The GREAT War                         1914 - 1918

Adlington, Anderton and Heath Charnock remember.

August 1914

In Adlington, men who had been training in Ambulance work under Dr Rigby were among the first to take up duties, the Reservists leaving for Portsmouth before the actual declaration was made.

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 8 August 1914

About 7.30 on Monday morning 33 Royal Naval Sick Berth Reservists left Adlington for Portsmouth. Dr Rigby was present and addressed the men, and Corporal Leeming replied.  The company were in charge of Superintendent E. Blackledge.  The men making the journey were Superintendent E. Blackledge, Sergeant Winnard, Corporals J. Brindle and Leeming, and Privates J. Owen, Harry Cooper, Norman Cooper, H. Darbyshire, Fred Taylor, E. Ormesher, H. Dickinson, H. Hill, H. Hope, T. Makinson, J. Squires, H. English, J. Reynolds, L. Wooton, secretary, John Williams, Dobson, Shufflebottom, Critchley, Byers, Farnworth, John Parker, Fairclough, Monks, T. Lees, Reeves, Birchall, J. Taylor, Georgeson and Seddon. They had a very enthusiastic send off.  A letter received by Dr Rigby yesterday (Friday) from Superintendent Blackledge said that the writer, presumably through the contingent having been almost the first to arrive, had been appointed a ward master at the Haslar Hospital, Gosport, and that he had charge of the drill of eight reserve ward masters and 20 of the rank and file. As they arrived at their destination on Monday they were continually “snap-shotted” and cheered.  It may be mentioned that the order to mobilise was received in Adlington on Sunday during the absence of Superintendent Blackledge, but there was a quick response, and the party soon started on the journey.  

A photo of the Adlington Ambulancemen. The only one identified is William Derbyshire, middle of front row with cigarette.

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 8 August 1914



On Monday evening after the declaration of Britain’s attitude, in the House of Commons, the following telegram was received at the office of “The Chorley Guardian” – “If German fleet attack France we shall fight. If Germany violates the neutrality of Belgium we shall send expeditionary force.”

 On Tuesday another telegram received stated that “The Government have given Germany until midnight to say whether they will respect the neutrality of Belgium in the same manner as promised by France.”  These messages, posted on the windows of the “Guardian” Office, were read by large numbers of people.


Monday of course was a Bank Holiday, but with the issuing of an extension, local branches of the banks were ordered not to re-open until yesterday (Friday).

 To a representative of the “Chorley Guardian” the manager of a local bank said the closing of the banks was not due to a fear that there would be a run on them. At such a time as the present it was desirable to centralise the gold. Notes to the value of £1 were now being made as fast as possible, and would soon be in circulation.  This week, however, wages would be paid in coin as usual, but perhaps next week, and certainly the week after, £1 notes would take the place of sovereigns. It was better that the public should understand the position.


Already the critical state of affairs has seriously affected the work at the local mills.  This week, Hope mill, Botany, Messrs Brown’s new shed, and Fosterfield mill have been closed, whilst Messrs Brown’s spinning department is also idle. The Yarrow mill and Messrs Gillett’s mill, Standish-street, are working short time, and it is certain that should the war continue for any length of time, the trade would come to almost a standstill.  As it is, many of the orders from the Continent have been cancelled.  Last week, about £400 was paid out at the Weavers’ Institute, whilst during the past day or two the amount disbursed has been between £200 and £300.  Early in the week notices were posted at several mills in the town announcing that in case of closing down time notices would be dispensed with.  There is every prospect of many of the mills being stopped in the near future.

[In Adlington] at the mills on Wednesday notices were posted, to the effect that the employers, after the expiration of seven days, hold themselves at liberty to stop the works without notice.  At Messrs Gerrard’s mills the spinners are stopping as they complete the work in hand. It is expected that this weekend, or during the next week the Huyton Bleachworks and the Pincroft Works will come to a stoppage, as the works are dependent on foreign trade, and these markets have now closed. Owing to the almost panic rush to buy foodstuffs, prices have increased with corresponding suddenness and vigour.


