Edwin Slater

Edwin Slater was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire on April 13, 1892. In 1911 he was employed as an Iron Turner at Platt Brothers & Company in Oldham, as was his father.  At this time, Platt Brothers had established itself as the world’s largest textile machinery manufacturer.

He is shown below in “early 1915”,  (probably May 1915), taken from a group photo with his brother Arthur, of the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, and his sister Eleanor.

Edwin Slater 1915

There are no Army service or pension records for Edwin; we only have his Medal Index Card, his 1915 Star Roll and his British War Medal and Victory Medal Roll entry.

Edwin Slater Medal Index Card

His Medal Index Card (MIC) gives us his regimental number (22754) and tells us that he was in the 11th Battalion Royal Scots (Lothian) Regiment and that he was entitled to three medals: 1915 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal. It also tells us that his first date of entry of overseas deployment was August 11, 1915 to France. Finally, it indicates that he was demobilized on March 22, 1919 to the Class Z Reserve.

The Class Z Reserve was a Reserve contingent of the British Army consisting of discharged enlisted soldiers. The first Z Reserve was authorized by an Army Order of December 3, 1918 and was abolished on March 31, 1920 when the expected problems with violations of the Armistice did not materialize.

Edwin Slater 1915 Star Roll

His 1915 Star Roll matches the information on his Medal Index Card (which is not always the case). The Star Roll is a crucial document because it also records all the other men of the 11th Battalion Royal Scots with the same disembarkation date as Edwin. By researching those men, several of whom have surviving service records we can deduce many things with a very high degree of certainty.

Below is a B.103 form from one of the men Edwin deployed with (Pte. DAVID CRIGHTON, 21179).  It is identical to all of the surviving Service Records and it clearly shows their arrival in France and their assignments in the initial few weeks there.

11th Royal Scots B.103

Consequently, we know that Edwin Slater was part of a draft (the third draft) of at least 40 men who arrived at Boulogne on August 12, 1915. Almost all of these men attested and joined the Royal Scots in April/May 1915.  Many of them attested at various locations throughout the UK and then traveled to Glencorse Barracks in Scotland joining the Royal Scots one or two days later. They went through basic training and then shipped out to France on August 11, 1918 arriving in Boulogne the next day.  From there they were immediately assigned to the 5th Entrenching Battalion of the First Army. Entrenching battalions were temporary units and allocated at a Corps level. They were used as pools of men, from which drafts of replacements could be drawn by conventional infantry battalions.

Note: An analysis of the enlistment dates of the 10 men that joined the 11th Royal Scots with service numbers +/- 10 digits from his shows that he must have joined around May 10, 1915.

The following men were posted to the 11th Battalion Royal Scots, in the field, on September 18, 1915.

Rank No. Forename MI Surname Enlisted
Sgt 10168 THOMAS A PLIMER
Pte 13334 THOMAS CLOSE 01-Sep-14
Pte 16199 DAVID TAYLOR
A/Cpl 20773 JOHN McMILLAN
Pte 20899 ROBERT GUNN 12-Mar-15
Sgt 21053 JOHN NEILSON
L/Cpl 21054 ROBERT FERGUSON 07-Apr-15
Pte 21056 JOHN BELL
Pte 21116 SAMUEL WILLIS
Pte 21117 SAMUEL TAGGART
Pte 21118 ANDREW FUARY
Pte 21128 HUGH O’DONNELL 17-Apr-15
Pte 21134 WILLIAM MYLES 16-Apr-15
Pte 21158 HENRY HAMMOND
Pte 21159 ANDREW MILLER
Pte 21173 WILLIAM GRANT 22-Apr-15
Pte 21179 DAVID CRIGHTON 23-Apr-15
Cpl 22691 JOHN HAWKINS 29-Apr-15
Pte 22721 JOHN BARLAS 04-May-15
Pte 22726 THOMAS KIRK 22-Apr-15
Pte 22754 EDWIN SLATER
Pte 22764 WILLIAM BLACK 12-May-15
Pte 22776 JAMES FINNIGAN 14-May-15
Pte 22809 W GRAHAM
Cpl 22814 JOHN E BROOKS 19-May-15
Pte 22826 JOHN BRADY 17-May-15
Pte 22933 EDWARD PEARSON 27-May-15
Pte 23023 FRANK C E WILSON 31-May-15
Pte 23409 JAMES CARR 29-Jun-15
Sgt 23656 WILLIAM H PASCOE 13-Apr-15
Pte 23664 WILLIAM E SOUTH 14-Apr-15
Pte 23685 WILLIAM R WOOD 08-Apr-15
Sgt 23698 HENRY W DUNHAM
Pte 23708 WILLIAM J BRASSETT
Pte 23709 ALBERT G EVEREST 15-May-15
Pte 23710 ALBERT R GALE 13-Apr-15
Cpl 23711 ARTHUR JONES 12-May-15
Pte 23715 CRISTOPHER R PAUL 17-Apr-15
Pte 23716 SAMUEL ROSS
L/Cpl 23766 ROBERT McINTOSH

On this date, the 11th Royal Scots were at Cambrin (near Bethune) and engaged in training, having recently been relieved in the line.  They went back into the trenches on the 25th and were involved in a significant action between 25-28th in the opening phase of the Battle of Loos resulting in 381 Officers and Other Ranks killed, missing or wounded.

It is sobering to discover that of the 40 men listed in this draft, fully 17 would be Killed in Action and a further 8 would be discharged due to wounds or sickness and awarded the Silver War Badge. Two men won the Military Medal, one was Mentioned in Despatches and one man deserted.

Edwin Slater WWI Service Medal and Award Roll

Edwin Slater’s Service Medal and Award Roll entry also indicate that he at some point was transferred to the 16th Battalion Royal Scots Regiment.

The final piece of surviving information we have is the picture below (Edwin Slater is front row, right):

Edwin Slater with Four Comrades

There is some indistinct writing on the photo but careful examination  shows that it reads: “Loos 1915, Somme 1916, Ypres 1917, Arras 1917, Soissons 1918, Blicquy 1918, The Quarries 1918”.  Also, at the bottom it says “5 Tanks, December 12, 1918”. This photo is a so called “survivors photo” taken after the Armistice with men about to be demobilized and celebrating their comradeship, service and, more importantly, their survival.

Military Medal

Edwin is wearing a medal ribbon:

Edwin Slater Wearing Military Medal Ribbon

The ribbon is for the Military Medal (MM) and Edwin Slater’s Military Medal (MM) was announced in the London Gazette on the 19th November, 1917 (and in the Edinburgh Gazette on 21st November 1917).  The action for which it was awarded would have been some time prior to this publication date. The gazette, simply says “22754 Pte E. Slater, R. Scots (Ashton-under-Lyne)”.

Edwin Slater Edinburgh Gazette 1917

Additionally, we have a short article in his local newspaper, the Ashton Reporter, regarding his award but unfortunately it provides no additional details except that it was published on October 20, 1917 a month before the official listing in the London Gazette.

Ashton Reporter October 20, 1917

Edwin’s Military Medal award was promulgated in the London Gazette of November 19, 1917. His was one of 5 MMs awarded to men of the 13th Royal Scots so it would appear that at some point he was transferred, or attached, to the 13th Battalion even though there is no mention of this on his medal roll.

At this time, the 13th Royal Scots were part of the 45th Brigade of the 15th Scottish Division. Edwin’s Registered Paper (No RP/68/121/327) indicates an award for 3rd Ypres. His schedule number (No 111419) indicates it was one of five 15th Division Military Medals awarded to the 13th Royal Scots.

The five MM awards, all from the 13/Battalion Royal Scots, were to:

16152 JAMES STEEL Schedule No 111417
20635 WILLIAM CARR Schedule No 111418
22754 EDWIN SLATER Schedule No 111419
37371 WILLIAM MULHOLLAND Schedule No 111420
15296 HENRY CHARLESON Schedule No 111422

The London Gazette of November 19, 1917 covers awards from July 27, 1917 to September 26, 1917. But we know that these awards were for gallantry on Wednesday August 22, 1917 in the 15th Division’s attack that day. The 15th Division’s 45th Brigade attacked Potsdam, Vampir and Borry Farms at 4:45am. Under the light of flares, the 13th Royal Scots’ and the 11th Argyll and Southern Highlanders’ attacking infantry was mostly wiped out by machine gun fire. Survivors fell back to establish a line from Railway Dump to Beck House. The 13th Royal Scots tried to get forward repeatedly throughout the day but were unsuccessful. Two German counter-attacks were beaten off with rifle fire and artillery. The 11th Argyll and Southern Highlanders were themselves awarded 4 Military Medals for the same action.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves …

11th Royal Scots

The 11th were attached to the 27th (Lowland) Infantry Brigade, of the 9th (Scottish) Division and moved to Bramshott in the Bordon area of Hampshire. In late April, 1915 whilst located at Bramshott, the Battalion received orders to move to the front and on the 11 May, 1915 the main body of men boarded the S.S. Invicta and crossed the English Channel landing at Boulogne, France later that same day.

