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Littleborough Soldiers who fell at Passchendaele in October 1917

Date published: 02 October 2017

Battle of Poelcapelle

From the 9 - 11 October 1917 the 2/6th and 2/8th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers took part in the battle south east of Passchendaele along the railway line and Zonnebeke Road beyond the village of Poelcapelle suffering heavy casualties.

Private Thomas Wild

Thomas Wild was born in Littleborough around 1899 and in 1911.

Thomas was living with his father Robert and his brothers Fred and Clifford at 31 Peel Street whereas his mother Frances Emma was recorded as living with her parents at 2 Sale Street ,some five minutes away, with daughters Elizabeth and Jessie and son Harry.

Both were later recorded at 26 Peel Street.

Thomas enlisted in Rochdale early on in the war and his name is recorded within a list in the St Andrew's magazine dated February 1915.

Private Thomas Wild 241232 2/6th Lancashire Fusiliers was killed in action on 9 October 1917 and is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium, Holy Trinity War Memorial, Littleborough Cenotaph, the Oddfellows, Lodge 3397, Roll of Honour and St Andrew’s War Memorial.

In the St Andrew’s Magazine for November 1917 was recorded his death adding: “Our deepest sympathy is with his loved ones. May he rest in peace.”

The Rochdale Observer for 10 November 1917 included family sentiments whilst the 2 January 1918 edition reported, 'Memorial Service held in Littleborough Parish Church on Sunday evening for Privates Thos Wild, Charles Fielding and Chris Pilkington, three members of the church and schools who have recently been killed'.

Lance Corporal Wilfred Lee

Wilfred Lee was born in Littleborough in 1889 and in 1911 he lived with his parents James E. Lee and Mrs Jane Anne Lee and family at 27 Hollingworth Road.

Wilfred was shown as an iron moulder, his father was a general carrier with his brother Walter shown as a joiner.

Prior to enlisting in Rochdale in 1914 (noted in the St Barnabas Parish newsletter for December 1914), Wilfred was employed at the Ebor Engineering Works, Ebor Street and he was closely associated with Littleborough Parish Church and school.

29-year-old Lance Corporal 204411 Wilfred Lee 3rd/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers was killed in action in Belgium on Wednesday 10 October 1917.

He is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial as well as on the Cenotaph in Littleborough, the Holy Trinity War Memorial and there is also a W Lee inscribed on the Littleborough Conservative Club War Memorial and Littleborough Central School War Memorial.

First Battle of Passchendaele 12 October 1917

Following a largely futile attack on in terrible conditions towards Passchendaele village on 9 October 1917, a fresh assault was ordered on 12 October, spearheaded by the Australian and New Zealand divisions.

Although a few Australians reached the edge of Passchendaele, they were not strong enough to hold the ground and were eventually forced to fall back and give up their gains because of German counter-attacks.

Private Joseph Crossley

Joseph Crossley was born in Littleborough in 1873 and in 1901 Census he lived at 31 Hollingworth Road with his wife Edith (nee Dixon, married in 1895) being employed as an engineer, colliery winder with stationary added for clarification.

By 1911 the family had moved to 5 Hollingworth Road and by now had two children, Arthur nine and Edna two, and Joseph worked in farming.

He emigrated to Australia leaving his wife Edith Embley and their two children at 10 Duke Street, Littleborough.

Private Crossley enlisted in Maylands, Perth, Western Australia on 3 July1916 being recruited into the 51 Bn Australian Imperial Force, service No 2394, aged 43 with his enlistment details showing him as a labourer.

Joseph travelled back to England on 20 September 1916 on board A66 Uganda (arriving Plymouth 15 November 1916) and subsequently left Folkestone, England on 28 December 1916 on board the Princess Victoria.

Private Crossley went to Etaples to join his unit before travelling to Belgium where he was killed in action on 12 October, 1917.

He has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Menin Gate, Ypres. His name is also recorded on the Littleborough Cenotaph and is also remembered on the Littleborough Central School memorial.

Houthulst Forest October 1917

Held by the Germans since the beginning of the war, they had turned Houthulst Forest (located north east of Poelcapelle) into an impregnable fortress which the Allies never fully captured.

At 5:45am on the 22 October, allied soldiers advanced against their objectives sustaining heavy casualties. The general conditions became steady worse during the 23 October as the Germans and heavy rain made conditions difficult.

