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)
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 October 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.
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.,
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.
The Battle of Broodseinde on 4th October 1917, was the last of three successful “bite and hold” battles launched by General Herbert Plumer during the middle phase of 3rd Ypres. Sapper Harry Henthorne was probably killed during preparations for the battle
SAPPER 81930 HARRY HENTHORNE MM (MILNROW)
97th Field Co Royal Engineers, 34 years old, killed in action on 2nd October 1917 and remembered on panel 8 Tyne Cot Memorial He was born Milnrow and largely resided in Newhey and employed as a Stone Mason.
Although the battles for Passchendaele continued, Littleborough soldiers are next recorded as in action in the battle for Poelcapelle
Battle of Poelcapelle 9th October 1917
On 9th October 1917, the armies of the French to the north and British to the south along a 7.5 mile front, from south of Broodseinde in the south to St Jansbeek in the north. They were to advance for about half of the distance from the Broodseinde Ridge to Passchendaele. Along the main front, advances in the north of the attack front were retained by the allies but most of the ground taken in front of Passchendaele and on the Becelaere and Gheluvelt spurs was lost to German counter-attacks. Mud and rain hindered the retention of captured ground and many casualties were taken on both sides.
From the 9th until the 11th October 1917 the 2/6th & 2/8th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers took part in the battle attacking the ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ lines south east of Passchendaele along the railway line and Zonnebeke Road. During the three days of fighting for and beyond the village of Poelcapelle (during which the infantry were supported by tanks), the battalion suffered heavy casualties. The ‘Red line’ was taken and the 3/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers pushed on towards the ‘Blue line’ with some actually reaching the outskirts of Passchendaele itself. However, counter attacks and withdrawals resulted in a return to the ‘Red Line’. On the 10th October the 3/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers were involved in a continuing attack on Augustus Wood, Passchendaele. Note Passchendaele was not captured until 6th November 1917. The map above shows the Front Line after the attack and the areas captured towards the end of the “Battle for Passchendaele”.
PRIVATE 241232 THOMAS WILD
2/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers 19 year old, was killed in action the 9th October 1917, his name inscribed on Tyne Cot Memorial. He was born and lived in Littleborough and recorded on Holy Trinity and St Andrews War Memorials
PRIVATE 20150 LEWIS ASHWORTH (WARDLE)
2/6th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers 30 year old was killed in action on 9th October 1917 and remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial. Lived on Birch Road, was employed as a Finisher at Wasp Mill
LANCE CORPORAL 204411 WILFRED LEE
3/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, aged 29, killed in action on Wednesday 10th October 1917 and remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial. Born and lived in Littleborough, attended Central School and Holy Trinity School and Church. He worked at Ebor Engineering.
PRIVATE 204411 EDGAR BUTTERWORTH TAYLOR (MILNROW)
3/5th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, aged 31, died of wounds on Wednesday 10th October 1917 and remembered on panel 59 Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Milnrow and lived in Newhey. He worked with his brother in the Bird in Hand Hotel, Newhey and remembered on St James WM.
The 21st Manchester Regiment were in the line towards the North East end of Polygon Wood. Private Matthew was likely to have been wounded whilst in that location some 3 or 4 days earlier when under intense artillery fire. He would have been moved from the Casualty Clearing Station to Etaples where he died.
PRIVATE 51723 JOHN MATTHEW (WARDLE)
21st Manchester Regiment 29 year old, died of wounds on 9th October 1917 and is buried in grave No XXX C1 at Etaples Military Cemetery, France. He lived in Hurstead and is remembered on St Johns War Memorial.
First Battle of Passchendaele 12th October 1917
Following a largely futile attack on in terrible conditions towards Passchendaele village on 9th October 1917, a fresh assault was ordered on 12th October 1917 spearheaded by the Australian and New Zealand Divisions. This was another Allied attempt to gain ground around Passchendaele but heavy rain and mud again made movement difficult and little artillery could be brought closer to the front. Allied troops were exhausted and morale had fallen. After a modest British advance, the need to cross a small river valley was such that men became bogged down or had to press forward in the quagmire against stoutly defended German positions. A few Australians reached the edge of Passchendaele but were not strong enough to hold the ground and gave up their gains to German counter-attacks. The German’s recovered most of the ground lost opposite Passchendaele, except for an area on the right of the Wallemolen spur. North of Poelcapelle, the allies advanced along numerous streams and the Guards Division captured the west end of the Vijwegen spur, gaining observation over the south end of Houthulst Forest. (see plan above – Approaching Passchendaele)
PRIVATE 2394 JOSEPH CROSSLEY
51 Bn Australian Imperial Force, aged 43, killed in action on 12th October, 1917 and remembered on the Menin Gate, Ypres. Born and lived in Littleborough attending Central School later emigrating to Australia.
At a conference on 13th October, Haig and army commanders agreed that attacks would stop until the weather improved and roads could be extended, to carry more artillery and ammunition forward.
