GM 1914

The First World War in Greater Manchester


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The Thompson Brothers in WW1

This blog post is written by Bill Darbyshire a researcher at Bolton History Centre.

 

Jack and Bob Thompson were born in Westhoughton (Lancashire); Jack on 18th November 1895 and Bob on 6th Dec 1898 sons of Arthur and Catherine Elizabeth Thompson.

robert thompsonrichard thompson

With their elder sister Jane (born 1893) the family moved to Chew Moor, Lostock, living firstly at 71 St John’s Road and then at 228 Tempest Road as the family grew Arthur was born in 1902, Ellen (Nellie) in 1905 and Walter in 1909. All the children were baptised at St Bartholomew’s Church in Westhoughton, went to the village school at St Johns C of E and to the local Wesleyan Church across the road from their house.

The Thompsons still live in Bolton – Bobs son John and his family live in Horwich and Arthurs Daughter Enid and her children and grandchildren live in Heaton.

Chew Moorbarthelomew

Arthur (senior) worked as a joiner Heatons mill at Lostock. Nearly the whole family ended up working there with Bob and Arthur working with their Dad in the warehouse as case makers picking up the family trade in joinery. Jane, Jack and Nellie worked on the looms working their way up from piecers to winders and finally to spinners.

The War to End all Wars – In 1914 the First World War started and in the early days there was a great rush to join the services as everyone expected a very short war and “to be home by Christmas”. Lord Kitchener (in charge of the war office) realised this was unlikely and started to raise new armies to support the British Expeditionary Force which had fought bravely during the first years of the war. These new Kitchener Armies K1, K2 and K3 created new “service” battalions to fight alongside the regular and Territorial Army units. Each Army was made up of divisions improvised from battalions of the regular army alongside the Service Battalions which where troops prepared for active service by intensive training. It was to be linked with the old Army by its infantry units being formed as new “service battalions” of the Regular regiments belonging to the districts in which they were recruited. The new battalions would thus inherit some of the traditional esprit de corps of the historic regiment by whose names they were known and whose badges they wore.

Jack volunteered for the Kings Own Royal Lancasters in April 1915 but during the medical at the barracks in Lancaster was found to have a valvular disease of the heart and was discharged within two days of having joined up. His army papers record him as being 19yrs and 164 days old, 5 ft 8 inches with brown eyes, a 34 inch waist and belonging to the Church of England. Having been medically discharged Jack went back to working at Heaton’s cotton mill becoming a skilled spinner and working to support the war effort. He probably suffered terribly at the hands of the local population for not going to war,  outwardly he looked perfectly normal and he was able to work long days in the mill.

In December 1916 Bob was due to be 18 and would receive his call up papers, they had heard that a new battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers was being recruited in Bury and Bob and Jack signed up at Wellington Barracks, Jack was drafted to the  the 10th (Service) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers and Bob to the newly formed Machine Gun Corps.

Fusiliers Cap

machine gun corps

Obviously the 2nd medical overlooked the heart disease recorded when he had signed up previously but the army was getting desperate for men due to the high number of casualties being suffered at the front.
Both men did their training in England to prepare them for trench warfare, Jack was trained near Hull whilst Bob was trained how to use machine guns at Belton Park near Grantham. Its not clear whether the brothers met at the front – there are stories of brothers and friends passing each other on marches and calling out – “hows it going” and “still alive then”.

They shipped to France in 1917 and joined the fighting on the Western Front. By this time the war of attrition with attacks and counter attacks well established and they became familiar with having 3 to 4 days in the trenches with rest periods before going back into battle.

