GM 1914

The First World War in Greater Manchester

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Remembering War – the Stories behind Local War Memorials (Part 2)

Sarah Owen from Tameside has written a series of blog posts exploring the stories behind the borough’s war memorials.  Part 2 of the series discusses the history of the Stalybridge War Memorial. 

Stalybridge War Memorial

One of the region’s most unique and admired examples of a War Memorial, The Stalybridge War Memorial, was unveiled to the public on the 6th November, 1921 in front of a crowd of some ‘24,000 people; virtually the population of the town’.


Image 1: Stalybridge War Memorial, 2008 – Wikimedia Commons, Copyright Clem Rutter, Rochester.

In comparison to the previous example of Chapel Hill in Dukinfield, the Stalybridge Memorial reflects the intention of the erection of the memorial to become a place of remembrance and reflection. This is particularly evident on the inscription which reads:

All you who pass by remember with gratitude the men of Stalybridge who died for you.’

The Memorial also features a number of other quotations. One of the more well-known is the words taken from Katherine Tynan’s poem, Flower of Youth.

Now heaven is by the young invaded. Their Laughter’s in the House of God.

 At the unveiling ceremony, which began at 3 o’clock, the Mayor of Stalybridge, Councillor Ada Summer unveiled the army pedestal and the navy pedestal was unveiled by the war time mayor, Alderman James Bottomley. In a poignant touch, Stalybridge born ex-Private Ernest Sykes, who had received the Victoria Cross during the conflict, laid a wreath on behalf of the Stalybridge Branch of the newly established British Legion of Ex-Servicemen.

As with many of our local memorials, Stalybridge memorial was adapted following the conclusion of the Second World War in order to feature the names of those soldiers lost in the second conflict. The Stalybridge Memorial is perhaps unique in that its arch design was extended to the double arch which can be seen today. The extension was unveiled by Mrs Gertrude Monday of 128 Mottram Road who had lost her husband in the Great War and her son in the Second World War.

Part 1 of ‘Remembering War – the Stories behind Local War Memorials’ can be found here.


Image 1: Stalybridge War Memorial, Trinity Street, in 2008 –Wikimedia Commons, Copyright Clem Rutter, Rochester, Kent (

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Remembering War – the Stories behind Local War Memorials (Part 1)

Sarah Owen from Tameside has written a series of blog posts exploring the stories behind the borough’s war memorials. Part 1 of the series discusses the history of the Chapel Hill Memorial at Dukinfield.    

Chapel Street War Memorial

As we approach Remembrance Sunday, War Memorials such as the Cenotaph in London and the Arboretum in Birmingham will once again become the focal point of reflection.

In this, the 100th Anniversary of the First World War, it is perhaps poignant to reflect on the role of the War Memorial at a local level. In Tameside, for example, some 100 Memorials were constructed between 1922 and 1926. They were often placed in central locations within towns to ensure that the local people would be reminded on a daily basis of the magnitude of the conflict and remain thankful for the sacrifice given by the men from their towns and villages.

Although for many people they are a central focus of local Remembrance Parades and Moments of Silence, for the majority it must be said that our memorials have become so accepted as part of our local towns that they are perhaps often forgotten for their historical origins of post- WW1 Britain.

After researching the construction Tameside’s ‘Great War’ Memorials, I hope to bring to life the stories behind the construction of several of our regions finest commemorations to the fallen.

chapel hill

Image 1: Chapel Hill War Memorial, Dukinfield. Copyright Tameside MBC.

Although war memorials had been constructed to commemorate wars prior to the First World War, they had always been of Generals, Leaders and Notable Warriors, like those which adorn the streets of Westminster. Those built at a local level were to remember the local lives and contributions to the conflict, with the Chapel Street Memorial featuring 460 names of soldiers lost.

What is also striking is that while national memorials were funded by the government, those built to commemorate the First World War were funded entirely by local people, reflecting the inherent social desire to ensure that the sacrifice made by so many local men would never be forgotten- a consequence no doubt of the crude reality that so many sons, brothers and fathers would not be returned to their homes due to the scale of deaths worldwide.

