Littleborough’s History


There are some 270 names remembered on the World War 1 plaques located behind the Cenotaph in Littleborough Square. Research indicates that there were 274 men who were killed during that war who lived in Littleborough. Of these, over 20 are remembered on other local war memorials including those in churches and chapels but there a 5 Littleborough soldiers who as far as can be traced are not remembered on any local war memorial. In one instance, his brother is remembered but Harry Mason isn’t. Clifford Firth was also born and bred in Littleborough but again has been forgotten. The other 3 soldiers Harry Barker, John William Connolly and James Robert Egerton came to Littleborough before the war but are also not honoured. John William Connolly was one of 12 soldiers who died as a result of attacks on German Stronghold on the 6th September 1917 during the battle of Passchendaele.

Apparently these 5 soldiers cannot all be remembered  on our main War Memorial.

Details of the soldiers are included on the History Society’s Website and on LHAS Remembering Littleborough’s Soldiers facebook page.

Sapper Harry Barker was born in Bury in 1883 and had lived in Castleton but by 1911 Harry was living with his wife of 6 years (married at Rochdale Registry Office on 24th December 1904), Mary Jane and their son, Thomas Henry at 124 Featherstall Road, Littleborough. Before enlisting in December 1915, Harry was a Stonemason and had moved to 54 New Road, Dearnley. Mobilized on 7th August 1916 Harry was subsequently posted to the Royal Engineers. Unfortunately, 38 year old Sapper Barker died of wounds received during the war on 5th April 1921 and is buried in Grave 24R at Dearnley St Andrew’s Churchyard but otherwise is not recorded on any local war memorial.

Private John William Connolly was born in Manchester in 1884 but by 1911 was boarding with the Playford family (his cousin) at 1 Featherstall Square Littleborough and was a Velvet Finisher at the Littleborough Dyeing Co. On Friday 7th September 1917 his cousin Jane Playford, now of 10 Middle Newgate, Calderbrook Road, received news that Private John W Connolly died of wounds in a casualty clearing station located near the village of Lijssenthoek in Belgium on 7th September 1917, his body interred in grave number XVIII H 16A Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium. John was one of many local soldiers who fell attacking Beck House and Iberian farms north east of Ypres, most of who ARE ON local war memorials.

Lance Sergeant James Robert Egerton was born in Newton Heath in 1899 and lived in Manchester most of his life. James, who enlisted in Manchester came home on-leave to his parents house at 59 Smithy Bridge Road, Littleborough but unfortunately 19 year old Lance Sergeant James R Egerton died of pneumonia on the 19th November 1918. He is buried in the cemetery adjoining St Andrew's Churchyard, and on Sunday 24th November 1918 a memorial service in his honour was held at the Smithy Bridge United Methodist Free Church but otherwise James is not recorded on any local war memorial.

Private Clifford Firth was born in Littleborough in 1898 and having lived at 24 Smithy Bridge Road with his parents in 1901, the family had moved to 24 Excelsior Terrace, Smithy Bridge in 1911 with Clifford still at school. Having enlisted in Bury he served in France but 20 year old Private Clifford Firth died on Friday the 8th November 1918, in a military hospital from wounds he had received during the very last few days of the Great War. Clifford’s name is inscribed on the family grave but otherwise is not recorded on any local war memorial.

Private Harry Mason was born in Littleborough in 1898 and in 1901 he lived with his family at 11 Bare Hill Street, Littleborough. By 1911 the family had moved to 25a Todmorden Road. Prior to enlisting in Bury Harry worked for the Littleborough Dyeing Co in Calderbrook. Harry was in a working party repairing road when they came under attack from the ‘Fritz’. Harry was badly wounded 4 in four places but after being carried to a place of safety pleaded to his rescuers for them to go back “As there were others worse than himself.” Unfortunately, 20 year old Private Harry Mason was more seriously injured than he believed and died of wounds on 28th June 1917. The Rochdale Observer for 2nd November 1918 reported on the sad news being sent to his parents that their eldest son Alfred had been killed in action. The article also reported that about 3 weeks ago a postcard had been received from Private Harry Mason stating that he had been injured and admitted to hospital adding that ‘since when nothing was heard’. This suggests some terrible confusion regarding when Harry died. Ultimately, his parents learnt that they had lost their only 2 sons. Unlike his brother Alfred, Harry does not appear to be recorded on any local war memorial!

These soldiers absence from the memorial plaques is all the more surprising seeing that 5 remembered soldiers remain unknown or the connection of another 2 with Littleborough is unclear