The family recently visited the Fusilier Museum in Bury, their research expert (Phil Mather) was able to fill in more of the story about how Jack was killed in action. He lost his life towards the end of the war on 9th Sept 1918 with only 9 weeks fighting left before the armistice. The British where trying to break down the Hindenburg line – the Germans last major line of defence. Part of this was the push to capture a French village called Gouzeaucourt (10 miles from Cambrai). On the night of 8th of September Jacks Company started to move into position to attack lines of trenches south west of Gouzeaucourt. The approach was very difficult as the night was dark and the German artillery were pouring down explosive and poison gas shells. Despite the chaos all the soldiers where in position by 3.15 in the morning. The order to go over the top came at 4am and the 800 men of the battalion left the relatively safety of their trenches and moved out into no mans land. The Germans knew the attack was coming and the men had to fight their way from shell hole to shell hole in the pitch black, with German machine guns firing and more artillery shells and poison gas dropping all around. The fusiliers fought through the day and managing to take the German trenches but when dawn came Jack was found to be among the dead. The Germans counter-attacked and the Fusiliers where driven back. They returned on the 18th of September to win the trenches for good.

obituary

Bob meanwhile fought on pushing the Germans back, he was beginning to realise that being a machine gunner had a real down side. Because their guns could fire hundreds of bullets a minute over thousands of yards the Germans would focus all their efforts to knock them out. The Vickers machine gun was a big heavy piece of kit weighing 30 pounds it had a 40 to 50 pound tripod and needed dozens of boxes of ammo each weighing 22 pounds. The gun had a 4 to 6 man crew to operate it – the gunner, the loader and men to carry the boxes of ammunition.

 

The gun needed 7 pints of water to keep it cool – Bob tells that when they where desperate to top it up and had no water left they resorted to topping it up with pee. To avoid getting killed they would dismantle the gun into the trench and load it onto a push bike, they would the run down the trench to a new position and set up again to fire a hail of lead at the advancing troops.

Accordiing to the battalion diaries the Battles they fought in included the first and second battles of the Scarpe. In April 1917 and the Capture of Roeux in May 1917. They went on to fight in the first and second battles of Passchendaele in October and November – noted as some of the bloodiest battles of WW1. In 1918 they fought at St. Quentin and Bapaume in March 1918 and on to the battles of the Hindenburg Line at Havrincourt, Epehy and Cambrai

Jack is buried in France in Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery very near the battlefield were he was killed. Jack is also commemorated on the family gravestone in Deane Cemetery Bolton and on the roll of honor at St John and St Thomas’s Lostock – it reads Pte J R Thompson 10th Bn Lanc Fus, Killed in Action, Sept 9th 1918, Aged 23 yrs.

Bob went on to fight to the end of the war with the British advancing until the Germans surrendered a few weeks later. Bob survived the war and came home to Bolton and he worked at Heatons Mill until he retired. His family still live in Bolton.


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Henry Kelly Victoria Cross

 

Henry Kelly was born on 17 July 1887, at 12 Lewis Street in Miles Platting, Manchester. By the age of 13 years, Henry was employed as a Post Office Messenger at the Newton Street Sorting Office becoming a Sorting Clerk and telephonist by the time he was 23 years old. He also trained with the Manchester Royal Engineers Territorial Regiment. On 5 September 1914 he enlisted for the army as a private before being promoted to Sergeant Major with the Manchester Regiment. When he won his Victoria Cross Henry Kelly was a Second Lieutenant with the West Riding Regiment.  He won his victoria cross for showing great bravery in carrying his wounded Sergeant Major 70 yards back to the trench while under heavy fire at Le Sars, France on October 4 1916. Below is the citation for his award from the London Gazette 24 November 1916:

‘Temporary Second Lieutenant Henry Kelly, West Riding Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery in attack. He twice rallied his Company under the heaviest fire, and finally led the only three available men into the enemy trench, and there remained bombing until two of them had become casualties and enemy reinforcements had arrived. He then carried his Company Sergeant Major, who had been wounded, back to our trenches, a distance of 70 yards, and subsequently three other soldiers. He set a fine example of gallantry and endurance.’

