizet where they were billeted. From here they went into the line at Ploegsteert for the first three months of "acclimatisation", as they learned the 'arts and tricks' of Trench Warfare under the guidance of the 48th Canadian Highlander Battalion.
Once they were trench ready they commenced trench warfare's cycles of front line, reserve line, rest and fatigues, as and when needed. The Battalion started a period of turn and turnabout with the 10th Cheshire’s in line at East of Ploegsteert.
The nights of 4th – 9th October were full of sniping and machine gun fire from the enemy as the 8th Border tried to repair and reinforce the trenches in their sector. On the 9th they were relieved to billets at Ploeagsteert, exchanging places with the 10th Cheshire’s who went into line, in their place. The 10th -15th October were spent in the second line, doing fatigues and physical drills, followed by bathing. On the 15th October they went back into the front line to relieve the Cheshire’s again. The front line was as active as the first tour and the following gives a flavour of the action.
November and December 1915 were spent in poor weather in this area, Most of the Battalion activity concerned trench repairs and sniping duels. On as lighter note one of the British snipers bagged a pheasant! Christmas this year was most definitely not a time for fraternisation and although the 8th Border were out of line and had Christmas Eve bath and a service on Christmas Day.
During the early part of 1916, the 8th Border were in training for the upcoming Offensive of the summer months, with which the British and French planned to break the German lines and win the war. Periods of training were alternated with periods in line and a gradual progression to be in the area of attack in time for the 'Big Push' (The Battle of the Somme). On 26th January 1916 the 8th Border, part of the 75th Brigade, 25th Division moved via La Creche, to Strazeele, where the men had Company Training. General Plumer and Lord Kitchener inspected the Brigade during route marches and some men attended a demo of the new German weapon, the Flammenwerfer.
On the 10th March 1916 they left Strazeele and moved to Nedon and Bryas for more training, all in preparation for the upcoming summer offensive. Sir Julian Byng inspected the men on 20th March 1916 and Sir Douglas Haig on the 31st, all while the men were on route marches. Things were beginning to ramp up now, as “Wood Fighting” in defence and attack, night fighting, bombing, training against the German Flammenwerfer and musketry and Lewis Gun firing was practised.
In early April, training continued for preparation to go in line north of Neuville St Vaast on the 21st April 1916. Whilst in line early in their stint, in the pouring rain, struggling to maintain the trenches, the Germans decided to test the 'new boys'. On 25th and 26th April 1916 the front line was subjected to a set of bombing raids which cost the lives of two men. May 1916 was spent in and out of line in the Neuville area and it was here the 8th Border got its first real taste of two notorious facets of Western Front warfare; mining and gas.
The 8th Border went out of line on the 20th May 1916, but they were harassed in Neuville by gas shells and heavy calibre shelling during the time in billets. They returned to the front line in late May saw a spate of casualties, due to mining bombing and shelling as the enemy sought to make the area as uncomfortable for the troops as they could. Rumours of the build up to the “Big Push” must have been rife on both sides of the line. June 1916 saw the Battalion moving towards the Somme Area, training and exercising as they went. The training was aimed at getting the men into a peak of battle readiness for the Battalions part in the Somme Offensive, set for the end of June or early July. During part of this training Percy was off sick from 17th to 30th June with influenza.
When the Battle of the Somme commenced, the 8th Battalion was stationed at Forceville, some four miles behind the front lines, but ordered to be ready to move up at short notice, if events required. On the 2nd July 1916, they were marched to Martinsart Wood and the front lines south of Thiepval, to take part in an attack at 6 a.m. on July 3rd, in an area which had resisted attackers the previous day. With no attack taking place either side and severe enfilade fire from these flanks, the attack was costly to the 8th Border. The German trench was only captured for 200 yards in the centre of the attack and this was too badly damaged by shellfire to hold against counter attack. The men had to hold the line for another night as the battered 32nd Division who had attacked on the 1st July in this area, were in greater need of relief due to their higher casualties.
The 8th Border was relieved on the night of the 4th July and bivouaced in Aveluy Wood as they and other Division battalions recovered from the failed attack. It was here that Percy lost his life. He left a Will.
Percy Noble Jester Whiteside has no known grave and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6 A and 7 C.
10th Lancashire Fusiliers, 13063
George William Yates was born in 1883 in Darwen. Little is known about his life before he married Edith Birtwistle in 1906. By then, George was a labourer at South Belgrave Mill Darwen. He had a son, also George William, and spent his time at the Lower Chapel.
George enlisted in November 1914 into the 10th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. Following extensive training in Dorset, the Battalion was sent to France in July 1915 as part of 17th Division.
The Division spent its initial period of trench familiarisation and then holding the front lines in the southern area of the Ypres salient. The Division was then involved in fighting at the Bluff (south east of Ypres on the Comines canal), part of a number of engagements officially known as the Actions of Spring 1916.
In July 1916, as part of the Somme Offensive, George’s Battalion fought at the Battle of Albert, and attempted to capture Fricourt. It was in this action that George was killed, on 7th July. He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 3 C and 3 D.
16th Manchester Regiment, 6709
James Yates, born 1892, was the son of Richard Entwistle Yates and Amy Bury. Originally from Cheetham, Manchester, his father was a journalist in Darwen, whilst James was an apprentice artist on a paper by 1911.
James spent time at Duckworth Street Congregational Church and Sunday School, and he was a prominent member of the school cricket club.
James had enlisted with 16th Battalion Manchester Regiment (The Manchester Pals), and was immediately sent for training to Heaton Park. James travelled with the Battalion to France in November 1915, and where they were familiarised with trench warfare in preparation for the Somme Offensive. The 16th Battalion would lead the advance towards Montauban. It was here, in the bloodbath of the 1st July attacks, that James was killed.
Concerning the death of Private Yates, a friend writes:
“Another brave Darwen lad has been lost in the war. I refer to James Yates, son of Richard E. Yates, who has been resident in Manchester for some years. The young fellow was well-known as a promising cricketer and lacrosse player in Manchester and was one of a number of young fellows who held a council at the beginning of the war and decided for themselves that it was the duty of all eligible single men who had not mothers dependent upon them to enlist. And by 7 o’clock one morning in August 1914, all enlisted in a body. Young Yates had seven months hard experience in the trenches before he was killed. He was recognised by his superior officer as a very fine bomber, as well as a cheery and efficient soldier. He was killed in the famous attack on July 1st”
James has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme Pier and Face 13 A and 14 C.
7th East Lancashire Regiment, 25009
Robert Norman Yates was baptised in January 1891 at St. John’s Church, Darwen. He was the son of John Yates and Ellen nee Thorpe who had married at Blackburn Christ Church in 1883. The family lived at 26 Cranberry Lane. Robert’s father was a “Pointsman”.
By the 1911 census John Yates had married Sarah Jane Thorpe (1908) and the address for the family was Cranfield View.
Private Robert Norman Yates was possibly killed during the fight for High Wood which took place between 20th- 25th July, 1916.
The War diaries record:
“Total casualties for the period 19th–31st July: Officers 1 wounded, O.Rs. 37 killed, 88 wounded, 1 died of wounds, 1 missing believed killed, 3 gassed, 1 shell shock.
An obituary in “The Darwen News, 12th August 1916 noted that Robert was formerly employed by the Darwen Paper Mill Company and had spent some time in Canada. He was twenty-five years of age and unmarried.
Private Yates (Regimental Number 25009) is recorded as being killed on 22nd July 1916 and has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial Pier and Face 6 C.
He was awarded the British War and Victory Medals.