GM 1914

The First World War in Greater Manchester

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Thoughts on the Sailors Fusiliers and Loyals Gallipoli Talk 2015.

This wonderful blog post was written and researched by Shaun Carter, who is a volunteer at Bolton Museum and Archive.

Hi res version of postcard

Postcard of the “Lancashire Landing” held by Bolton Museum and Archive


When I volunteered to do a 30 to 45 minute talk on Bolton’s role in the complex Gallipoli Campaign little did I realise what I put myself in for! I was aware of some parts of the campaign the Naval Assaults and the Lancashire Fusiliers landing.  The focus on Bolton meant that the French and empire efforts were to take a backseat. The exception being Bolton folk who had immigrated to parts of the empire.

I took the opportunity to look at the secondary book sources in the Library reading extensively and creating the booklist for the talk. This gave me a sense of the scale and importance of the campaign. The controversial nature of it quickly came to the fore as Churchill’s brainchild. It was a means of breaking the deadlock of Trench warfare on the western front to knock Turkey out of the war by using naval power to force the straits of Marmora seize Constantinople and get aid through to Russia.

Any plan never survives contact with the enemy. In this case the failure to force the Straits by Battleships alone now meant that a purely Allied naval campaign became an amphibious assault on a scale never attempted before. The Turkish and Germans had time to prepare and were consistently underestimated by the Allies throughout it.

Having landed ashore the campaign became a race against time between the Allies and the Turks to destroy or expand the bridgeheads. Trench warfare was conducted in brutal heat and unsanitary conditions at close proximity with heavy losses on both sides. Ultimately the allies had insufficient resources to overcome the Turks. The most successful aspect of the allied campaign was the withdrawal.

I used the Bolton Journal newspapers copies in 1914 and 1915 in the Bolton Library and museum archive collection as the primary source.   That gave me a local perspective of what was reported at the time and the chance to tell some local stories.

The reportage of events I found in the Bolton Journal was factually accurate quoting official sources and personal letters home. As time progressed it reflected the initial optimism that a quick success was possible moving to the final disappointment of the failure of the campaign as these were not realised. There was a three week time lag between the event and its reportage a reminder of the importance of the newspapers and a reminder of how much more slowly information passed to the public. We should also remember when reading these that censorship was in effect. In addition there was little photographic information. Official dispatches, correspondent’s accounts and letters to home were the main sources of reportage. It is a world away from the 24 hour reportage of today.

What I found in the sources came as a shock to me in the scale of operations and losses incurred was far bigger than I had hitherto thought.

The Naval Assaults pitted Battleships versus shore batteries which for the most part the latter won. The decisive factor however was the lack of reconnaissance of the Turkish minefields and the inability to clear them. The use of trawlers to clear them under fire from shore was unsuccessful. The result caused the loss of 3 Battleships on 18th March 1915 and seven hundred casualties to their crews. This failure resulted in the nature of the campaign changing from a purely naval affair to a combined arms one involving an Amphibious assault to land allied troops to take Constantinople. This was a significant shift in the means of achieving the strategic objective. The time taken to deploy these troops gave the Turks and their German allies plenty of time to prepare strong beach defences. The element of surprise had been lost.

The landing at W Beach by the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers has become part of the Gallipoli myth. Some 1000 British soldiers in boats landed opposite a company of 114 Turkish soldiers without machine guns in prepared positions, trenches, barbed wire and mines. The cost of clearing them was very high with 284 killed and 253 wounded. Their gallantry was rewarded in the granting of six Victoria Crosses. There was a strong Bolton presence in the Battalion as noted by the numbers killed and recorded on the Diversity in Barrier-Breaking Communications and  websites.

The growth of forces committed to the Gallipoli campaign meant that there was now competition for scarce resources of troop’s men and materials with the Western front.

The role of the Sixth Battalion Loyal North Lancashire regiment at Achi Baba is little known unless you have read the regimental history.

The Loyals were overrun by a Turkish human wave attack part of an action which pitted two untried British Battalions versus 12 Turkish ones.

In two days it suffered casualties on a scale which are unimaginable in the present day. Some 494 men lost  of who 222 were killed. In the newspaper I found out about the losses in the Fisher in family who lost 3 of four sons in two days a parallel with the Saving Private Ryan film.

The Achi Baba action was decisive for the Turks in securing the strategic objective of the high ground and ultimately caused the Allied campaign to fail.