On Thursday a warning was issued, signed by Mr William Mullen, (Cardroom and Blowing Room Operatives’ Amalgamation), Mr William Marsland (Operative Cotton Spinners’ Amalgamation) and Mr J. Cross ((Cotton Weavers’ Amalgamation) as the result of a meeting of the various operatives’ unions in Manchester: - We the representatives of the Operative Cotton Spinners, Card, and Blowing Room Operatives, and Weavers’ Amalgamation, feel it necessary to utter a word of caution and advice to all our members.  Owing to the critical state of the cotton trade, and probable wholesale stoppages which must eventually follow on account of the scarcity of orders, we desire to impress upon all our members the necessity of saving their money and cutting down their expenditure in every possible way, even to the extent of foregoing their annual holiday as there can be no immediate hope of returning to steady and usual employment.

Chorley Weekly News 8 August 1914



A few of the students attending the Chorley Secondary School who recently went to France in accordance with the Modern Language Association, have had exciting experiences. Three of the youths in question were Fred Openshaw (14) [sic] of Adlington, Frank Fowler, of Whittle-le-Woods, and William Halton, son of Councillor Halton, of Chorley. The first named and Halton went to Paris, and the youth Fowler proceeded to Versailles, where they arrived safely on Friday at 9.30 p.m.

Master Openshaw recounted his interesting experiences to a representative of this journal to the following effect. The Germans’ declaration of war evoked remarkable demonstrations in the French capital. In the Montmarte locality, where he had arranged to spend a month, a German firm named Maggi had a number of dairy produce establishments. The employees of this firm were Frenchmen, and it was stated that as soon as war was declared motor cars were sent round to collect all the money available. The chief partners then went off to the frontier without paying the wages of the workpeople. They were, however, arrested, and the large amount of money in their possession confiscated. On hearing the news, the people of the district demolished the shops, and distributed the milk etc. in limited quantities to the poor. One German grocer attempted to sell his eggs at one franc (10d.) each, but the shop was pillaged and the proprietor pelted with eggs. Everything about the place was wrecked. Master Openshaw was an interested eye-witness of incidents connected with the foregoing. Some carried off cheeses on their shoulders, and boxes of eggs were borne away heedless of the dripping mess running through the packages onto the carriers. Occurrences of this kind were frequently occurring until Tuesday, when the order for a general mobilisation was given. Things then went on more steadily, and it was noticed that the French women bore up very bravely in the trying circumstances.

On Wednesday morning he was told that he could not possibly get back to England and he accordingly resigned himself to the situation, and made himself as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. At breakfast he received a letter from the son of Monsieur Lallemand at Versailles, where his friend Fowler was staying, that the latter had returned to England on Saturday. This news awakened a strong desire to get home also, but he was given to understand that any effort would be useless. Very fortunately he met a gentleman from London, who had intended travelling to Switzerland, but had been able to secure a passport to London. Openshaw handed him a letter, with a request to post it to his parents on arrival in England. They parted, but shortly after breakfast the gentleman returned for something he had forgotten, and the plucky youth ventured the statement that if he (the Londoner) would allow him to accompany him, he would leave Paris and take his chance. This course being agreed upon, he at once packed up, and at the Gare du Nord joined a train to Abbeville, a town on the coast midway between Paris and Boulogne. Amiens was safely reached, where many of the passengers were taken to the guardroom on account of not being provided with passports establishing their identity. Luckily they were not asked for theirs, and they accordingly proceeded to Abbeville. On the way it was agreed that if they asked for passports it would be claimed that the Chorley youth was a son of the London gentleman, who by the way had only recently married. At Abbeville passports were demanded, and the wife of the London gentleman promptly remarked that Openshaw was their son, whom they were fetching back from school in Paris; also that the Prefet had assured them a passport was unnecessary for their boy, who was under 14 years of age.