The Battle of Loos (Sep 25 – Oct 15, 1915)

As already noted, the 11th Royal Scots, as part of the 9th Division of the First Army, fought in the front line during the opening phases of the Battle of Loos between September 25th to the 28th.  Edwin Slater had been in France for just a few weeks and had arrived there after just a few short months of basic training. All of these newly arrived men were ill equipped to be thrust into the front line of a major offensive. From this draft of 40 men, Pte. WILLIAM BLACK (22764) was killed in action on the last day of the battle; less than a month after joining the Battalion in France. By the time it was over, the 9th (Scottish) Division had lost a staggering 6,058 casualties including 190 Officers.

Wounded in Action

Ashton Reporter October 9, 1915

After approximately 4 months of treatment and rest in the UK, Edwin returned to the front lines in France on February 1, 1916.

Two more men from this draft of 40 lost their lives in November and December 1915.  Pte JOHN BARLAS (22721) was severely wounded in the face on November 11, 1915 and a week later was repatriated to the UK on the HM HS ANGLIA. Unfortunately, on November 17, 1915 the ANGLIA struck a mine and sank 1 mile off the coast of England, going down in just 15 minutes.  134 people drowned; Pte. BARLAS was one of them. Later, Private DAVID CRIGHTON (21179) was killed in action on December 12, 1915 while the 11th Royal Scots were once again in the front line.

The Battles of the Somme (Jul 1 – Nov 18, 1916)

The Somme was an Allied offensive that changed its nature due to the German attack against the French in the epic Battle of Verdun, which lasted from late February to November. Huge British losses were inflicted by the Germans on the first day followed by a series of fiercely-contested phases that became attritional in nature. September 15, 1916 saw the first-ever use of tanks in the phase known as the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. The British army in France was now approaching its maximum strength in numbers but was still developing in terms of tactics, technology, and command and control.

The British Fourth Army faced three separate very formidable German defensive systems of trenches, dugouts, underground shelters and deep barbed wire defences.

At this time, the 11th Royal Scots were in the 27th Brigade of the 9th (Scottish) Division attached to the XIII Corps of the British Fourth Army.

Somme: Battle of Albert, (1 – 13 Jul, 1916)

In this opening phase, the French and British assault broke into and gradually moved beyond the first of the German defensive systems. For the British, the attack on 1 July proved to be the worst day in the nation’s military history in terms of casualties sustained.

The 11th Royal Scots were in the reserve line moving up at 8pm on the 2nd to relieve the front line troops which was achieved by 3am on the 3rd. They remained in the front line suffering casualties every day from intense enemy shelling. Trenches were consolidated and patrols sent out until July 8th when they moved to Bivouac in the rear to rest and refit.

Somme: Battle of Bazentin, (14 – 17 Jul, 1916)

The 11th Royal Scots were in the front line and attacked the German line in the early hours of July 14th. They quickly achieved their first objective, capturing 63 German prisoners in the process, but their success came with a high cost of casualties.  Three men from the draft of 40 lost their lives that day:

Rank No. Forename MI Surname Died
L/Cpl 21054 ROBERT FERGUSON 14-Jul-16
Pte 22826 JOHN BRADY 14-Jul-16
Pte 23685 WILLIAM R WOOD 14-Jul-16

More frontal attacks of the German lines were undertaken by the 11th Royal Scots on the following days, as the 9th Division attempted to secure all their objectives of the initial attack.  The Battalion was relieved from their front line duties at 8pm on the 17th July.

Wounded in Action

Pte. Edwin Slater (22754) Royal Scots was listed in the Daily Casualty List published in The Scotsman newspaper on August 24, 1916.

Daily Casualty List. The Scotsman August 24, 1916

Generally speaking, it would take approximately one month from a soldier being wounded for them to appear in the casualty list. This was in part to allow the next of kin to be officially notified before finding it in the newspaper.

An analysis of the other men appearing in this Casualty List from the 11th Royal Scots shows that they were all wounded on July 14, 1916; the first day the 11th were in the line at the Battle of the Somme.  As noted above, it could have been much worse.

It is almost certain that he was repatriated to a Hospital in the UK for some months before he returned to join the Battalion again.

Somme: High Wood

On the 18th October, the 11th were back in the Somme front lines again, involved in actions to secure the feature known as The Butte de Warlencourt. The attack was undertaken under extremely difficult conditions of heavy rain, mud and intense cold, leading to large numbers suffering from exposure and trench foot in addition to considerable losses in action.  Pte. JAMES FINNIGAN (22776) of the draft of 40 was wounded on the 20th, dying of those wounds on October 24, 1916.

Arras Daylight Reconnaissance (March 21, 1917)

By February 1917 the Allied Forces were planning and rehearsing the Arras Offensive which was scheduled to commence on April 9th.  In March, intelligence was received that the Germans were withdrawing from certain positions and so Sir Charles Fergusson, (VXII Corps Commander), resolved to test the enemy’s strength in front of Arras by means of a daylight raid. The 11th Battalion Royal Scots were selected. The “raid” was a frontal assault on the German trenches carried out by approximately 200 men and resulted in a loss of 7 Officers and almost 70 Other Ranks killed, missing or wounded. Nevertheless, they had fulfilled their mission by proving that the Germans had in fact held themselves in full strength in their line opposite XVII Corps. Reports from the raid estimated that perhaps as many as 100 Germans had been killed or taken prisoner.

The efforts of the 11th Royal Scots that day elicited a letter of praise from the Third Army Commanding Officer.

General's Letter March 21, 1917

Pte. WILLIAM SOUTH (23664) of the Draft of 40 also lost his life that day.

Now confident that the Germans had not withdrawn and were still at full strength, the Arras Offensive was put back into motion.

The Arras Offensive (9 Apr – 16 Jun, 1917)

The British were called upon to launch an attack in support of a larger French offensive: the battles of the Chemin des Dames and the hills of Champagne. The opening Battle of Vimy and the First Battle of the Scarpe were very encouraging, but once again the Offensive bogged down into an attritional slog.

The Battalion moved into the trenches on April 4th and endured heavy shelling from the enemy resulting in 4 men killed and 7 wounded. One of the men killed that day was Pte. HUGH O’DONNELL (21128) from the Draft of 40.

The 13th Battalion Royal Scots

Frustratingly, we do not know exactly when Edwin returned to action after his wounds but his award of the Military Medal confirms that when he did return to the front he joined, or was attached to, the 13th Royal Scots.

Pte. Edwin Slater, MM

August 22, 1917

The action of August 22, 1917, took place in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front as part of the Third Battle of Ypres. The attack on 22 August, although unsuccessful, advanced the British front line up to 600 yards in places, on a two-mile front but failed to reach the more distant objectives it had been set.

On 17 August, the fresh and rested 15th (Scottish) Division relieved the 16th (Irish) Division in the XIX Corps area. In the 15th Division area, supported by patrols from the 47th (1/2nd London) Division south of the Ypres–Roulers railway, the 45th Brigade on the right was to attack behind four tanks, a creeping barrage and overhead fire from 32 machine-guns but the tanks ditched short of the front line on the Frezenberg–Zonnebeke road. As soon as the infantry advance began, German artillery-fire fell along a line from Frezenberg to Square Farm, followed by machine-gun fire on the attacking troops and on the support and reserve troops even before they left their trenches. The 13th Battalion, Royal Scots and the 11th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were supported by the 6th Battalion, Cameron Highlanders. As soon as the advance began, German small-arms fire became so dense that runners could not go back or reinforcements move forward. Recognition flares were seen later at Potsdam, Borry Farm and Vampir Farm but nothing else was known of the progress of the infantry. Survivors retreated to join the 6th Camerons along the track running north-west from the Railway Dump to Beck House.

