Lance-Corporal Albert Platt, MM

Albert Platt was born on September 17, 1887 in Lees, Oldham. He was the oldest of three boys, his younger sister dying when she was just two years old. By the age of 13 he had left school and was employed as a Cotton Mill Hand and living with his parents, George and Nancy Platt, (née Halkyard), on Warrington Street, Stalybridge.

On December 26, 1910 he married Jane Ann Baily at Castle Hall Parish Church, (now Holy Trinity), Stalybridge and they made their home at 13 Medlock Rd, Woodhouses, (now Failsworth). Albert was employed as a Stripper & Grinder at a Cotton Spinning Company.

Shortly after the outbreak of war, Albert joined the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Territorial Force as a Private (2146) on Tuesday September 1, 1914 at Ashton. At least one hundred men attested this day and at that time the intent was for the battalion to take the most able-bodied and experienced men, deferring the others until later in the month, as they knew they were shortly to leave overseas. Albert and the others quickly joined the battalion at Chesham Fold Camp in Bury and a week later they entrained for Southampton and boarded HMS Aragon, leaving at midnight September 10, bound for Egypt.

Lance-Corporal Albert Platt, MM

In Egypt, the men went through rigorous training and Albert was appointed Lance-Corporal on February 9, 1915. He landed in Gallipoli on May 9, 1915 with the rest of the 1/9th Manchesters as a junior NCO of C Company.

In December 1915. Albert was interviewed by the Ashton Reporter primarily because they had recently published an extensive report from an anonymous NCO from “C” Company of the 9th Battalion who had referenced Albert by name as having been “continually doing good work” in Gallipoli, a euphemism for multiple acts of conspicuous gallantry in the field. In Albert’s own account of his exploits on the peninsula he referenced the events of three different significant days which are outlined below:

May 23, 1915

“Two of our Companies, A and B, were put into the firing line, and C and D Companies were in the reserve Companies. Four men from each platoon in C and D Company were required to go and dig themselves in 120 yards in advance of A Company’s lines. This took them into the open between our lines and the Turks. Three men of my section volunteered, namely, Private Robinson, Pollard (of Woodhouses), and Stockdale, and a man named Rimmington from another platoon, made up the fourth. I said to Sergeant Joe Wood, ‘Well, I suppose I can go up and see the men off?’ and he gave me permission. I took a cloth bandolier with ammunition and my rifle. The lads had to go with full entrenchment kit and supplies, spade, rifle, bayonet, rations, etc. They had not been gone long before I heard someone was wounded. It turned out to be a lad named Penny. Lance Corporal Silvester, who has won the D.C.M. and another man brought Penny in. I then said to Silvester, “I’ll see if any of my lads have got wounded. They may be requiring help,” and leaving my rifle and ammunition I went out some distance, and then discovered that I was lost. I was in a very uncomfortable position. It was quite dark, and plenty of bullets were flying about. I decided to turn round, and see if I could find my way back. I did so, but instead of going back I afterwards found that I had gone to the right, and I stumbled on a dead Turk. I then got level with a hole and saw a head come up from it. I thought the hole must contain a Turkish sniper, and I got hold of the fellow saying, “Who are you?” He did not speak at first, and I was just going to take drastic measures with him when the fellow says, “What’s to want?” He turned out to be one of the East Lancs, an old soldier who had seen service in South Africa, named Jimmy McGuire. He and others were digging themselves in. I said, “I will stick with you.” I stuck with him all night and the next day, helping him to dig himself in. The following night I rushed back and enquired from Sergeant-Major Christie where Sergeant Harrop was. Sergeant-Major Christie told me that the whole Company were going to dig themselves in and make a new firing line. He asked, “Are you Lance Corporal Platt?” and I replied, “Yes,” and he said, “You are just the man we want. You are going to be shot for being absent without leave.” I then heard a laugh. I had not had a drink or bite since the previous night.”

1358 Corporal George James Silvester was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bringing in 1413 Private Thomas Penny while under fire. Cpl. Silvester had been wounded earlier that month but had remained with the battalion. Although Pte. Penny was safely brought back to the Allied lines, he was severely wounded and later died in Hospital at Malta, on June 6, and is buried at Pieta Military Cemetery.

Three of the four men who volunteered to go out into no man’s land and dig themselves in that night were 2011 Pte. Joseph Pollard, 1373 Pte. Noel Williamson Stockdale and 1383 Pte. Charles Irvine Rimmington. There were three Robinson’s at that time at Gallipoli: 1382 Pte. Ernest Robinson, 1681 Pte. Harry Robinson and 1887. Pte. Mark Robinson. Ernest Robinson was Killed in Action on June 7 in the bayonet charge referenced below and so we know that he was in C Company and so there is a stronger possibility that the “Robinson” referred to above was him.

