GM 1914

The First World War in Greater Manchester

Leave a comment

The Bravest Little Street in England

Chapel Street: The Bravest Little Street in England 

Chapel Street in Altrincham, so called because of the Wesleyan Chapel on the corner of the road, was a road mainly occupied by labourers and lodging house keepers. It gained public recognition after the First World War for the extraordinary sacrifice of the residents. From just 60 houses, 161 men volunteered for active service, 29 men were killed. The street was honoured on the 5th April 1919 when the Earl of Stamford unveiled a memorial to the men in front of a vast crowd. King George V sent a telegram of support which was read out at the unveiling and Chapel Street became known as ‘’The Bravest Little Street in England’’. Chapel Street was demolished in the middle of the 20th Century.


Chapel Street Commemoration – Trafford Local Studies.

 Chapel Street War Memorial 1919

Volunteers at Trafford Local Studies have been researching how the First World War  affected the lives of the people who lived in Chapel Street both on the front line and the home front. Using archives and information from surviving family members we have been able discover more about how they lived their lives through such a difficult period.

One of our volunteers Liz has been researching the Wyatt brothers Joseph, Thomas and Frank of Chapel Street. This is their story…

All three brothers joined up and survived the War. The eldest brother Joseph was born in Chapel Street in 1890 to parents Frank Wyatt, a builder’s labourer and his wife Ann nee Glavey. At the age of 11 he was employed as an ‘’Evening News Boy’’ and then as a jobbing gardener. In 1912 he married Florence Naylor and the couple had one son Joseph born in 1913. A family member informed me that at this time Joseph was employed as a train carriage cleaner.

Joseph enlisted on 15th November 1915 and joined the Cheshire Regiment, serving with the rank of Corporal. His regimental number was 32605.Unfortunately his attestation and military records have not survived. What is known is that Joseph was injured on 25th August 1916 possibly during the Battle of the Somme. He lost fingers on his left hand from a gunshot wound. He was evacuated to England and nursed at the Military Hospital, Edmonton, London. This was reported in the Manchester Evening News on Monday 8th October 1916. This photo of Joseph provided by his granddaughter was taken whilst he was in hospital and shows the disability to his hand. The red armband appears to signify that he was a patient undergoing treatment at this time.

Joseph Wyatt

Joseph Wyatt.

Joseph was discharged from the army because of his wounds on 19th January 1917.He was awarded the Silver War Badge and also received the Victory Medal and the British War   Medal. Sadly Joseph’s wife Florence died in the summer of 1917 shortly after his return home. His family report that he moved back to Edmonton where had been nursed and in 1918 he married Sarah Agnes Chapman, a Queen Alexandra’s Nurse who had nursed him at the Military Hospital. Agnes was a widow with three young daughters. The couple eventually moved back to Altrincham with his son Joseph, Agnes’ three daughters and the three daughters they had together, settling in Oldfield Brow.

Joseph worked a jobbing gardener after the war and may have struggled to find work. This later picture of him with Agnes kindly provided by Joseph’s granddaughter shows him in   military uniform. He appears to have a prosthetic glove on his left hand. Joseph died on 22nd November 1937 aged 47 years. Sadly he was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Hale Cemetery.

Joseph and Sarah Wyatt

Joseph and Agnes Wyatt.

Thomas Wyatt, born in 1893 was a jobbing gardener. He enlisted in the army at some point during 1915. His Medal Index Card indicates that he joined the Royal Field Artillery as a driver and entered France on 20th November 1915.His Regimental number was 35246. He was awarded the 15 Star Medal, the Victory Medal and the British War Medal .As the records have not survived it is not known when Thomas was discharged from the army, but it may have been before the end of the war as his death certificate describes him as a military pensioner and a jobbing gardener. He died in Altrincham General Hospital aged 27 years and was buried in April 1921 at the Blessed Virgin Mary Anglican Church in Bowdon. At the time of his death he was living with his father at 46 Chapel Street. The cause of his death was given as malignant cardiomyopathy.

Frank Wyatt, born in 1891, joined the Cheshire Regiment in 1914 Regimental number 10293, although he was later transferred to the Devon Regiment, Regimental number   34061. This information came from the Medal Index Cards as like his two brothers, his  attestation papers have been destroyed. Frank was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. It is not known where Frank went after the war. Research has been unable to identify any marriage or death records.

Frank Wyatt

Frank Wyatt.



Chapel Street Commemoration Image – Trafford Local Studies
Wyatt Family Photographs – Courtesy of Jane Southern.

Leave a comment

Moses Yates: A Boy Soldier from Tyldesley

This blog post was written by Michael Yates from Leigh Local Studies.

Moses Yates Leigh Journal L1916.1.P7

Image 1: Newspaper article covering the death of Private Moses Yates – Leigh Journal, 14 January 1916.

My great uncle was born on the 18 July 1898 at 50 Sale Lane, Tyldesley. He was the eldest of five children; Lily, Minnie, Annie and Polly. He joined the army, the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, on the 2 January 1915 aged 16. After training he was shipped to Gallipoli, arriving on the 25 September 1915 at Sulva Bay, and in the trenches five days later.

Unlike the trenches in France, at Gallipoli troops could not recuperate behind the lines in relative security since there was nowhere to go that wasn’t within artillery or rifle range of the Turks.