Machine-gun fire from the German fortified posts had devastated the infantry of the 15th (Scottish) Division as they struggled through the mud. A report from the 8th Seaforth described how the creeping barrage had failed to damage many pillboxes; the German defences had been underestimated and were insufficiently bombarded by the heavy artillery. The swiftness of the Germans in inflicting casualties left the survivors incapable of capturing strong points, even where the garrisons seemed willing to surrender.

The Official History of the Great War records that the 15th (Scottish) Division suffered 2,071 casualties; 1,052 casualties in the 44th Brigade and 1,019 in the 45th Brigade.

The following account, from the perspective of the 13th Royal Scots, is excerpted from The Royal Scots 1914-1919, by Major John Ewing, M.C. :

Owing to the bad weather, operations of any magnitude had to be postponed, but whenever there were any signs of improvement, attacks were launched. On August 16 our position was strengthened when we secured a hold on Langermark but after this operation rain set in again. The 13th Royal Scots, after their ordeal of July 31, 1917, were given a rest until August 20th when they took over the front line near Frezenberg, with their right flank on the Ypres-Roulers Railway. “D” and “B” were the two front companies with “C” in support and “A” in reserve. An attack, in which the 15th and 61st Divisions were to co-operate was arranged for 4:45am on August 22nd. The 13th Royal Scots, who went into action with Major Mitchell in command, formed the right Battalion of the Division, and their objective was a line extending from South of the railway to Bremen Redoubt, a fortified pill-box, exclusive. In view of the number of formidable pill-boxes to be encountered, special parties furnished by the Royal Scots Fusiliers and “A” and “C” companies of the Royal Scots were detailed to “mop up” particular points.

Most of the hostile shelling fortunately dropped behind the line of the assembled troops, but the attack, though carried out with the utmost gallantry, made little progress. Numerous Boche aeroplanes audaciously buzzed over our lines and inflicted several casualties on our men, who were met, moreover, by a terrific machine gun fire, particularly from the large pill-box known as Potsdam. The Royal Scots formed a line in front of Vampir and Potsdam and beat off several counter-attacks, but were unable to make any impression on the enemy’s defences. Ultimately, Major Mitchell established a new line from the railway, slightly in front of our original position, which the Royal Scots, in spite of a galling shell fire, including “shorts” from our own artillery, maintained without serious difficulty. Heavy losses were inflicted on the Boches by our rifle and Lewis Gun fire, on one occasion a party of sixty of the enemy being almost annihilated. Their exertions however, told heavily on the men, and they were very exhausted when on the night of the 22nd they were relieved and marched to a camp near Ypres.

The number of 13/Royal Scots casualties was again alarmingly high, (276 killed, wounded and missing including two officers killed), and as a result of the two actions in the salient practically a new Battalion had to be formed.

1918

We do not know what happened to Edwin between his winning the Military Medal in August 1917 to the end of the war but if we are to believe his Medal Roll at some point he transferred to the 16th Battalion Royal Scots from where he was demobilized. However, that does not seem to add up. The 16th Royal Scots were reduced to a cadre strength and attached to the 39th Division in May 1918 after suffering heavy casualties. They were finally disbanded in France on August 14, 1918 but we know that Edwin was not demobilized until early 1919.

Edwin Slater with Four Comrades

As noted earlier, the writing on the above photo says “Loos 1915, Somme 1916, Ypres 1917, Arras 1917, Soissons 1918, Blicquy 1918, The Quarries 1918”.

Loos 1915, Somme 1916, Ypres 1917 and Arras 1917 all fit well with the battles fought by the 11th Royal Scots. Whereas, Soissons 1918 [23 July – 2 August 1918], The Quarries 1918 [12-16 Sept 1918] and Blicquy 1918 [Nov 11, 1918] fit well with the 13th Royal Scots.

It’s my belief that Edwin’s Medal Roll is wrong and instead of the 16th it should actually say 13th – but this is pure conjecture on my part.

Class Z Reserve
Pte. Edwin Slater was demobilized to Class Z reserve on March 22, 1919.

The Class Z Reserve was authorised by an Army Order of December 3, 1918. There were fears that Germany would not accept the terms of any peace treaty, and therefore the British Government decided it would be wise to be able to quickly recall trained men in the eventuality of a resumption of hostilities. Soldiers who were being demobilised, particularly those who had agreed to serve “for the duration of the War”, were at first posted to Class Z. They returned to civilian life but with an obligation to return to military service if called upon. The Z Reserve was abolished on March 31, 1920.

Royal Visit to Ashton-under-Lyne May 20, 1938

Edwin was presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth when they visited Ashton on May 20, 1938 at the very end of their 4 day tour of Lancashire.

Edwin Slater with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth
Ashton May 20, 1938

Not only was he presented to the King and Queen, he also had the honour of accompanying them when they briefly met with some of the disabled ex-servicemen of Ashton, as can be seen in the photo below.

Royal Visit to Ashton May 20, 1938
With Disabled Ex-Servicemen

LAST POST

Edwin Slater died in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire on November 23, 1945. He was 53 years old.

References

The History of the 9th (Scottish) Division, 1914 – 1919
Major John Ewing, MC

The Royal Scots, 1914-1919, Vol I 1914 – May 1919
Major John Ewing, MC

The Royal Scots, 1914-1919, Vol II May 1917 – May 1919 and Appendices
Major John Ewing, MC

Arthur Slater

Arthur Slater was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire on May 10th, 1896.

Arthur Slater Aged 15

By age 14 he had left school and was employed as a piecer at the Atlas Cotton Mill.

Atlas Mill, Ashton-under-Lyne

The youngest children in textile factories were usually employed as scavengers and piecers.  Piecers had to lean over the spinning-machine to repair the broken threads during spinning.

By 1914 he had become a “Spinner”.  As a spinner he would have operated one or more spinning machines, often two machines facing each other, and he would have supervised or directly paid the scavengers and piecers working on his machines. Spinners were generally paid according to the amount of thread they produced and each machine had hundreds of spindles from end to end. Consequently, it took much effort to keep the machine running and the threads unbroken.

Arthur Slater Working as a Spinner at Atlas Mill

He attested on October 17, 1914 with a group of friends and joined the 2/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment which, at that time, was a “feeder” Battalion supplying much needed reinforcements for the 1st/9th.  The 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment was a “Pals” regiment from Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire.  His regimental number was 2672 and he was assigned to A Company. He joined for 4 years.

On November 13, 1914 the 2/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment moved from Ashton-under-Lyne to Southport where they remained in billets for the next 6 months. On May 25, 1915 they moved again, this time to Haywards Heath in Sussex and then a month later, on June 26, they made a short move to Pease Pottage.  This was the first time that they had been “under canvas”. A week later those men who were being shipped out to Gallipoli moved to Devonport.

A. Staley, J. Horrocks & Arthur Slater in Easter 1915.

Seen above (right, standing) with Pte. Arthur Staley (2383) and Pte. James Horrocks (2608) of the 2/9th Manchesters at Southport, Easter 1915.

He  underwent basic training with the 2/9th until he left for Gallipoli on July 3, 1915 sailing from Devonport on H.M.T. IONIAN as part of a draft of 220 Other Ranks and 5 Officers sent to reinforce the 1/9th who were already at Cape Helles.

HMT IONIAN

IONIAN
Built by Workman Clark & Co Ltd, Belfast in 1901 for the Allan Line of Liverpool. Her details were – 8,268 gross tons, length 470 ft x beam 57.5 ft, one funnel, four masts, twin screw and a speed of 14 knots. There was accommodation for 132-1st, 160-2nd and 800-3rd class passengers. Launched on 12-9-1901, she sailed on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Halifax and St. John, New Brunswick on 21-11-1901. In 1909 she was converted to carry 325-2nd and 800-3rd class passengers. In August 1914 she went onto trooping duties on UK to Bombay via Suez. On 21-10-1917 she was sunk by a mine laid off Milford Haven by the German submarine UC.51 with the loss of 7 lives.

GALLIPOLI (1915)

Map of War Zone in Gallipoli 1915
By Rcbutcher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The 1/9th Manchesters were part of the 126th (East Lancashire) Infantry Brigade which was under the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division. The transcribed war diary for the 1/9th Manchesters for their time in Gallipoli is here.

