September – December 1915

Trench warfare continued in the Gallipoli peninsula during the hot and disease-ridden summer months.

Roland Foster, from Horwich, but formerly of Wilcocks Farm, Rivington, was serving with the 6th (Service) Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, which landed at Anzac Cove 5 August.  They went into shallow trenches, but were overwhelmed by the advancing lines of Turks, and fierce hand to hand fighting took place.  The remnants of the battalion then dispersed to support other battalions and Private Foster was killed 27 August, having been in Gallipoli for just 22 days.

Private Alexander Brooks of the Farmers’ Arms, Chorley Road, was serving with the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers which landed at Suvla Bay, 21 September. They were in support and front lines in October and November, when the weather had turned extremely cold. During the great storm of 26 November, water entered the trenches like a tidal wave, filling them to a depth of 4ft. Stretcher bearers worked waist deep in water to attend to the sick and wounded: 20 men drowned, 14 froze to death and 536 officers and men suffered from exposure. The battalion moved into reserve on 28 November and Private Brooks died of exposure on 1 December. He was 19 years of age.

Private Fred Parker, formerly of Rawlinson Bridge, Heath Charnock, was one of Dr Rigby’s ambulance men who enlisted in the Medical Unit, RN Division, Royal Marines, and was drafted to Gallipoli aboard the hospital ship Mauretania. Private Parker contracted a fever from which he died, 5 November, and was buried at sea.

The British Government evacuated troops and brought the Gallipoli campaign to an end formally by the departure from Helles, 9 January 1916.

Trench warfare continued on the Western Front, and if their letters are anything to go by, morale amongst the local Tommies was high.

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 11 September 1915

Gunner L. Smith, B Battery, 81st Brigade, R.F.A., who is serving in Flanders, writing to a friend at Duxbury says: –  “Just a line, hoping this finds you all well at Duxbury, as it leaves me at present.  I am not sorry that I joined the Army, in fact I am glad that I did, for it makes one think, after seeing the state the Germans have left Belgium, what would have happened to England if they had landed – and they might have done if all the boys had waited as long as I did before they joined.  I have roughed it a bit, but do not feel any the worse for it, and I am glad I came out to try and do my little bit.  There are some very good crops out here, but how they are going to be gathered it is hard to say, for the shells come across a bit heavy sometimes, and I think if they try to get them in there will be a few more for the hospital.  I should like to tell you where I am and what it is like, but we are not allowed to do so; no doubt you will know the reason why.  The weather is fairly good at present, and we are not catching much harm, but I expect it will be a bit rough when the winter comes on.  No doubt it will be better for us than it was last winter, for the boys went through a few hardships then, and I suppose I have seen nothing to what they have, but there will be time to prepare for the coming winter.  I shall be glad when it is all over, if I have the luck to see that day, and I get back to good old Chorley again.  At any rate, I shall be able to say I tried to do my bit.”

The following letter was sent to Adlington Church Lads’ Brigade by John (Jack) Ellis Harvey, of Babylon Lane, Heath Charnock, and printed in the St Paul’s parish magazine of September 1915.