Moses wrote to his mother, Ellen, on the 7 November telling her that ‘things are very quiet here at present, we are still at Sulva Bay, so you can watch our movements in the papers, we have been in the trenches since the 30 September, without being relieved’.

In his last letter home, written on the 22 November, Moses wrote ‘just a line to let you know I received the ‘Journal’ and your letter. A great many who came out with our draft have gone off the Peninsula sick, in most cases they have dysentery’.

On the 26 November terrific thunderstorms flooded the Peninsula followed by freezing snow. Many men froze to death in the trenches. Sadly one of these was Moses, who died on the 1 December 1915 aged 17. Moses has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Helles Memorial in Gallipoli and on the Tyldesley cenotaph. Moses was posthumously awarded the Star, War and Victory medals. His family still have Moses’ death penny.



Image 1: Photograph of Moses Yates – Leigh Journal, 14 January 1916.
1911 census of England, Lancashire, Leigh, Yates household.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website –
‘Just like Hell’ Local Men at Gallipoli, 1915 – Fred Holcroft.
St John’s Mosley Common baptism registers – Wigan Archives & Local Studies.

Leave a comment

William Thomas Turner of the Lusitania

This blog post was written and researched by Cynthia Hollingworth, a volunteer at Trafford Local Studies. Today, 7th May 2015, marks the centenary of the sinking of the Lusitania.

 One of my pleasures when researching family history is tracing the home of an ancestor. To be able to see exactly where they lived, and the neighbourhood they moved in, somehow makes them more human, and brings them to life.

 That was how I felt when I heard that the wife and sons of Captain William Turner, the controversial commander of the Lusitania at the time she was attacked and sunk by a German submarine, had lived in Sale.

Image 1

Image 1 – The Lusitania arriving in New York on her maiden voyage. Wikipedia: George Grantham Bain collection.

 I had passed this house regularly for many years without having any idea that it was at all ‘special’, but now I know that Captain Turner’s wife and children had lived in Springfield Road, Sale. Captain Turner’s name doesn’t appear on the street directory and census entries, but whether this is because he was always away, or because by the time the entries start, he had moved out of his marital home hasn’t been established. Certainly his wife was listed living at Sale until 1904 when she moved to Flixton, and from there to Bowdon.

 Born in Everton, Liverpool, in 1856, William clearly had seawater in his veins. His father was a mariner, and William himself first went to sea as a very young cabin boy. His career was an eventful one, and he survived several dunkings as ships foundered or sank. That clearly didn’t put him off, and he rose steadily through the ranks to become a highly respected captain.

 In 1885, he married Alice Helen Hitching, who may have been his cousin, and they had two sons, Percy Wilfred and Norman Henry. Sadly, the marriage failed, possibly because of his frequent long absences from home.

William continued in his career, proving himself to be both a gifted mariner and a brave one, receiving several awards for rescuing victims of shipwreck. He commanded the Lusitania for a time before sailing with the Mauretania and Aquitania. However, in the spring of 1915 when Lusitania’s Captain Daniel Dow succumbed to the stress of war, he was again appointed her commander, for the fateful sailing.

Image 2

Image 2 – The First Class Dining Room on the Lusitania. Wikipedia: public domain.

 The story of the sinking of the Lusitania can be found in the newspaper reports of the time, and the loss of so many of its citizens almost brought America into the war at that time. Reaction included a protest from local Germans, reported in the Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian.

Image 3

Image 3 – German Atrocities: strong protest by local Germans. Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian, 14th May 1915.

The Admiralty tried to blame Captain Turner for not taking evasive action, but a Board of Trade inquiry cleared him. However, when Winston Churchill, who was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, wrote his book ‘The World Crisis’ in 1921, he reiterated the accusation. After that, Turner seems to have become a recluse, living quietly in Liverpool with his housekeeper and companion Mabel Every.

In the 1920s he was diagnosed with cancer. He travelled to Sydney, Australia in November 1924. On his return, he moved to 50 De Villiers Avenue, Crosby, where he died in 1933. He was buried with his parents, Charles & Charlotte Turner and his eldest sister Annie Maria Turner, in the Rake Lane cemetery, Wallasey, and we may never know the whole truth of this tragedy of war.



Slater’s Street Directories
Census entries


1 Wikipedia: George Grantham Bain collection – no known restrictions.
2 Wikipedia: public domain.
3 Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian, 14th May 1915.




Leave a comment

The Bolton War Hospital Supply Depot and the role of the Women’s Relief Corps

Margaret Koppen, secretary of the Halliwell History Society and a volunteer at Bolton,  has researched and written this valuable post about the very necessary support work done by women on the home front.
Bolton Women's relief CorpscompThe Bolton War Hospital Supply Depot

Women’s Relief Corps

In July 1915 the inaugural meeting of the Bolton Women’s Defence Relief Corps took place at the Victoria Hall, which was packed with young, middle aged and elderly women all eager to do their bit for the war effort. Mrs Dawson-Scott from London, who was the founder of the movement, wore the grey uniform of the Corps as she addressed them in an ‘inspiring and outspoken’ manner. She said “we cannot go to the trenches and I don’t think the men would allow us, but there are plenty of battles to be fought at home”. She went on to explain the work of the Corps which had branches all over the country and every branch did something different; charity work, hospital work, munition making, van driving or despatch carrying, whatever was needed in their area. Mr Alfred Pilling JP accepted the appointment of Treasurer to the local Corps and he pointed out that Bolton women had already done magnificent work in many other ways but he urged women and girls to come together to do this valuable public service.  Mrs Jessop Hulton in proposing a vote of thanks to Mrs Dawson-Scott said “ …when the war was over things would not be the same and women would be necessary to help the men in readjusting…”