Corporal John Henry Driver

John Driver was born in Horbury (Wakefield) in 1896 and by 1911 he was living at 11 Brown Lodge Street, Smithy Bridge with his widower father, who was a railway signalman and his paternal grandmother, being employed as a picker shop labourer – cotton.

He enlisted early in 1915.

20-year-old Corporal 16210 John Henry Driver, 18th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, was killed in action on 22 October 1917.

He is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium, St Andrew’s War Memorial and the Littleborough Cenotaph.

The Rochdale Observer for 15 December 1917 reported Cpl J H Driver as wounded and missing but it was not until the edition of 5 October 1918 that he was recorded as missing from 22 October 1917, now presumed dead, adding in civil life he was a labourer on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. The In Memoriam column of the same paper included sentiments from his close family.

Private James Horrocks

James Horrocks was born in Littleborough in 1891 and having lived with his widowed mother Alice, brother Edward and sister Beatrice at 11 Halifax Road, Littleborough he appears to have been visiting the Barne family at 102 Burnley Lane, Chadderton being recorded as a baker.

Private 50429 James Horrocks 23rd Bn Manchester Regiment, who enlisted in Chadderton, was killed in action on 22 October 1917 and is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium and also on Littleborough Central School Memorial.

Private William Lambert

James was born in Bowes, Yorkshire, about 1899, the son of Mr William and Mrs Matilda Lambert.

Having lived in Yorkshire for many years, in 1911 the family lived at Higher Shore Farm but William Jnr no longer lived with them.

In June 1916, William Jnr was living at Moorgate Farm, Shore, Littleborough with his family now living at 5 Turf Terrace, Shore.

He was a scholar at the Shore Primitive Methodist Church and employed at E Cleggs Shore Mills.

He attested in Rochdale on 30 July 1916 and attended a medical at Bury on the same day.

He joined up on 16 February 1917 in the 51st Training Bn and in June transferred to 61st Training Bn.

In July he again transferred this time to the 221st Infantry Brigade before transferring again to the Cheshire Regiment in September 1917.

He left for France on 18 September 1917 joining the 16 Cheshire Regiment on 20 September.

Just over a month later, 19-year-old Private 40360 William Lambert, “W” Co 16th Bn Cheshire Regiment (formerly 14616 Lancashire Fusiliers) was killed in action on  22 October 1917.

He is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium, Cleggs Shore Mills War Memorials, St Barnabas War Memorial and Littleborough Cenotaph.

The Roll of Honour in the Rochdale Observer for 17 November 1917 carried sentiments from his family and the 21 November 1917 paper reported on a Memorial Service held on his behalf at Shore Primitive Methodist Chapel..

Private Robert Brown

By Wednesday 28 November 1917 the War Office had confirmed that Private 9808 Robert Brown, 20th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, had been killed in action on Tuesday 23 October 1917.

Private Brown (born Farrington), at the time of his death, lived at Lostock Junction but at the time of enlisting (November 1914) lived at 73 Featherstall Road and was employed by Messrs E. Clegg and Sons, Shore Mills.

Private Brown had been wounded on two previous occasions.

His body is interred in grave number IX C 7 Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Langemark-Poelcapelle, Belgium.

His name is inscribed on Shore Mills War Memorial and the Littleborough Cenotaph.

Private Tom H Brearley

Tom Brearley was born in Littleborough 1897.

In 1901 he lived at 9 Chapel Hill with his grandparents and widower father Frank,  plus his aunts and uncles.

By 1911 Tom was working as a twister with the family still living at 9 Chapel Hill.

Prior to enlisting in Rochdale in April 1915, aged 19, he lived at 4 Helliwell Street, off Halifax Road, with his father, Frank Brearley, and was employed as a drawer at Frankfort Mill, Durn; he attended Littleborough Parish Church.

The Rochdale Observer for 22 January 1916 noted that he was at present in Mill Road Hospital, Liverpool suffering from enteric fever contracted in the Dardanelles. His address was shown as 22 Todmorden Road.

20-year-old Private 27051 Thomas (Tom) H Brearley 2nd Bn, Border Regiment (formerly 10751 Lancashire Fusiliers), who had been reported missing on the 26 October 1917 at Ypres was officially confirmed as being killed in action.