During the course of the First World War he also won the Military Cross for his actions as a Captain for the 12th Manchesters in Italy in 1918 when he lead his men in an attack on the enemy trenches and successfully captured 31 prisoners and 2 machine guns.

Henry served in the Irish National Army during the Civil War 1922-1923 and in 1936 as a Foreign Volunteer in the Spanish Civil War fighting against the fascists. In 1939 he rejoined the British Army as a Lieutenant in the Cheshire Regiment throughout the Second World War. Following the war he resigned his position and returned to work for the post office. He died in Prestwich, Manchester on the 18 January, 1960 and is buried in Southern Cemetery alongside his wife and her sister.

 

References

The London Gazette, 24 November 1916.

http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/nostalgia/henry-kelly-highly-decorated-war-7429110


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The Manchesters in Mesopotamia & the Battle of Dujailah redoubt

This blog post was completed by Isaac Boothroyd, volunteer with Archives+.

Mesopotamia: the baking deserts and windswept plains that lies between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, in modern day Iraq and Syria.

Once the birthplace of the very first cities, this ancient land has since borne witness to countless generations of history and conflict. The First World War in popular imagination is a world of poppies, trenches, and mud: the Flanders fields depicted by poets like McCrae. But largely forgotten, or at least unknown, are the conflicts that took place away from Europe, such as  the battle for Baghdad, in what was then Turkish controlled Mesopotamia.

The role played by the Manchester Regiment, (and others), in this theatre is a fascinating story of the war beyond the trenches, and some of the records of this conflict are held by the Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre, as well as the Manchester Central Library.

In particular, the fight to secure Baghdad in early 1916, (dubbed “The Baghdad Trail” by war correspondent Edmund Candler and others), proved of particular contemporary interest. The ins and outs of the campaign were summed up in a newspaper column by journalist, Lovat Fraser, and papers of some of the soldiers in the field, such as Colonel Hardcastle of the Manchester Regiment, offer a further insight into what went on.

One incident in particular seems to have defined the campaign: the Battle of Dujailah redoubt, on the 8th of March, 1916.

Map of Mesopotamia

A map from Col. Hardcastle’s papers – Dujailah can be seen on the bottom right.

Describing the events leading up to this engagement, Fraser was damning of British military leadership: “it is a narrative of one reckless frontal assault after another, delivered with insufficient flanking. Battle after battle was fought…nearly always with the same broad consequences.”

Dujailah, however, was singled out as a particularly bad episode, with Fraser describing it as “perhaps one of the worse examples of failure through bad generalship.”

The night of March 7th had seen British troops marching unseen up to Dujailah in preparation for a surprise attack on the Turks the following day. Unfortunately, although some of the troops arrived to find the fort “practically empty”, others of their number had been delayed, causing the Corps commanders to postpone the attack until the late afternoon at the earliest.

This, Fraser says, went against the wishes of some of their junior officers, but the effect was crucial: the element of surprise had been lost.

“Everything had to be done according to the copybook plans. There was first to be a bombardment of an empty position, and then Keary [one of the commanders] must wait, it was said, until Kemball’s column, which was delayed, got into position”.

The Turks, of course, used this time to reinforce the position, meaning that when the attack finally began, they were ready and waiting for the oncoming British.

“Manchester”, wrote Fraser, “can look upon that sunset attack with anger, but with mournful pride…The Manchesters led the way over 3,200 yards of open ground, and in spite of terrific rifle fire actually stormed their way into the redoubt, together with the 59th Rifles, an Indian Regiment. They were bombed out, and the attempt to relieve Kut [part of the wider objective before Baghdad] had failed.”

Fraser said the attack cost the British 3,500 lives in total, for which the fort was only briefly taken before being lost again.

The papers of Colonel Hardcastle, an officer of 1st Battalion, Manchester Regiment, provide another glimpse into the aftermath of the battle.

