Littleborough’s History

Passchendaele or 3rd Ypres was not a single battle but a series of 8 assaults known by the following names:

1. Battle of Pilckem Ridge -    31st July – 2nd August 1917

2. Battle of Langemark  -    16th – 18th August 1917

Details of the men who fought are given here (below)


Private William Barcroft

In 1901, 5 years after being born in Littleborough, William lived with his grandmother, Mary, at 86 William St, together with his father Thomas Henry. By 1911 Mary and grandson had moved to New Road whereas his father Miller, lived at 86 William Street, Littleborough with his wife Ellen of 7 years and daughter. Before enlisting in November 1915 he lived at 36 Fenton St, Featherstall having been a scholar in St Andrew’s Day and Sunday schools and worked at Uber Mill. On Tuesday 31st July 1917, Private 204158, William Barcroft, 2nd/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, aged 21 years was killed in action during an attack on German held positions on the Pilckem Ridge (north of Ypres). William’s name is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, the Littleborough Cenotaph, St. Andrew’s War Memorial & Memorial Card and Littleborough Central School War Memorial where he received his early education. The St Andrew’s Magazine for October 1917 includes “We regret to chronicle the death in action in France of Willie Barcroft, at one time a scholar in our Day and Sunday school. RIP”. The Rochdale Observer for 5th September 1917 noted that he was killed at a time that he was expected home on leave and the Roll of Honour in the 8th September 1917 included 2 entries from his relatives at 36 Fenton St and from Pte Fred & Mrs Howarth and children of 4 Calliards Terrace, Smithy Bridge. The 3rd August 1918 edition noted St Andrew’s would tomorrow hold a Guild Anniversary service including a Memorial service for fallen members.

Private Harry Hawkard

Harry was born in Littleborough in 1897 and in 1901 Census was living at 53 Hare Hill Road, Littleborough with his parents George and Ruth. By 1911 Census he was living with his parents and sister Amy at 23 Clifton Street, St Annes-On-The-Sea. Prior to enlisting in Blackpool during February 1916, Harry was a grocer's assist living at 80 St Albans Rd, St Annes on Sea. After training, Private Hawkard left Folkestone on 8th December 1916, arriving at Etaples on 9th joining his battalion on 6th January 1917. 20 year old Pte Hawkard, 202168 of 1/4 Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was reported missing on 31st July 1917 and was later assumed to have been killed in action on that day near Wieltje. He has no known grave is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres. His name is not recorded on researched war memorials or Rolls of Honour.

Private James Albert Holt.

Private Holt was born in Littleborough in April 1885 and in 1891 he was living with his parents Charles John (36 – a Stoker) and Mary (34) and his 2 brothers and 3 sisters at Vale Cottage Box Street. The family of 10 subsequently lived at 9 Sale Street (they also had 2 lodgers) and later at 26 Peel Street in 1911. His father became a Coal & Clay Miner and James a Flannelette Raiser. James enlisted in Rochdale in September 1914 and at that time his father was living at 3 Trafford Street, Littleborough. A year later, James married Rosa Isabelle Saffery in Thanet, Kent with their son, Charles Alfred being born in January 1916. Private James Albert Holt, 43449, 73 Co Labour Corps, was killed in action on Tuesday 31st July 1917 and is buried in Grave Number III K 36 Essex Farm Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium. Notification of his death was sent to his father rather than his wife resulting in her writing to find out why requesting his possessions. A year later, Rosa married Moses Walsh. James is remembered on the Littleborough Cenotaph, the Greenhill Primitive Methodist WM and there is an Albert Holt on the Holy Trinity Church WM.

Private Percy Kershaw

Percy was born in 1896 but in 1901 he was living with the Wilkinson at 1 Nelson Street, Littleborough. Samuel was employed as a ‘Fulling Miller – Woollen’ and Percy, recorded as his adopted son. He remained in Littleborough in 1911 being employed as a Cotton Roving Frame Doffer and living at 149 Whitelees Road, Littleborough the Crouch family. and Samuel Wilkinson, now a widower.  Prior to enlisting in Rochdale he lived in Bare Hill Street.  On Wednesday 1 May 1918 it was reported that 22 year old Private 203537 Percy Kershaw, 2nd/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers who had been reported missing since Tuesday 31st July 1917 was killed in action on that date during  an attack on German held positions on the Pilckem Ridge (north of Ypres). William’s name inscribed on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in Belgium and he is one of the, two Percy Kershaw's listed on the Littleborough Cenotaph. The Rochdale Observer for 30th June 1917 included sentiments within its In Memoriam column from Mary and Grace Patterson. The Roll of Honour column of the Rochdale Observer for 4th May 1918 included sentiments from sister and brother, Janet and Sid and nephew Herbert.

Private Willie Charmer

Willie was born in Littleborough in 1898 3rd Qtr but by 1901 he had moved to his grandfather’s house at 3, Church Street, Whitworth where he boarded and his parents William and Isabella and brother Robert. By 1911 the family were living at 59 Hallfold, Whitworth. His widowed grandfather still lived with them but by now there were four more children. 18 year old Private Charmer  G/42976 of 2 Bn Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment), who enlisted in Bury was killed in action on 1st August 1917 when the 8th Division were engaged in taking the Hooge Chateau on the Westhoek Ridge around Bellewaarde Lake. Pte Charmer is remembered on the Menin Gate at Ypres, Belgium. The Rochdale Observer for 11th May 1918 reported “Private Willie Charmer …… has been killed. He had been missing since August 1st 1917. His age was 18 years. Before enlistment he was employed by the Hallfold Dyeing and Raising Company”. The same edition also included in the Roll of Honour column sentiments from his sorrowing father and mother, sisters and brothers and brother Robert (in Sheffield), his loving aunt, uncle and cousins, Eddy, Emily and Roland and from Uncle Frank, Aunt Linda, Cousin William Ernest.  His name is not recorded on researched war memorials or Rolls of Honour.

