Littleborough’s History







There were 8 Soldiers from Littleborough who fell during April 1917 in locations other than around Arras in France including in Belgium, Salonika (now Greece) and elsewhere in France. The soldiers were in Privates Charles E Strawson (Ernest Spinks), Edward Clarke, Corporal Ben Osbert Witham, Privates Herbert Ratcliffe, James Howarth, Frank Greenwood, Fred Wood,  James Albert Woodhead and Herbert Holmes and Jesse McIntyre


Private Charles E Strawson (Ernest Spinks)

In 1911 Manchester born (1895) Ernest Spinks, a Bleaching Labourer, was living with his family at 25 Frederick Street, Whitelees Road, Littleborough. Prior to enlisting in Rochdale in February 1915 he was employed by the Littleborough Dyeing Company in Calderbrook. Ernest is likely to have enlisted under the assumed name of Strawson and was a signaller. He had been in France since late 1915/early 1916 but on Sunday 1st April 1917 22 year old Private 15723 Charles Ernest Strawson, 8th Battalion Devonshire Regiment died of wounds in France as and is buried in Grave Number VIII. A. 179 in the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France.  His name is inscribed on Littleborough Cenotaph and Littleborough Central School War Memorial. By then his father, Thomas Spinks was living at 2 The Croft, Longclough, Littleborough. His family included sentiments in the Roll of Honour of the Rochdale Observer for 7th April 1917.

Private Edward Clarke

Edmund was born in Burnley in 1896 and in 1901 he was living with his parents George (a Wire Mattress Manufacturer) and Sarah Ann and family at 2 Ince Court, Burnley. The 1911 Census records Edward Clarke lodging at the Jockey Tavern in Cornholme, Todmorden. He enlisted in Halifax but on May 2nd April 1917 Private Edward Clarke 17591 (or 15791), 9th Batt. Devonshire Regiment was killed in action in France. His name is inscribed on Bay 4 Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France, and on the Cenotaph in Littleborough. There is no information to confirm he actually lived, worked or worshipped in Littleborough

Corporal Ben Osbert Whitham

Ben was born in Hebden Bridge in 1893 but by 1911 the family had moved to 9 Central Avenue, Littleborough with Ben being an apprentice Clogger. He enlisted in Rochdale being wounded in September 1915. Official information was received weekending 21 April 1917 that 23 year old Corporal R/6866 Ben Osbert Whitham, 11th Bn Kings Royal Rifle Corps had been killed in action on Wednesday 4th April 1917 and is buried in Grave No III F 9, Metz-En-Couture Communal Cemetery British Extension, France. His name is on Holy Trinity and St Barnabas War Memorials and also on the Littleborough Cenotaph. The Rochdale Observer for 6th April 1918 included sentiments from his family who now lived at 50 Featherstall Road, Littleborough. The Rochdale Observer for 5th May 1917 reported on a Memorial Service held on Sunday Morning for L/Cpl Ben Witham in Littleborough Church. The “Dead March” was played to the fairly large congregation.

Private Herbert Ratcliffe

Herbert was born in Norden in 1891 and 1911 Herbert lived his with aunt and uncle and family at 175 Whitelees Road, Littleborough. Herbert worked as an Operative in the warehouse. The Rochdale Observer for 28th March 1914 includes a story about a Herbert Ratcliffe, a flannelette raiser who got a black and white collie dog. He then received a visit from PC Barton the following morning and as he hadn’t a licence he ended up in court. Explaining he had been working late and had obtained the licence the very next day, his case was dismissed. His address was quoted as 86 William Street. Prior to enlisting in Rochdale on Feb 28th, 1916,  he lived with his sister at 2 Fletchers Square off Bare Hill and was employed at Messrs Kershaw Bros. Sladen Mill and was associated with Stubley Primitive Methodist Chapel where he was the secretary. Private Ratcliffe was wounded on the 3rd October 1916 returning to the trenches in France on 28th February 1917. It was officially confirmed in May 1917 that 25 year old Private 204461 Herbert Ratcliffe, “B” Coy 3rd/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers had been killed in action on May 16th April 1917 whilst in the trenches at Givenchy. He is buried in Grave Number VI D 23 Bethune Town Cemetery, France and remembered on the Cenotaph in Littleborough. During the week ending 16th June 1917 a special service was held at Stubley Primitive Methodist Chapel in memory of Privates Ratcliffe and Yeoman.