Chapel Hill Memorial was unveiled on 30 July 1922 and was funded entirely by Public Subscription, or the local taxes paid by the people of Dukinfield. As with many local memorials, the decision was also made to give the job of sculpting the statue to local firms, with the 7ft 4in Soldier being carried out by Messrs. W. Hewitt and Sons, Crescent Road, Dukinfield.

As readers familiar with the current season of Downton Abbey will appreciate, the decision to construct the memorial was one filled with public debate. A meeting of taxpayers was held in the Town Hall on 3 February 1919 to decide whether a public memorial should be erected to the town’s dead and what form any memorial should take. Although it was agreed that there should be a memorial in Dukinfield, there were a number of proposals as to its form. Members of the neighbouring town and district councils had already met and sent a letter to the meeting suggesting that a fitting memorial would be the extension of the District Infirmary. Other councillors were in favour of building a large public hall which would contain a memorial plaque.

Opposition to the memorial was put forward by Councillor Grundy, who argued that in addition to the problems of cost ‘monuments were not suitable in a district like this on account of the prevailing atmosphere’, in other words suggesting that people simply wanted to forget the war.

In contrast, Rev. C. Jackson Shawe, an army chaplain at the meeting, argued that the memorial should not be simply ornamental: ‘Any memorial for posterity must be a memorial of the ideal life… the Memorial should serve the purpose of spiritual reconstruction and should give their young people ideas.’

Finally, the decision was made to construct the increasingly popular style of a memorial as opposed to a plaque or building, with Chapel Hill chosen over the Town Hall as the location.

The Memorial was unveiled by Sir John Wood M.P and dedicated by the Rev. W.H.F Palin ‘in the presence of thousands of spectators’.

Sergeant Brooks, an ex-serviceman from the town who had been blinded in the war, laid the first wreath. In total, between two and three hundred wreaths were then laid, covering the base of the memorial in flowers and reflecting the support the memorial had within the community.

The Major, Alderman Underwood then addressed the crowd saying that although there had been many important occasions in the town, ‘there had never been an event which could claim to be equal in greatness or solemnity to that taking place that afternoon’.


Image 1: Chapel Hill Memorial, Dukinfield – Tameside Image Gallery, Copyright Tameside MBC (

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Brave Belgian Buried

At 4.50pm on Saturday 17 October 1914 a group of 20 wounded Belgian and French soldiers arrived in Oldham accompanied by officers from the Royal Army Medical Corps. The soldiers were taken to the Davies and Platt Wards of Oldham Royal Infirmary. The majority of soldiers here had leg injuries (though they could all walk) while other soldiers had head injuries. One soldier spoke English, the rest Flemish and French, so Mr Owen of Platt Brothers was enrolled to act as interpreter.

Bernard Conrady Royal Infirmary

Image 1: The Infirmary, Oldham. Oldham Local Studies and Archives.

Several men had to be operated on to remove bullets, and one of the Belgian soldiers, Bernard Conrardy was shot in the right eye.

Bernard Conrardy, aged 29, was a railway plate layer from Halanzy, Luxembourg. His father was Belgian and his mother French. He worked a great deal in northern France but lived in a house he owned in the village of Halanzy in Luxembourg. He was married with no children. At midnight just before the outbreak of the war, he left home to go to his work, and was called to the colours next day. He was serving with the 2nd Company of the 1st Battalion of the 13th Belgian Infantry (No 22119) when he was wounded by a bullet near his eye in the Battle of Termonde. The Germans were trying to build a bridge to cross the river at Termonde and had met Belgian resistance.

The doctors at the Infirmary decided Bernard’s eye needed to be extracted as the patient was suffering great pain, and if the eye wasn’t removed he would become completely blind. The operation was almost complete when the patient collapsed and, despite attempts at resuscitation, the patient died. A post mortem revealed that the bullet had entered near the right ear and travelled under the skin, coming out of the outer wall of the socket of the right eye. At the subsequent inquest on 20 October the coroner’s verdict was ‘death from heart failure following the skilful administration of chloroform.’ No blame was attached to anyone, and the Coroner said the man’s stamina had been reduced through hardships he had endured through fighting for his country.