Two letters survive from the senior commanders of the campaign, which show how they attempted to maintain the morale of the men. The first was a typed letter from Lieutenant General Aylmer to the men of the 8th Brigade, on March 13th, 1916. In it he and Staff Captain Scott acknowledged “with what spirit you stormed the Dujailah Redoubt and how much you suffered”, as well as “the magnificent way in which they complied with the orders issued…”. They added that the officers and men had “added glory to the already glorious records of the 8th Brigade”, and overall tried to raise everyone’s spirits in order to keep them fit to fight.

Regimental thank you letter

Letter from Lt. Gen. Aylmer to the men of the 8th Brigade.

So far, so bureaucratic – we might well expect the commanders to try and rally their troops after a bruising defeat such as this.

What is interesting, however, is that a second, this time hand-written letter was sent to Colonel Hardcastle on the 23rd of March, 1916.

Col Hardcastle thank you letter

Letter to Col. Hardcastle from Maj. Gen. Keary.

This was from another of his superiors, Major General Keary, and attempted to offer Hardcastle some comfort and reassurance over the course of the battle and the wider campaign:

“The withdrawal from it [Dujailah] was a military necessity which the 8th Brigade could not have averted. The steady manner in which that withdrawal was carried out is a further proof of the quality of the officers and men engaged…your achievement is formidable, not only to yourselves, but to the divisions which I have the honour to command.”

It’s not definitive proof, of course, but Keary’s praise of the Manchesters whilst defending, (or shifting the blame) from the decisions of senior officers suggests the battle may have caused misgivings, even amongst relatively high ranks like Hardcastle, about the progress of the campaign as a whole.

Poor leadership was most certainly part of Fraser’s appraisal of the Manchesters’ campaign in Mesopotamia, as seen in this newspaper cutting:

Baghdad Trail column

Newspaper cutting by Lovat Fraser discussing the Baghdad campaign.

“…without exception, everyone, high and low, responsible for the blunders of earlier years has now been thickly covered with whitewash either by the government or the army council.”

“…while the plains of Mesopotamia are strewn with the bones of our dead, it is once more placed on record that our statesmen and generals can do no wrong!”

Though Britain was eventually successful in taking Baghdad, the cost overall was enormous. During the campaign, some 30,000 soldiers lost their lives, with a further 1,340 of their officers killed too. Countless more were injured, (Fraser put the number at 100,000 in total), all of which made him question the value of the venture, and the motives of those who ordered it:

“Was it worth it? I have some personal knowledge of the countries and peoples around the Persian Gulf. I hold that neither Mesopotamia nor Baghdad was worth it.

…We should never have gone inland, but should have contented ourselves with holding the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates.

…The true and ultimate culprits were the Asquith cabinet, who were eager for some success as a set-off to the failure of Gallipoli.”

Whether or not we agree with his assessment, (which in some ways even echoes modern debates about recent conflicts), perhaps the most important element now is to remember the battle of Dujailah redoubt, as well as the campaign more generally. The personal sacrifice and bravery of the men involved was no less important than the men in the trenches, but their battles, and their war, took place much further away in the popular imagination than the latter.

References & Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the staff of the Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre for their help with accessing the resources used in this post, as well as draw attention to the following sources used within it:

  • Newspaper cutting, “The Baghdad Trail: The Manchesters in Mesopotamia”, 1916 – MR/5/C/9 (held at Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre)

 

  • Papers of Colonel Hardcastle, 1st Batallion the Manchester Regiment (1916-17) – MR1/2/1/6 (held at Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre)


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John Thomas Victoria Cross

John Thomas was born on 10 May 1886 in Manchester. Days before his 18th birthday on May 1 1904 he joined the Royal Navy, listing his occupation at the time as a Boot Maker and he served on several ships including the HMS Leviathan before being discharged in 1907.

