The following are a set of transcribed Ashton Reporter articles from original, independently sourced copies of the weekly newspaper which are currently held on microfiche at the Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre in Ashton-under-Lyne. The transcriptions here are ones that relate specifically to the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment and references to the 2/9th and 3/9th are purely in the context of their roles as feeder and reserve battalions to the 1/9th. A more comprehensive, and chronologically presented, set of Ashton Reporter and Ashton Herald articles can be found at the Ashton Pals web site here.
Articles published in local newspapers of the time offer an invaluable glimpse into the experiences of the Officers and men of the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment in their own words and in those of the editorial staff of the newspapers who remained at home. Taken as a whole they provide a unique and compelling context to the dry facts of official reports but just because something was printed in the Reporter does not necessarily mean that it was accurate and true. Nothing unique to the Ashton Reporter on that score. There are numerous examples of errors in names and dates of events that were printed but not subsequently corrected and in some rare cases, the reports, although printed in good faith, turned out to be completely wrong. Some examples are provided here.
Each edition of the Ashton Reporter had a small “Personal” column. Several of these columns contained very short (one or two sentences) snippets of information regarding certain prominent people of the district including Officers of the 9th Battalion. Those entries, as they relate to the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, are provided here.
The activities of the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment in Egypt in late 1914 and early 1915 are not officially documented in any significant detail. Articles and letters published in the Ashton Reporter provide some insight into the living conditions, the men’s training and the other duties that the Ashton Territorials were engaged in.
In the early part of the war, several short articles were published that introduced the readership to an Ashton Territorial Officer who had recently been promoted, or similar event, which provided an excuse to provide a short biographical piece. Later in the war, other more serious events provided the reason for interviews and letters to be published. Some examples of which are provided here.
Throughout the war, the Ashton Reporter provided extensive coverage and support for recruiting of soldiers both to the Ashton Territorials and other Regiments. Letters from serving soldiers scolding those at home who had not yet signed-up, articles covering recruiting events, adverts for recruiting events, reports and publishing of names of those attesting that week, and much more. Although this method provided 1 million new soldiers, by January 1915 it was clear that yet more men were needed. However, a significant portion of eligible men were reluctant or actively against conscription and so the Derby Scheme was implemented as a way to “encourage” volunteers prior to the imposition of conscription. The message of the Derby Scheme was to commit to enlistment today in order to retain some control of your military posting tomorrow, since any such control would be lost when conscription came into force. Newspaper articles of the day (some of which are excerpted here) reflect the lack of clarity in message from the government and the distrust and wariness in some sections of the general population over conscription in general. Some examples of these recruiting articles are provided here.
The Military Service Act 1916, (passed in January 1916 and coming into force on March 2, 1916), conscripted all single men and childless widowers aged 18 to 41 in Britain, but not Ireland. (The Act stipulated a snapshot in time as the condition for determining that men who were 18 or older on Aug 15, 1914 and 41 or younger on March 2, 1916, and defined that a man must be unmarried or a widower without children on November 2, 1915). The Act also laid out those professions and conditions for exemptions (married men, widowed with children, ministers of the cloth, employed in a reserved occupation, etc.). A short time later, the Military Service Act passed in May 1916, extended the net to now include married men too. Notable aspects of the Act included the inclusion and accommodation of conscientious objectors and the rights of any conscripted man to appeal the decision to local tribunals.
By July 1917, the Military Services Act (Conventions and Allied States) was passed allowing the drafting of British subjects living abroad and of Allied citizens in Britain. And by April 1918, still more soldiers were needed so men between the ages of 41 to 50 were included in the conscripted net in Britain.
After the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment deployed to Gallipoli, the Ashton Reporter published a short set of weekly casualty reports that related to the men of the 1/9th. They are reproduced here.
Without a doubt, the most famous Officer of the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment during World War One was Captain W. T. Forshaw who won the Victoria Cross for his gallantry at the Battle of Krithia Vineyard in Gallipoli on August 7-9, 1915. Needless to say, his exploits were, quite rightly, plastered all over the main pages of the Reporter in August but the Reporter also tracked the minutiae of his movements after he returned to Ashton following a short hospital stay in Cairo. Some of the articles can be found here.
The 2/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment was formed almost immediately after the 1/9th Battalion left England for Egypt in September 1914. Many short articles were published in the Ashton Reporter tracking recruiting, their departure to Southport, and subsequent movement to Sussex. The articles are provided here.
The 3/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment was formed around the time that the 2/9th Battalion left Southport for Pease Pottage, Sussex. Since the 3/9th only ever served in the UK there is no war diary or other official record of their formation and subsequent activities. Articles from the Ashton Reporter relating to the 3/9th can be found here.
Ashton and district created a number of small convalescent hospitals during the war years and the Ashton Reporter was awash with short articles relating to fundraising events and acknowledgement of gifts and money received by them. Early Bank (Stalybridge), Richmond House (Ashton), Mottram Old Hall (Mottram) and the Military Hospital at the Ashton Barracks were prominent. Some articles from the Ashton Reporter relating to convalescent hospitals can be found here.