The necessity of the case justified the resort to this nice little ruse, and after a more or less critical examination, the Chorley tourist was allowed to go forward. The journey to Boulogne was then continued, the stoppages at every station en route being particularly aggravating since similar critical examinations were repeated. On going to the boat at Boulogne, he had no difficulty in assuring the officials that he was English. The cross-Channel journey was commenced at 11.30 on Wednesday night, the vessel being often in the glare of warships’ searchlights. There was much signalling, but the  boat was allowed to proceed. The passengers were really very few, the previous heavy exodus probably accounting for this, boats leaving immediately following the declaration of war, carrying 1,700 and 1,100 respectively, which were only chartered to convey a thousand from Boulogne. The travellers considered themselves very fortunate in getting a boat at all, and at that late hour, on departure from the French shore, many of the residents of Boulogne turned out to witness the vessel’s departure. Their singing of the English National Anthem and the “Marseillaise”, sung with equal heartiness by those on the boat, was touching exchange of courtesy. The departing English cried “Vive la France”, and “Vive l’Angleterre” came as a resounding echo from the receding shore. The young student stayed for a few hours at the house of his helpful travelling friends, and on Thursday morning left Euston for Wigan, where he arrived at 2.30 p.m., Adlington being reached at 3.15 p.m. Having been apprised by wire from London of his arrival, it may be imagined that the youth’s parents were delighted at his safe return. The entire journey from Paris to London occupied 21 hours. Everything in Paris was closed down, elderly men and young boys appearing to be the only males about. Even Boy Scouts had gone off to serve in the war.

Fred was actually 16 in 1914, and was to become commissioned as Second-Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion, the Liverpool Regiment (the Liverpool Irish). he died of wounds just before the Armistice, in October 1918. He was still only 20.

On 8 August 1914, the Liberal Government under Herbert Asquith passed the Defence of the Realm Act without debate. It gave the Government executive powers to suppress published criticism, imprison without trial and commandeer economic resources, including requisitioning property, for the war effort. It was also used to control civilian behaviour, including regulating alcohol consumption and food supplies.  In 1916, the Minister of Labour, John Hodge, a Labour MP and trades union leader was prepared to use it against strikers. The Act was repealed in 1920.

Chorley Weekly News 22 August 1914


At our request, Mrs E. R. Walker, of “The Nightingales”, Adlington, who was in Paris with her husband at the outbreak of the War, has very kindly supplied the following details of their experiences in the French capital etc.

“We left home on July 27th and found Paris as enchanting as ever, herself in brilliant sunshine, with a very tiny war-cloud on a very distant horizon. On the 28th, strolling out after dinner, we found the cafes deserted, and the streets practically empty, the Paris of the Boulevards crowding to the Palais de Justice, where in the Court of Assize, Madame Caillaux was approaching the great moment of her life. At 9.50 p.m. the foreman of the Jury pronounced her innocent of a voluntary and premeditated crime. Damp half-sheets of the “Presse” were in the streets at 10.30 p.m., with a verdict surely impossible in any country other than France. On the 29th M. Adrien Hebrard, the much-respected editor of the “Temps” died, and on the 1st August poor M. Jaures was assassinated in the Café du Croissant, a few doors from his own office – thus three of the representative papers, the “Figaro”, “Temps” and “l’Humaninte”, were bereaved of their editors, and two appeared with black borders on successive days. A manifesto was issued and posted everywhere for the preservation of calm and order, appealing to the patriotism of citizens “dans les graves circonstances que la Patrie traverse”.

On the 31st , finding Americans were going to their Consul for advice as to money matters, we went to Cook’s Office, and the Daily Mail information bureau, and were advised to keep our English gold and not to worry. According to the latter proposition we ended our day at the Opera House, where “Faust” was finely given, Cerdan singing “Mephisto”.

We spent August 1st at St. Cloud, but the war cloud was growing. At the great barracks coming down from the lovely Park, we found all kinds of preparations in progress, and on returning to Paris it was rumoured that the German Emperor had declared war against France. This was published on Sunday the 2nd in the following terms: -

“L’Ambassadeur  d’allemagne au nom de son Gouverenment, a remis ce soir, at 7.30, au Ministre des affaires etrangeres la declaration de guerre.”