“You will be glad to know that Ellis [this was Ellis Norris who enlisted with his friends although he was only 15 years of age] is out of hospital again and looking as well as ever; the shrapnel did not do him much harm, thank goodness.  It is like a dream to think of the times we had in the Church Lads’ Brigade.  What a time will we have when we get back! Tell the lads tents will be out of the question – dug-outs are a treat; what about cooking? Well I am sure Ellis and myself will give you some rare meals; let’s hope summer 1916 will find us and you camping out in the Isle of Man once more. Since I last wrote, things have been generally quiet except now and then each side will take a fit and plaster the other’s trenches with shrapnel etc.  On Wednesday evening the artillery behind us commenced another bombardment but it was nothing in comparison with the previous one. We went outside and listened if we could hear anything going on in the lines. Yes there was; the Germans were literally plastering our trenches with all kinds of fire; bombs, grenades, trench mortars, shrapnel etc. were hurled over, but without doing any serious mischief.  Our artillery soon settled them. We now have guns and shells in abundance.  Nothing thrills me more out here than the aircraft; it is marvellous to see a duel in the air; I was watching one the other evening through glasses; the Taube (German) was soon done for. Every evening our monoplanes and biplanes soar overhead; sometimes one can count at least twenty of our aircraft cruising round, and not find one of the enemy’s.  One pilot in particular, a Belgian, is the most daring; he seems to consider it a joke to fly straight over the German lines two or three times each evening.  Last night I was having a stroll along a road almost parallel to the lines when I noticed, far away to my left, and right over the German lines, one of our monoplanes.  The enemy was using his anti-aircraft guns in abundance and they seemed always to be far away from him. After I had first seen him well away on my left, he travelled out of view to my right, and from the commencement he was followed by the guns. Hundreds of shots were fired at him, but he must have had a charmed life, as later he was seen flying towards his abode for the evening.  The German aircraft are conspicuous by their absence; they are not a patch on the Allies’; in fact one seldom sees them even over their own lines. Sometimes at night we hear the sound of an aeroplane and then the engine seems to stop for a short time, and then go on again; whether it is one of ours or not I could not say.  I was talking to one of our artillery men the other morning, and this is what he told me. Opposite a certain trench this morning our lads were looking for the enemy when what did they see but some of them coming across to us with papers and tobacco. They got near enough for the Corporal to speak to them and this is what they said – “Don’t fire. We Saxons. You Anglo-Saxons. Prussians take our place in seven days. Tired of the war. Blooming well fed up.” And I really believe they are; it is only natural, as they can see nothing whatever for their tremendous losses. Hoping the lads are still keeping on their mettle – It’s a long way to victory, but we shall be there soon.
Best wishes,

The editor [the Curate, the Rev. Swanzy] commented “It is a real pleasure to get such a cheerful and encouraging letter from the front, and we can assure our lads at the front that our lads in the Company at home intend to ‘keep the flag flying’ until the time comes for our brave troops to plant it before the royal palace in Berlin.”

Company Quartermaster Sergeant Harvey was killed in action 25 February 1918.

Chorley Guardian  and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 9 October 1915

The following letter has been received by us from 5555 Private W. Weetman, [Private, then Acting Warrant Officer Class 2, Lancashire Fusiliers] who formerly resided at 67 Chorley-road, Adlington.   “I am sure many readers of the ‘Guardian’, which I have forwarded to me every week, will be pleased to hear of some of the doings of the boys.  We have been somewhere in France and Belgium 11 weeks, and in the firing line three times, on the last occasion for 11 days, and then we only had two days out, and we are in again at present.  The second time we were in the trenches the Germans must have got news that they had captured Warsaw.  They put up their flag on barbed wire in front of their lines, with the intention of disheartening the British, with their success (not likely), but to their dismay it disappeared.  They were caught napping by two Lancashire lads from Oldham, Sergeant Rigby and Private Routledge, who walked off with it in broad daylight, it taking them 2½ hours to fetch it into our lines, and very soon the Germans were agonised to see it hanging over the parapet of the opposite trenches.  In their anger they fairly riddled it with bullets, but the Lancashire lads had it, and they dared not come for it.  If they had, well, they would have got what they gave the flag.  The flag has been forwarded to the Mayor of Oldham, and no doubt by this time will be in the Oldham Museum.  The last time out we had awfully wet weather, and had to carry rations and ammunition through trenches nearly waist deep in water.  You will understand from this what we have to go through, and what makes it worse is that we have no change of clothes nor any fires to dry them.  We live in dug-outs, which are about three feet high and five feet long, and are lucky if we get five hours’ sleep out of 24.  When we come out of the trenches we make for what was once a village to get a good wash and brushup and change of underclothing, and I can assure you we are thankful for it.  After that we are put to fatigue work, digging trenches, filling sandbags, carrying timber, etc.  I am not grumbling, for war is war, and this work has to be done.  We do it with a good heart, and hope to be able to say that we have done our little bit for our King and country.  If the single young men at home would only accept their responsibility, they would not hesitate one moment, but come like Englishmen, and help their brothers and comrades at the front.  I will close with my best respects to all friends at Chorley and Adlington.”

