Private Sam Littleford, DCM

Samuel Littleford was born on June 19, 1888 in Ashton under Lyne to William and Bridget Littleford (née Philburn). William Littleford was a former Royal Marine who, as a young man, served aboard HMS Falcon during the Anglo-Egyptian War of 1882 and was awarded the Khedive’s Bronze Star campaign medal. Upon his return and discharge he married Bridget Philburn in Ashton under Lyne in early 1884. They went on to have nine children, six of whom survived into adulthood.

Samuel Littleford was the oldest of four sons, (brothers William, John and James), his two sisters, (Mary Ellen and Alice Ann), being the oldest and youngest children respectively. Samuel’s brother William joined the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, the Manchester Regiment in 1907 when he turned 17. In April 1908 the Haldane reforms resulted in the 3rd Volunteer Battalion being dissolved and the men became the founding members of the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Territorial Force. Sam Littleford joined his brother in the 9th Battalion on or just before November 1, 1910 and by 1911 Samuel was living with his parents and five brothers and sisters in Ashton and was employed as a general labourer at the Ashton Gas Company, the same as his father.

Private Sam Littleford, D.C.M.

At the outbreak of war, the 9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment was mobilised and on August 20, 1914 they marched into Chesham Fold Camp, Bury. Throughout August around 100 new recruits were added, many of whom had previously served with the battalion in the pre-war years. On September 1, 1914 another 100+ men were added, many of whom were friends and family of the existing members of the battalion. On Wednesday September 9 the battalion entrained to Southampton and at midnight the following day sailed for Egypt. In Egypt the men were drilled, trained and worked hard to build fitness and endurance.

The battalion landed at Gallipoli under shell fire on Sunday May 9, 1915 and at that time Sam Littleford was a 26-year-old Private. Three days later, his daughter Edith was born in Ashton, the product of an over amorous goodbye to his fiancé Mary Lizzie Barber.

Since there is no surviving service record, or mention of him in either official Gallipoli records or local newspaper articles regarding his time on the peninsula, there are no specific details to relate of the actions and events he was directly involved in there.

When he attested in 1910, he would have agreed to serve for four years and also to extend that period, for not more than 12 months, in case of imminent national danger or great emergency. Consequently, he became “time-expired” in Egypt, served another 12 months in Egypt and Gallipoli and by November 1915 he was eligible to be discharged after time served. In fact, he did not return to Ashton until late May 1916 but when he did so he was immediately discharged from the Territorial Force.

On June 3, 1916 the London Gazette announced the King’s Birthday Honours: “His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the undermentioned rewards for Distinguished Service in the Field, dated 3rd June, 1916”. And along with the Military Cross awarded to Major M.H. Connery, three Distinguished Service Medals for the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment were announced:

1792 L./C. A. Davis, 9th Bn., Manch. R. (T.F.)
1623 Sjt. J. Greenhalgh, 9th Bn., Manch. R. (T.F.)
1083 Pte. S. Littleford, 9th Bn., Manch. R. (T.F.)

The Ashton Reporter interviewed Sam but he was frustratingly non-committal on what he had done to deserve the award, in part because he had not yet received any official word or explanation himself. Instead, he told the Reporter that he preferred to “wait and see” rather than speculate since “a good many things happened whilst he was on the Gallipoli Peninsula”.

Seventeen days later the D.C.M. citation was published in the Gazette:

1083 Pte. S. Littleford, 9th Bn., Manch. R., T.F.

For conspicuous gallantry in flinging a lighted bomb over the parapet, and thus probably saving many casualties. He was himself wounded in the arm by the explosion.

The annotated listing does not convey much more but the long forgotten administrative code at the bottom shows that his award was separate from those of the other two 9th Manchester recipients who received their D.C.M.s for the small action on December 19, 1915.

Sam Littleford's Annotated D.C.M. Citation

The citation is somewhat ambiguous in that it does not specify whether the bomb was thrown into the trench by the Turks or was dropped by an Allied bomb-thrower, and since he does not appear on any official casualty list the date of the event cannot be ascertained. But one thing is for certain, picking up a lighted bomb and attempting to throw it out of the trench before it wounded or killed anyone, rather than simply diving for cover, was an incredibly brave and selfless act.

Less than a month later, on July 12, 1916, Sam was Mentioned in Despatches when the London Gazette published the list of names of men mentioned for distinguished and gallant services rendered during the period of General Sir Charles Monro’s Command of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.

Back in Ashton, Sam and his younger brother William had both been discharged from the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment for time expired and were back in civilian life. Their younger brother John Littleford had joined the 1/5th Royal Welch Fusiliers as a Drummer and was undergoing basic training in the UK. As long time Territorials and coming, as they did, from a military family, Sam and William were unwilling to sit out the war without serving further and so sometime in late 1916 they both re-joined the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment and Sam finally married his fiancé Mary Lizzie Barber who was now expecting their second child.

In early 1917, Sam and William were part of a small block of 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment men who were transferred to the 1/5th Battalion Manchester Regiment, who had deployed to France, from Egypt, in March 1917.

John Littleford, with the 1/5th Royal Welch Fusiliers, was onboard the Troop Transport Transylvania when she was torpedoed on her way to Egypt on May 4, 1917 but he was rescued and went on to serve in Italy and France. In June 1917, William was wounded in action and after he recovered joined the 21st Battalion Manchester Regiment, fighting in Italy for 10 months between November 1917 and September 1918, when they returned to France. Sam Littleford was himself wounded in action in France on March 21, 1918. Sam and William both transferred to the 12th Battalion Manchester Regiment and on October 6, 1918 William was gassed and killed in France. The Ashton Reporter of December 7, 1918 noted that Sam’s brother John was on sick leave at the Mechanics Institute, Ashton while his youngest brother Jim was serving in the RAF, having joined in November 1917.

Sam’s father William Littleford died in February 1919. Sam was demobilised in early 1919 and, true to form, his third child, May Littleford, was born in late 1919. On February 18, 1921 Sam’s fourth and final child, John Littleford, was born. But Sam’s brother John Littleford, who had been invalided out of the Army suffering from Tuberculosis, and living with his mother and younger sister at the family home in Ashton, died from the disease later that year on October 22, 1921.

Sam’s older sister, Mary Ellen, died in October 1925 and his youngest, and last surviving, brother James Littleford died on June 9, 1934 in an industrial accident at work. Tragedy struck again in October 1938 when his youngest daughter, May Littleford, died of liver failure at just 18 years of age. By the following year Sam was living with his wife and three children in Ashton and was an unemployed labourer. He died the following year, on February 22, 1940 and is buried in the family grave at Dukinfield Cemetery, Tameside. Samuel Littleford, D.C.M. was just 51 years old.