3rd Battle of Krithia

A few weeks before Arthur Slater arrived, in early June, the 42nd Division was involved in the 3rd Battle of Krithia.  The battle plan called for simultaneous attacks, supported by artillery, on three sub-sectors; the 42nd Division being in the centre.

42nd Division before 3rd Battle of Krithia

The advance of the 42nd Division during the battle was initially very successful, more so than those of the 29th Division on their left and the Royal Naval Division on their right. Advancing approximately 1,000 yards the 42nd Division’s 127th Brigade took the Turkish trenches and quickly advanced beyond them. However, due to lack of support on the flanks during the Turkish counter-attack, the final position of the front line was only around 200 – 250 yards in front of their starting position by the end of the battle. This new front line now passed through the Southern edge of a small patch of vines that earned the area the name of “The Vineyard” and was to be the site of renewed heavy fighting for the 1/9th Manchesters, in August.

Arrival

Arthur sailed for the Dardanelles on July 3, 1915 from Devonport on the 8,268 ton Allan Line vessel H.M.T. IONIAN, arriving in Alexandria, Egypt around July 17th.  On July 23, 1915, almost three weeks after leaving the UK, he officially joined the 1/9th Battalion at Cape Helles, while they were at bivouac.  According to the 1/9th Manchesters’ war diary he was part of a draft of reinforcements that arrived that day consisting of 5 Officers and 222 Other Ranks.

Battle of Krithia Vineyard

Just two weeks later, on August 7th to 13th the 1/9th Manchesters fought in the battle of Krithia Vinyard where Lt. Forshaw, (commanding A Company) won the Victoria Cross and Corporal Samuel Bayley won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Pte. Arthur Slater was in A Company and, by his own words, “spent time in the Vineyard trench”.

Lt Forshaw VC
[London Gazette, 9 September 1915]
During the period 7 / 9 August 1915 at Gallipoli, when holding the north-west corner of the “Vineyard” against heavy attacks by the Turks, Lieutenant Forshaw not only directed his men but personally threw bombs continuously for over 40 hours. When his detachment was relieved, he volunteered to continue directing the defence. Later, when the Turks captured a portion of the trench, he shot three of them and recaptured it. It was due to his fine example and magnificent courage that this very important position was held.

His Victoria Cross and other campaign medals are held by the Museum of the Manchester Regiment, at the Ashton-under-Lyne Town Hall.

Lance-Corporal SAMUEL BAYLEY, No1 Platoon, “A” Company
[London Gazette, 16 November, 1915]
For conspicuous bravery on the 7th and 9th August, 1915, at Cape Helles (Dardanelles). Corporal Bayley remained with Lieutenant Forshaw, V.C., holding a barricade for forty-one hours continuously. On the evening of the 8th August his party was relieved by another unit, but he volunteered to remain on. He displayed the greatest gallantry and endurance under the most trying circumstances in repelling many severe attacks, and when the barricade was at last broken through he was the foremost in the successful counter-attack led by Lieutenant Forshaw, which regained it, and finally retained it. On being ultimately relieved he was utterly exhausted by his arduous and gallant work of bomb-throwing.

On August 22nd a new draft of fresh reinforcements from England arrived. Among them was Pte. James Horrocks who Arthur had spent his Easter weekend at Southport with.

Wounded in Action (1915)

After the exertions of the Battle of Krithia Vineyard the 1/9th Manchesters spent time at GULLY BEACH bivouac returning to the trenches on August 25th. On their last day in the trenches before moving back to bivouac, on September 9th, Arthur Slater suffered a bullet wound to the face (passing through his left cheek and nose). Most likely he was shot by a sniper.

Since it is not recorded on Arthur Slater’s B.103 form we do not know the exact chain of evacuation he followed from trench to Stationary Hospital.  We do know that it took two weeks from wound to admission at the No 5 Canadian Stationary Hospital in Cairo, (at the Cavalry Barracks at Abbassieh), which is much longer than the sailing time (including embarking and disembarking) of approximately 5 days.

The following excerpt from SURGERY ON THE GALLIPOLI PENINSULA, the British Medical Journal, September 25, 1915 by Capt. John Morley, RAMC provides some context. The full article is here.

From the clearing station the wounded are embarked on lighters at a landing stage that is perforce used also for the unloading of ammunition and supplies for the army. These lighters are towed by steam pinnaces to the hospital ship that lies a mile or two off the shore, and, without changing stretchers, are slung on to the ship by cranes. Except during and shortly after an action, the wounded are sent off to the hospital ship twice in the twenty-four hours. The hospital ships fill up in “peace times”, as the weeks of siege warfare by artillery and sniping in the intervals between assault are called, in a week or ten days (after an action much more rapidly), and then leave for Egypt or Malta, taking three or four days respectively to reach the base. Minor cases are not taken to the hospital ships at all, but are either detained in the field ambulances or sent in small boats to be treated in stationary hospitals.

British Medical Positions at Helles

The chain of evacuation that he followed then was likely as follows:

Walking wounded made their way to an Advanced Dressing Station at EAST ANGLIA GULLY. The Main Dressing Stations were set up by the 1/3rd Field Ambulance at GULLY BEACH and the 1/1st Field Ambulance 200 yards north.

ADMS Orders Gallipoli Aug 1915

The Divisional Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) was No 11 CCS at Lancashire landing on “W” Beach. The CCS was there to receive the sick and wounded from the Main Dressing Stations, and stabilize the patients and prioritize the men that needed to leave for hospital ships from the less serious cases who would be conveyanced to Mudros.

The ADMS war diary for the 42nd Division notes that on September 9th and 10th no trawlers were dispatched to load men onto hospital ships because the weather was too rough. On September 11th ADMS HELLES issued orders that trawlers would only be dispatched in calm weather and that signals would be issued to indicate that trawlers had put to sea. A signal was received on September 12th that a trawler would be sent but by this time at least 4-days of sick and wounded had accumulated at 11th Casualty Clearing Station at Lancashire Landing on W Beach and it must have been overflowing.

We can only assume that Arthur Slater did not make the cut for embarking on the trawler that day since his wound was non-life threatening. The next available trawler was on September 19th and this is the one he was transported on. He was then embarked from trawler to hospital ship and promptly sailed for Alexandria. After arriving by Hospital Transport at Alexandria he would have then traveled by Hospital Train to Cairo, taking about 4 hours.

With the surge in casualties in August there were more patients arriving than leaving the Hospitals in Mudros and Alexandria. However, Arthur Slater was somewhat fortunate to be wounded in September (rather than August) and that the No 5. Canadian Stationary Hospital had just arrived in Cairo in August providing extra capacity.

Context from Despatches:

The following is taken directly from the selected despatches of Sir IAN HAMILTON, General, Commanding Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.

“The Royal Army Medical Service have had to face unusual and very trying conditions. There are no roads, and the wounded who are unable to walk must be carried from the firing line to the shore. They and their attendants may be shelled on their way to the beaches, at the beaches, on the jetties, and again, though I believe by inadvertence, on their way out in lighters to the hospital ships. Under shell fire it is not as easy as some of the critically disposed seem to imagine to keep all arrangements in apple-pie order. Here I can only express my own opinion that efficiency, method and even a certain quiet heroism have characterised the evacuations of the many thousands of our wounded.”

Casualties for Gallipoli Campaign 1915

Back in Action

A few weeks later, on 26th October, he rejoined the 1/9th Manchesters in the Dardanelles, sailing from Alexandria along with a batch of 11 freshly trained Officers from England (and another 109 Other Ranks returning from Hospital treatment in Egypt) but not before he managed to send a letter home which was excerpted in the local newspaper, the Ashton Reporter.

Ashton Reporter November 6, 1915

On his arrival at Gallipoli, the 1/9th Manchesters were in the trenches, being relieved 3 days later on October 29th.

They went back into the trenches on November 12th. The conditions were difficult with heavy rains, strong winds with little cover and no drainage in the trenches.  They were relieved on the 29th and went to bivouac at GULLY RAVINE. Since it was now Winter and the weather had turned, everyone was put to work constructing Winter Quarters.

On December 10th the 1/9th Manchesters again went back up to the trenches. The Turks heavily shelled MULE TRENCH and inflicted several casualties during the move.