When the Corps was first formed in Bolton there were some who questioned what use was  the drilling and training of women who would not see combat. The answer was that it instilled in them discipline, self-control and the ability to obey commands should they be called on to help with an emergency. Some of the women were already filling the place of men, something unheard of two years before. In December of 1915 Mrs Dawson-Scott gave special permission for the Bolton branch to be known as the ‘Women’s Relief Corps’. All the women were known as ‘Helpers’ and when not in uniform they wore a khaki armlet with a scarlet letter ‘H’.

Obviously there were some women who had no wish to drill but they had a few hours of leisure time to help the war effort in any way they could. Steps were taken to find premises and the Tramways Committee offered some rooms over the Tramway Offices in Bradshawgate and Salop Street, and the civil side of the Women’s Relief Corps was formed to supply the Bolton War Supply Depot. In Bradshawgate cotton and flannel garments were sewn for soldiers, sailors, prisoners of war and hospitals and this was where the office for receiving donations in money and kind was situated. Each worker initially gave a fee of one shilling and contributed weekly into a collecting box. At Salop Street bandages, swabs and other surgical necessaries were made by the ladies who wore white aprons, sleeves and caps for cleanliness whilst sat at white-topped tables in the light and airy rooms. All the items made were to standard patterns which one of the ladies of the Committee had brought back from the main Hospital Supply Depot at Kensington.

By October 1916 there were 250 members and the movement was approved by the War Office and certified by the War Charities Act 1916. Large packages and bales were sent to Gallipoli and every other front as well as hospitals in the town. From October 1915 until September 1916 the number of garments, bandages etc. made and despatched was 21,527 which included 633 garments made by other Women’s organisations in Bolton. By this time there was a junior section. They took part in drilling and other activities wearing the uniform of the Corps and when out of uniform they wore the scarlet ‘H’ badge or armband, ready to answer any call for help such as raising funds for the War Supply Depot of the Corps.

In March 1917 a shop was set up in Mealhouse Lane for one week to raise funds from the sale of donated items such as fine china, paintings, glass, and gold and silver jewellery. This was referred to as ‘The Treasure Shop’ and all the proceeds went to the ‘Comforts Fund’. Also during 1917 there was an increase in the output of papier-mâché splints, hand cradles, boots etc. and it was thought that Bolton may become a centre from which doctors would be able to obtain supplies of these much needed articles.

Women's Relief Corps 2nd Annual Report 1916-1917 plea for more volunteers

At the end of the war in 1919 only about 30-50 voluntary workers were left at the War Supply Depot and they were engaged in making ‘Pylons’. After leg amputation it takes some time for the stump to heal sufficiently to fit an artificial limb whereas a ‘Pylon’ could be fitted as soon as the wound had healed, so that the patient could then manage without crutches. Dozens of soldiers who passed through the Bolton hospitals during the war were fitted with them, each one being made specifically to fit the wearer. They were cone shaped and made of vulcanite fibre and were strapped to the waist or thigh; at the thin end was a wooden plug to which was screwed a rubber heel. They were light and comfortable and some of the men actually preferred them to an artificial leg.  It was anticipated that there could still be a great demand for them for some time to come and it was thought it could be useful if the work could be carried on by disabled soldiers from the town.



Bolton Journal & Guardian
30.07.15: 19.11.15: 03.12.15: 24.12.15
27.10.16: 01.12.16
23.03.17: 30.03.17: 26.10.17: 23.11.17
Women’s Relief Corps Annual Reports 1915-1818 Museum Collection 275.1982
Image: Bolton Museum L.H. collection Ref. 1982-0276-01


An Oldham Territorial’s Interesting Letters

gallipoli 1

Private 2256 Charles Frederick Kilroy -1/10 Manchester Regiment

Charles Frederick Kilroy was born in Oldham in 1885. At the outbreak of World War I he was married with three children and worked as a travelling salesman for a soap making company. He arrived in Egypt with the 1/10th Manchester Regiment on 10 September 1914 from where he sent a series of post cards including shots of Alexandria and Heliopolis.

Gallipoli 2

Gallipoli 3 242307 P.C.F.Kilroy D.Coy. 2/5 Ches., Minsmere Nr. Dunwich Suffolk. May 2/15, Dear Wife and children, I arrived at above place yesterday evening. It is 7 miles from the nearest Ry. Station and right on the coast. I have received paper but no letter yet. Best love. Yours ever xxxxxxxxx Charlie”

 Charles arrived in Egypt to join the 1/10th Manchester Regiment on 10 September 1914 from where he sent a series of post cards including shots of Alexandria and Heliopolis.

