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

3. Battle of Menin Road - 20th – 25th September 1917

4. Battle of Polygon Wood - 26th Sept – 3rd Oct 1917



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

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BELOW ARE DETAILS OF THE SOLDIERS FROM LITTLEBOROUGH AS WELL AS WARDLE, MILNROW AND SMALLBRIDGE WHO FOUGHT AND FELL AT PASSCHENDAELE FROM 31st July 1917 until end of September 1917 together with details of where they actually fought. October and November details to follow.


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

At 8 am on 31st July 1917 the 2/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (part of 55 Division) left their assembly trenches near Wieltje (South and East of St Julien) and took part in an attack on German held positions. They immediately came under heavy machine gun fire from German strong points south of St Julien - Wine House, Spree Farm, Pond Farm and Hindu Cottage and suffered heavy casualties. The battalion were relieved at 9am on 1st August after suffering 473 casualties out of 593 taking part in the attack.


PRIVATE 204158 WILLIAM BARCROFT

2/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, aged 21 years, killed in action on 31st July 1917 and is remembered on the Menin Gate, Ypres, panel 33. Born in Littleborough, member of St Andrews, Dearnley and was schooled there and worked Uber Mill.

PRIVATE 203537 PERCY KERSHAW

2/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, 22 year old, reported missing since Tuesday the 31st July 1917, was killed in action on that date and is remembered on the Menin Gate, Ypres, panel 33. Born in Radcliffe, was adopted and lived in Littleborough.


The 1/4th Battalion Loyal North Lancs were also engaged in the Battle for Pilckem Ridge near Wieltje (between Ypres and St Julien) with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers also fighting on the Ridge.


PRIVATE 202168 HARRY HAWKARD

1/4th Bn Loyal North Lancashire, 20 year old, killed in action on 31st July 1917 and is remembered on Panels 41 & 43 on the Menin Gate. Born in Littleborough but later lived in Blackpool.

PRIVATE 54483 CLAUDE SMITH ROBINSON (MILNROW)

 15th Bn Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 21 years old, killed in action of 31st July 1917 and remembered on Panel 22 Menin Gate. Born in Hollinwood and resided in Milnrow. Connected with St James Church and Sunday School.


Location uncertain but it is believed 6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers were supporting an attack on St Julien, NE of Ypres (Ieper).


PRIVATE 400041 (OR 10249) JAMES ALBERT HOLT

6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers transferred to (43449) 73 Coy. Labour Corps, 32 year old, killed in action on Tuesday the 31 July 1917 and was buried in Grave No III K 36 Essex Farm Cemetery, Ieper. Born in and resident of Littleborough, remembered on Greenhill Methodist Chapel and the Holy Trinity Church war memorials.


As the Battle for the Pilckem Ridge continued ground conditions and rainfall meant progress was slower than expected, the infantry weren’t able to keep up with the Creeping Barrage and inability to maintain the line led to confusion and increasing casualties. The Germans counter-attacked, retaking St. Julien and regaining some positions in Ypres-Roulers railway district. The results were that in many areas there was a separation of the front line from the rear areas by a swamp of over 2 miles over which progress was virtually impossible. To the south east the Allies were engaged in taking the heavily defended Gheluvelt plateau. Private Charmer’s 2nd Bn Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment), 8th Division were engaged in taking the Hooge Chateau on the Westhoek Ridge around Bellewaarde Lake during the 31st July/1st August 1917. At the end of the day the Gheluvelt plateau was held by both with a dividing line through Clapham Jcn leaving Inverness Copse and Glencourse Wood in German hands.


PRIVATE G/42976 WILLIE CHARMER

 2nd Bn Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment), 18 years old, killed in action on 1st August 1917 and is remembered on Panels 49 and 51 on the Menin Gate. Born in Littleborough but later moving to Whitworth and employed by Hallford Dyeing & Raising Co.