As the Gallipoli campaign concluded Bolton people were now aware of the costs in casualties so far as well as just how many had volunteered for service. They were now certain it was going to be a long war.

When I researched the talk I was reminded that there is no substitute for primary sources when studying history. I saw at first hand some of the evidence of the tremendous sacrifice made by Bolton people one hundred years ago a humbling experience.

As for the talk itself there were 50 attendees which is an indication of the interest in the subject as well as the success of the publicity put out beforehand. It was well received with a lot of questions at the end which I did my best to answer. I will be doing another talk on the Somme and Bolton in 2016!

I would like to thank Julie Lamara, Mathew Watson and Jim Robinson from Bolton Library Museums and Archives for their help in procuring materials for the collection and guiding me.

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Deadman’s Penny

This fantastic blog post, written and researched by Tom Walsh, was originally published in Wigan’s Local History magazine ‘Past Forward’.


Wigan Observer, 20 October 1917.

As the anniversary of the First World War approached I began to think about Wigan’s involvement in the war to end all wars – if only it were so – and my mind wandered back to my school days at St Patrick’s School and being told about Thomas Woodcock V.C., a former pupil of the school. We were told how after a Civic Reception at Wigan Town Hall he was the guest of honour at our school and that very night he left Wigan to return to the front, never to return to Wigan.

He had cheated death once but wasn’t to be so fortunate a second time. He was killed in action on the 27 March 1918, only months before the armistice. His bravery was further underlined by the fact that as a recipient of the Victoria Cross, he was excused front line action, but he insisted on rejoining his comrades. Considering his experience, his insistance on returning to rejoin battle was surely as brave as his exploits on the battlefield; by this commitment surely another medal for bravery was deserved.

His citation reads:

‘On the 13 September 1917 north of Broenbeek, Belgium, when an advanced post had held out for 96 hours and was finally forced to retire, Private Woodcock covered the retreat. Private Woodcock heard cries for help behind him – he returned and waded into the stream amid a shower of bombs and rescued another member of the party the latter he then carried across open ground in daylight towards our front line, regardless of machine-gun fire.’

In preparing this story I had the great pleasure of meeting Mrs Veronica Ashton, grand-daughter of this outstanding man. She was able to give me an insight into the pride his family still have almost a century after his sacrifice; she allowed me to view her albums and a picture that has pride of place in her home. She recalls clearly his medals being displayed in a glass case in her grandmother’s home in Cambridge Street. Mrs Ashton has visited her grandfather’s grave along with her children; she tells me of the overwhelming feeling of pride mixed with sorrow, tears only just held back. Veronica is a kind person, of steely determination and it is clear that Thomas Woodcock’s traits have been passed down the generations. As she is proud of him, I’m sure he in turn would be equally proud of her.

There are memorials to this brave soldier in both St Patrick’s Church and School. His Victoria Cross can be seen at The Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, London. I haven’t yet seen the medal but on my next visit to the capital I shall certainly pay a visit. I’m sure it will be a surreal experience knowing that I’ve shared a schoolyard with a man of such outstanding courage, albeit 55 years apart!

My only real memory regarding the First World War was of seeing a large coin type ornament on the sideboard of a neighbour in McCormick Street. Mrs Kelly had lost a son in The Great War, as she always described it, and asking her about it she explained that it was given to the families of servicemen who died in the war and that it was called ‘The Deadman’s Penny’.

I remember saying in a childlike way, ‘a penny isn’t much for a life’. I can still remember her reply, ‘e love it’s not but it’s all I’ve got of him, and it’s worth its weight in gold to me’. At such a young age I couldn’t fully comprehend what she meant or understand her great sorrow, which never truly healed. Mrs Kelly died in the family home in 1951, still a broken woman. The suffering of the First World War was not only on the battlefields of Flanders and Passchendaele, but in the hearths, hearts and homes of the mothers and fathers who would never see their sons again, not even left with a grave to tend. I think I half realised, even for one so young, that part of Mrs Kelly died on that day in 1918.

As the centenary of the start of that war is remembered, my mind went back to Mrs Kelly and the so called Deadman’s Penny and I resolved to find out more about her son. The following article is what I was able to ascertain with the help of the records from Wigan’s Archives & Local Studies, where the newspaper index and records of the war are truly amazing; thanks are due to all who worked on its compilation. Below is the full report:

‘Wigan Observer, 2 November 1918.