Gallipoli 4

Gallipoli 5“This is the place where the Turks tried to invade Egypt and of course came a cropper as I said they would do. It does not look a big place but it has miles upon miles of nothing but sand. To travel the length of this postcard would be certain death without water, never mind reconning(?) us and others at one side with pea shooters”


When I searched the references on the Oldham Evening Chronicle microfiche I was really surprised at what I did find: two letters Charles had written to the newspaper in July 1915! The first was sent on 2nd July 1915 from the Australia and New Zealand Convalescent Hospital, Helouan, Egypt. At the end of it was the well-known-to-the-family poem mentioned earlier. The second was from the British Red Cross Hospital, Netley, Hants. This letter contained much information about the hospital ship Cecilia which tied in very nicely with a postcard of that very ship which was sent to my great grandfather, around the time he wrote the letter, from the ship’s owner, Sir Wyndham Murray.

I was shocked, amazed and in awe all at once at this discovery. I had to sit down with a coffee to take it all in. At this point I spotted my dad’s cousin Hilary – another surprise – who I had been with only one week earlier when we discussed the information we already had about Grandad Kilroy and what we could do from there. I was so excited to grab her attention and tell her what I had found. She too became very excited. The letters were quite difficult to read but I later typed them up as best as I could. A very interesting incite into a soldier’s life around this time:

Wednesday 7th July 1915

An Oldham Territorial’s Interesting Letter

Private C.F. Kilroy, 1/10 Manchester Regiment, well-known in Oldham as a vocalist, sends us this following interesting letter from the Australia and New Zealand Convalescent Hospital, Helouan, Egypt, under date 2nd July :-

Having received no letters or newspapers from my own town through moving about lately, I was wondering if the people of Oldham are aware of the 1/10 Battalion suffering loss of a lot of good lads. We left Abbasia to go on serving along the Suez Canal and then we were packed off to the Dardanelles after nearly a fortnight on the Suez. We left Port Said with half the battalion on one ship, the remainder on another. C and D companies were the lucky ones to arrive first and A and B were not allowed to land, but put back to the naval base to await their chance. After a day or two’s waiting the lads got ashore and the first sight we got of the Dardanelles was men on stretchers being carried passed us to hospital ship along the improvised pier sand bags and stones. Before our company had been one minute ashore we heard a loud bang (not the first we’d heard, as we could see and hear the artillery duels before disembarking, also the big guns of the navy), and looking up we saw men jump in dugouts at a quicker pace than I ever saw a rugby player score a try. Quite a welcome reception, I can assure you! It was a Jack Johnson or something. We were told it was a shot from the Goeben the German warship. They were using their big guns to some effect as that shot counted four men and 14 horses of the British.

Our first questions were about the other half of our battalion and we were told they were in the supports having been sent in as soon as they landed. At that place they had one of their lads killed by a shell. The next day they put all the battalion together in the trenches. On going to join them we had one of ours wounded in the (foot/face(?)). He was sitting down having some grub (i.e. biscuit and bully) when he got potted(?). I judged it must have been a sniper as we were out of range of the Turks’ trench fire. We did fine to have no serious losses in the supports as we were well in range of their artillery, in fact, from the boat to the front trenches all was in range of their guns.

The escapes one sees every few minutes every day are marvellous and cast with a little humour I’ll mention. Soon after arrival, the morning after to be precise, a shrapnel shell burst near our company as the lads were getting ready to have their breakfast and one of the bullets went through the shirt of a lad named Mills, grazing his stomach and not even drawing blood, and as our lads have a habit of throwing a piece of dirt or stone at one another in fun, he thought someone had been throwing at him and the man who threw it was going to have a rough time. But when he found out what it was he was the most surprised lad I ever saw. We had a good laugh over it anyway. I’ve been pretty near them myself but have been fortunate in the way of wounds. I’ve been walking along when a shell has burst over our platoon and had it been a British shell none of us would have lived to tell the tale. As it was the shot counted for many men, some of them being from another lot who were near us. We lost out of our platoon four (that is the number I saw, there may have been more with that shot), one named Carre(?) who, I am told, never spoke after that, and three wounded, Dunkerley, Ross and McConnell. The last named got a bad wound on the throat but I am glad to say he has recovered somewhat since. The same lad had a narrow escape along with me a day or so before that. We had been sent along with our company to do a little fatigue work and coming back we had all our work cut out dodging shells. If you keep your eyes open you have a chance. I heard a whistling and shouted “Duck!” We threw ourselves flat on the ground in less time than it takes to tell and we were bespattered with earth all over us. The shell had gone in the earth about three yards in front and between us – a queer triangle. It failed to burst but owing to the exit nature in that part of the ground we didn’t go west.

One can go on for an indefinite period on the same subject, but if I can say I’ve seen more miraculous wounds than escapes – shots through the head, jaw, chest and stomach, etc., and nothing more than loss of blood in some cases, others, of course, more serious; how they’ve lived through it, I don’t know. After about three weeks there I had the misfortune to get in a bad way and the doctor sent me down to the base hospital. At this time I was attached to a battalion of regulars of the 29th Division as our battalion was split up and sent to different battalions. I have heard since that our lads have done some glorious work with losses I won’t try to give, but leave you as goes if news has not already reached you. Our lot was not at the storming of the Peninsula, though we went soon after. The landing party had a hard task and I have endeavoured to put the story in rhyme, a copy of which I enclose. It may be of interest to know, there are snakes on Gallipoli. I don’t know if they are dangerous or not. I broke the butt of my rifle on one. I didn’t give it the chance to let me know whether it was dangerous. I was told that our sergeant killed one. The one I smashed would be about 1½ yards long.