On December 19th a planned action against the Turks was executed in the early afternoon. The plan was to explode a large mine at the North East corner of FUSILIER BLUFF, quickly followed by 5 smaller mines; the intent being to create a small crater. A party of 42 men plus an Officer would then go over the top intending to take cover in the crater, bomb the Turks in their trenches and take it. However, the mine failed to create a crater. Lacking the authority to make a field decision the men had no choice but to go over the top into an area with no cover. Needless to say, the Turks shot them mercilessly from the safety of their trenches and the battalion suffered 3 killed, 1 missing and 11 wounded. Fortunately for Arthur Slater, this poorly planned but bravely executed action was inflicted on the men of B Company, (not A Company).

To further underline the futility of the actions of December 19th, just ten days later, on December 29th, the Gallipoli Campaign was over for the 1/9th Manchesters and they “evacuated the peninsular” embarking on the HM Transport Arcadian for Alexandria (via Mudros).  HM Transport Arcadian, Sir Ian Hamilton’s old ship, once the most luxurious of steam yachts but destined to be sunk by torpedo on April 15, 1917.

HMT ARCADIAN

One final indignity awaited them as they were preparing to leave. On December 27th as they were were packing up their equipment and making ready to take their departure from the Dardanelles, a Turkish shell, fired with deadly accuracy, caused a number of casualties.

Ashton Reporter February 5, 1916

A ‘Jack Johnson’ was the British nickname used to describe the impact of a heavy, black German 15-cm artillery shell. Jack Johnson (1878-1946) was the name of the popular U.S. (born in Texas) world heavyweight boxing champion who held the title from 1908-15 – and whose punch was legendary. Johnson’s nickname was ‘The Big Smoke’.

There are a couple of obvious inaccuracies with the article, the letter was from Arthur Slater (not Edwin) and the shell hit on December 27th not December 31st).  Six men of the 1/9th were killed in action that day but it is consistently reported through letters from other men that 4 deaths occurred from this single Turkish shell.

Rank No. Forename Middle Surname
Pte 2310 HEZEKIAH HARRISON*
Pte 1805 JOHN FREDERICK JENKINSON*
Pte 3418 RALPH SCHOFIELD*
Pte 3312 HAROLD GREEN
L/Cpl. 2601 GEORGE HEROD
Pte 2365 GEORGE HENRY WALKER

*Killed by the Shell, as reported through letters published in the Ashton Reporter newspaper.

Arthur Slater later wrote briefly about his experiences in Gallipoli and his notes are provided here.

Gallipoli-Diary-Page-1
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I was one of a draft of reinforcements sent to Gallipoli in June 1915. I recall our arrival at Lemnos and our transfer there from troopship to lighters, our journey thence under cover of darkness, packed as we were, shoulder to shoulder, and as we eased into the shore, seeing the hull of SS River Clyde in the light of Very Lights and exploding gunfire, what an awesome welcome.

Overshadowing it all was the fort of Sedd-el-Bahr. Our orders were to proceed on to the beach as quickly as possible and there to line up and be ready to move off with the Battalion Guides who awaited us, all this was done to the accompaniment of shell fire from what we later learned was christened “Asiatic Annie”.

Came the dawn and one could get an idea of one’s surroundings. A collection of primitive dugouts which afforded neither shelter from shellfire or the sun, a short time amongst the older hands soon enabled the conditions to be seen in the right perspective, but we newcomers were at a disadvantage in the blistering heat. Firstly we were not acclimated to it furthermore we had come clad in thick khaki serge  suits not at all suitable for the tropical climate.

Life in the trenches at first was tolerable, one soon learned not to be too daring in exposing oneself to the Turk, who by all accounts were good marksmen. Days of activity by either forces punctuated our spells in the line, but neither side ever appeared to gain, the push and thrust was ever present with exchanges of gunfire and raids.

Then came the 6th August, we had been being prepared for a bit of a showdown and an advance on the village of Krithia was staged. This was my first real battle, previously they had been short brushes with the enemy, but this was the real thing; charges, bayonet fighting, and bombing only yards separating us at times. Here I spent some time in the “Vineyard” trench where Lt Forshaw won a V.C., Sergeant Bayley won the DCM. This engagement was all in concert with the Suvla Bay landing.

One had now been on the peninsula sufficiently long enough to be inured to much of the discomfort that was such everywhere evident in the campaign. We were ill fitted to stand up to the blistering heat, which by now had many added troubles, chiefly the plague of flies that increased and multiplied in conditions that were often indescribable; decaying carcasses of men and mules, primitive sanitary conditions, these coupled with fact that most of the men were troubled with some form of dysentery, shortage of water, lack of variety of food all added to the general lassitude and hopelessness that one felt. In the trenches one had no time to think on these things, but when out in reserve or resting, one had more time to feel sorry for oneself. The flies were always bad even on our food when biting it, the bully beef poured out like oil, and the eternal plumb and apple. Then we had our body lice, the blazing sun and always the danger of shellfire.

Red letter days were when we had some mail, especially a parcel, rare occasions, and another was if we could manage to get a swim in the sea, it was dangerous, but no man would forego such a pleasure. Another delight to me was to watch the glorious sunsets over the Aegean Sea.

Humour was not missing amongst us, sometimes of a macabre twist, such as the case where on the parapet of the Mule trench on the left of Gully Ravine a hand and arm was sticking out, some wag placed a hard tack biscuit in the hand.

September and October came and brought cooler and more bearable weather. When not in the line we were now busy filling sand bags and building into more solid dug-outs which would be needed when Wintery conditions came. Rains now had made a quagmire of much of the land and the conditions were most depressing. Conditions later became harder, rations some days were insufficient, one biscuit per day per man, on occasions, trench duties more often, duties 1 hour on firing, then one hour seated but awake, then 1 hours sleep, man power was at a low ebb, the Turks had to be lulled whilst the evacuation started.

Just before Christmas a huge bonfire was lit at Lancashire landing and the impression was given that we were all evacuating, over came the Turks, when they got out into the open we who were in the line opened fire causing great casualties and panic, so much so that several days later we were able to leave the peninsula and sail to Imbros on the 29th December 1915.

Looking back on those days, one thinks of pals who are laid there. Who ever hears of Cape Helles, Krithia, Pink Farm, Achi Baba (the wee hill) as the 52nd Lowland Division called it, not to mention Anzac Lone Pine, Chunuk Bair and Suvla, like the old soldiers they have faded away.

The War Diary for the 1/9th Manchesters covering their time in Gallipoli is transcribed here.

EGYPT (1916)

Turkish forces of the Ottoman Empire, integrated with German units and officers, threatened the security of the Suez Canal through which vital supplies of men and materials had to pass. With the release of the units from the Gallipoli Campaign it was decided to establish defense in depth of the Suez Canal by pushing positions out from the east bank of the canal and into the Sinai Desert.

The Turkish forces had three possible routes across the Sinai to threaten the security of the Canal: the northern, the central and the southern. In March 1916 it was decided to destroy any water sources on the central route, thereby denying the Turks this route of advance. As any force pushing the Turks back East towards Palestine would require materials and water, a railway and water pipeline was constructed and by mid-May had reached Romani.

On August 3, 1916 the Turks made a final attempt to attack the Canal by trying to break through at Romani but were defeated in a battle lasting two days. From this point onward the Allied forces were on the offensive, pushing the Turks back East across the Sinai peninsular. Construction of the pipeline and railway pushed on at a rate of 15 miles a month in an effort to reach El Arish. On 17th October it was confirmed that the Turks had withdrawn from El Arish. On 9th January 1917, the remaining Ottoman forces were pushed out of Sinai at the Battle of Rafa.

Protecting the Suez Canal

The 1/9th Manchesters disembarked from the HMT Arcadian on January 18, 1916 in Alexandria, arriving via a short stop at Mudros on the island of Lemnos.

March was spent on outpost duty in the desert at Kabrit where work was carried out preparing defensive positions. The Battalion returned to Suez in early March where they were once again placed on guard duty of the Suez Canal. Training and route marches were the order of the day. The Battalion stayed on or around the Suez Canal through July 1916.

The Desert Column

In early August the Battle of Romani saw the defeat of the Turkish forces and a subsequent Allied push Eastwards along the railway line to El Arish. The 1/9th Manchesters followed this eastward path over the next few months reaching as far east as Mazar.