Nineteen, and Four Years’ Service.

Mrs Kelly of 34 McCormick Street Wigan has received news that her son Pte. John Kelly, Royal Irish Fusiliers Lewis Gun Corps, has been killed in action. Pte. Kelly who was nineteen years old and single enlisted in November 1914 and was last employed as a drawer at the Maypole Collieries. A comrade-in-arms, writing to the bereaved mother, tell her that her son was very well liked by all the boys in the platoon.’

John Kelly was born on the 4 June 1899, so he was only fifteen years, six months old when he volunteered (conscription was only introduced in 1916). Therefore, he must have exaggerated his age to enlist; I don’t think many questions were asked in those days. The tragedy is compounded by the nearness of the ceasefire; had that taken place a week or so earlier, John Kelly would have returned to Wigan a war hero and Mrs Kelly would have been spared thirty-three years of heartache. If a week is a long time in politics, it must be an eternity in war.

I was only six years old when Mrs Kelly died and I have often wondered what happened to the penny. I hope it didn’t go in a house clearance or was sold in a second-hand shop for a few coppers; a man’s life surely deserves better than that. Had I been older when Mrs Kelly died I would have suggested that it was placed in her coffin. Mother and son together forever. What ever its fate, I’m sure Mrs Kelly would be proud to see her son still remembered almost a hundred years after his death.


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The Battle of Coronel, 1 November 1914


Following the outbreak of the war HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth, with crews consisting mainly of reservists, were sent to the coast of Brazil to search for German light cruisers known to be in the area. Encountering no ships Good Hope and Monmouth moved round the coast to Chile, where at Coronel on the evening of 1st November they met the German ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.

Scharnhorst engaged the Good Hope sinking it with all hands at 7.50pm, a total of 919 men, following a direct hit on the forward magazine. One shell from Gneisenau blew the roof off Monmouth‘s forward turret and started a fire, causing an ammunition explosion that completely blew the turret off the ship. Severely damaged the ship was later attacked by the Nürnberg and at 9.58 pm the Monmouth capsized taking her entire crew of 735 men with her. The seas were too rough for any rescue to be attempted.

Seven men from Oldham and District were among those killed during the battle. On the Monmouth: Stoker 1st Class Sidney Green (SS/112171) aged 27 and an electrical engineer. He joined the navy as an artificer and was transferred to the Monmouth just before the outbreak of the war; Able Seaman George King aged 20 of Diggle; John Thomas Wade of Diggle, aged 19, adopted son of George King’s father, also George King; William A Mason aged 20.

John Henry Wogan

John Henry Wogan – Oldham Chronicle

On the Good Hope: Henry Lilley who was 32 years of age and had come to live in Oldham in 1913, the day the ship sank being the anniversary of his arrival in Oldham. He had been in the navy for five years and was in his fifth year in reserve. On 13 July he left Oldham for a month’s annual training and was in training when the war broke out and was drafted to Good Hope. He was employed at Platt’s and left a wife and two children; Stoker John Henry Wogan had been seven years in the regular naval service and was called up in July for his annual month’s training in the naval reserve. When war was declared he was drafted to the Good Hope. Age 30 left a wife and two children; Charles Sharp of Failsworth had been in the navy 15 years.

Both HMS Good Hope, named after the British colony, and HMS Monmouth, named after the Welsh County, were built at the Govan shipyard, Glasgow. Good Hope and Monmouth were launched in 1901.


This blog post was written by Roger Ivens from Oldham Local Studies and Archives.

Oldham Chronicle

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The Fallen

One of the most enduring images of the First World War is of the seemingly endless rows of white gravestones, somewhere in a foreign field. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible for maintaining cemeteries and memorials which stretch from the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres to the Helles Memorial in Gallipoli.

Sir Fabian Ware, a British Red Cross commander, started the Commission after being grieved at the number of casualties in the first years of the war. The mobile unit Sir Fabian commanded started to record and care for the graves they uncovered. By 1915, the unit had been officially recognised as the Graves Registration Commission and by 1917 the Imperial War Graves Commission had been granted a Royal Charter.

After the armistice, land and cemeteries for the dead were sought. Three architects were commissioned; Sir Edwin Lutyens, Sir Herbert Baker, and Sir Reginald Blomfield. Rudyard Kipling advised on inscriptions on the memorials.