Other areas of the front didn’t remain quiet as attacks, insufficient to be called battles continued apace including on the Gheluvelt Plateau and around Langemarcke and St Julien. Numerous assaults were made on Beck House, Borry Farm and other strongpoints. Some success was achieved by tanks including around Langemarcke but many of them succumbed to the mud and large shell craters. The German’s hold over Borry and Beck House continued until they were finally taken on 20th September 1917.  During August 1917 it is believed that the 8th Bn East Surrey Regiment, of which Private Archer was a member, was involved in attacks/skirmishes in the Sanctuary Wood and Chateau Wood area heading for Westhoek.


PRIVATE 25913 WILLIAM ARCHER

8th Bn East Surrey Regiment (formerly 4593 Manchester Regiment), 36 year old, killed in action on Tuesday 7th August 1917 and remembered on the Menin Gate, Ypres, Panel 34. He was born in Littleborough and later lived in Ashton and Dukinfield.


Subsequent attacks failed to capture the whole of the Gheluvelt Plateau.


Battle of Langemarcke                   16th – 18th August 1917

During the battle, the 9th Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers attacked the ridge south of Langemark, straightening the front line near Rat House, just south of Langemarcke to the east of the road to  Zonnebeke.


PRIVATE 21220 JAMES BOSTOCK

9th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, 27 year old, killed in action on Friday 17th August 1917, and buried in Grave Number I A 28 Brandhoek New Military Cemetery No 3. He was born in Manchester but later lived in Smithy Bridge.


Passchendaele Campaigns - Intervening Periods

Of the smaller operations was that undertaken by 9th Bn Kings Royal Rifle Corps to the NW of Zillebeke near to Halfway house between Zillebeke and the Menin Road.


LANCE CORPORAL R/10827 GEORGE HOWCROFT

 9th Bn Kings Royal Rifle Corps, 22 years old, killed in action on 19th August 1917, and is buried in Grave Number I E 27 Perth Cemetery (China Wall) Zillebeke. He was born in Hadfield but later lived in Littleborough, was a member of St Andrews Church and worked at Shore Mill.


The 10th Bn Welch Regiment were in action around Langemarcke


PRIVATE 291020 GEORGE TAYLOR CHADWICK (MILNROW)

10th Bn Welch Regiment, 19 years old, killed in action 19th August 1917 and remembered on Panel 93 Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Rochdale and resided in Milnrow. Was connected with St Stephens Congregational Church and employed as Butcher at Milnrow Co-operative Society


Local soldiers were also involved in attacks in the St Julien area and the attack on Borry, Beck House and Iberian Farms which was so costly for Littleborough’s soldiers.


The 11th Bn Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders were involved in an unsuccessful attack on Potsdam, Vampire & Borry Farms on 22nd August 1917.


PRIVATE S/21199 WILLIAM BROWN (MILNROW)

11th Bn Argyll & Sutherland, 32 years old, killed in action on 22nd August 1917 and remembered on Panel 142 on Tyne Cot memorial. Born in Liverpool, resided in Rochdale, remembered on St Peters, Newbold, WM.


The 1/6th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers were in the line on the Frezenberg Ridge (near St Julien) during the 30th August until 1st September 1917)


SERGEANT 241432 OWEN CROSSLEY

 1/6th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, 22 year old, killed in action on Saturday 1st September 1917.and remembered on Panels 54 to 60 and 163A of Tyne Cot Memorial. He was born in Littleborough, attended the Central school, worked for Littleborough Dyeing Co.

PRIVATE 241316 NATHAM SYKES (MILNROW)

1/6th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, 22 year old, killed in action on Saturday 1st September 1917.and is buried in grave No I D 3 in Aeroplane Cemetery, Belgium. Born in and resided in Todmorden and worked at Fernley Mills.


Littleborough soldiers continued to be involved in preliminary skirmishes and attacks in preparation for the next stages of the Passchendaele campaign. Cpl Snape was near Hell Fire Corner or slightly in the rear with the horse lines, whilst Private Lovatt was probably north of Ypres.


CORPORAL 74276 JOHN SNAPE

Soldier uncertain but believed to be this man serving with “A” Bty 112th Bde Royal Field Artillery killed in action on Saturday 1st September 1917 aged 23 and buried in Grave No 1 G 2 Belgium Battery Corner Cemetery.