Map of Bir el Abd

Shown below are the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment Scouts Section at Bir El Abd (Oct 1916) consisting of: Cpl. May, Pte. T. Littleford, Pte. G. Wilton, Pte. A. Sumner, Pte. F. Beard, Pte. R. Fish, Pte. A. Horton, Pte. P. Bradley, Pte. A. Barrett, Pte. S. Caine and Pte. A. Slater.

Regimental Scouts Bir el Abd October 1916

November 1916

Things must have been quite unsanitary in the desert column because on November 9, 1916 he was admitted to 1/3rd East Lancs Field Ambulance at Kantara, Egypt suffering from Scabies. He was treated, disinfected and rejoined his unit 9 days later.  During the month of November, 500 men from the Battalion were sent to MAZAR for disinfection.

December 1916

On December 20th all available allied troops were mustered (30,000 in all) at El Maadan, where they prepared for a rapid attack upon the Turkish positions at El Arish, but in the early hours of the 21st, before any order had been given to attack, the Turks fled.

 

The defence of the Suez Canal was finally declared secure by February 1917 and on March 2, 1917 the 1/9th Manchesters embarked on the H.M.T. Arcadian at Alexandria, sailing for France on the 4th with a Royal Naval escort.

The transcribed war diary for the 1/9th Manchester Regiment during their time in Egypt is here.

FRANCE (1917)

The 1/9th Manchesters disembarked from the H.M.T. Arcadian on March 11, 1917 in Marseilles after a brush with two German submarines which their Royal Naval escort capably dealt with. The Arcadian would not be so lucky just over a month later.

HMT ARCADIAN

In February/March 1917, service numbers were re-issued throughout the Territorial Force of the British Army. This change of numbering of infantrymen was promulgated in Army Council Instruction (ACI) 2414 of 1916, published on 23 December 1916. Prior to this, each man was issued a service number defined by the Battalion with which he was serving. This had worked reasonably well during peacetime but caused great confusion with the dramatic expansion of the armed forces during the early war years. In the old system, when a man transferred from one Battalion to another within the same Regiment or Corps he required re-numbering. Over time, as more and more men were transferred, this led to great confusion. To address this issue, the men were issued with new six digit numbers, each Battalion being issued with a unique allotment of numbers within a Corps. Under this scheme the 9th Manchesters were allocated numbers 350001 to 364999. The longest serving member of the unit was issued 350001 and so on. Arthur Slater was allocated the new service number of 351001.

March 1917

On March 26, 1917 he was admitted to 2nd East Lancs Field Ambulance at Abbeville, France suffering again from Scabies. He was treated, disinfected and subsequently released for duty (with the 30th Infantry Base Depot at Etaples) 13 days later.

An Infantry Base Depot (IBD) was a large holding camp. Situated within easy distance of one the Channel ports, it received men on arrival from England and kept them in training while they awaiting posting to a unit at the front. At the start of the war each infantry division had its own IBD, which was established as it crossed to France but by 1917 each IBD supported several Divisions and the 30 IBD at Etaples was a very large camp with several hospitals. They were not particularly pleasant places and in September 1917 there was a mutiny at the IBD at Etaples.

Etaples Annotated Map from 1919

Arthur spent about six weeks at the Infantry Base Depot and then rejoined the 1/9th Manchesters on May 21st. Fortunately for him, this absence meant that he missed the travails of the Battle of Arras (9th April to 16th May) which saw the 1/9th Manchesters record their first serious numbers of casualties in France.

UK on Leave

Five days after rejoining his unit, on May 26, 1917, he was granted 10 days leave in the UK rejoining his battalion on June 14, 1917. His family must have been very pleased to see him as he had now been fighting overseas for two full years.

Wounded in Action (1917)

Just over a week after returning from leave, on June 23, 1917, Arthur was seriously wounded when he was hit in the right thigh by shrapnel at Havrincourt Wood, near Trescault.

Shrapnel
This is the actual piece of shrapnel removed from Arthur Slater's thigh in 1917.
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He was one of 23 “Other Ranks” of the 1/9th Manchesters recorded as wounded that month.

1/9 Manchesters War Diary Casualty List. June 1917.

The Battalion had just moved from billets at Ytres back into the reserve line on the evening of the 21st, relieving the 1/4th East Lancashire Regiment. The Battalion War Diary says very little; only that the majority of the men were engaged in digging firing trenches, (Bazooza Avenue and Frith Alley), and a communication trench.

 

The men were engaged in trench digging between 9:30pm and 3:00am to take advantage of the dark. Progress was slow and almost all the Battalion were put to work in order to accomplish as much as possible in the short time available each night.

We don’t know exactly where, or precisely when, Arthur was wounded but the chain of evacuation from the trench would start with him being stretchered or carried to the Regimental Aid Post located at the southern edge of Trescault. From there he would have traveled down the Trescault to Metz road to the Divisional Advanced Dressing Station which was located just north of Metz. It must have been a painful and uncomfortable journey.

From Metz, he would have been quickly evacuated to No 21 Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) by ambulance wagon. 21 CCS was located at Ytres, a small village about 10km southwest of where he was shot, where the Battalion had been billeted earlier that month.  The CCS camp was actually located at the  Ytres – Etricourt railway siding, South of the town of Ytres, and there it joined 48 CCS which had arrived a few days earlier. 21 CCS was relatively comfortable but quite rudimentary, consisting of 4 huts with the rest under canvas.

Ytres Etricourt Train Station

21 CCS had only arrived at Ytres on June 1st and had spent the following 3 weeks unloading and setting up camp. In fact they did not start admitting patients until June 23rd, the day that Arthur was wounded. By this time, the camp was in its final stages of preparation but had not yet been fully wired for electricity.

He spent four days and nights at 21 CCS and was evacuated from there, along with 4 Officers and 89 Other Ranks, on Ambulance Train No 5.  The first ambulance train to take patients from the two Casualty Clearing Stations. On the morning of June 27 they began loading patients from 21 CCS and 48 CCS onto the train at 11:10am and completed their task at 1:20pm. Ambulance Train No 5 then left Ytres at 2:05pm arriving at Rouen at exactly midnight.

21 CCS & Railways Map

The above map definitively positions 21 CCS at the Ytres – Etricourt railway siding and shows its location in relation to the broad gauge railway lines used by the Ambulance Trains. The siding was also an ammunition railhead and located close to Corps Royal Engineer stores and water points for men and horses. Casualty Clearing Stations were often located close to railways, for obvious reasons, and inevitably resulted in cemeteries being formed close by. The Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery is located a few hundred yards west of where the 21 and 48 CCSs were situated.

[This railway map overlay was originally posted on the “Railway Accident at Ruyalcourt Station (Somme) 16 November 1917” blog post, on the excellent Railway Work, Life & Death project website. Thanks to Sandra Gittins for originally finding it and Mike Esbester for helping me get a copy. The map is from the war diary: Fourth Army, Headquarters Branches and Services. Adjutant and Quarter-Master General (WO-95-443-1).]

At Rouen he was admitted to No 5 General Hospital where he spent the next eleven days recovering. By July 9th Arthur was stable enough to be included as one of a convoy of 90 lying  patients who left No 5 General Hospital on Ambulance Train No 7, being discharged from the hospital at 8:15am. Ambulance Train No 7 had arrived at Sotteville, in Rouen, at 10:45pm the previous evening and they commenced loading patients at 8:55am the following morning. The train left Rouen at 10:55am arriving at Le Havre at 3:05pm (journey 265 for Ambulance Train No 7).

HM Ambulance Transport Kalyan left Netley (near Southampton) on July 8th under escort and made a calm and uneventful passage to Le Havre, arriving at 4:30am on July 9th.  By 5:30pm they had embarked 775 patients (90 of which had come from Ambulance Train No 7) and sailed for Southampton. The Kalyan arrived at Berth 21, Southampton, on the morning of July 10th and began disembarking patients at 10am. The war diary reports that progress was slow that day, additional lift capacity being required.

Hospital Transport KALYAN

Late in the day on July 10th he was admitted to 1st Western General Hospital at Mill Rd, Liverpool.  It was here that he first met Margaret Karran who was to become his wife after the war.

Maggie Karran, August 1917

Currently known as Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, during the war years the hospital was renamed 1st Western General. Injured soldiers were transported via train to the Fazakerley Station. 1st Western General Hospital was approximately 4 miles from where Maggie was born and raised.