Today school groups and tourists visit the war graves, in fact special trips are created for those who wish to learn more about the casualties. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website is an amazing resource which both local and family historians use frequently to find the names and memorials of the fallen.


Grave of Private Albert Oxley, killed in France in 1917, with a temporary cross to mark the location.

However, not all casualties of the First World War were buried abroad. The fallen lie buried in our local cemeteries and churchyards too.

For instance, Private Alfred Jackson is buried in Tyldesley Cemetery. He died from wounds suffered at the Battle of the Somme. Alfred had been a member of the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, who had fought at Gallipoli and then at the Somme.

The Somme was a hideous campaign. It lasted from the 1 July 1916 until November 1916. On the first day alone there were around 60,000 British casualties, 20,000 of whom were killed. Sixty per cent of all officers were killed on that first day too. A letter from a soldier which appeared in the Leigh Journal said that,

‘The trenches were full of dead and dying, and some of them have been 30 hours waiting for attention. Ambulances are running about at full-speed, and everybody is doing his best for them. I have seen over a hundred bodies in one line waiting to be buried’.

After he was wounded, Alfred wrote home to his mother telling her that, ‘we got a terrible handling. One of our men came to see me at the dressing station, and he told me that our battalion losses were very severe. But thank God every regiment did not get as tough a job as we bonnie Scotties’. Alfred also wrote it ‘shall be a good bit before I am right again. My left thigh is broken and they have not got the old iron out of my leg yet’.

Alfred was brought back home by ship but he died of his wounds on the 19 July 1916. Alfred received a military funeral and a firing party came from the Leigh Prisoner of War camp.

Many of those who lie buried in military graves died of diseases contracted whilst serving abroad. Nursing Sister Mary Ann Allen contracted malaria on the Mesopotamian front whilst serving at the 33rd British General Hospital in Basra. Mary recovered but the disease had considerably weakened her. On returning home to Tyldesley, Mary was appointed District Nurse but less than a year later Mary died from her weakened state. She is buried in Tyldesley Cemetery as well.

There are other female casualties who are buried in local cemeteries. Bertha McIntosh is buried in Atherton Cemetery with her family. Bertha died of TNT poisoning contracted whilst working at a National Filling Factory in Morecambe making munitions for battle ships. Both Bertha and her sister Ida had gone to work at the factory. On the 20 April 1917 Bertha had been taken ill, less than a month later she died on the 13 May at Royal Albert Edward Infirmary in Wigan. Bertha’s family received £50 in compensation for her death.

Another young lady called Margaret Ann Silcock also died from the effects of poison whilst working at the same National Filling Factory in Morecambe. Margaret was only 22 years old. She died on the 20 February 1917 at 1 Wright’s Yard, Wigan. Inquests were held for both Margaret and Bertha’s deaths. Both causes were cited as accidental. Margaret is buried at Wigan Cemetery (Lower Ince). Also buried at Wigan Cemetery (Lower Ince), are Samuel and Jane Tomlinson, husband and wife who were killed during the zeppelin air raid on Wigan. Before midnight on the 12 April 1918, a zeppelin dropped bombs on the Whelley, New Springs, Scholes and Lower Ince areas of Wigan. The bombs created huge devastation. Six people were killed, five of them outright, including Samuel and Jane Tomlinson. Samuel, a gas inspector, lived with Jane at 35 Harper Street. On the night of the raid Samuel and Jane were asleep in bed when the bomb fell. The blast from the bomb threw them both through a window and they died from the impact.


War memorial outside Top Chapel, Tyldesley, c. 1919.The war memorial was later moved to Tyldesley Cemetery.

There are of course those who fought and survived the First World War buried in local cemeteries. These veterans are not always in graves which have memorials commemorating their service but one that does is that of Alfred Wilkinson, the Victoria Cross winner, who is buried in Leigh Cemetery. Alfred was awarded the Victoria Cross for volunteering to deliver a message under heavy fire. The message was to send assistance to his company who were under attack. The four runners who had volunteered to deliver the message before Alfred had all been killed. Alfred delivered the message through 600 yards of heavy machine gun fire. Assistance was eventually sent.