He became a regular Solider in the Army Service Corps before he was a Transferred to the 2/5th Battalion, Prince of Wales’s (North Staffordshire Regiment), British Army during the First World War becoming a Lance-Corporal. On 30 November 1917 at Bourlon Wood Lance-Corporal Thomas showed great bravery when he went forward under enemy fire to ascertain German intentions and because of this he received the Victoria Cross. The London Gazette from 12 February 1918 describes his actions:

‘No. 50842 Pte. (L./Cpl.) John Thomas, N.

Staffs. B. ((E) Manchester).
For most conspicuous bravery and initiative in action. He saw the enemy making preparations for a counter-attack, and with a comrade, on his own initiative, decided to make a close reconnaissance. These two went out in broad daylight in full view of the enemy and under heavy machine-gun fire. His comrade was hit within a few yards of the trench, but, undeterred, L./.C. Thomas went on alone. Working round a small copse he shot three snipers and then pushed on to a building used by the enemy as a night post. From here he saw whence the enemy were bringing up their troops and where they were congregating. He stayed in this position for an hour, sniping the enemy the whole time and doing great execution. He returned to our lines, after being away three hours, with information of the utmost value, which enabled definite plans to be made and artillery fire to be brought on the enemy’s concentration,
so that when the attack took place it was broken up’

As you can see he was very brave to initially try to approach the German lines and then even more so to continue after his fellow soldier was shot. The information he was able to gain was key to ensuring British gains in the fighting around Bourlon Wood. Lance-Corporal Thomas wrote a very touching and emotional letter to his siblings after his battalion was decimated from 950 men to just 35 during the course of bloody fighting around the time of winning his Victoria cross. In the letter he talks openly about the loneliness of war and seems understandably disillusioned with the situation he and his fellow soldiers found themselves in. This is a very interesting source and goes to show that even the most decorated of soldiers felt the horror of war and questioned what they were fighting for.

After the war John returned to the Greater Manchester area and lived in Stockport until his death on February 28 1954. He is buried in Stockport Cemetery.

Picture courtesy of Victoria Cross Online- http://www.victoriacrossonline.co.uk/john-thomas-vc/4588329209

References

The London Gazette, February 12th 1918.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2687316/Letter-reveals-WWI-hero-awarded-Victoria-Cross-considered-deserting-just-months-earlier.html


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Graham Thomson Lyall Victoria Cross

Born in Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester on 8 March 1892 to a Church of England clergyman, by 1901 he was living with his family in Nelson, Lancashire.

On his 18th Birthday on the 8 March 1910 he joined the Royal Navy and was stationed on the Fisgard as a ‘Boy Artificer’, a Mechanical Training Establishment. He was discharged on 1 July 1911.

He emigrated to Canada when he was 20, arriving on 9 June 1912. His occupation was noted as a clerk but on he said he would be entering employment as an Engineer on his passenger records. While living in Canada he became a member of the Orange Order.

Three days after the start of the First World War he joined the 19th Lincoln Regiment in Ontario, Canada, before completing his officer training and eventually joining the 102nd Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In September 1918, at Boulon Wood, Lieutenant Lyall was to win the Victoria Cross for leading his men in the capture of 185 soldiers, 26 machine guns and one field gun over the two days of fighting. His achievements show that he was clearly a very talented soldier and also a great leader of men. Below is the citation for his award that was in the London Gazette on 13 December 1918:

Lt. Graham Thomson Lyall, 102nd Bn., 2nd Central Ontario R.

‘For most conspicuous bravery and skilful leading during the operations north of Cambrai. On September 27th, 1918, whilst leading his platoon against Bourlon Wood, he rendered invaluable support to the leading. company, which was held up by a strong point, which he captured, by a flank movement, together with thirteen prisoners, one field gun and four machine guns. Later, his platoon, now much weakened by casualties, was held up by machine guns at the southern end of Bourlon Wood. Collecting any men available, he led them towards the strong point, and springing forward alone, rushed the position single-handed and killed the officer in charge, subsequently capturing at this point forty-five prisoners and five machine guns. Having made good his final objective, with a further capture of forty-seven prisoners, he consolidated his position and thus protected the remainder of the company. On October 1st, in the neighbourhood of Blecourt, when in command of a weak company, by skilful dispositions he captured a strongly defended position, which yielded eighty prisoners and seventeen machine guns. During two days of operations Lt. Lyall captured in -all 3 officers, 182 other ranks, 26 machine guns and one field gun, exclusive of heavy casualties inflicted. He showed throughout the utmost valour and high powers of command.’