Joseph Pollard was a 25-year-old neighbour of Albert Platt’s who’s family lived within 5 minutes walk. Pollard attested with the 9th Battalion on August 5, 1914 and had previously served 4 years with them. In 1911 Albert and Joe were both working in Cotton Mills and so there’s a strong possibility that they were friends and work colleagues too and perhaps this was part of the reason Albert enlisted on September 1st.

June 7, 1915

“Another night about 60 or 70 of us were told to dig a communication trench, and whilst we were engaged a fellow told me that Dick Stott was wounded in the head. I was fagged out with digging, but I crawled down to Stott, and took him a short distance. Then I passed word to Pollard, of Woodhouses, to come and give me a lift with Stott. We got hold of him and rushed into the trench. Stott had been wounded while we were in the open digging ourselves in. When we got to the trench Sergeant Harrop gave us a lift with him, and we placed him in a blanket and carried him to the dressing station. In the afternoon of the same day, C Company made a bayonet charge on the Turks. We were a little over 100 strong when we went out, but about 45 got either killed or wounded. When we got into the Turkish trench Tom Finnerty said to me “Joe Bertenshaw is over there, Albert, are you going for him?” I replied, “Sure!” and I climbed back over the parapet. Tommy Finnerty came with me and we found Joe lying on the ground. I said, “Is that you Joe?” and he replied, “Yes … is it Albert?” I replied in the affirmative, and Joe says, “Get me in, will you?” I said “That’s what we’ve come for.” We dragged him to the parapet and I shouted to some of the men to catch him. Then we rolled him over. Then we went back for another wounded lad called Wilson, of Ashton, and got him in, and we also fetched in Albert Wrigley. Just as we were getting him to the parapet the Turks opened rapid fire, and we had to lie down until their fire ceased, and they resumed independent fire again. Then Finnerty and I dragged Wrigley to the parapet and rolled him over, and the men caught him. In and between these I was fetching ammunition, etc., and passing it into the trench. I was in the open while doing this and exposed to the fire of the Turks. Just as we got to the parapet after taking Wrigley, Finnerty was shot in the leg.”

1652 Pte. Richard Stott died of wounds just under a week later, on June 13, on a hospital ship whilst at sea. Richard had just turned 15 years old and had been one of the first to attest at a big recruiting drive at Ashton Town Hall on the evening of February 14, 1914. He lied about his age and stated that he was 17 years old, the minimum age, but he was only 5ft 2” tall and it’s hard to imagine that they really believed him.

Despite being retrieved from no man’s land, 2141 Pte. Joseph Richard Bertenshaw did not survive the day and was reported as killed in action June 7. He had joined the battalion with his brother Percy the same day as Albert Platt, September 1, 1914. A third brother, Herbert, had been with the battalion since November 1913 and no doubt they joined to make sure they all served together.

2068 Pte. Albert Wrigley also retrieved that day did not survive and was listed as killed in action on June7. Pte. Wilson was more fortunate than the others and survived.

1776 Pte. Thomas Finnerty was shot in the knee on June 7 and medically evacuated to Malta. He was one of the 100 or so men who joined the battalion on February 14, 1914, along with Richard Stott. While in hospital at Malta he wrote home to his parents but remarkably did not make any mention of the role he played in bringing three wounded men in with Albert Platt, choosing instead to report on his neighbours’ wounds, (all three men living on Wellington Street in Ashton):

“I am sorry to say that I had the misfortune to get hit by a bullet in the knee, but I am doing very well indeed, so you must not trouble or worry about me. I shall be in good hands and well looked after. I want you to let Mrs. Barratt and Mrs. Turner know that Herbert and John have also been wounded, and tell them not to worry, as they are doing as well as can be expected. Herbert  Barratt was hit in the right arm near the shoulder, and John Turner has been hit two or three times in his right hand, wrist and arm near the shoulder. We all got wounded on the same night, it was June 7th. I am posting this at Malta”.

June 7 was a truly memorable day for Lance-Corporal Platt and no doubt one that he remembered for the rest of his life. Having just taken part in a bayonet charge that resulted in almost 50% casualties, and having voluntarily risked his life to check on the welfare of his men in May, he repeated that courageous act to bring in four seriously wounded soldiers. The fact that three of them did not survive is irrelevant to the conspicuous gallantry he showed that day which closely emulated that of Corporal Silvester in May. But June 7, 1915 was by far the bloodiest day in the battalion’s time at Gallipoli so far, with two officers of C Company killed in action and dozens of men killed or wounded, and we can only speculate that the chaos that day meant that he did not receive any official recognition for his actions.