After the war, Alfred opened a sweet shop at 113 Etherstone Street with his wife Grace but he gave this up to work in the surveyor’s laboratory at Bickershaw Colliery. During the Second World War, Alfred assisted in the home guard. On 18 October 1940, Alfred was found dead at work. He had died from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a bird blocking the ventilation pipe. Alfred was buried in Leigh Cemetery will full military honours.

Over the years Alfred’s grave fell into disrepair. Encouraged by Bert Paxford on behalf of the Old Comrade’s Association of the Manchester Regiment, Wigan Council spent around £250 restoring Alfred’s grave. A black granite cross with the Victoria Cross inscribed on it now marks Alfred’s burial site.

This blog was written and researched by Hannah Turner from Leigh Local Studies.


  • Image PC2013.46 Grave of Private Albert Oxley, killed in France in 1917, with a temporary cross to mark the location. Wigan Archives & Local Studies.
  • Image PC2010.19 War memorial outside Top Chapel, Tyldesley, c. 1919. Wigan Archives & Local Studies.
  • Commonwealth War Graves Commission
  • Wigan & Leigh Archives Online

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The 5th Battalion: the Manchester Regiment

Wigan Territorials

Wigan Territorials, Manchester Regiment, c. 1914.

Lancashire’s contingent of the Territorial Force had two divisions, East and West. The Manchester Regiment was part of the East Lancashire Division. Each Regiment had fourteen Battalions of approximately 1000 men. The Wigan Battalion (5th) consisted of Wigan (A to E), Patricroft (F), Leigh (G) and Atherton (H) Companies. County Associations were responsible for its administration and military authorities for training.

The Territorial Force (TF), established in 1908, replaced the existing Local Volunteer and Militia units, and was conceived primarily as a home defence force. Their organisation and training reflected this.

The attitude of mind behind the derogatory phrase, ‘Terriers playing at soldiers’, resulted from policies and practices that were detrimental to the Terriers. They revealed a leadership out of touch with the realities of the lives of the working men who formed the battalions; their leaders expected too much for too little and expected part-time volunteer recruits to attain the same level of proficiency as professional soldiers.

Young men of ‘good character’ initially enlisted for four years, and submitted themselves to military discipline. They were required to attend their local Drill Halls twice weekly after work – men who worked night shifts attended during the day. This was non-negotiable.

At the Drill Hall, Terriers were introduced to the rudiments of soldiery. They were not passive recipients of training. They had targets to meet. The main focus, apart from Drill, was rifle training. The programme involved weekly target practice in the Drill Halls, progressing to firing at a local Miniature Range, then further training and assessment at the Regiment’s Rifle Range at Stalybridge.

Apart from personal awards (proficiency certificates) they were encouraged to compete within their own company, between other companies at weekend camps, between other Battalions within their Regiment and both within, and as part of, the East Lancashire Division, against other divisions at annual camps.

Using a similar pattern, moving from personal practice to larger theatres, Terriers developed their marching expertise. Hence, from Drill Hall practice to participating in local recruiting parades, then widening their sphere. The Battalion marched at the head of the procession for the Maypole Colliery Disaster Memorial Service, from the tram lines at Platt Bridge to Abram. In this instance they were soberly dressed in green serge. When they Paraded to Wigan Parish Church and received their Colours at Haigh Hall, they paraded in their ‘walking out’ uniform of scarlet and white. Highly visible, they marched from their Drill Halls (Powell Street, Wigan, Ellesmere St, Leigh, Mealhouse Lane, Atherton, and Cromwell Road, Patricroft) to railway stations en-route to weekend and annual camps. They took their place among the 16,000 troops of the Manchester Regiment marching past King Edward at Worsley and participated in mass marches at multi-divisional camps at Salisbury Plain and Aldershot.

The training objectives at Camps focussed on preparation for war-readiness. A vital component of this was the camaraderie necessary to create a viable fighting force. Within the self-contained military world of the camps, Terriers shared with others of like mind activities designed to foster feelings of pride, belonging, team spirit, loyalty. They moved from being motivated by personal, to group achievement, through inter-Battalion/Division Football matches – the 5th’s team was the ‘All Blacks‘ – wrestling, boxing, marching, shooting competitions and of course war-games.

However, attending camps did pose serious problems, some of which had direct links to the parsimonious nature of funding. In 1908, the Battalions of the Manchester Regiment attended a mass camp on Salisbury Plain. On arrival, the 5th had to march ten miles in pouring rain, most without greatcoats, some wearing civilian clothes, then sleep on sodden ground without sufficient tent boards during their time at camp. Many returned ill. 400 Lancashire men were hospitalised, many with pneumonia.