There’s a tale to tell, and it’s worth it, too, of lads who’ve fought and died,
And others, too, who lived it through; good luck was on their side.

On April 25th it was, the year nineteen fifteen,
That a landing party made its way, ne’er dreaming what a scene,
To storm the fort at Sedd-ul-Bahr, and different points all round,
For the boys had got the order to take and keep that ground.

To reach the boats and run ashore to some it may sound well,
But at the first step in the game the lid was raised from hell.

The big guns spat their awful flame and rifles sent their sting;
And Turks with their machine guns had us central and each wing.
The blood was up of every man, ‘neath fire without reply,
He’d to chance his mit, jump in the sea, he’d to reach the shore or die.

All soaked wet through, yet on and on, theirs was a sorry plight,
For they lost full half their comrades e’er they got achance to fight.

There was wire to cut and cliffs to climb, yet everymother’s son,
He did it bravely, nobly, though in range of a Turkish gun.

Then all at once, from every point, like magic breaks a spell,
Came a lusty cheer and a wild ” Hurrah,” and they ran, nay dived, in hell.

Midst dying groans and shrieks of pain each side they fought and bled,
Till the Turks cried “Allah! mercy,” and in great disorder fled.

And when the first respite did come and a roll they’d chance to call,
‘Twas then, and only then, they found how many men did fall.

Men set to work with pick and spade to put in earth the brave,
And many a rough man shed a tear as they placed them in their grave.

There was not a man amongst them who had not lost a chum,
And many a mother now does mourn her loving, hero son.

Wives, too, will grieve, and children they, along with sweethearts true,
Will weep in silence when peace reigns, and the crisis safely through.

All honour to the lads who’ve fought, to none give special pride,
From Colonies and Motherland they fought there side by side.

Those who’re safe in peaceful homes, who’ve had no brunt to bear,
Just raise your hats and, if ashamed, in silence breathe your prayer.

They were lads, perhaps, and some were wild, but none at heart a craven;

They had forced themselves in Turkey; some had dived in hell to heaven.


Private C. F. KILROY,

1 /10 Manchester Regiment.



Oldham Evening Chronicle Saturday 31st July 1915



Private C.F. Kilroy, 1/10 Battalion, Manchester Regiment, writing from the British Red Cross Hospital, Netley, Hants, says:-

I should like to let you know for the comfort of the relatives of soldiers who at this time should have the misfortune to get wounded and be sent to this hospital, that it is as fine a place as anyone could wish to be sent to, the only drawbacks being the distance it is from Oldham, and thus you cannot see your friends as often as you would like. The food is most excellent and the cleanliness cannot be surpassed. You also get the best that can be done for you in medical skill and appliances.

To give you an idea of the routine here: We get up to a good breakfast – those who are able – and if it is not raining one can take a stroll through the grounds (as fine as any country place I have seen) and in about ten minutes one is down on the seashore with a fine view of the shipping backward and forward Southampton way, both transports and troopships daily. Then get back to see the doctor on his rounds and then dinner.

After dinner one is at a loss what amusement to take. There are golfing, skittles, billiards and games of all descriptions; whist drives and concerts to no end in the afternoons and at nights and occasional garden parties. Every ward possesses its own gramophone and records. Ladies and gentlemen in the vicinity send cigarettes, matches, flowers and try in every way to alleviate the monotony of waiting to get well.

My most enjoyable experience was as the guest of Colonel Sir Wyndham and Lady Murray who put their beautiful yacht Cecilia at the disposal of the boys who are in hospital here. His crew are fully occupied every day and Sir Wyndham Murray takes a keen delight in doing his best to help in every way and likes to chat with anyone of us. I have heard that he had the misfortune to get a nasty wound during the South African War.

Whilst aboard we were taken to all the interesting places between Southampton and the open sea, visiting Cowes and viewing the beautiful scenery which can be seen all the way. The Isle of Wight looks splendid when you get a view of it cruising by the sunlight. A most enjoyable tea helps to make one breathe the sea air with more delight.

As a compliment to Sir Wyndham and Lady Murray I penned the following lines on the yacht:-

In different climes, at different times

I’ve spent some days at sea.

But the sweetest hours I’ve spent are now

On the yacht Cecilia

And thanks are due to all the crew,

And their master who is so kind.

So where’er I go, while life does flow,

‘Tis a thought stocked in my mind.



Gallipoli 6

Gallipoli 7Postcard dated 2nd July 1915 “From Sir Wyndham Murray – Private C F. Kilroy No. 2258 1st 10th Manchester Rgt. Red Cross Hospital Netley Southampton.”

Upon returning home that day I Googled some of the things in the articles and was surprised again to come across a blog containing the poem “A Tale of the Dard-in-Hell” by a man whose father had been a soldier in the area at the time.  I sent him a message to ask him what the connection was to the poem. He wrote back saying that although his father had been there he had not fought and he had no connection with the poem. He had found it on eBay! The poem was a pristine postcard copy:

Gallipoli 8

I was even more surprised when I came across Great Grandad Kilroy’s war medals for sale on eBay!   It took me ages to find the actual page where they were for sale but I persevered only to find they had been sold, this year, 2nd February to be precise, for £67.00 – approximately 1 month to the day.  I couldn’t believe it!  It was definitely a day of finding things and it somehow felt like I was meant to find them and someone (or some entity, dare I say) was willing me on. I sent a message to the person who sold the medals asking if he could give me details of the person who bought them from him.  He replied and there occurred an exchange of emails between myself and the purchaser of the medals. He was a very nice man who collected medals and researched their previous owners. He agreed to meet to discuss the medals.

