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.

Lance-Corporal Stanley Pearson, DCM

Stanley Pearson was born on June 18, 1882 in Ashton under Lyne to George and Helen Rachel Pearson (née Ormond). He was the middle of three children with an older sister Ellen and younger sister May. George Pearson was working as a Colliery Manager when Stanley was born but by 1891, he had started a business as a Coal Merchant. He was also commissioned in the militia and by 1894 was an honorary Major in the 4th Volunteer Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment, based at Stockport.

By 1901 Stanley was 18 years old and working as a clerk in his father’s coal business and George Pearson was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel and made commanding Officer of the 4th Volunteer Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment. Around this time Stanley joined his father’s battalion and went on to serve 12 years before leaving. George Pearson resigned his commission in 1904 retaining the rank of Colonel and became active in the volunteer movement in Stalybridge.

Lance-Corporal Stanley Pearson, D.C.M.

By 1911 Stanley Pearson was employed as a salesman in his father’s business and was living with his parents, younger sister, (who was just about to be married), and a domestic servant. The business had evolved from retail, (Coal Merchant), to wholesale and George Pearson gave his profession as a “Coal Factor” and started to travel more. On January 4, 1912 Stanley Pearson married Mary Ann Mills and they made their home on Stanley Street, Newton Heath, west of Ashton under Lyne. A little over a year later, on May 6, 1913, their son George Stanley Pearson was born, four days after the death of his grandfather George Pearson. And the day before George Stanley Pearson’s 1st birthday his grandmother died.

Shortly after the outbreak of war, Stanley joined the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Territorial Force as a Private (2148) 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 experienced and able-bodied men, deferring the others until later in the month, as they knew they were shortly to leave for overseas. Thomas 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.

In Egypt the men were drilled, trained and worked hard to build their fitness and endurance. Additionally, the old eight Company model (A-H) was replaced with a four Company model (A-D), 4 platoons in each Company and 4 sections in each platoon. The battalion landed at Gallipoli under shell fire on Sunday May 9, 1915 and at that time Stanley Pearson was a 32-year-old Private with “A” Company.

On August 8, at the start of the Battle of Krithia Vineyard, the battalion went into the trenches and Stanley Pearson was a freshly promoted Lance-Corporal. “A” and “B” Companies with the (125th) Fusilier Brigade, and “C” and “D” Companies with the (127th) Manchester Brigade. 2/Lt. Oliver Jepson Sutton took two platoons of “A” company up to the firing line and was almost immediately wounded. Reinforcements were called for and so Lt. Forshaw and 2/Lt. Cooke took the other two platoons of “A” Company to the firing line. What happened to him there can be understood from Lance-Corporal Thomas Pickford’s account, given to the Ashton Reporter on March 18, 1916:

“We captured the trench after the Turks had been bombed out, and for 26 hours we held it, and were continuously engaged in repulsing fierce attacks. It was a difficult position to hold, because three Turkish saps converged into it. As senior N.C.O. in the trench, I told Stanley Pearson and four of the boys to hold one of the saps, and to keep up a continuous fire, and so keep the Turks back at that point. We had to watch the two other saps. The Turks came right at us. It was a scrap! Bombs were bursting all around us. Some of the boys in their excitement caught the Turkish bombs before they exploded, and hurled them back again. They did not always manage to catch them in time, and three of them had their hands blown off. What made the position worse was that as soon as we had entered the trench a bomb laid out six of us. I was one of them. I bandaged up my leg, and bandaged up the others, and sent them back to hospital. I carried on, that is why I was recommended for the D.C.M. Lieutenant Forshaw did not know that I had not gone to hospital. He was amazed when he came near. ‘Why, I thought you had gone to hospital’ he said. ‘No sir,’ I answered, ‘we were short of men.’

Anyway, I was telling you about the fight. The Turks were at us all the time. Pearson did splendidly, and kept his men there. He fought cooly, and kept picking off the Turks. He was a smart and good lad. We hadn’t much time to waste, I can tell you, for the Turks were determined to get the trench back. Lieutenant Forshaw was in command of the whole of the firing line in the trench, which was in a very dangerous part of the Vineyard. We had to hold the place at all costs. There were 300 men on our right, and had we lost the position the Turks could have taken them prisoners. By holding on we saved a very good position. We refused to be driven out. At one moment the Turks drove us out of one traverse, but we barricaded it up with sand-bags, and they never budged us any further, for we stuck it until we were relieved. Lieutenant Forshaw, I gave you my word on it, did very well. His example repeatedly put new courage into us. It was the first time he had been in such close fighting. He threw the bombs as well as us. At one time he came to me and said, ‘How are you getting on Corporal? Do you think you can manage?’ I said ‘I think so,’ he replied, ‘You are a plucky corporal, you are doing well.’ He well earned his V.C., and I was proud of the chance later to tell the general, (or give evidence, as they call it), about him, which led to his recommendation for the V.C. One thing he did was very fine. Just after we had got the parapet up three Turks got over, and made a rush for Sam Bayley, but Lieut. Forshaw coolly shot all three with his revolver.”