Other health related issues were more chronic. Most of the 5th Battalion’s Terriers were miners or mill workers, whose long hours and poor working conditions took their toll. These young men – they were mostly young, aged 19 and under – went directly from work to camp and after further exhausting themselves travelled home in time for work early next morning. For instance, whilst at weekend camp at Parbold, local Terriers were required to sleep in ditches, again in atrocious weather conditions, then due to lack of funds, march back to Wigan late on Sunday.

Government showed no real understanding or empathy for the economic reality of working men, who, without security of tenure (many miners were datallers), could not risk two weeks absence – or even a Saturday away – from work. Unsympathetic employers could simply replace them.

Unemployment or underemployment (no Saturday overtime) could result in hardship or destitution for themselves and their families. The camp allowance of one shilling a day was totally inadequate. Despite constant pressure to introduce a married men’s allowance, compensate for loss of earnings or refund the incidental expenses incurred by ordinary Terriers, no progress was made. By the end of 1913, Terriers were better provided for, but were still often out of pocket.

Mandatory attendance at Annual Camp posed specific problems in Lancashire cotton towns, with their rolling timetable of Wakes Weeks. Should Annual Camp not coincide with your town’s holiday week you were stuck; you either went to work and fell foul of military law, guilty of being ‘absent without leave’, or went to Camp and risked your job.

Yet being a Terrier was not without its rewards. There was, of course, the emotionally uplifting experience of marching to the catchy and jaunty popular tunes and songs played by military bands – perhaps with a bit of a swagger? – through their home towns, maybe watched by friends and family. For all the negative criticism in the press this type of personal experience must have been affirming. As well as pride and self-respect, being a terrier also offered opportunities to widen horizons, and not just literally by travelling outside their immediate environment. They also got the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills not normally open to them including Drill Hall classes in musketry and the use of the Maxim gun, medics or signalling training.

Though not a ‘Pals’ battalion as such, much of their military identity was matched by their identity as miners or mill workers. They shared personal experiences of their work and neighbourhoods. To the Terriers, alongside their fellow mill workers and miners wearing their Sunday best Monkey-toed clogs as they marched off to War in 1914, the experience would not have felt completely alien.

Thanks to Yvonne Eckersley, a volunteer at Wigan Archives, for producing this fascintaing blog post.


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John Elisha Grimshaw


Corporal John Elsha Grimshaw, 1st Battalion, The Lancashire Fusiliers, awarded the Victoria Cross, West of Cape Helles, Gallipoli, 25 April 1915.

Sergeant John Elisha Grimshaw, of 406 Warrington Road, Abram, was one of the “six VCs before breakfast” during the Gallipoli landings in April 1915. These six soldiers from the 1st Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers were awarded VCs for their heroism. They were part of the “Lancashire Landings” at Cape Helles, the southern end of the Gallipoli peninsula. The Gallipoli campaign was fought from April 1915 to January 1916 and in that time approximately 400 people from Wigan Borough died, these included soldiers from both the 1/5 Manchester Regiment and the 6/South Lancashires. On the first day of the campaign the Lancashires lost 533 soldiers out of 930 who began the assault and it was on this day that Grimshaw earned his medal.

The Gallipoli peninsula was difficult to attack and easy to defend, with only a few beaches capable of being landed upon. Two entire Turkish divisions were defending the area that was more favourable to attack. Along with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps the British attacked the beaches.

The Lancashire Landings

At a beach codenamed “W Beach”, two warships deployed 8 motor boats, which each towed 4 rowing boats to the shore (32 rowing boats in all). The rowing boats however became sitting ducks as the beach defences had barely been touched by the fire from the warships. Again, many men were killed in their boats.

The beach was heavily defended not just by machine guns but also barbed wire, both on the beach and in the water. Many soldiers were caught and killed in this, which in turn impeded the soldiers behind who were trying to effect a landing from their boats. Some of the wire was booby-trapped, with mines and explosives detonating if it was cut.

The soldiers were also being slowed down by the weight of the equipment they were carrying, along with their rifles becoming jammed by the water and the sand.