On 11th April 2014 at 11 am, at The Tickled Trout, Salmesbury myself, along with my parents and my Dad’s cousin Hilary met with the purchaser of the medals. We exchanged information about my great grandfather and he produced three pristine WWI medals and kindly gave us a Manchester Regiment cap badge. He refused to take any payment from us as he regarded it as a pleasure to be able to reunite the medals with their owner’s descendants and he sees his research as doing his bit to keep the memory of these forgotten soldiers alive – I believe a very noble act. I will be forever in his debt.

Gallipoli 9

Medals of Charles Frederick Kilroy as displayed for sale on eBay.

Gallipoli 10

Medals of Charles Frederick Kilroy as displayed for sale on eBay.

 Up to this point the research into my great grandfather’s army career is on-going. We have postcards relating to later on in his career and another relative, my Aunt Marie, has done much research regarding the movements of the 1/10th Manchester Regiment which gives some clues. We plan to visit Netley next year during their World War I commemorations.

It just goes to show that perseverance and searching in the most unlikely of places can sometimes turn up the most exciting additions to a story. Who knows what other exciting information we may be able to find to add to the story relating to our ancestor who we are extremely proud of.




This blog was compiled by Chantal O’Brien using post cards from her own collection.
Transcripts of letters are taken from the Oldham Evening Chronicle.
The medal roll was taken from


Fighting for your Conscience

During the recent ‘Manchester Remembers’ event week at Manchester Central Library the Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society held a Handling Session to show the Disley Tribunal Papers. The Disley Service Tribunal papers consist of an (incomplete) set of documents from men who applied for exemption from military service after the introduction of conscription in 1916. During World War 1 tribunals were set up by the Local Registration Authorities to review applications for exemption to Military Service and we are lucky to have this box of archival material.

Exemption from Conscription

Grounds from exemption included those medically unfit, clergy, teachers, and certain classes of industrial workers.   Conscientious Objectors (CO’s) were also exempted, and were in most cases were given civilian jobs or non-fighting roles at the front. It is worth noting that there were several types of Conscientious Objectors:

  • Some were pacifists who were against war in general.
  • Some were political objectors who did not consider the government of Germany to be their enemy.
  • Some were religious objectors who believed that war and fighting was against their religion. Groups in this section were Quakers and Jehovah Witnesses.
  • A combination of any of the above groups.

CO’s whose arguments were rejected by the tribunals faced a difficult choice: did they answer the call for duty or wait to be arrested? Once drafted into the Army, men disobeying orders faced a court martial. Anyone who fled the front could be shot as a deserter.

In 1921, the Ministry of Health decided that all tribunal papers relating to individual cases of exemption from National Service and the tribunal minute books (except those of the Central Tribunal), should be destroyed and therefore the vast majority of files do not survive.   However, since then the Disley files have been happily residing at the Greenwood Grill until the renovation of Central Library when they were ‘re-discovered’.

The Disley Tribunal papers are a very interesting set of documents (though not complete).  At first glace they include some exemption forms from individuals, mainly for those employed by J. Makin & Co, a large paper manufacturer in Disley, they also include some agricultural exemption forms from local farmers, a small selection of exemptions for Colliery recruiting courts , a number of  ‘Notice of Hearing’ summaries with notations scribbled on them and a plethora of directives from government agencies. Until now we had thought that the Disley Tribunal papers did not contain any men who wanted exemption from military service as a conscientious objector, that is until now.

Whilst I was looking at some historic newspapers in order to find out more information about the Disley Tribunal I came across the name of George Benson.  The name rang a bell and I went back to the Disley Tribunal file and found a few papers with his name on clipped together with a rusty pin.

So,  just who was George Benson?

George Benson born May 3rd 1889 in Clifton, Lancashire and was the son of Thomas Duckworth Benson;  land agent, social activist in the Independent Labour Party, and Quaker, and his wife Ellen Maud Foy.  George was educated at Manchester Grammar School leaving at 17 to follow his father’s profession and establish himself in politics.  He crusaded for the Independant Labour Party in the North several years prior to 1914.  We can continue  to follow George Benson’s story through a number of sources (though there are gaps) –

Paperwork for George Benson in the Disley Tribunal Papers starts on 11th May  1916 with a notice of hearing:


Image 1: Disley Tribunal Paper, May 1916 – Manchester Central Library, GB127.MISC.1171.

Followed by this note to the Tribunal dated 17 May 1916:


Image 2: Note to Tribunal, May 1916 –  Manchester Central Library, GB127.MISC.1171.

And a memo from the Stockport & East Cheshire and District Appeals Tribunal to the Recruiting Officer, Stockport dated 20th May 1916 advising them that George Benson’s appeal was dismissed on  7th April 1916.


Image 3: Memo from Stockport & East Cheshire and District Appeals Tribunal to the Recruiting Officer, Stockport, 1916 – Manchester Central Library, GB127.MISC.1171.