All knew what this meant for the army and the citizens of France. For ourselves and all strangers it meant if possible our departure from Paris within 24 hours. All able to get away could do so without formality. Times of trains were stated. At our Hotel we found that waiters had hurriedly left, also my chambermaid among many others belonging to Nursing Orders. Americans were talking anxiously together and everyone looked very grave. After dinner we went to the Café de la Paix, which was crowded. We saw many processions of volunteers with banners “Grecs”, “Romains” among others. People stood on seats, trams were stopped, and all joined in the “Marseillaise”. At midnight riots commenced, cafes and brasseries bearing German names were wrecked, all windows and crockery being smashed.

The next morning orders were issued causing all cafes to close at 9.0 p.m., and the final appeal of our King to the Emperor was discussed, and the departure of the German Ambassador described.  The Opera House and principal theatres were closed, shops shuttered with a notice of the departure of “le patron”. All Hotel prices were raised for rooms, and meals served “a la carte”. Registration began at an early hour, and we stood for 2 ½ hours in a broiling sun outside the Prefecture, and many far longer going without any lunch at all. We had no French money and could not change French paper  or English gold, so we walked all the way to the Gare du Nord, where we saw the saddest of sights. From the great red barrier in front to the Rue Lafayette there were soldiers, sitting on their kit, all heavily loaded, with their wives, sweethearts and children by them. At the barrier were mounted officers, police etc., and officers were arriving in automobiles. People cheered but there was no singing; they were too sad.

In the afternoon one got no milk for tea, as the train service was disorganised. The Americans held a meeting at the Grand Hotel, at which Mr Channay Depew was one of the speakers. On the evening of the 4th we were packed and waiting to leave by the 10.20 train, but no voiture or cab could be found anywhere. At the corner of the Rue de Rivoli I was challenged by a sentry.

On Wednesday the 5th, Great Britain’s declaration of war against Germany was published. The excitement was intense. We paid our bill by cheque and by good fortune got a fiacre (with a wretched horse), and departed. We left our baggage and spent the hours in the little garden of S. Vincent de Paul, and at 3.30 steamed out of Paris with thankful hearts. I was the only passenger who possessed a trunk, as only hand baggage was allowed. Mine had no label, and it will be agreed I was very lucky. After 8 ½ hours, we at last reached Boulogne with one change. Sentries were posted all the way and bridges were guarded. A nice fellow, who was joining the Chasseurs at Abbeville, showed us his order, and we saw the straw to be used for their men to lie on at the station.

Boulogne was full of flags. People were all talking of our country and our soldiers. We went for our permit to our Consul, and then the Prefecture, and saw three torpedo boats come into harbour. On Saturday we got an English paper; only the “Times” passed the censor, and we read that Germany had asked for an armistice to bury her dead. On the 11th the troops began to arrive, which was very exciting. The “petits jupes” of the Highlanders much amused the women; it was wonderful how soon they seemed at home, and quite amusing were their efforts to talk to the girls. Some were quartered in a huge school; some in barracks, and others camped on the lovely hills above the Hauteville, where the white straight lines of their tents dotted the wide green fields, where Napoleon assembled his 4th Army Corps and distributed his “legion d’honneur”. For six days this great landing of troops continues, for on Sunday we saw 700 horses disembark, and on Monday our boat passed and saluted two giant troop ships, waiting for the incoming tide. It has been a tremendous piece of work, this transport of thousands and thousands of men and horses. I must just add that when General French landed on the 14th in the afternoon, an aeroplane circled over his cruiser as she came to harbour, looking grim in her black paint in spite of her bright flags. He wasted no time but motored up to the Camps, surveyed everything, and was off to Paris in the morning. But I never slept under the protection of an armoured cruiser before, and the last thing before I slept I looked out from the balcony for the bright light on her high mast head, and could just see her black shape against the dark sky.”