On August 17, 1917 he was discharged from 1st Western General and transferred to Llandyrnog Red Cross Auxiliary Hospital, Denbigh where he spent the next 42 days convalescing. The admission sheet states: “Galvanism. Gait improved markedly. Suffering from shell shock.”  It seems likely that the shell shock was primarily a consequence of being buried alive at Gallipoli.

Llandyrnog Red Cross Hospital

Upon being discharged from Hospital he was granted 10 days furlough from 28th Sept – 8th Oct, 1917 by the C.O. 1st Western General Hospital, Fazakerley. He was deemed fit for duty at a Command Depot. Command Depots were military convalescent camps for soldiers sufficiently recovered to be discharged from convalescent hospital (like Llandrynog) but not yet fit enough to return to front line duty.

On October 9th he joined the Command Depot at Heaton Park,  a Command Depot for the Western Command, with accommodation for 100 Officers and 5,000 men. Men stationed to Command Depots engaged in physical exercise and activities designed to accelerate their path to full fitness. Discipline was “relaxed” but Arthur still found himself officially cautioned for being absent without permission from 10pm on the night of October 20th to 9:45am the following morning. Under the circumstances who could really deny him and his mates a night on the lash.

The photo below is from his time at Heaton Park. He is on the front row, 2nd from the left, below.  Note the two wounded stripes and good conduct chevron (marking two-years Service without censure) on his left sleeve.

Cowleys Rebels Heaton Park October 1917

He stayed at Heaton Park Command Depot until November 30, 1917 when he was transferred to the 8th (Reserve) Battalion Manchester Regiment at Filey in Yorkshire.

3/8th Manchesters

The 3/8th, 3/9th and 3/10th Battalions of the Manchester Regiment were formed at home bases (Ardwick, Ashton under Lyne & Oldham) in March 1915. They moved in early 1916 to Witley, Surrey and on April 8, 1916  became the 8th, 9th and 10th Reserve Battalions. On September 1, 1916 the 9th and 10th Reserve Battalions were absorbed into the 3/8th (Reserve) Battalion, moving to Southport in October 1916 and then going on to Ripon in January 1917. They moved to Filey, in June 1917 at first in tents and then later in more permanent living quarters that they constructed.

The 3/8th Manchesters maintained a presence at Filey from June 1917 until the end of the war and their primary purpose was to train reserve troops prior to their re-deployment on the Western Front.  As such, it was a logical progression for recuperating men in their transition from hospital, to Command Depot, to re-deployment.  Arthur remained at Filey with the 3/8th until March 1918 when he shipped out with a number of others back to France.

FRANCE (1918)

Arthur arrived back in France on March 31, 1918.

In early 1918 the structure and composition of Army Brigades was undergoing significant change. Specifically, there was a reduction from 4 to 3 infantry battalions and the removal of Machine Gun Companies within Battalions and separate Machine Gun Battalions were formed within the Divisional structure. During this time, some Infantry Battalions that had been depleted were effectively disbanded; many of the remaining men being moved to strengthen other Battalions.

Map of the Western Front. July 15, 1918.

Within four days of his arrival he had been transferred to the 1st Battalion, Notts & Derby Regiment (aka 1/Sherwood Foresters) as the 1/9th Manchesters had been reduced to a training cadre due to the loss of so many men. He was assigned to A Company and his new regimental number with the 1/Sherwoods was 205455. The 1/Sherwoods had themselves been severely depleted of men at the First Battle of the Somme 1918 in late March where 379 Officers and men were killed, wounded or reported missing.

Along with him, a number of other men from the 1/9th Manchesters also returned to France on March 31, 1918 and were transferred to the 1st Sherwoods on April 4, 1918.  This group of men all appear to have been shipped back to the UK in 1917 due to wounds or sickness, recuperated and were now deemed fit enough for front line service once again.

Pte. Edward Spragg (205456) born in Dukinfield, he originally joined the 1/9th Manchesters (Service Number 1755 / 350392) on Valentine’s Day 1914. He served with them for their entire period of overseas service, shipping out to Egypt in September 1914 and subsequently landing in Gallipoli in May 1915. Wounded in Gallipoli he recovered and served with the 1/9th through their deployment back to Egypt guarding the Suez Canal and then landed with them in France in March 1917. In December 1917 he was wounded in the right knee by shrapnel and repatriated to the UK. Joining the 1/Sherwoods on April 4, 1918 Pte. Spragg was taken Prisoner by the Germans on May 27, 1918.

Pte. Samuel Bennett (205420) originally joined the 1/9th Manchesters (Service Number 3132 / 351343) on November 18, 1914. He shipped out to Gallipoli with the draft of reinforcements who arrived August 22, 1915. He served through their deployment back to Egypt guarding the Suez Canal and then landed with them in France in March 1917.  In April 1917 he was repatriated to the UK due to an infected right leg. Joining the 1/Sherwoods on April 4, 1918 Pte. Bennett was taken Prisoner by the Germans on May 27, 1918.

Pte. George Davies (204425) originally joined the 1/9th Manchesters (Service Number 2394 / 350786) on October 1, 1914.  He shipped out to Gallipoli with the draft of reinforcements who arrived August 22, 1915. He served through their deployment back to Egypt guarding the Suez Canal and then landed with them in France in March 1917. In July 1917 he was granted 10 days leave in the UK and at the end of it was admitted to Hospital for infected sores from Scabies and impetigo. It must have been severe because he was not discharged from Hospital until February 1918. Joining the 1/Sherwoods on April 4, 1918 Pte. Davies was listed as “Missing” on May 27, 1918.  He rejoined the Battalion 3 weeks later but was subsequently killed in action on September 29, 1918.

Pte. Arthur Redfern (205542) originally joined the 1/9th Manchesters (Service Number 2699 / 351021) on October 19, 1914.  He shipped out to Gallipoli with the same draft of reinforcements as Arthur Slater who arrived July 23, 1915. He served through their deployment back to Egypt guarding the Suez Canal and then landed with them in France in March 1917.  It is not clear why he was back in the UK but like the others he shipped back to France on March 31, 1918 and joined the 1/Sherwoods on April 4, 1918. On May 20, he was wounded in the arm, while the Battalion was in the front line trenches of the Aisne, and shipped back to the UK. His arm was later amputated and he was discharged from military service with a 70 percent disability.

Additionally, two men originally from the 3/9th Manchesters, James Bowker (205419) and Harry Carter (205423), who first deployed with the 1/9th in Egypt in January and February of 1916 respectively, also joined the 1/Sherwoods that day. For some reason both of these men were shipped back to the UK within the month.

BACK IN ACTION

On April 19, 1918 the 1/Sherwoods went into the front line after moving to VILLERS-BRETONNEUX with the 8th Division.  Here they were involved in the Second Battle of VILLERS-BRETONNEUX, which took another great toll on them, losing another 234 Officers and men who were either killed, wounded or reported missing. On April 27th they were relieved from the fighting and two weeks later, on May 10th (Arthur’s 22nd birthday), they had moved to the Aisne region and were preparing to go into the front lines once again the following day.

PRISONER OF WAR (1918)

Arthur was taken prisoner by the Germans in the early hours of May 27th, 1918 at Bois de la Miette (between Berry au Bac and Pontavert in the Aisne region of France) during the 3rd Battle of the Aisne.

Bois de la Miette 22 Apr 1918

The International Red Cross records show that he was taken prisoner “unwounded” but based on where he was and when he was captured he was incredibly lucky not to have been killed.

The 1/Sherwoods were decimated that day with 700 men of all ranks killed, wounded or missing by the end of the battle.  Also captured with Arthur Slater that day at “Miety Wood” (Bois de la Miette) were Pte. Percy Wheldon (307460) and Pte. Christopher George Zabel (108909) of the 1/Sherwoods.  They were not supposed to be so far forward; the 1/Sherwoods having moved from the front line to the reserve billets at Ventelay on the night of the 24th, arriving at Ventelay in the early morning of the 25th, (per the 1/Sherwoods war diary).

8th Division Positions @ 1am May 27, 1918

The map above shows the 8th Division troop positions at 1 am on the 27th May, 1918. The 1/Sherwoods being part of the 24th Brigade. Ventelay is bottom left, the Aisne river (and canal) run through the middle and the German positions run from right to left along the top. The map is from the War Diary 8th Division, Headquarters Branches and Services: General Staff. Crown Copyright.