Refuses to fight

We can pick up George’s story by looking at his Military Service record which I found on  Luckily George’s file was one of the few that survived the bombing raids in WW2 and subsequent water damage.  I was able to find 27 pages (!) which chronicles his story and this includes three witness statements about his refusal to follow a command. Here is the first page of his service record:

ancestry image1

Image 4: WW1 Military Service Record for George Benson, 1916 – Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives and

Newspaper reports

A series of high profile newspaper reports appeared with regard to Benson’s  claims of ill treatment and torture when court-martialed against disobedience to parade.  Part of his objection during the trial was that an officer from the 3rd Cheshire Regiment was selected as part of the court to sit on his case.

Example from the Manchester Guardian October 4th 1916:

Newspaper Article 1

Newspaper Article 2

Image 5: Exert from the Manchester Guardian, October 4th, 1916 – Copyright the Manchester Guardian.

The various articles which can be found on this case outline that Benson had been granted exemption from combatant service by the Disley Tribunal and he had appealed this decision at the Stockport Tribunal. He then applied for a revision on his exemption and to be granted alternative service. The appeal was then dismissed and his certificate for non-combatant service taken away. He was arrested on August 14th and handed over to the Military Authorities on  September 14th,1916.  He was  first put into the Lancashire Fusiliers but when an officer heard that he was a Conscientious Objector (CO) his transfer to the Cheshire Regiment was arranged. He overheard an officer say that they would process him more quickly there.  He was moved the same day to Birkenhead and told that they would “break him”, “tame him”.

It was here that George Benson incurred cruel treatment when he refused to drill on 22nd September 1916.  He was kicked in the ankles whilst having his rifle hung around his neck on a thin string, forcibly drilled and beaten. Benson had demanded a court-martial but his demands had been ignored.

George’s fate was finally revealed  to me on this page of his service record which confirms his future and the final outcome of the Military Court Martial.


Image 6: WW1 Military Service Record for George Benson, 1916 – Image reproduced by courtesy of The National Archives and

What happened next?

After his famous trial and conviction he was sentenced to spend two years in Wormwood Scrubs from 24/10/1916 to 13/10/1918. He was then transferred to ‘W’ class reserve and sent to the Conscientious Objectors work centre  in Wakefield, Yorkshire. This place held 600 CO’s and originally had been earmarked for Irish revolutionaries before the war.  Benson was finally discharged on 31st March 1920.

George had previously been the Treasurer of the National Administrative Council of the Independent Labour party but resigned in 1924 after he was invited to contest the Chesterfield seat as a Socialist candidate at the next election.  Toppling the Liberals he was elected with a majority vote to become the MP for Chesterfield 1929. He held this seat until 1931, he then regained it once again in  1935-1964.  Benson became an author on financial matters and wrote a book on the history of Socialsim. He was chairman of the Howard League for Penal Reform and became a member of the Home Office Advisory Council on delinquency. In 1937 he was seriously injured in a road accident along with his wife Marjorie while his brother Thomas was killed.

Ironically, he was Knighted in 1958 for services to the Government after representing the Labour Party for 22 years.  He had been both chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and the Library Committee in Parliament. His obituary in the Times stated that “..he became a pacifist, a prison reformer, and one of the leaders in the campaign against corporal punishment”.  His experiences in prison during the First World War led him to become a leader of reform, which became one of the greatest purposes of this life.  George Benson died aged 84 in Surrey on 17th  August 1973.

NPG x165038; Sir George Benson by Walter Bird

Image 7: George Benson, 1959 – Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London.


Original papers related to the papers of the local Disley Military Service Tribunal can be found at Central Library Archives at   Papers of the Disley Local Military Service Tribunal GB127.MISC/1171

WW1 Military Service records available on

Stories of military tribunals can be searched on British Newspapers online at:

Archives Plus have a selection of the Disley Tribunal papers on flickr:

The Times Digital Archive: “Sir George Benson.” Times [London, England] 22 Aug. 1973: 16. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 17 Nov. 2014.

Leave a comment

Remember Scarborough!

The Shelling of Scarborough, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, and Whitby on 16 December 1914


Remember Scarborough%2C_North_Yorkshire_-_WWI_poster

Image 1: British propaganda poster: “Men of Britain! Will You Stand This?” referring to civilian casualties and destruction caused by the German Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby on 16 December 1914 – Wikimedia Commons.

In December 1914 an Oldham traveller, Mr W.T. Hirst (employed by Hirst Bros., wholesale jewellers), was staying at the Broadway Hotel in Scarborough. He had just got up at 8am when he heard the sound of firing:

Knowing that all windows had to be opened when any firing commenced I got on a chair and was in the act of opening the window when a second flash occurred and the roof of the house opposite the hotel was taken off. I went downstairs and did my best to console the proprietor and his family. With another traveller I went to the front door to see what was going on. A shell burst on a house further up the street and the concussion from it knocked me and the other traveller against each other and we both fell in the hall, being stunned for a few minutes. Everywhere people seemed to be in a panic and things were in great disorder. In Victoria Road all the houses were either hit or shaken and there was not a single window intact. I picked up several pieces of shell. It is a terrible business.