PRIVATE 47973 JOHN W LOVATT

 22nd Labour Bn Cheshire Regiment, Labour Corp, 41 year old, killed in action in Belgium on Tuesday 4th September 1917 and buried in grave No IV E 48 Bard Cottage Cemetery, Ieper. He was born and mainly lived in Dearnley working in a pottery but later moved to Smallbridge being was employed at Ashbrook Hey Dyeworks. He attended St Andrews Church.


Frezenberg Ridge

On Thursday 6th, at 07:15hrs, after heavy artillery bombardment, three companies of the 1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers left their trenches to capture German held positions in Beck House and Iberian Farms with the 1/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers attacking Borry Farm (all on the Frezenberg Ridge). After early success and having heavy casualties the remnants of the companies came under heavy German counter-attacks and machine-gun fire and were forced to retire to their original trenches. Twelve Littleborough soldiers were killed (or died a day later) in an action which saw the greatest number of deaths of Littleborough soldiers in one day. On the 6th September, the 1/6th Bn, suffered 150 casualties in an unsuccessful attack on Beck House & Iberian Farms, Frezenberg, Belgium.


PRIVATE 241819 JOHN WILLIAM ARMSTRONG

1/6th Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers, 38 year old, previously reported missing was killed in action on Thursday 6th September 1917 and buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, in Grave Number VII H 5. Born in Rochdale, later lived in Hollingworth and Rakewood and remembered on St Hilda’s WM.

PRIVATE 241723 FRANK BUTTERWORTH

1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, 22 years old, previously reported missing was killed in action on Thursday 6th September 1917 and remembered on the Addenda Panels at Tyne Cot Memorial. Believed born and lived in Littleborough and attended St Andrews Church

PRIVATE 26775 GEORGE HENRY FRETWELL

1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, 22 years old, killed in action on 6th September 1917 and remembered on Panels 54-60 & 163A at Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Shawforth but moved to Littleborough. He worked at Shore Mills and attended St Barnabas Church.

PRIVATE 244288 WILLIAM HENRY HAMER

1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, 40 year old, killed in action on 6th September 1917. and remembered on Panel 54 to 60 and 163A at Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Littleborough but moved to Rochdale

PRIVATE 241457 STANLEY JACKSON

1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, 24 year old, killed in action on Thursday 6th September 1917, remembered on Panel 54 to 60 and 163A Tyne Cot Memorial. Born and lived in Littleborough attending Central School and Victoria St Wesleyan Chapel.

PRIVATE 241539 FRED MILLS

1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, age 25 was killed in action on 6th September 1917 and remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Rochdale and lived in Hurstead. Attended St John’s church but also connected with St Andrews Church. He worked at State Mills.

PRIVATE 203419 TOM PARKER

 1/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, 22 year old, reported missing in action on Thursday 6th September 1917 presumed killed on that date and remembered on Panel 54 to 60 and 163A, Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Norden but later lived in Littleborough. Worked at Fothergill & Harvey’s Summit and remembered on Holy Trinity War Memorial.

SGT 241322 ALBERT SEAL

1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, age 26, killed in action on 6th September 1917 and his name is recorded on Panels 54-60 & 163A at Tyne Cot Memorial nr Passchendaele. Born in Walsden, lived for some years in Littleborough before returning to Todmorden. He was connected to Ebenezer Congregational Chapel in Summit and Patmos Congregational Church and Sunday School in Todmorden and worked at Derdale Mill.

PRIVATE 241536 JOHN ASHWORTH WALTON

1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers 21 years old, killed in action on 6th September 1917 and remembered on Panels 54-60 & 163A at Tyne Cot Memorial nr Passchendaele. Born in Rochdale and lived in Wardle/Hurstead and attended St Andrews Church..

PRIVATE 240750 ARTHUR WEBSTER

 1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, age 23, killed in action on 6th September 1917 and remembered on Panels 54-60 & 163A at Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Todmorden, later living in Littleborough, he worked at Uber Mill and attended Durn Baptist Church.

PRIVATE 36042 THOMAS WHITTAKER

1/6th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, who had been posted as missing, had in fact been killed in action on Thursday 6th September 1917 and remembered on Panel 54 to 163A Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Ireland but later living in Littleborough he was employed at Messrs Kershaw Bros. Sladen Mill.   