Below is the same map with annotations of the rapid German progress through the front line and reserve positions that morning. The rough timeline of events shown are taken from various Battalion and 8th Division HQ war diaries. The German Aisne Offensive began at 1:00 am, all possible targets had a ten minute bombardment of gas followed with heavy shelling of gas and explosives for an hour on artillery positions. The shelling lasted several hours and was very effective, the centre of the line was broken, Germans poured across the Chemin des Dames down to the River Aisne, first crossing it around 9 am. These initial storm troops bypassed any strong pockets of resistance and moved on, secondary troops coming behind them en-masse and mopping up. Heavily outnumbered, pummeled by hours of the heaviest and most effective artillery barrage of the war so far, the survivors of the gas and high explosive shells stood no chance and they were quickly overrun.

8th Division Positions Early Morning 27 May, 1918.

One of the best accounts of what happened to the 8th Division that day is Sydney Rogerson’s account, an excerpt of which is provided here.  And there is a lot more about the 3rd Battle of the Aisne here.

Giessen Camp

By 26 June, 1918 Arthur had arrived at Giessen camp from the front. Below is a view of Giessen POW Camp, taken from the Hospital window.

Giessen PoW Camp
Image provided by and Copyright of GWF User stiletto_33853.

There is, unfortunately, no record of how he was captured and how he got from the  Bois de la Miette to Giessen PoW camp but we are very fortunate that Sergeant Thomas William Chisholm of the 1/5th Northumberland Fusiliers kept a personal diary that graphically records his experiences from capture on the morning of May 27, 1918 to his arrival at Giessen Camp.  His diary entries covering this period are excerpted here.

Giessen PoW Camp
Image provided by and Copyright of GWF User stiletto_33853.
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IRC Attestation Letter
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Ashton Reporter August 10, 1918

Neuhammer Camp

By September 15, 1918 Arthur had been moved to Neuhammer but he was able to write a short postcard and send it home.

Arthur-Slater-Neuhammer-1
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September 15, 1918
KR GEF No 2002, Stammlager, Neuhammer

My Dear Mother & Father,

Just a few lines to let you know how I am going on. I am very pleased to say I am in the best of health & spirits, & we are going on fine. We got our first parcels last Sunday. One parcel for two men. It had in it biscuits, rice, oats, tea and one tin of milk, tobacco, cigarettes & soup, and it was very good, & we are expecting more every day & also one of the boys has had a letter, & of course we are looking forward for one.
I want to see how you are all getting on at home, if you wish to send me anything you will be able to see what you can send by seeing the Red Cross Committee, but don’t go to a lot of expense.

Love to all at home & Maggie.
From your ever loving son
Arthur

Neuhammer was a Mannschaftslager (“Enlisted Men’s Camp” for private soldiers and NCOs) clearing camp for Upper Silesia. 100,000 men were registered there, but were mostly in work camps under its administration. In World War I, Neuhammer was the site of a large prisoner-of-war camp for Russian soldiers which explains the Cyrillic printing on the postcard.

S.A.G. Lipine

By December 1918 he had been moved again, now to a work camp.  S.A.G. Is the abbreviation for Schlesische Aktiengesellschaft, a mining company in Lipine (now Lipiny, a town in what was Upper Silesia). The building, which was owned by the SAG, may be what was known as the „alte Lazarett“ (old hospital) and was used to accommodate PoWs. Apart from the mine, there were Zinc, Acid and Iron Works in the town which were also owned by SAG.

PoW Camp at SAG Lipine

REPATRIATION

Arthur arrived back in the UK on January 6, 1919, at Dover. After three days of processing, on January 9th, he was given a two pounds advance, a facsimile letter from the King, a two month Prisoner of War furlough pass with Railway Warrant, and finally started making his way back home to Ashton-under-Lyne.

His return was noted in the February 4, 1919 Times Weekly Casualty List.

Weekly Casualty List Feb 4, 1919

The map below shows the locations he had spent in captivity and their relationship to where he was taken prisoner.

 

His letter from the King welcoming him back from captivity is below.

Arthur Slater Kings Letter

A month later, on the 12th February, 1919 he had the unpleasant task of identifying the body of his sister Eleanor (previously listed as his next of kin in some of his Army records) who had drowned in a canal in Ashton-under-Lyne.

On March 17, 1919 he was medically examined, at Manchester, for the application of a disability pension and the doctor noted that he had pain when walking over any distance due to his gunshot wound from France and that he suffered from digestive problems due to the poor food he was given when he was a PoW. The doctor assessed that both were due to his war service but that he had less than twenty percent disability, which seems a little harsh after everything he had just done for his country.

A few days later, on March 21, 1919 he was granted 28 days furlough from No 1 Dispersal Unit, Heaton Park, and not required to wear uniform for the duration.  Before the furlough was up, he was discharged from the Army (disembodied, since he was a Territorial) on April 17, 1919 after serving for 4 1/2 years.

He received a small disability pension, starting from the day after his discharge until May 30, 1921, the month after he married Margaret Annie Karran. His record also shows that he was treated for “Bronchilosis” in October 1920, presumably as a result of inhaling gas on May 27, 1918.

Arthur Slater Pension Ledger Index Card

SHORT SERVICE RECORD
Home:   Oct 17, 1914 – June 30, 1915
MEF:      July 1, 1915 – March 2, 1917
BEF:      March 3, 1917 – July 9, 1917
Home:  July 10, 1917 – March 29, 1918
BEF:      March 30, 1918 – May 26, 1918
PoW:     May 27, 1918 – Jan 8, 1919
Home:  Jan 9, 1919 – April 17, 1919

DETAILED SERVICE RECORD
July 5, 1915      Taken on strength of Battalion. Dadanelles.
July 23, 1915    Joined Battalion Nominal Roll. Dardanelles.
Sept 9, 1915     Wounded. Dardanelles.
Sept 24, 1915  Admitted to No 5 Canadian Stationary Hospital. BW Face. Cairo.
Oct 26, 1915    Rejoined Battalion. Dardanelles.
Dec 29, 1915   Evacuated Peninsula. HMT ARCADIAN.
Jan 18, 1916     Disembarked at Alexandria.
Nov 10, 1916    Sick. Sent to Hospital. Kantara.
Nov 9, 1916      Admitted to 1/3rd East Lancs Field Ambulance. Scabies. Kantara.
Nov 19, 1916.   Rejoined unit. Kantara.

Mar 2, 1917      Embarked HMT ARCADIAN. Alexandria.
Mar 11, 1917    Disembarked HMT ARCADIAN. Marseilles.
Mar 26, 1917  Admitted Sick to 1/2nd East Lancs Field Ambulance. Scabies. In the Field.
Mar 26, 1917    Admitted to No 2 Stationary Hospital. Abbeville.
April 8, 1917     Joined 30 IBD. ETAPLES.
May 21, 1917    Rejoined Unit. In the Field.
May 26, 1917   Granted 10 days leave to UK.
June 14, 1917   Rejoined Battalion. In the Field.
June 23, 1917  To Hospital. Wounded. In the Field.
June 23, 1917   Admitted to 21 CCS with GSW R. Thigh. In the Field.
June 27, 1917   To 5 Ambulance Train. In the Fied
June 28, 1917   Admitted to No 5 General Hospital. GW IX(i). R Sev. Rouen.
July 9, 1917       Transferred from Rouen to Southampton. AT KALYAN.
July 10, 1917     Admitted to Mill Road Infirmary, Liverpool. GW R Thigh.
Aug 17, 1917     Admitted to Llandyrnog Red Cross Aux Hospital, Denbigh. “Galvanism. Gait improved markedly. Suffering from shell shock.”
Sept 28, 1917   Discharged from Hospital.

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OFFICIAL WAR RECORDS

Arthur Slater’s Medal Index Card and Medal Roll documents are shown below.

Arthur Slater Medal Index Card

His Medal Index Card shows that he served in the Manchester Regiment and the Notts & Derby Regiment, that he was entitled to the Victory, British and 15 Star medals, and that he first deployed to the Balkan Theatre of Operations at Gallipoli (2b). There is no date of entry or listing of his Manchester Regiment renumbering of March 1917.