Private William Archer

William was born in Littleborough around 1878 but he had moved with his parents Ellis and Hannah family to Ashton under Lyne where he remained for many years before moving to 12, Bridge Street, Dukinfield (Cheshire) in 1901. William married Elizabeth Roylance in Manchester late 1905 in Manchester and in 1911 they were living at 136 Charles Street, Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire with their 3 children, Charlotte (6), Ellis (2) and baby Amy. At the time of his death, Elizabeth Archer was shown as living at 1 Holmes Yard, Spring Bank Street, Stalybridge. Private 25913 William Archer, 8th Bn East Surrey Regiment (formerly 4593 Manchester Regiment) enlisted in Ashton-Under-Lyne and was killed in action on Tuesday 7th August 1917 in attacks/skirmishes in the Sanctuary Wood and Chateau Wood area heading for Westhoek. His body was never recovered and he is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Ieper.

Private James Bostock

James was born in Manchester in 1890 and is recorded as living in the Newton Heath and Rochdale Road part of that City in 1911. His parents later moved to 24 Excelsior Terrace, Smithy Bridge. James Bostock enlisted in Rochdale and a report in the Rochdale Observer for 15th June 1915 notes that he left the Manor house (medical examination location) on Wednesday. 27 year old Private 21220 James Bostock, 9th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers was killed in action on Friday 17th August 1917 when his Bn took part in an attack at Langemark, Belgium. He is buried in Grave No I A 28 Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No 3, Ieper and is remembered on the Littleborough Cenotaph. The Roll of Honour in the Rochdale Observer for 1st September 1917 included sentiments from his family whilst the 10th November 1917 edition reported that his brother Cpl Albert Bostock won the military medal late 1917. He formerly resided at 24 Excelsior Terrace and was well known in Smithy Bridge.

Lance Corporal George Howcroft

Although he was born in Hadfield in 1895, by 1901 he was living at 5 George St, Walsden, Todmorden, with his parents Thomas and Rachel and his 4 sisters. In 1911 the family were living at 3 Smithy Nook, Littleborough with George, like his father and elder sister being a Calico Weaver. He later lived at 2 Kershaw Passage, Dearnley, attended the church there and worked at Shore Mills. Private Howcroft enlisted in Rochdale and visited St Andrews on 25th February 1915. He regularly wrote to the vicar including about being involved in an attack at Hooge on 30/31 July 1915. He was also on leave again and prior to August 1917 wrote to the Reverend Oakley saying “I was sorry to know of those two boys of our district (Dearnley) sacrificing all for King and Country and those we love at home, but, they are still in the keeping of God”. 22 year old Lance Corporal R/10827 George Howcroft, 9th Bn Kings Royal Rifle Corps was killed in action on Sunday 19th August 1917 and is buried in Grave Number I E 27. Perth Cemetery (China Wall), Zillebeke, Belgium and is remembered on St Andrew’s Memorial Card and War Memorial and on Littleborough Cenotaph. The chaplain of Corporal Howcroft’s Bn (Rev J W Rose) wrote to his parents stating that “Lance Corporal Howcroft’s end came while performing his duty in the fighting line. He was killed by a shell that burst nearby, like so many of his brave companions”. Letters to his parents also came from two of his comrades who lamented “His loss is keenly felt”. The St Andrew’s Magazine for September 1917 recorded his death and provided a short history of his time in the parish and his sacrifice. The Rochdale Observer on 3rd August 1918 noted that there would be a Memorial service for St Andrew’s Guild members who fell in the war and 17th August edition carried 3 sentiments from his mother, sisters and sister Janet.

Littleborough’s Fallen - click on picture or name

#Barcroft #Kershaw #Howcroft

No picture available

Privates Harry Hawkard, James Albert Holt

William Archer, James Bostock

For other Fallen Soldiers during August 1917 - see this page




Following the successful Battle of Messines Ridge, the Passchendaele campaign was the crucial part of Haig’s plan to break out of the Salient and capture the German U-boat bases at Oostende and Zeebrugge.

Lloyd George had great concerns about the growing casualty lists in Flanders.

The first stage of 3rd Ypres (Passchendaele) was delayed by nearly 8 weeks thus the Allies lost the ability of continuing along the higher ground that was the Passchendaele – Staden Ridge and instead opted to cross the flatter lands.

The area was mainly used for pasture (because of regular flooding) and passable only because of the dykes which were maintained under penalty by local farmers. The dryer days of June and July were replaced by the heaviest continual rains in living memory resulting in the low lying fields becoming a quagmire of mud made worse by the continuously shelling by German and Allied Artillery.

The delay also allowed the Germans to complete their new scheme – defence in depth with camouflaged pillboxes and strong points linked to the rear by new deeper trench lines. The forward positions were lightly manned by mutually supporting machine gunners, with the reserves were held in the rear ready for a strong counter attack. All were supported by accurate German artillery..

The difficulties faced by the troops did not go entirely unrecognised but even Gen Gough’s concerns were not enough to stop the attacks “when it came to the advance of infantry for an attack across the waterlogged shell holes, movement was so slow and so fatiguing that only the shortest of advances could be contemplated”. The mud of Passchendaele not only impeded progress, it was a death trap in itself because a soldier who fell off a duckboard might never get rescued or if he was shot, he was likely to drown in the mud and the many shell holes.

The progress of tanks was limited being constrained to areas where firmer ground remained or prepared trackways (an even then half fell into shell holes or mud from which they could not be extricated). Artillery was also extremely difficult to move.

In such conditions, men were expected to fight.