The funeral at St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was attended by an ‘immense crowd’ of thousands of Oldham people. ‘Never before in the history of Oldham did a funeral attract more widespread notice, or was more general sympathy in evidence’. A firing and bearing party was provided by the Manchester Regiment from Ashton, and five wounded comrades also attended: Jean Leraux, Edmund Vereinden, Hector Prette, Antoine Robert and Schwinder Leonard.

Following a requiem mass the coffin was conveyed to New Moston Cemetery, where it was interred in a grave at the side of the main walk in the centre of the cemetery. The firing party fired three shots and the Last Post was sounded.

An unfortunate incident occurred after most of the crowd had dispersed from Moston Cemetery. Two young ladies ridiculed the service and a number of people became indignant and threatened them, forcing the women to take refuge in the Church.

The remains of Belgian soldiers were repatriated after the war and Bernard Conrardy’s name can be seen on the war memorial at Halanzy.

Bernard Conrady_halanzy07

Image 2: Halanzy War Memorial. Jean Housen, Wikimedia Commons.


Thanks to Roger Ivens at Oldham Local Studies and Archives for this great blog post. 


Oldham Standard
Oldham Chronicle
Oldham Evening Chronicle
Image 1: A photograph of the Infirmary, Oldham – Oldham Local Studies and Archives
Image 2: A photograph of Halanzy War Memorial – Jean Housen, Wikimedia Commons (

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Heaton Mersey Red Cross Hospital

In December 1914, the Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School’s building in Heaton Mersey was transformed into one of the many Red Cross hospitals stationed across the UK, to help aid the injured soldiers of the First World War. It has been known to have nursed over 2,000 men within its several wards, during the period of 1914-1918 (Image 1: Ward 2), helping the war effort.

Image 1: Ward 2 of the Heaton Mersey Red Cross Hospital – Copyright T.Everitt Innes, Stockport

As an insight into the life of the soldiers within this hospital, an autograph book, belonging to one of the nurses, has been discovered. Inside this, the patients expressed their appreciation of the staff, thanking them for “their kind attention” and giving them “best wishes” for the future, showing how high morale must have been due to the high standards this hospital must have provided. Some soldiers also managed to write out sentimental and patriotic verses, with a few even creating full drawings or watercolour paintings, providing the book with interest and a greater insight into their current attitudes. Additionally, each entry gave their own personal details, including their name, rank, injury, and regiment – which have shown us the great variety of patients that were treated here, with each one from a different part of the UK, and some even from Australia and Canada.  These have also demonstrated the variety of injuries being treated, such as from having “rheumatic fever,” to losing the “right arm” and being “wounded in the right hand.”

Looking over all of the entries though, it is clear that the soldiers did receive “the best” treatment, wherein they made caring “friends” and had positive relationships with those around them. Some even expressed feelings that indicated they were in a “first class hospital” with the “most excellent nurses and staff.” (See image 2: depicting the recreation room, showing the many activities the soldiers were given to help enjoy themselves and make their visit more comforting, fitting this ‘first class’ standard). This means that from this book, a great insight has been gained, both into the great quality of the hospital as well as the thoughts and feelings of the individual men and their lives within the First World War.

Heaton Hospital Image 2

Image 2: The Recreation Room of the Heaton Mersey Red Cross Hospital – Copyright T.Everitt Innes, Stockport

There are some particular entries that stand out among the rest, which prove the high morale of the injured soldiers. An example of this is that of J.M Dunsmore’s entry, a private in the 10th Canadian battalion – who wrote a poem, entitled: ‘Oh Manchester’:

The friends you meet on every street

They seem to look and stare

And always say Canadian are you going anywhere

Come on around for dinner

Or can you stay for tea

And you can’t refuse to go with them

For they are good people there.

 This poem allows us to understand how grateful even foreign soldiers were, as well as how welcoming the atmosphere that Manchester presented must have been, creating a true sense of war patriotism.

Other patriotism filled entries include one by a private of the 1st Battalion Border Regiment, who created “A War Alphabet” – which travels from A-Z, speaking of a variety of aspects within the war. An example of this is:

A is for Allies – united we stand –

To crush the old Kaiser and his German band.