Houthulst Forest October 1917
Held by the Germans since the beginning of the war, they had turned the forest (located north east of Poelcapelle – see map on back cover) into an impregnable fortress which the Allies never fully captured during 3rd Ypres. A large German Blockhouse equipped with machine guns, known as Egypt House, looked out across the flat lands south of the forest. On the evening of the 21st/22nd October 1917 the 23rd Bn Manchester Regiment took up their positions along the 2.5 mile front line trenches (or connected shell holes) fronting the Houthulst Forest and opposite were the men of the German 26th Reserve, 58th and 40th Division. At 5:45am on the 22nd October the 23rd Bn With the 17th and 18th Battalion’s of the Lancashire Fusiliers to their left advanced against their objectives. Despite machine-gun fire from low flying enemy Aeroplane the battalion advanced some 400 yards with few casualties but some 200 yards further on German resistance stiffened and their heavy machine-gun and rifle caused heavy casualties. The 18th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers pushed on but also began to suffer heavy casualties. The left flank did however succeed in meeting its objectives. The 20th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers were also brought into action which took up position to the right of Arden House later becoming responsible for the sector between Arden House and the huts (occupied by the Germans). A counter attack by the Germans was largely repulsed. The new line was consolidated during the hours of darkness. The general conditions became steady worse during 23rd October as the German artillery put down a series of barrages and enemy planes directed the guns and machine gunned the area. Heavy rain fell and made matters worse. Casualty figures included 3 Littleborough soldiers with a further casualty occurring as other Battalions continued to hold the line in the forest.
CORPORAL 16210 JOHN HENRY DRIVER
18th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers 20 years old, killed in action on Monday 22nd October 1917 and remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Horbury, Wakefield and later lived in Smith Bridge and attended St Andrews Church.
PRIVATE 50429 JAMES HORROCKS
23rd Bn Manchester Regiment 26 years old killed in action on Monday 22nd October 1917 and remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial. Born and lived in Littleborough and attended Central School.
PRIVATE 40360 WILLIAM LAMBERT
“W” Coy 16th Bn Cheshire Regiment (formerly 14616 Lancashire Fusiliers) 19 year old, killed in action on Monday 22nd October 1917 and remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial. Born in Bowes, Yorkshire and later lived in Preston-under-Scar Yorkshire before moving to Higher Shore. Associated with Shore Primitive Methodist Church and employed at Shore Mills.
PRIVATE 32336 ERNEST HOWARTH (WARDLE – SMALLBRIDGE)
18th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers 39 years old, killed in action on Monday 22nd October 1917 and remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial. He worked at Spring Mill, Smallbridge and is remembered on St Johns War Memorial.
PRIVATE 30449 EDWARD MATTHEW (WARDLE – SMALLBRIDGE)
20th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, killed in action on Monday 22nd October 1917 and remembered on Tyne Cot Memorial. He is remembered on St Johns War Memorial.
PRIVATE 9808 ROBERT BROWN
20th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers killed in action on Tuesday 23rd October 1917. His body interred in grave number IX C 7 Poelcapelle British Cemetery. He was from Lostock but lived on Featherstall Road and worked at Shore Mills.
Part of the 7th Division, 2nd Border Regiment were engaged in an unsuccessful attack on the Menin Road
PRIVATE 27051 TOM H BREARLEY
20 years old, previously reported missing confirmed killed in action on 26th October 1917 and is remembered on Panels 85 to 86, Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium. Born and lived in Littleborough, he attended Holy Trinity Church and worked at Frankfort Mill.
Second Battle of Passchendaele 26th October – 10th November 1917
Following on from the British operations from 20th – 22nd October, the Canadian Corps prepared for a series of attacks from 26th October – 10th November in order to capture Passchendaele and the ridge. They found that the front line was mostly the same as that occupied in April 1915 when the Canadians were last there. There were to be three limited attacks, on 26th & 30th October and 6th November. On 26th October, the Canadian’s Wolf Copse but had to retire from Decline Copse. On 30th October, they were to complete the previous stage and gain a base for the final assault on Passchendaele. They quickly captured Crest Farm and sent patrols beyond the final objective into Passchendaele. They also captured Vapour Farm, Furst Farm to the west of Meetcheele and the crossroads at Meetcheele but remained short of its objective. Three rainless days from 3rd – 5th November eased preparation for the next stage, which began on the morning of 6th November the Canadians’ in less than 3 hours Passchendaele and launched a final action on 10th November, to gain control of the remaining high ground north of the village near Hill 52. On 11th November the Germans were shelling the Canadian Troops located NE of s' Gravenstafel whist in trenches around Dalgery Grange.
PRIVATE 784980 JOHN JAMES RIGG (WARDLE)
Eaton's Motor Machine Gun Bty, Canadian Machine Gun Corps, 30 years old, was killed in action on 31st October 1917 and is buried in grave No XXX C1 Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium. Born in Wardle and subsequently emigrated to Canada.
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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