After the First World War, he settled in Scotland, joining the Territorial Army and becoming a Major commanding the 3rd AA Division Workshop Company, Royal Ordnance Corps. By the time of the Second World War he was a Colonal on the General Staff in Egypt, where he sadly died of heart failure on 28 November 1941.

References

The London Gazette, 13 December 1918

http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/gal/vcg-gcv/bio/lyall-gt-eng.asp


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An Oldhamer in Dublin

This blog was researched by Roger Ivens from Oldham Local Studies and Archives, and is about the Dublin Rising which took place between the 24th and 29th April 1916.

Mr J. J. Roberts, an Oldham musician, has received a letter from his son, who is the drummer at the Dublin Theatre Royal, giving his experiences during the revolt:

I went to the GPO to get a postal order, when, lo and behold! I found the windows smashed and all the cavities packed full of mail-bags, with muzzles of rifles peeping out between, so I didn’t bother going in. On Easter Monday I went to see what I thought to be another big row, so common in Ireland. I had just left Sackville Street when I found myself looking down the barrel of a rifle held by a rebel, who ordered me to go back. Thinking the rifle was not loaded I silently proceeded on my journey with the nose of the barrel poking in my back. My indifference saved me, for had I blustered I should have become a target for more than one sniper. After visiting a dentist friend I retraced my steps and once more passed over the ground that had for some time been taken from the British. I revisited Sackville Street, which was then being looted by the mob, while the rebels held the ‘enemy’ at bay. ‘Sinn (pronounced Shin) Fein’ put in modern English means ‘ourselves’. You know what a wreck Sackville Street is. And it was such a fine street in which six trams can stand abreast. The GPO, of which only four walls remain, was a building Dublin people were rightly proud of.

I was going along Merrion Square when there was a report, and a bullet whistled past me: a lovely sound when there is no shelter. Before I reached the end three more whizzed past uncomfortably near. I don’t suppose they tried to hit me but whatever they were aiming at they were nearer to me than their object which struck me as being rotten shooting. A band of rebels made a mad move by ‘taking’ St. Stephen’s Green. The squares, of which this is one, are surrounded by houses. The invaders turned all the people out and then entrenched themselves. The trenches turned out to be the graves of many of the diggers, for all who were killed were buried there. It was child’s play for the military to storm the trenches from advantageous positions, using 600-shots-a minute machine-guns. In going towards Beggar’s Bush Barracks I saw a sight which made my heart bleed. A company of GR’s returning from a route march had been fired at by the rebels, who killed some six of the unsuspecting soldiers. The poor fellow had rifles but no ammunition, so had not a fighting chance: it was murder.

Tyler’s boot shop became a wreck in five minutes when the looters arrived. In fifteen minutes great emporiums, the finest in town, were made a heap of ruins. What could not be purloined was ruthlessly smashed. Women in shawls could be seen trying on patent-leather boots. Goods were taken away in sackloads and set out on some side street. God boots were then offered at from a shilling a pair upwards. I saw boys break into a shop and bring out an overcoat, which they offered for sixpence. Sackville Street seemed to be paved with clothing, hosiery, footwear, sweets, watches, clocks, jewellery, and things too numerous to mention. One redeeming feature was that if the goods had not been removed they would have been destroyed by fire later.
Oldham Chronicle, 19 May 1916


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Local Trooper’s Dublin Experiences

This blog was written by Roger Ivens from Oldham Local Studies and Archives, and is about the Dublin Rising which took place between the 24th and 29th April 1916.