This entry also portrays the high spirit of the soldiers, as they are shown to have faith in their victory, as they battle alongside their many allies, striving to beat their enemy. Similar feelings are also expressed within another private’s entry, of the 14th Battalion Middlesex regiment, who offers the poem:

England was England

When Germany was a pup.

And England will be England

When Germanys Battled up.

Therefore, these entries display the high hopes each soldier had, despite their brutal condition of physical injury – showing the true morale and enlightened feelings of each patient.

Some of these entries have also sparked interest in the particular lives of the individuals and their own experiences of the war and their injuries gained. An example of this is that of Jack Bamber Roake, whose entry, that wishes good health to the nurses of the hospital, was written on November 26th 1915, after being wounded in France during the previous month. He is known to be the son of Margaret and Harry Roake and was educated at St Dunscan’s college from 1908 to 1910, before working as a clerk to RW Denyer & Co. During the start of the war period he became a gunner, enlisting in the 4th London ‘Howitzer’ Brigade. After spending a period in Edinburgh, he was then sent to France in 1915, wherein he was wounded and sent to Heaton Mersey’s Red Cross Hospital with an injured foot, before managing to return to France in June 1916. Unfortunately, he was later killed on the 23rd July 1917, at just the age of 22. He is now buried in Duhallows Advanced Dressing Station Cemetery, near Ypres. His death has also been heavily commemorated on several war memorials, including at the Church of St. Peter, Brockley, and St Dunstan’s College (see image 3).


Heaton Hospital Image 3

Image 3: Jack Bamber Roake’s Grave Marker – International War Graves Photography Project

After suffering many losses similar to this, when the war had ended in 1918, the Heaton Mersey Red Cross Hospital was finally taken down, and the original Sunday school was restored after the re-decoration of the building in March 1919. However, as a final act, in commemoration of this hospital and the war, a plaque was placed inside the school, in order to allow us to remember the helpful, welcoming acts the staff carried out in aid of the war effort. This held the inscription:

“The British Red Cross Society hereby place on record the fact that during the Great War this school was used as a + [Red Cross] Hospital and 2256 patients were received in the Building and two temporary annexes between 7 December 1914 and March 1919.”

Therefore, hopefully the acts done by this hospital and the struggles endured by each one of its patients will be forever remembered from this plaque, autograph book and other archives – commemorating each one of their important lives, not allowing us to forget the harsh conditions they faced throughout the war. This means that although many of them may have unfortunately died, these accounts will continue to let their names and memories live on.


 This post was written by Hannah Clayton, a volunteer at Stockport Local Heritage Library. 



Heaton Mersey Red Cross Hospital Autograph Book – Stockport Local Heritage Library
Image 1: Ward 2 of the Heaton Mersey Red Cross Hospital – Stockport Local Heritage Library
Image 2: The Recreation Room of the Heaton Mersey Red Cross Hospital – Stockport Local Heritage Library
Image 3: Jack Bamber Roake’s Grave Marker – International War Graves Photography Project

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The Tank Bank in Oldham

13479093 outside Kings Arms Yorkshire Street 2 jpg

Oldham Tank Week – 11-16 February 1918

In February 1918 tank 141 ‘Egbert’ arrived outside the Town Hall in Oldham. Tanks had become immensely popular after their use in the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917 and the National War Savings Committee used this new ‘wonder weapon’ as part of a nationwide campaign to persuade people to buy War Bonds and War Saving Certificates.

Oldham received notification of the decision to send a tank to Oldham in the middle of January 1918. It was originally decided to locate the tank on Tommyfield with a pavilion adjoining and to use St. Mary’s Parish Church Schools on Burnley Street. However after a visit to see how Preston was tackling their tank visit the location was changed from Tommyfield to outside the Town Hall as less space was needed than originally thought.

‘Egbert’ left Bolton at 8pm on Saturday 7 February and arrived at Mumps station in the early hours of Sunday morning where it was kept overnight in the goods yard. Then on the Monday morning the tank ambled out of the goods yard and drove up Yorkshire Street to its position between the façade of the Town Hall and John Platt’s monument for the opening at 12 noon. A bandstand and a temporary post office from which people would be able buy their Bonds had also been erected beside the tank while cross the pillars of the Town Hall a large banner had been put up exhorting Oldhamers to roll up with their money, the appeal ending with the reminder that ‘the Tank loves a cheerful lender’.