Scarborough had just been shelled for an hour and a half by two German battleships, the Derfflinger and Von der Tann.  Meanwhile, three other German battleships, the Seydlitz, Blücher and Moltke, had opened their attack on Hartlepool at 8.10am. Mrs Jane Whitehead from Delph was living at the Alma Hotel, Whitby Road, Hartlepool with her husband, Lees, and her family:

I sent my daughter, Phyllis, to school and started on my housework and thought I heard the gunners practising at the fort. Thinking that it was much louder than normal I went out into the street and saw the commotion. The postman told me about the bombardment and that the gasworks were already on fire. Whilst I was talking a shell burst right over my head sending splinters in all directions. A poor woman was struck on the breast and killed instantaneously. Children in neighbouring streets were blown to pieces and there was heartbreaking carnage all around. My first thoughts were for my daughter’s safety and I was very relieved when she came home unhurt. A shell had carried off the roof of the school but fortunately had not injured any of the children. Newspapers are usually accused of exaggeration but I know that the worst that has occurred has never been published.


At 8:50am the German ships departed. An Oldham man working in Hartlepool witnessed the bombardment:

 The alarm came about eight o’clock with the sounds of sharp firing, which gradually became fuller and more alarming. Shells burst in all parts of the town, and we could hear them whizzing overhead. About 8.30 the gasworks were ablaze, and flames shot up yards high. The railway station at the back here was damaged, a huge hole being made in the brickwork and carriages battered. A woman was killed by a shell within 20 yards of us and the house shattered, while one of my friends lost his daughter, killed before his eyes by a shell bursting in the room. Parts of shells were flying about in all directions and were picked up just outside this place. The people from the houses on the sea front came hurrying along the streets and before long wounded men, some almost dying, were carried along on stretchers. The old town of Hartlepool presents a sad spectacle, as some of the houses are practically demolished, and the promenade has been battered. Whole rows of houses have their windows blown out, several ships in the harbour were damaged (including a German prize) and shipyards set on fire. The losses are variously estimated, and the wounded are numerous, while some accounts are very harrowing. The gunners at the battery acted splendidly and kept up an almost incessant fire for half an hour, driving the enemy off, although they came very close during one part of the bombardment. I am deeply thankful I am alive to write you a brief impression – by candlelight. If this does not stimulate recruitment, nothing will. It makes one able to picture – though very faintly – the dire distress of our poor Belgian comrades. The people are somewhat excited to-night, but we hope the danger has passed, both here and on the Yorkshire coast.


Mr. J. J. Buckley, proprietor of the Alexandra Hotel, Redcar, and formerly of Delph, visited Hartlepool after the bombardment:

 I along with two friends visited the Hartlepools yesterday, and we were particularly lucky in having Mr. J. Bingley for a guide, as he appears to know all the ins and outs of the town. We saw most of the damage to property, which cannot be realised until seen; roofs, ends, fronts, backs of houses and churches blown away. On the sea wall huge pieces of flags, concrete and earth were torn away. This is near the semaphore station and evidently directed there to destroy the apparatus, but luckily missed it. The lighthouse has also been another target which also fortunately was not damaged, but very near to it is a big gun, and it was here that five soldiers were killed. (One has since died of wounds). The gun, however, was not damaged although a shell exploded so near. I was told William Bradbury (late gravestone letterer at Saddleworth Church) stood on the green, which stretches along the northern front between the town and the shore and watched the whole of the bombardment. If this is true he will have something to relate to his Saddleworth friends. There is any amount of fragments of shells in both towns and Bingley has got many good specimens. He kindly gave me two pieces. As souvenirs they are much sought after and fancy prices are being paid. We afterwards met by appointment Mr Fryer, the Mayor of West Hartlepool, who amongst the many places we visited, took us to the workhouse. This is quite a small house and has been converted into a hospital. We visited two large wards which were more than half filled with civilian wounded men and children. They had nearly all different types of wounds, some head, some back, shoulders, arms legs etc. One boy, probably eight or nine years old, had just had a fractured leg amputated and he did not know about it. Some others were not expected to live long. Mr Usher, the master, then took us to the church where a shell had come through the roof and done considerable damage. This happened five or ten minutes after service and all had cleared out. We next inspected huge fragments of the shell, which are very ugly things. I cannot express the feelings of joy in this town at being so fortunate in not getting a shot, although the German ships sailed past us on the way to Hartlepool and probably not more than two or three miles from us. Apart from the loss of life and property I would not have missed the sight for anything. We could see the fire from the muzzle of the guns at every shot. When salvoes were fired it was a magnificent sight; when broadsides were fired it was easy to tell as the whole of the town trembled, and the surprise is that no windows were broken with the concussion which from the guns was terrible.


The attack on 16 December 1914, during which the German Navy shelled the seaport towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, and Whitby, left one hundred and thirty-seven people dead and 592 injured.

What was the purpose of the German attack? One possibility is that the German Navy was seeking to lure out small parts of the British Navy in order to destroy it bit-by-bit. Another is that the real target for the Germans was the radio stations used by the British Navy, of which there were three in Scarborough.

Whatever the reason, the German shelling of Scarborough, Hartlepool, West Hartlepool, and Whitby had a pronounced effect on British public opinion and was used to underpin a major recruiting campaign under the slogan ‘Remember Scarborough!’


Thanks to Sandra Ratcliffe from Oldham Local Studies and Archives for this great blog post.  



Oldham Standard
Oldham Chronicle
Oldham Evening Chronicle
Image 1: British Propaganda Poster, 1915 – Wikimedia Commons (,_North_Yorkshire_-_WWI_poster.jpg?uselang=en-gb)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,828 other followers