The Army’s wheels can sometimes move slowly and the despatch from General Sir Ian Hamilton of December 11, 1915 covering the fighting in Gallipoli in August was not published until January 6, 1916. Subsequent to that, on January 28, 1916 the London Gazette published the list of names to be mentioned in despatches and they included all of the main players from the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment in the Battle of Krithia Vineyard:

Second Lieutenant (temporary Captain) O. J. Sutton.
Lieutenant W. T. Forshaw, V.C.
Second Lieutenant C. E. Cooke.
No. 180 Serjeant S. Bayley.
No. 2103 Corporal T. Pickford.
No. 2148 Lance-Corporal S. Pearson.

A few days later on February 2, the London Gazette published the names of the men who had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and on March 11 the Gazette published the citations of those awards:

2148 Lance Corporal S. PEARSON, 1/9th Manchester Regiment. T.F.

For conspicuous gallantry on August 7th and 8th 1915, at Gallipoli, when acting as a look-out man and sniper. He displayed great bravery and skill, and although enfiladed from both flanks he remained at his post, and by his example gave great encouragement to all with him.

He was wounded in late November or early December and medically evacuated off the peninsula. By late October 1916 he was sufficiently recovered and back in Ashton where he was made a presentation at Ashton Town Hall in recognition of his being awarded the D.C.M. earlier in the year.

After rejoining the 3/9th (Reserve) Battalion he rejoined the 1/9th Manchesters who by March 14, 1917 were at Pont Remy, South of Abbeville, in northern France. In April the battalion moved around 100km East to Epehy where they went into the line. In early May they moved 10km South West to Marquaix where on the evening of May 6th and into the early morning of May 7th “B” Company, under Major Howorth, was responsible for carrying out the following special order:

Two small posts are to be established on either side of the road running from locality b. to QUENNEMONT FARM, one on either side of the road, and joined up. This should be undertaken as a very minor operation, with only sufficient men to dig a rifle pit on each side and then connect up. The object should be to advance these posts a short distance every night without attracting the enemy’s attention; and connect them up from behind with a communication trench.

Lt. Charles Earsham Cooke commanded the party and they were met with heavy resistance from German machine guns resulting in many casualties, prompting several acts of heroism bringing wounded men in under fire.  Lt. Cooke was wounded and evacuated to Hospital in Rouen where he later died from his wounds. Stanley Pearson, D.C.M. was killed in action. He was 34 years old, dying less than 2 weeks before his 35th birthday.

He is buried in the Templeux-Le-Guerard British Cemetery, plot II. E. 32. and commemorated on the Ashton under Lyne War Memorial.

Corporal Samuel Bayley, DCM

Samuel Bayley was born in Stalybridge on June 10, 1885 to James and Sarah Bayley (née Gee). He was the youngest of three children, his two older sisters, Esther and Mary Ann being four and six years older than him respectively. Sam grew up in Stalybridge, on the border of Stalybridge and Dukinfield, and prior to the war he had lived in the same house since birth. By 1901 Sam had left school and was working as a piecer in a cotton mill while his father James Bayley was employed as a Carter.

His mother died in 1908 and around this time he joined the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment. By 1911 he was living with his widowed, and now out of work, father and his sister Esther (‘Esty’) and was still working as a piecer. Outside of work he was a member of the Ebenezer Particular Church, on Cross Leach Street, Stalybridge and a goalkeeper for the Sunday School football club.

Corporal Samuel Bayley, D.C.M.

At the outbreak of war, the battalion 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. Additionally, the old eight Company model (A-H) was replaced with a four Company model (A-D), 4 platoons in each Company and 4 sections in each platoon.

The battalion landed at Gallipoli under shell fire on Sunday May 9, 1915 and at that time Samuel Bayley was a 29-year-old Corporal with “A” Company, No 1 Platoon.