In May 1914 Parliament passed a Home Rule Bill for Ireland, as a consequence of which Ireland was to have some form of self-government despite remaining part of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately due to the outbreak of the First World War implementation of the Bill was subsequently suspended. For some, however, home rule did not go far enough, and a revolutionary movement, the Irish Republican Brotherhood began planning what would become the Easter Rising.

The Rising, which broke out on 24 April 1916, was meant to take place across Ireland, but for various reasons took place mainly in Dublin. To the disappointment of the rebels the public did not support their cause, martial law was declared and within a week the rising had been crushed. Over 450 people were killed, 2,500 injured, and  much of Dublin city centre was destroyed.

Fifteen leaders of the rising were later executed by firing squad and 3,000 people were arrested of whom 1,800 were imprisoned without trial in England. This heavy-handed response by the British Government resulted in the growth of public support for the rebels and ultimately the movement for Irish independence.

After the rising began on Easter Monday the first troops to be used were those based in Dublin itself. The during the late afternoon and evening troops were moved from the largest military base in Ireland, Curragh Camp, by way of Kingsbridge Station. Among the troops despatched from the Curragh was Trooper Joel Taylor of the Duke of Lancaster’s Own Yeomanry, son of Councillor W. C. Taylor, of Shaw, near Oldham:

‘Since I received your last letter many things have happened in this most ‘distressing country.’…We were in Dublin not many hours after the first shot was fired, and we only came back on Tuesday. This letter will be censored, so I can tell you little of my eight days’ active service at present. At the moment I am standing to for a bit of special business. It has been devilish hot in Dublin I can tell you, and in one or two other places I have been out escorting ammunition and rations, and have heard and felt the bullets whizzing overhead though I was too excited to think of anything. Once when escorting ammunition – the stuff was loaded in cases on petrol lurries and we were on the top – I scarcely shifted the butt of my rifle from my shoulder for about 15 miles. We lay on our bellies, sprawled across the cases and we went like Hades. It would do you good to see these fellows drive. Another time the place where I was stationed was pestered with snipers one afternoon, the rebels shooting from the roofs and houses around.  You couldn’t tell where they were coming from. Bullets were flying around in fine style. Anyhow, a corporal in the lancers and myself were put in an offices at the top of a building. We had a window each. You should have seen my barricade! I put the window up about a foot, lifted a bucketful of coal on to the window sill and grabbed about six ledgers and then blazed away between them. We were being fired at from the roof and attic of a house about 300 yards away, and it was awkward to shift them. They had bombs made out of salmon tins and all kinds. Anyhow, the artillery dropped a shell through the roof and settled matters. I got plenty of guards and through the night it was a sight to see the great buildings burning. All the while the pop-pop-pop of the maxims and rifle and bombs going, and occasionally the artillery, but I had to keep my eyes skinned for snipers, as they seemed to be everywhere. I spent two nights on a fire engine. The last night I spent in Dublin I dined under the table in the Council Chamber of the Castle. The worst of it was we often got the wind up and had to turn out expecting attack. The only casualty in our lot was an officer shot in the ankle. We were most fortunate – ‘the lucky Duke’s.’ All the while we were there the weather was ideal. You would smile if you saw some of the rebels’ weapons – every description of rifle. They fired dum-dums. They had also got a lot of our rifles from somewhere. They emptied the pellets out of the ordinary 12 bore-cartridges and out bits of lead in their place and fired these and they had bayonets made out of old swords…’

Oldham Chronicle, 11 May 1916

British cavalry troops near the Four Courts in the days after Easter Week. (Image: Dublin Rebellion and Aftermath, Manchester Guardian History of War 1916. Full collection available at the National Library of Ireland)

British cavalry troops near the Four Courts in the days after Easter Week. (Image: Dublin Rebellion and Aftermath, Manchester Guardian History of War 1916. Full collection available at the National Library of Ireland)

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