After a short speech the Mayor declared the Tank Bank open and proceeded to pass a cheque for £100,000 which the Council had decided to invest through one of the two tank windows. The target for Oldham was set at £1,000,000 with individuals rather than industries being the main contributors as it was thought industries were already contributing in other ways. Branches of the Tank Bank were also opened in Royton, Chadderton and Lees.

On that first day Subscriptions totalling £320,000 were recorded in the first hour, the band of the 1st Manchester Regiment played in the afternoon and in the evening Private Cook of the 2/10 Manchesters was presented with the Military Medal on top of the tank for helping capture an enemy dugout and four prisoners. The Waterhead Prize Brass Band entertained the crowd from 7-9 pm.

On the morning of the second day the tank was visited by around 4,000 school children who were marched in procession to view the Tank. On their return to their classrooms they were called upon to write essays upon what they had seen. The Volunteers marched to Chadderton for a meeting in front of the Town Hall.

On Wednesday 13 February a party of munition girls arrived from Rochdale who said they were tired of waiting and proceeded to deposited £300 in the Tank, and the ‘largest outdoor meeting that Royton had ever seen’ was held in the evening. After three days £682,957 had been raised.

Further medal presentations were made on the Thursday. Corporal Frank Doleman of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment received the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bombadier H Rhodes of Greenfield the Military Medal. A large procession, led by an illuminated tram car, took place in Lees. The procession consisted of members of the District Council, War Savings committee, Oldham Volunteer Corps and their band, followed by troops of boy scouts.

Friday 15 February was designated ‘Out-townships Day’ and that evening the illuminated car undertook a tour of Oldham, Shaw, Royton and Lees. By the following day the target of £1,000,000 target has been passed. That day two Oldham men were presented with medals: Private Wheeler with the Military Medal and Driver Henthorn with the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

The total amount of money raised in Tank Week was £1,529,259 including contributions from Chadderton, Royton, Crompton, and Lees and Springhead.

After the end of the war the tank ‘Egbert’ was presented to West Hartlepool which had won the competition for investing the most per capita of population. There it remained until 1937 when the West Hartlepool Town Council decided to scrap it as a ‘relic of barbarism’.

Oldham also received its ‘presentation’ tank which was parked for a number of years in Alexandra Park before being scrapped in 1938. A tank was also presented to Crompton.


This blog post was written by Ann Jones from Oldham Local Studies and Archives. 


Oldham Chronicle
Oldham Standard
Image: Oldham Local Studies and Archives


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Sir John Leigh of Altrincham

This blog post was written by Bernard Shea, a volunteer at Trafford Local Studies.

Whilst researching war hospitals as part of the Trafford Local Studies First World War Volunteer Project, I came across the name of John Leigh, a name known in Trafford as result of the John Leigh Park.  Investigating further, I found a story of a man who, touched by the horrors of the war, used his wealth and influence to contribute to the care of injured service men.

Tracing his family history was a challenge, as both his father and son were named John, but using genealogical sources and the resources held by Trafford Local Studies; I was able to piece together his story.

Image 1: John Leigh - Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian Yearbook 1917-1918.

Image 1: John Leigh – Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian Yearbook 1917-1918.

John Leigh was born in 1884 and educated at Manchester Grammar School.  On leaving school, he joined his father’s firm in the cotton waste processing industry.

By the time war broke out in 1914, at the age of 30, he was a well-respected and successful businessman. When the ravages of the war became more evident, as seriously injured servicemen returned from the battlefields, John and his wife decided to do what they could to relieve the suffering they witnessed.

Their first major contribution was the purchase, for the Red Cross, of Townfield House in Altrincham.  His wife personally supervised the fitting out and equipment of the hospital which was opened on 28thApril 1917 by Katherine, Duchess of Westminster.  After Townfield House was opened, John Leigh continued to finance much of the maintenance costs which included the purchase of five ambulances, together with their on-going running expenses, for the use by the Red Cross.

Image 2: Townfield House - Trafford Lifetimes TL4227.