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 16 October 1915

Signallers J. Ellison and J. Jolly, who are with the Lancashire Fusiliers in France, writing to the Editor of the “Chorley Guardian”, say they want to let us know “how two Adlington lads are going on who receive your paper every week out in France.  I and my pal have taken your paper out between our lines and put it and two more for the Allemands to come for, but they are shy and don’t like the idea of coming.  There are quite a crowd of Adlington boys in our lot, and we are all still in the ‘pink’, only we should like to see a few more from Chorley and Adlington out here.  We have been through the heavy fighting that has come off lately; it’s all right, only it seems to want to rain every time we have to go for them, and it is uncomfortable for a man to go under in the wet, but it’s the ‘keep smiling’ motto out here for everybody, only when we are over the knees in slush, then we have to swear like all British boys.  Hoping this finds all in the best of health, as it leaves the Two Jacks; or ‘Happy-go-lucky devils’, as the lads call us out here.”

Adlington Parish Church magazine December 1915

Signaller Fred Snape, “somewhere in France” writes [to the Church Lads’ Brigade]: “All the old Brigade lads are well, and under the circumstances I think they are fairly happy. At least it seems so to me, for any time I happen to pass any of them I am always greeted with a smile and a cheery wave or joke. We are having a pretty rough time of it in these trenches at present. We are holding the hottest part of the line, and every day that passes sees a number of the lads ‘put west’. All day long some poor beggar is being taken down to the rear and the dressing station, and every morning a few more small white crosses are raised on the ‘Dump’ (Cemetery).”

There were of course casualties on the Western Front and elsewhere.

Cpl. John Hough, of 119 Chorley Road, Adlington, and serving in the 10th Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was killed in action, 25 September, having been in France and Flanders since July. He was formerly a shop assistant.

Private James Wildman, of 145 Chorley Road, Adlington, and serving in the 11th (Service) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, died 25 October.

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser  6 November 1915

Private Jas. Wildman, 11th Lancashire Fusiliers, whose home address is 145 Chorley-road, Higher Adlington, was killed in action in France, on October 25th. A letter from Chaplain M.S. Evers states that “he was shot through a vital part of the body, so that death was instantaneous and he suffered no pain.  He had many friends in his regiment, and will be very much missed.” The deceased was 21 years of age, and enlisted on September 1st 1914.  

Private Wildman’s father was in business as a flagger and slater, and he had been an apprentice butcher with W. Marsden, Chorley Road.

Sergeant Thomas Cross, formerly of Heaton’s Houses, Adlington Common, and serving in the 10th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment died 16 November.

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 4 December 1915

News has been received of the death of Sergeant Thomas Cross, 10th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, on November 16th. In a letter to the parents of the deceased soldier, who live in Grime-street, Chorley, the company officer states that they were working in the trenches when the enemy sent some shrapnel over, and Sergeant Cross was hit on the head by a large piece and killed instantly. They buried him in the afternoon at the cemetery, where a number of his comrades already lie, the service being conducted by an army chaplain. It was attended by a number of men from A Company. Sergeant Cross had only been promoted to full sergeant the previous day, and the letter concludes: “He was a keen and capable non-commissioned officer and well liked by his comrades. We all feel we have lost a personal friend who was at all times willing to do his best for the regiment, and was a fine type of an English soldier.” A further letter of sympathy has been received from the Rev. H.E. Wynn, chaplain. Deceased, who was 21 years old, joined the army is September of last year. He formerly worked as a drawer at the Chorley Colliery. He was a cornet player in the Chorley Subscription Band. Another brother is at the front with the King’s Own.

Lance Cpl. Robert Robinson, of Red House Bridge, Adlington, and serving in the 10th (Service) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, was killed in action, shot by a sniper in France, 19 December.

Stoker Herbert Seager, of Park Road, Adlington, and serving on HMS Tiger, was accidentally drowned in the North Sea off the coast of South Shields, 20 December. He was brought home and buried in a Commonwealth War Grave in Adlington Cemetery on Christmas Day.

Private John William Baines, of Babylon Lane, Heath Charnock, and serving in the 8th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was killed in action, 22 December. He was one of the Babylon Lane men who enlisted 31 August 1914, and was the first of their number to lose his life. He was reportedly shot in the head by a sniper during fighting at Armentieres.

Up until this time, servicemen were volunteers, or Regular Army and Royal Navy. The Military Service Act, passed in January 1916, applied conscription, bringing a new dimension of reserved occupations, conscientious objection and tribunals.