PRIVATE 11684 HERBERT GARLICK (MILNROW)

 1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, age 20, killed in action on 6th September 1917 and remembered on Panel 57 at Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Rochdale and enlisted in Milnrow. Commemorated at St Anns Church, Belfield and worked at Firgrove Mills.

PRIVATE 241441 JOSEPH WEDGE (WARDLE - HURSTEAD)

1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, age 29, killed in action on 6th September 1917 and remembered on Panel 57 at Tyne Cot Memorial. Lived in Hurstead but moved to Rochdale. He worked at Clover Mill.

PRIVATE 241821 JOHN WILLIAM CONNOLLY

1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, age 32, died of wounds on 7th September 1917 and is buried in grave No XV III H16A in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. Born in Manchester but later living in Littleborough he was employed at the Littleborough Dyeing Co.

PRIVATE 241423 DAVID LONGBOTTOM (MILNROW)

1/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, age 21, died of wounds on 7th September 1917 and is buried in grave No VII F 16(G) in Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Poperinghe. Born in Leeds but resided in Newhey. Employed at Ellenroad Mill and remembered on the War memorial of St Thomas, Newhey.


Also on 6th September 1917 the 11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers were engaged in an attack the 2-6th Line Westhoek Ridge


PRIVATE 28034 JOHN WILLIE LORD (WARDLE)

11th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, killed in action on 6th September 1917 and remembered on Panel 54-60 & 163A  at Tyne Cot Memorial.


As the warfare raged Rifleman Tom Schofield (Newhey) was killed in the Elverdinghe/Pilckem Road area and Private Milne was killed whist under heavy shelling near Broenbeek on the Pilckem Ridge.


RIFLEMAN R/39506 TOM SCHOFIELD (MILNROW)

12th Bn Kings Royal Rifle Co, 24 years old, killed in action on 10th September 1917 and is buried in grave No III E 19 in Artillery Wood Cemetery, Belgium. He was born in Oldham and resided in Newhey and is remembered on St James War Memorial.


PRIVATE 19441 JOHN JAMES MILNE

Coldstream Guards, 30 years old, killed in action on 17th September 1917 and remembered on Panel 9 to 10 Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Rainow (Cheshire) and lived in Stockport and later in Littleborough.


The 18th Bn Kings Royal Rifle Corps were engaged in action around Bodmin Copse, LONE HOUSE' behind JAVA AVENUE between SURREY FARM and DUMBARTON WOOD, South east of Stirling Castle and Menin Road prior to the Battle of Menin Road..


RIFLEMAN R/8531 ARTHUR HAIGH (MILNROW)

 18th Bn Kings Royal Rifle Corp, 23 years old, died of wounds on 18th September 1917 and is buried in grave No XVIII in Hooge Crater Cemetery, Belgium. He was born and resided in Newhey and was connected with the Newhey Primitive Methodist Sunday school, is remembered on St Thomas War Memorial and employed at Jubilee Mill.


Menin Road                                  20th – 25th September 1917

The British plan was for the increased use of heavy and medium artillery to destroy German concrete pill-boxes and machine-gun nests and engage in more counter-battery fire with Aircraft being used for systematic air observation of German troop movements. On 20th September, the Allies attacked over an 8 mile front and captured most of their objectives, to a depth of about 1,500 yards by mid-morning. Numerous counter-attacks either failed to gain ground or made only a temporary advance. During this engagement the Australians attacked over Bellewaarde Ridge and through Glencourse Wood beyond Westhoek/North of Polygon Wood and the Hanebeke towards Iron Cross Redoubt whilst the Welsh attacked Hessian Wood. After 20th September both sides made minor attacks with a mutually-costly attack by the Germans on 25th September which recaptured pillboxes at the south western end of Polygon Wood. Next day, the German positions near the wood were swept away in the Battle of Polygon Wood. It is believed that Lance Corporal Wallwork was involved in this battle. Preparations commenced on 15th September 1917 with Artillery bombardment.