Private James Howarth

Born in Littleborough in 1886 James Howarth, 4th Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers enlisted in the forces in Rochdale in May 1916. After serving in France for four months he was invalided to a hospital in England on account of illness. He was discharged from hospital in March 1917 as being fit for duty and he returned to his regiment. Six weeks later on Tuesday 24th April 1917, 31 year old Private 28745 Howarth, died in a camp in Wales the result of either an illness or accident in training, (the 4th Bn was a training unit stationed Barry Docks, Glamorganshire 1916 until February 1919). His body was brought home on Thursday 26th April 1917 and on May afternoon of 30th April 1917, he was buried in St Andrew’s Churchyard with military honours, the Rev. G. R. Oakley Conducting the service. At the funeral there was a firing party from Bury Barracks and the "Last Post" was sounded by a bugler. A wreath was received "With Deepest Sympathy from Officers, W.O's, N.C.O's and men of Company Z. 3rd Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers. On his grave is a plain Commonwealth Graves Commission Headstone inscribed with his number, rank, name, regiment and date of his death. He left a widow and four children living at 7 Exchange Court. His name is recorded on St Andrew’s Memorial Card. Details were included within the St Andrew’s Parish newsletter for June 1917.

Private Frank Greenwood

Frank was born in Littleborough in June 1893 but by 1911 he was living at 21 Brookland St, Castleton, Rochdale with his brother James and family. He was a Stripper and Grinder at the Barchant Spinning Co Mill. He attended St Mary’s Church, Balderstone and played football for the Lower Place United Methodist Church Club. He enlisted into the Royal Regiment of Artillery, RFA at Manchester on 4th July 1914 but was discharged on payment of £10. Two months later he enlisted in Rochdale but this time into the 10th Bn Devonshire Regiment. He went to France before going to Salonika. Private 13306 Frank Greenwood, 10th Bn, Devonshire Regiment was killed in action in Salonika on Tuesday 24th April 1917, his memory commemorated by the Dorian Memorial, Greece. The Roll of Honour in the Rochdale Observer for 26th May 1917 includes sentiments from Edgar and Alice.

Corporal Fred Wood

Born around 1895 in Littleborough, in 1901 he was living with his parents George (41) and Margaret (43) and his elder sister Alice (21 a Cotton Weaver) and brother Benjamin (19 a Velvet Finisher) at 4 – 6 Calderbrook Road. His father was a Boot & Shoe maker. The 1911 Census shows him living with his widowed mother (of 3 years) and a boarder at 42 Calderbrook Road. At that time, Fred was a Dyehouse Labourer. He later enlisted in Rochdale and in May 1915 the Rochdale Observer reported him as being wounded. At some stage his mother moved to 133 Whitelees Road. 22 year old Corporal 5790 Fred Wood, “A” Company, 13th Bn, Manchester Regiment died of wounds on Wednesday 25th April 1917 received whilst serving with the British Salonika Forces (reported in the Rochdale Observer of 29th September 1917). At 8:45pm on the 24th April 1917 and after a heavy allied artillery bombardment, “A” “B” and “”D” Co. (“C Co In reserve) of the 13th Bn Manchester Regiment left their trenches to take their part in an attack on the very strong 3,000 yard enemy held Bulgar Line. Three companies when they reached the enemy wire were met with rifle fire but sustained light casualties. “B” Co in the centre with “D” Co. To their right captured their objectives with little opposition, “A” Co. On the left captured and occupied Sangars on the Krastali-Doldzeli trench finding little opposition. During the night the positions came under enemy artillery fire, the following day (25th April) the 13th Battalion Underwent three counter-attacks (morning, afternoon and late in the day) which were driven off by machine-gun and rifle fire, enemy aeroplanes were active and shelling by enemy field guns and howitzers was frequent, the Bn consolidated their positions throughout the night but the work hindered by continuous artillery fire. On the 26th the enemy again counter-attacked but with no success, the following day was wet and miserable, the Battalions positions heavy shelled, during the evening the Bn was relieved by the 9th East Lancashire Regiment. During the three day engagement the Bn casualties were two officers killed, of the other ranks, 35 killed, 225 wounded and 2 missing. (Cpl Wood was possibly wounded and died the next day in the same action in which Private Greenwood lost his life). His memory, like Private Greenwoods is commemorated by the Dorian Memorial, Greece. Cpl Fred Wood is also commemorated on the Holy Trinity War Memorial, Littleborough Central School Roll of Honour now located in the History Centre and the Littleborough Cenotaph.