He is remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium, Littleborough Cenotaph, Holy Trinity and Conservative Club War Memorials and the Independent Order of Oddfellow's Roll of Honour.

Tom and his brother Fred are remembered on the family grave in St James' church yard.

The In Memoriam column of the Rochdale Observer for 26 October 1918 included sentiments from his brothers and sisters who refer to Tom as ‘late of Chapel Hill’.

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Soldiers and sailors who fell elsewhere in Belgium, France and on the high seas

Private Enoch Margerison

Enoch Margerison was born on Haslingden in 1880 and lived there and in Blackpool before later moved to Littleborough.

In 1911 Enoch was boarding at 9 George Street whilst working as a cotton operative weaver and was a popular member of the Littleborough Park Bowling Club.

37-year-old Private 14802 Enoch Margerison, 6th Batt Kings Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), died on Sunday 14 October 1917 at the Blackpool Sanatorium.

He is interred in Grave Number C 1050 Haslingden (Holden Hall) Cemetery, Lancashire with the Bowling Club sending a wreath.

Private Enoch Margerison is remembered on Littleborough Cenotaph as well as being included on the Haslingden Roll of Honour.

The Rochdale Observer for 20 October 1917 carried a report that detailed his internment in Grave Road Cemetery, Haslingden on Tuesday.

Pte Margerison had previously seen service in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia.

Thomas Brown - Royal Navy

Thomas Brown was born in Pendleton and was the son of William Brown of Rochdale (previously of Smithy Bridge) and the husband of Edith Brown, 13 Blackstock Street, Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester.

In 1901 he was living at 15 Little Clegg Road, Smithy Bridge and was a fitters apprentice serving his time as an engine fitter at Messrs Petrie’s, Whitehall Street, Rochdale.

Tom enlisted early on in the war being recorded in St Andrew's Church magazine in November 1914.

In 1911, his father was shown as station master, possibly Smithy Bridge.

By 1916 his parents had moved to Beechwood House, Smithy Bridge.

On the 11 March 1917 Tom stood as Godfather to his sister’s son who was baptised “Archie” after his brother who was killed in action on 14 September 1916. Tom received his brother Archie’s cigarette case and watch.

35-year-old Thomas Brown, holder of a long service and good conduct medal and an Engine Room Artificer 3rd Class M/3717, was drowned in the North Sea with the loss of H.M.S. torpedo boat destroyer Mary Rose in a sea battle with German Cruisers Brummer and Bremse whilst protecting a 12 merchant ship convoy on Wednesday 17 October 1917.

Thomas is remembered on the St Andrew’s Memorial Card and War Memorial and on a panel 23 Chatham Naval Memorial, Kent.

The death of Tom was recorded in St Andrew’s Parish Church Magazine with the sentiments: 'Our deep sympathy is with Mr Brown and his family in the loss of two such gallant brothers. May they rest in peace.'

The Rochdale Observer for 3 August 1918 noted that St Andrew’s Church would tomorrow hold a Guild Anniversary service including a Memorial service for those Guild members who had fallen in the fourth year of the war.

A month later, on 14 September 1918, both Archibald and Tom were remembered in the In Memoriam column of the Rochdale Observer.

Corporal Christopher James Kerr

Christopher Kerr was born in Rochdale around 1891.

In 1911 he was living with his parents Hall and Hannah and family at 32 Calderbrook Terrace, Littleborough, with Christopher employed as a weaver of cotton cloth.

Prior to enlisting in Rochdale in February 1915, Christopher was employed in the warehouse at Fothergill and Harvey at Rock Nook Mill.

He was actively associated with the Littleborough Victoria Street Wesleyan Chapel, where for many years he was a teacher in the school.

By Wednesday 21 November 1917, his parents living at 64 Todmorden Road, Summit had been officially informed that their only son, 26-year-old Corporal 15639 Christopher James Kerr, 1st Bn Devonshire Regiment, had been killed in action on 29 October 1917.

He is remembered on the Littleborough Victoria Street Wesleyan Chapel, Ebenezer Chapel Summit War Memorials, Littleborough Cenotaph and on Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium.

Christopher had previously been wounded on two occasions, gassed once and in April 1917 he also narrowly escaped death by drowning when a hospital ship he was on was torpedoed.

The Roll of Honour included in the Rochdale Observer for 24 November 1917 included family sentiments.

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Serenity by Kim Gregory.