On August 8, 1915 the battalion took part in the Battle of Krithia Vineyard. Lieut. W.T. Forshaw won the Victoria Cross and three N.C.O.s won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. In Forshaw’s own words …

“On the morning of August 8th progress had been made along a sap parallel to a gully, and the whole of a trench which ran at right angles from each side of the saphead that had been captured and occupied. I and about twenty men were instructed to hold a barricade at the head of the sap. Facing us were three converging saps held by the Turks, who were making desperate efforts to retake this barricaded corner, and so cut off all the other men in the trench. The Turks attacked at frequent intervals along the three saps from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning, and they advanced into the open with the objective of storming the parapet. They were met by a combination of bombing and rifle fire, but the bomb was chief weapon used both by the Turks and ourselves”

“We just went at it without a pause while the Turks were attacking, and in the slack intervals I put more fuses into bombs. I cannot imagine how I escaped with only a bruise from a piece of shrapnel. It was miraculous. The Ashton men supported me magnificently. They adapted themselves very quickly to this method of fighting, and they stuck to the work doggedly, notwithstanding our loses. The attacks were very fierce at times, but only once did the Turks succeed in getting right up to the parapet. Three attempted to climb over, but I shot them with my revolver. On the Saturday evening a young officer came to the parapet and held up his hands, he seemed to be perfectly dazed, and we took him prisoner. All this time both our bomb throwing and shooting had been very effective, and many Turkish dead were in front of the parapet and in the saps. The attack was not continuous, of course, but we had to be on the watch all the time, and so it was impossible to get any sleep.”

At the end of 24 hours the Ashton men were relieved by a detachment drawn from other battalions, but Lieutenant Forshaw volunteered to continue to lead the resistance. His offer was accepted, and Corporal Bayley remained with him. More attacks were repulsed during the Sunday afternoon and night, and at the end of the struggle, Lieutenant Forshaw rejoined his battalion in condition of almost complete exhaustion. He was afterwards told that the number of bombs thrown by his men and two other detachments in the trench during the weekend was no fewer than 800.

“We decided that we would hold on to the position whatever it cost us for we knew what it meant to us. If we had lost it the whole of the trench would have fallen into the hands of the enemy. I had half of the men with me, and the other half I placed along the trench with a subaltern [2/Lt. C.E. Cooke]. The Turks were at it for all they were worth, and they had sap heads right up to my position; but I had a fine supply of bombs, which, by the way, had been made out of jam tins by our Engineers. Obliging little fellows, those Engineers! Fortunately, we had no fewer than 800 of those bombs, but we got rid of the lot during the greatest weekend I have ever spent.”

“Three times during the one night the Turks made tremendous efforts to get over the parapet, and once they succeeded, but not one of them got back again. We were too busy during the night to look after their dead bodies, but we found them lying at the bottom of the trench next morning. They were armed with rifles and bayonets, and huge men they were. Three of these big, dark-skinned warriors appeared. Immediately one made a move for a Corporal [Sam Bayley] who was digging a hole from which to fire during the night. I saw the Turk make for him with his long bayonet, and I straightaway put a bullet through him from my useful Colt revolver. My weapon was a very fine friend to me during those thrilling minutes. A second Turk came for me with his bayonet fixed, evidently with the object of covering his pal, who was making for the box of our bombs, but I managed to put them both out of action. They never came over the barricade again; but realising as they did what position meant, they kept up the fusillade during the whole of the night.”

Writing on August 10th Corporal Bayley described the Congratulatory Card he received from Sir John Francis Davies, commanding 8th Corps, (which he subsequently mailed to his sister Esty):

“We have had it rough again for two nights, but I am proud to tell you I am quite safe, although I have had many narrow escapes. I have the pleasure to tell you that I have had a bit of honour attached to my name. Myself, and a few men and the Captain held a trench which was almost impossible to hold, but we stuck it like glue, in spite of the Turks attacking us with bombs. I can tell you I accounted for a few Turks. Our Captain has been recommended for the V.C. and I hope he gets it because he was very determined to hold the trench till the last man was finished. But we did not lose many. Our Captain has not got over it yet, but it is only his nerves that are shattered a bit, and he will soon be with us again. I have been congratulated by Sir John Francis Davies, commanding the 8th Corps. You will find it enclosed.

“To No 180 Corpl. BAYLEY, 1/9th Manchester Regiment … I congratulate you heartily on being awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for your gallant conduct in the field – Lieut. General Sir Francis Davies, commanding 8th Corps.”

A few months later, on November 16, 1915 the London Gazette published the following D.C.M. citation:

180 Corporal S. Bayley, 1/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, T.F.

“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.”

And belatedly, on January 28, 1916, the London Gazette published the list of the names of the officers and men whose services General Sir Ian Hamilton wished to mention in connection with the operations described in my despatch of 11th December, 1915

Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force)
No. 180 Serjeant S. Bayley.

Additionally, for his actions at the Vineyard, he was awarded a field promotion to sergeant.