Private James Albert Woodhead

Private Woodhead born in Bradford in 1888 and at the time of the 1901 census he was living with his parents Albert and Emma and his 6 brothers at 8, Bakes Street, Bradford. He was employed as a Woollen Spinner. By 1911 he was boarding with his foster parents Horace (37 a Layer in Flannelette) and Emily Alice (31) Travis, 8 Gatehouse, Littleborough and James was as employed as a Labourer in a Pottery. Mr & Mrs Travis later moved to 20 Gate House, Blackstone Edge Old Road. He was employed at Messrs Kershaw's Sladen Mill and was associated with Holy Trinity Church. He enlisted in Rochdale November 1915 in the Duke of Wellingtons West Riding Regiment, (Regimental Number 13032) but he was transferred to the 116th Coy Machine Gun Co before being posted to France in May 1916. 29 year old Private 14725 James Albert Woodhead was severely wounded in Belgium on Thursday 24th April 1917 and subsequently died of these wounds three days later on Sunday 27th April 1917 and is buried Grave Number II C 3 Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Pte Woodhead is remembered on the Holy Trinity War Memorial and Littleborough Cenotaph. Private Woodhead had a brother (not living locally) who was killed September 1916 and also three other brothers serving in the army. The Rochdale Observer of 16th May 1917 reported that a special service for LCpl Eastham, Ptes J A Woodhead and H Holmes was held at Holy Trinity Church on Sunday and that special hymns and the “Dead March” was played and that there was a large congregation. His family at 20 Gatehouse inserted a sentiment in his memory in the Rochdale Observer in May 1920.

Private Herbert Holmes

Herbert was born in Littleborough in 1889 2nd Qtr and in 1911 he was living with his parents William and Mary Jane at 5 Calderbrook Terrace. His father was a Cotton Cloth Finisher in a Dye Works whilst Herbert worked as a Cotton Card Room Jobber. The family also had a lodger. Private 242318 Herbert Holmes 2nd/6th Bn attd Light Trench Mortar Bn Lancashire Fusiliers (enlisted in Rochdale) was killed in action in France on Saturday 21st April 1917 whilst in the trenches at Festubert. On Sunday night 13th May 1917 a special service was held in the Summit Ebenezer Congregational whilst on the morning of the same date a special service for LCpl Eastham, Ptes J A Woodhead and H Holmes was held at Littleborough Parish Church as reported by the Rochdale Observer of 16th May 1917. Private Holmes name is inscribed on the War Memorial of the Ebenezer Chapel, Holy Trinity Church, Littleborough Central School Memorial (now in the History Centre) and also on Littleborough Cenotaph. Private Holmes is buried in Gorre British and Indian Cemetery, France, Grave Number IV. A. 14. This is the same cemetery as Pte David Woodhead. In the In Memoriam column of the Rochdale Observer 20th April 1918 included sentiments from his close family, uncle Jim (in France) and sweetheart Ada.

Private Jesse McIntyre - Picture

Jesse was born in Littleborough in 1885 and in 1911 he was living with his brother and family at 1 Green Vale, Littleborough being employed as a Bricklayer’s Labourer. Prior to enlisting in Rochdale in October 1914 he was employed by Messrs Preston & Dryland, builders and attended Littleborough Parish Church but lived in the Parish of St Andrews, Dearnley. Private McIntyre had been wounded twice whilst in the forces including his thigh being crushed due to a trench wall falling on him. Only 2 months after he returned to the trenches in France he was killed in action. Miss McIntyre, 10 Union Road, Wardle was officially informed that her 32 year old brother Private 204408 Jesse McIntyre, 3rd/5th Batt Lancashire Fusiliers, had been killed in action on Thursday 26th April 1917, his body interred in Grave Number III C 3 Brown’s Road Military Cemetery, Festubert, Pas de Calais, France. The St Andrew’s parish magazine for June 1917 included “We are very sorry to hear also that Jesse McIntyre has been killed in action in France. He had been twice wounded previously. Our deep sympathy is with his friends. RIP.” His name is entered on St Andrews, Dearnley War Memorial and Memorial Card and on the Wardle War Memorial.