June 18, 1915

“Another day, B Company made another bayonet charge, and while this was going on I was digging a trench for the bombing party.”

Although Albert devoted just one sentence to the events of June 18 it was in fact the bloodiest day of the battalion’s time on the Peninsula eclipsing that of June 7 less than two weeks before.

June 24, 1915

On June 23rd the battalion came out of the line and moved to “Shell Bivouac”, a rest area that had become notorious for being in sight of the Turkish artillery and which was constantly, randomly shelled.

“Altogether we had been in the trenches 21 days, and then came down for a rest. I was wounded while at the rest camp. I was just going to have a bath in the sea when a piece of shell struck me on the leg, just above the ankle. The leg was hanging, and I was taken down to hospital at Malta.”

He was medically evacuated to hospital in Malta where his right leg was amputated at the “seat of election”, just below the right knee. The “seat of election” was that point in the limb where, with practically the whole length at his disposal for an amputation, the surgeon elected to cut the bone and his preference for this particular spot was largely driven by the unsatisfactory nature of existing artificial limbs. Consequently, it was an advantage if the portion of the limb below the knee was left as short as possible and that the end of the stump was most protected and least in the way. The alternative approach for an ankle injury was a Syme amputation which is an amputation done through the ankle joint. The foot is removed but the heel pad is saved so the patient can put weight on the leg without a prosthesis. Presumably the shell fragment had damaged the tibia and fibula far enough above the ankle joint to make this procedure impractical.

Cpl. Albert Platt, MM
Leg amputated below the knee. Recovering possibly in Malta.

In mid-1915, there were no antibiotics and sepsis (also known as blood poisoning) was a significant post-surgical risk, especially with battlefield wounds. Treatment was rather basic; antiseptics were used to clean the wounds and deep surgical incisions were used to drain the pus from infected parts of the body. Corporal Albert Platt, by his own account, underwent at least five operations for blood poisoning in his shoulders while he was in hospital at Malta. He was lucky to survive.

Almost 3 months after being wounded he embarked a Hospital Ship at Valetta bound for England on September 18, 1915, probably arriving 8-10 days later. By early December, he was being treated in the Ashton District Infirmary Wounded Soldiers’ ward but was sufficiently recovered to be able to make periodic day trips from the hospital to see friends and family. His wife at this time gave an address on Warrington Street, Stalybridge presumably to be closer to her family and in-laws.

On March 3, 1916 the battalion in Egypt received congratulatory cards from the Major-General commanding the 42nd Division, for good work done in Gallipoli, for a handful of men including 2146 Corporal Albert Platt. Clearly a belated attempt to provide official recognition of Albert’s actions on June 7 submitted by the battalion at the end of the campaign in an effort to address the oversight.

Albert had been promoted to Corporal on June 27, 1915 for his actions in the field and this, of course, provided slightly higher pay. On September 1, 1916 he was awarded Proficiency Pay, Class II, which would have resulted in an additional 3d per day over and above his regular pay. During the period that he was convalescing and being actively treated he remained on the Army payroll but in January 1917 he was medically assessed and pronounced permanently unfit for military service, registered for the silver war badge, and on February 3, 1917 was discharged under Paragraph 392 (XVI) of King’s Regulations. His Army disability pension began the following day.

Three full years later, on January 30, 1920, the following announcement appeared in the London Gazette:

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Military Medal to the undermentioned Warrant Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men for bravery in the Field, whose services have been brought to notice in accordance with the terms of Army Order 193 of 1919. To be dated 5th May, 1919, unless otherwise stated: —
2146 Cpl. Platt, A., 9th Bn. (Stalybridge).

This was a quite remarkable announcement since it meant that Cpl. Platt was awarded the Military Medal (MM) for his actions at Gallipoli. We know this since he did not serve under fire in any other military theatre of operation and the MM was awarded for “acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire”. But the Military Medal was not established until March 26, 1916, two months after the evacuation of the Gallipoli peninsula, and so he is a member of a very select group of men to have received this decoration for the Gallipoli campaign. From a purely practical perspective, the award of the MM meant an additional 6d per day for Albert’s disability pension.

Back in the civilian world, Albert and his wife moved to Heyrod Hall Farm, Heyrod, Stalybridge where he became a self-employed poultry farmer, thus side-stepping the need to try to find regular employment as a disabled ex-serviceman. Proving that he wasn’t completely disabled, on December 1, 1922 his son Albert Jnr. was born there. By 1939 the family had moved to Haltham, near Horncastle, Lincolnshire and in 1952 they sold their house in Haltham and moved to Saddleworth to be closer to their son.

Corporal Albert Platt, M.M. died on July 13, 1955 from a cerebral thrombosis, caused by underlying atherosclerosis, at his home in Saddleworth. He was 67 years old.