PRIVATE 3979 JAMES HERBERT FITTON (WARDLE)

5th Australian Infantry, 28 years old, killed in action on 20th September 1917 and buried in grave No L V F9 at Poelcapelle British Cemetery. He is remembered on St Johns War Memorial at Smallbridge.

 PRIVATE 62554 STANLEY CHARLES CRYER (SMALLBRIDGE)

9th Bn Welsh Regiment,19 years old, killed in action on 20th September 1917 and remembered on Panel 54-60 & 163A  at Tyne Cot Memorial.

PRIVATE 202768 HARRY HULME (MILNROW)

5th Bn King’s Liverpool Regiment, 30 years old, killed in action on 20th September 1917 and buried in Grave No X A 1 He was born in Milnrow and later resided in Liverpool.


LANCE CORPORAL LEONARD WALLWORK

 32 Bn Royal Fusiliers, 23 year old. There is some confusion regarding date of his death. In answer to a letter, an official response informed them that “After careful enquiries he regrets to state that there can be no possible doubt that Lance Corporal Wallwork was killed on the 20/21st September 1917.” The CWGC advises died on Wednesday the 19th September 1917, whereas SDGW shows killed in action on 22nd September 1917, all of which are relevant to the Battle for Menin Rd which his Division was involved in. He is buried in grave No LVII E 13 Tyne Cot Cemetery. Born in and lived in Wardle attending St James Church there but worked in Shore Mill.,


St Julien

On 20th September 1917 four companies from the 2/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers left their trenches on the Frezenberg Ridge at 5:40 am and were engaged in an attack to gain the Green Line, east of St Julien, they attacked the German strong point Schuler Galleries. Despite German artillery fire the galleries were captured by 6:37 am, the battalion losing half its strength. At 11:30 am on the 23 September the battalion was relieved, total casualties, 7 officers and 33 soldiers killed, 8 officers and 218 soldiers wounded, 1 officer and 80 soldiers missing, 347 killed wounded or missing from a total force of 592 taking part in the attack


LANCE CORPORAL 203870 HARRY ALLEN

 2/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers 22 years old, killed in action on Thursday 20th September 1917 and remembered on Panel 54 to 60 and 163A, Tyne Cot Memorial. He was born in Littleborough but later moved to Rochdale and worked at Wright’s Mill

PRIVATE 29607 EDWARD LORD

2/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, 24 years old, was killed in action on Thursday 20th September 1917 and remembered on Panel 54 to 60 and 163A Tyne Cot Memorial. He was born in Colne but moved to Littleborough and was a Motor Lorry Driver.

.PRIVATE 203760 ALBERT MILLS

2/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers 30 years old, killed in action on Thursday 20th September 1917 and remembered on panel 54 to 60 and 163A Tyne Cot Memorial. Born and lived in Smithy Bridge, attended the United Methodist Church and worked at Calliard’s Mill

CORPORAL 24450 LEONARD CHADWICK (WARDLE)

2/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers 19 years old, killed in action on Thursday 20th September 1917 and remembered on panel 54 to 60 and 163A Tyne Cot Memorial.

PRIVATE 202854 FRED KAY

2/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers 22 years old, died of wounds on Saturday 22nd September 1917 and buried in grave No V D 31 at Mendinghem Military Cemetery.


As the Battle of the Menin Road raged, another 2 Littleborough soldiers was killed.


SERGEANT 22477 ARTHUR STONEHOUSE THOMPSON

116 Company, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) formerly 2900 Liverpool Regiment, 29 years old, was killed in action on 23rd September 1917 and remembered on Panel 154 to 159 and 163A, Tyne Cot. Born in Colne, moved to Littleborough but latterly lived in Blackpool.


DRIVER 71930 JOHN GREENWOOD

 Motor Transport Section (formerly 21298 of the Liverpool Regiment). CWGC and SDGW show 9 Co MGC which was attached to the 9th Infantry Brigade of 3 Division. He was 42 yr old and killed in action on 25th September 1917 being buried in grave No I H 22, Brandhoek New British Cemetery No 3. Born in Bacup and lived there but was a well known Carter working with Burrell’s, Summit.

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3rd YPRES (JULY TO NOVEMBER 1917) - PASSCHENDAELE

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.


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