Memories of our own branch WWI veterans

Our thanks to Ken Smallwood who remembers ten Great War Vets who attended branch meetings.

GEORGE ASHURST: 1st Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers. Sunken Road Beaumont Hamel. George answered a letter that I wrote to the MEN Postbag in 1984 regarding the Sunken Road. Author of ‘My Bit’ I visited George many times in Wigan. He humbly showed me a typed copy of ‘My Bit’ that he’d prepared in 1920 and being impressed, after reading quickly through it, I urged him to have it published, and no doubt, near neighbour Bob Grundy encouraged him to do so, too.

ALBERT BIRTWISTLE: 1/5 East Lancs. 42nd Div. A Coy-Sgt Major at 20. “The youngest in the British army” Up to the time of his death, he still wept over the conditions and horrors he saw at Passchendaele. (Up The Line)

BILL DUTTON: 10897 l5 Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers (Salford Pals) I visited Bill a few times at his Eccles home. He gave me his pay-book that he carried going over the top at Thiepval. I have since presented this to the care of the LF’s museum, Bury.

Bill told me …”In the Thiepval attack lst of July, I got as far as six yards. ‘Quick! jump in here’. It was ‘Boxer’ Wilson sheltering in a crater covered with cuts from the barbed-wire. We stayed there till darkness. Six attempts were made from our line, then it was called off”.

“Three months after, we returned to Thiepval to bury our dead. We removed the pay-books from the lads pockets and tore out page two that gave name, rank and number. I believe this practice is the reason for so many unknown graves”.

 “Leaving for France, we were issued with two of everything - 2 pairs of boots, 2 blankets etc. etc. - weighed 95 lbs! Arriving in France, we parted with one of everything, and that way, a stores was built up.”

JOE FITZPATRICK: 2/6 Manchester’s. A platoon commander of a Lewis gun team. A prisoner of war in 1918. Joe was well represented by our branch for his award of the Legion of Honour, age 105, at the RBL Blackpool, 1998.

GEORGE FRANKLIN: A Sapper 57th West Lanes. 41 Div. a forward linesman; served at Passchendaele.

REG GLENN: 12th York and Lancs. (Sheffield Pals) “Our padre was a grand chap. After the lst of July, a handful of us returned to Serre in November. Our lads’ bodies were still lying out there. The padre held a small service and we sang the hymn “On The Resurrection Morning” The next morning all the bodies were covered with a blanket of snow.”

TOM HADDOCK: Kings Liverpool Rifles. Tom witnessed a Christmas truce at Gueudecourt, Somme, 1917. “Have a drink with us Tommy. They came forward with rifles slung over their shoulders”.

CHARLES HEATON: 16th Manchester’s. Taken prisoner at Manchester Hill and lined up to be shot, but survived.

ALBERT HURST: 17th Manchester Pals. The last surviving Manchester Pal. Received hit in water bottle 1st July. Wounded later Trones Wood.

BILL SMEDLEY: 43961 Worcs. & SWB. Alan’s father received a shrapnel hit on his helmet ten minutes before the Armistice. He possessed an iron cross offered by a German prisoner in exchange for a lump of cheese. They corresponded with each other after the war.

Albert Birtwistle, Joe Fitzpatrick and Albert Hurst were present at the unveiling of the Pals Plaque at Heaton Park in 1993.

I do hope I have not forgotten anyone.