Sir Ian Hamilton, the British commander-in-chief, said soon after the landings: “No finer feat of arms has ever been achieved by the British soldier, or any other soldier, than the storming of these trenches by the Lancashire Fusiliers”.

Who were awarded medals was chosen from a ballot from the survivors and each citation didn’t give much description of each soldiers feat of arms; in the words of the local MP “Although all our lads cannot receive the D.C.M., Sergeant Grimshaw himself will agree that there are hundreds who deserve it, and all we can do is to see that when they return they shall receive the full reward for coming to their country’s aid in the time of need”. During the landing, Grimshaw had been sending information back to the beach whilst exposed to enemy fire, all the time in jovial spirits. Grimshaw was originally awarded a D.C.M. but once his heroism had been recognised he was awarded a V.C.

A memorial plaque has recently been unveiled at Abram Community Garden on Warrington Road, Abram.


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Food Shortages during the First World War

During the early 18th Century, more than one third of the UK labour force worked in agriculture. British farmers were able to produce enough food to feed the whole population, and there was even surplus grain for exports.

However, the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846, and the effects this had during the First World War, had a massive impact on British farming and taught us valuable lessons for WW2.


Ministry of Food Ration Book, 1918. Manchester Archives GB127.M138/2481.

The Corn Laws were first introduced in Britain in 1815, when the landowners, who dominated Parliament, sought to protect their profits by imposing tariffs on cheap foreign imports of grain. This resulted in the artificial inflation of bread prices and meant that many British people struggled to afford this staple food item.

The government faced fierce opposition in the form of the Anti- Corn Law League who campaigned to have the Corn Law abolished. However, it wasn’t until the devastating potato blight hit Europe in the 1840s that the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, began to question the rationality of the Corn Law.


Broadside celebrating the Repeal of the Corn Laws, 3 Aug 1846. Manchester Archives GB127.Broadsides/F1846.3.

In January 1846 a new Corn Law was passed that reduced the duty on imported oats, barley and wheat. Imports began to rise rapidly and Britain became more and more dependent on foreign deliveries of food, and, in particular, cereals.

Farmers began to adapt to these changes in trade, and there was a widespread transition from arable farming to pasture farming. This reduction in domestic food production was echoed by a decrease in the number of men employed in agriculture. By 1901 just 12 per cent of the male population worked in the farming industry, and this number continued to decrease. By the time of the Great War the Government’s lack of self-sufficiency and continued reliance on imports threatened to cost Britain the war…

Many men from the farming industry were leaving to join the armed services leaving the country in even shorter supply of agricultural workers. In addition, severe weather in 1916 led to a poor wheat harvest and the failure of potato crops in Scotland and parts of England.

The situation became even worse as supply routes became either completely cut off or increasingly treacherous. Merchant ships became targeted by German U-boats from 1916. By 1917 Germany declared unrestricted warfare and sank one in four merchant ships in the Atlantic.

When David Lloyd George took over as Prime Minister in December 1916 he committed to dealing with the ‘food problem’.

Bills were passed under the Defence of the Realm Act (DORA) to prevent food wastage and the price of foods such as milk and bread were fixed by the government. Compulsory rationing was also introduced, and citizens were encouraged to cut down on wheat usage and instead use alternatives such as potatoes.


Ministry of Food Leaflet, 1918, encouraging the use of potatoes as a substitue for bread and flour. Manchester Archives GB124.Q330.

The government were also able to seize control of any unused land for the use of farming under DORA. However, replacing lost labour proved more difficult as many of the men working on farms had enlisted. With two million acres of agricultural production needed, the government began a campaign to recruit as many female hands as possible. Thousands of women picked up ploughs, hoes and milk pails and joined the Women’s Land Army.

Thanks to the work of British farmers and growers the country avoided being starved into surrender. The First World War changed the face of British farming and food production forever. The lessons learned by farmers, growers, policy makers and society continue to influence the decision making process in the 21st century.



Broadside celebrating the Repeal of the Corn Laws, 3 Aug 1846. Manchester Archives GB127.Broadsides/F1846.3.

Ministry of Food Ration Book, 1918. Manchester Archives GB127.M138/2481.

Ministry of Food Leaflet, 1918, encouraging the use of potatoes as a substitue for bread and flour. Manchester Archives GB124.Q330.

National Farmers’ Union: The Few that Fed the Many

‘Feeding the Nation’ by Jonathan Brown (The Journal of the Landscape Institution)


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