 Mrs Walker lived at Nightingales, off Rawlinson Lane, Heath Charnock

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 29 August 1914

Mr H.P.P. Lane, Chief Constable of Lancashire, has issued a statement to the effect that waterworks are guarded by armed police, and that any unauthorised person approaching or trespassing there will be liable to be shot at. The public are warned not to loiter in the vicinity of reservoirs etc., and persons interfering, or attempting to do so, with any of the works will be immediately arrested.

Home Front

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 8 August 1914



A committee has been constituted by the Government to advise on the measures necessary to deal with any distress that may arise….The Prince of Wales has issued the following appeal: -


Buckingham Palace

All must realise that the present time of deep anxiety will be followed by one of considerable distress among the people of this country least able to bear it.

 We most earnestly pray that their sufferings may be neither long nor bitter.  But we cannot wait until the need presses heavily upon us.

 The means of relief must be ready in our hands.  To allay anxiety will go some way to stay distress.

 A national fund has been founded, and I am proud to act as its treasurer.

 My first duty is to ask for generous and ready support, and I know that I shall not ask in vain. At such a moment we all stand by one another, and it is to the heart of the British people that I confidently make this most earnest appeal.

         Edward P.

The Queen has added the following appeal: -

         Buckingham Palace

A national fund has been inaugurated by my dear son for the relief of the inevitable distress which must be bravely dealt with in the coming days,

 To this end I appeal to the women of our country, who are ever ready to help those in need, to give their services and assist in the local administration of the fund.

         Mary R.

Adlington and district had already set about relief work, and quickly responded also to the national appeal.

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 22 August 1914

A committee in connection with the Adlington ladies’ sewing party, for making garments for the soldiers and sailors and their families, has been formed, with Mrs F.P. Middleton as hon. secretary and treasurer.  The deacons of the Adlington Congregational Church kindly placed their school at the committee’s disposal, and at the first meeting on Wednesday afternoon there were over 50 ladies present.  Several sewing machines have been lent, and other offers of assistance are invited.

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 29 August 1914


The sewing party which was organised last week to make garments for soldiers etc., has met with considerable success, for at the meeting on Wednesday afternoon there was upwards of seventy ladies present.  The sewing parties are being held, by the kindness of the deacons, at the Adlington Congregational School.

Chorley Guardian and Leyland Hundred Advertiser 29 August 1914


In response to an invitation by the Adlington Urban District Council, a public meeting was held on Wednesday night in the Congregational Schoolroom in that district to enlist support on behalf of the Prince of Wales’s National Fund and to consider the best means of meeting cases of local distress.  The attendance was a large one, many gathering from Anderton and Heath Charnock. Mr W. Houghton (chairman of the District Council) presided and was supported by Messrs C.F. Sixsmith, H.G. Hollingworth. W. Sumner (assistant clerk to the Council), and R. Edge (surveyor). There were also present the Rev. T.H. Minett (vicar), Messrs T. Riding, T. Croston, A. Clark, W. Charnock, J. Newton, W. Unsworth, J.P., J.H. Sixsmith, A. Booth, C.E. Middleton J.P., F.P. Middleton, H.L. Wright, R.R. Roberts J.P., E.R. Walker J.P., J. Hood, M. Chadwick, J. Bond and others; Mesdames F.P. Middleton and T.H. Minett, Misses N. Middleton, O. Field, and Slater.  After considerable discussion it was resolved that a committee be formed for the purpose of dealing with the question and those appointed on the committee were as follows: - Messrs H.G. Hollingworth, R.R. Roberts J.P., E.R. Walker, W. Birchall, A. Clark, J. Fairclough, H. Chadwick, M. Chadwick, J. Bond, G.W. Stroud and Drs Rigby and Brand, with power to add.  At the close of the meeting a meeting of the committee was held, when a number of ladies from the adjoining three townships were added to the committee, as well as Mr Archer, schoolmaster at Rivington.