Image 2: Townfield House – Trafford Lifetimes TL4227.

John Leigh later donated his father’s former home, Woodbourne, Brooklands, together with eight acres of land, and personally financed the conversion and subsequent fitting out and maintenance of what became to be known as The John Leigh Memorial Hospital.  It was specifically designed and equipped to help servicemen returning from battle who were suffering from severe shell shock and it was clearly recognised as a significant contribution to the war effort as it was opened on Saturday 15th June 1918 by Queen Victoria’s son, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Connaught KG.  Once again, Lady Leigh supervised the equipping of the hospital and John Leigh contributed to the on-going running costs.

Image 3: John Leigh Memorial Hospital - Original brochure held by Trafford Local Studies.

Image 3: John Leigh Memorial Hospital – Original brochure held by Trafford Local Studies.

John Leigh also sought to acquire, and eventually purchased, a large area of land, adjacent to Townfield House in order to provide a recreational facility for the occupants of the then John Leigh Hospital.  The land he purchased for the sum of £7,000, today known as the John Leigh Park, still provides an opportunity for recreation and relaxation for all to enjoy.

John Leigh was made a baronet in February 1915, and as Sir John Leigh of Altrincham, Cheshire, together with his wife, maintained his contribution to the relief of suffering for returning injured servicemen.

As a consequence of his generous financial gifts and personal involvement, together with his wife, numerous servicemen received the best available care, support and comfort they justifiably deserved as a result of their service to the nation.



Image 1: John Leigh – Altrincham, Bowdon and Hale Guardian Yearbook 1917-1918.
Image 2: Townfield House – Trafford Lifetimes TL4227.
Image 3: John Leigh Memorial Hospital – Original brochure held by Trafford Local Studies.

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Zeppelin over Bolton

Margaret Koppens, a volunteer at Bolton Museum and Archive, has written this story of the threat posed to Bolton by a Zeppelin during the Great War.

Zeppelin Raid, 25th September 1916
Kirk damage comp

During the First World War thousands of men from Bolton and elsewhere were sent to fight the war in France which in those days must have seemed a long way from home. But on the night of the 25th September 1916 the war came to Bolton in the form of bombs and incendiaries dropped from a L21 German Air Ship, known as a ‘Zeppelin’.

When the story was reported in the press some days later, the exact location of the raid was not given due to censorship restrictions; instead it was reported as ‘a town in the north Midlands’. It was at the end of the war in September 1918 when the full story was told in the Bolton Journal & Guardian.

The Zeppelin having caused damage at Ramsbottom and Holcombe came into Bolton over Astley Bridge dropping the first bomb near to the Eden Orphanage, from here he travelled over Halliwell and Chorley Old Road, missing the cotton mills but dropping bombs and incendiaries, one of which demolished the end house of Lodge Vale, near the Mortfield Bleachworks. He then turned his attention to the Deane Road area missing the four large gasometers and the railway sidings but dropping an incendiary which set fire to stables in Wellington Yard. It was Kirk Street which ran between Deane Road and Derby Street which suffered the most damage with six houses being destroyed and 13 people killed and nine seriously injured; in all 19 families were rendered homeless. After dropping more bombs in Bolton town centre the L21 was last seen heading north towards Blackburn.

Kirk Street image comp

Zep raid derby st

Derby St zep

An entry in the Log Book of Derby Street School for 26th September 1916 records 60 children absent and the register not marked  followed by the following comment “…the calmness and absence of abnormality on the part of the poor children whose homes had been destroyed was a wonderful witness to their ability to undergo emergencies.” In the front of the Log Book is written a full account of the raid and the thousands of people who came from as far away as Liverpool from early morning until late at night and by all means of transport to view the “wreckage and havoc wrought”.
Kirk st comp

‘In Memorium’ Cards were printed by a local printer which were sold to provide funds for the people of Kirk Street who had suffered in the bombing.



Bolton Journal & Guardian 13th December 1918
Bolton Journal & Guardian 24th September 1920
The Log Book of Derby Street School 1916
Peter J. C. Smith. “Zeppelins over Lancashire.” 1991 Neil Richardson, Publisher
‘In Memorium Card’ Bolton Museum Ref: 1979/36


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