Since there is no surviving service record, there is no precise timeline of Sergeant Bayley’s subsequent movements but there are some things that can be reliably inferred. His medal roll does not list the six-digit service number that was assigned to each of the men in February 1917. However, his pension ledger index card does list this number (350018) and this strongly implies that by February 1917, when the six digit numbers were assigned, he was serving at home, probably with the 3/9th (Reserve) Battalion, Manchester Regiment.

On January 8, 1916 his sister Esty received a letter from him informing her that he was 10-days on a hospital ship after being wounded in both legs from bomb throwing around the middle of December. It is likely that these wounds led to him being repatriated and unable to subsequently serve overseas. He then would have served out the remainder of his time on home service in England, possibly in recruiting and other support functions.

To understand the end of his service it’s useful to review the surviving pension record of Sergeant Titus Knight Broadley Cropper. Sgt. Cropper was repatriated from Gallipoli suffering from dysentery and after recovering was deployed to the Regimental Command Depot at Heaton Park. He remained there for the duration of the war until he was transferred to the 8th (Reserve) Battalion, Manchester Regiment at Hunmanby, near Filey. On October 2, 1918 he was transferred to the 2/1st Shropshire Yeomanry, at the Curragh, County Kildare and given the service number 160758. Sergeant Bayley was transferred with him and was given the service number 160757. Sgt. Cropper was medically assessed at the Rath Camp, at the Curragh, on January 15, 1919 and was demobilised on February 22, 1919. It’s reasonable to assume that Sgt. Bayley followed a similar course and timeline.

Sgt. Bayley’s pension ledger index card shows that he applied for a disability pension but was rejected. As a D.C.M. recipient he was entitled to a flat payment of £20 or, if eligible for a disability pension, a weekly payment of 3sh 6d. Clearly, over time, the weekly pension was a financially better option and presumably this is at least partly why he applied for it.

After he was demobilised he married Alice Malinda Bowker, in Ashton, on September 4, 1920 and by this time he was working as a labourer at Broadbent & Sons Iron Foundry but prior to the marriage was still living with his sister Esty in Stalybridge, his father now deceased.

Samuel and his wife made their home in Stalybridge, next door but one to his old family home and his sister. But on August 22, 1924 Samuel Bayley, D.C.M. died suddenly at the age of 39 of chronic nephritis and secondarily from uraemia.

Lance-Corporal Thomas Pickford, DCM

Thomas Pickford was born in Audenshaw on July 25, 1882 to Mathew and Martha Ann Pickford (née Greenwood); impressively he arrived the day after their marriage. He was the oldest of six children and his father was employed as a Brewer’s Drayman. The family settled in Ashton, where Thomas was educated at Trafalgar School, and by 1901 Thomas was 18-years-old and had joined his father as a Carter.

Around this time, he joined the 3rd Volunteer Battalion, the Manchester Regiment which in 1908 became the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Territorial Force. He served with them for some time but did not re-enlist when his time was up. In 1908 he married Ada Ann Clough and by 1911 they were living at 130 Wellington Street, Ashton with Ada’s son and daughter from a previous relationship and their own two infant daughters. Thomas was still working as a Carter but by now was employed by Noel Duncan Braithwaite, a local Coal Merchant and sergeant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment.

His brother William Pickford joined the regular Army as a Private with the 5th (Princess Charlotte of Wales’s) Dragoon Guards and was stationed at Aldershot by 1912. War was declared on August 4, 1914 and by now Thomas’s first son, Joseph Pickford, had been born less than six months earlier. On August 11, 1914 his youngest brother, John Pickford, attested with the 11th Battalion Manchester Regiment. Four days later, his brother William deployed to France with the 5th Dragoon Guards.

Lance-Corporal Thomas Pickford, D.C.M.

With his two brothers and his employer already mobilised, and himself a former militia man, the pressure on Thomas to attest must have been overwhelming and he re-joined the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Territorial Force as a Private (2103) on Tuesday September 1, 1914 at Ashton. At least one hundred men attested this day, Thomas being one of the very first to do so. At that time, the intent was for the battalion to take the most experienced and able-bodied men, deferring the others until later in the month, as they knew they were shortly to leave for overseas. Thomas 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.

In Egypt the men were drilled, trained and worked hard to build their fitness and endurance. Additionally, the old eight Company model (A-H) was replaced with a four Company model (A-D), 4 platoons in each Company and 4 sections in each platoon. The battalion landed at Gallipoli under shell fire on Sunday May 9, 1915 and at that time Thomas Pickford was a 32-year-old Private with “A” Company. His section N.C.O. was 19-year-old Lance-Corporal Gerald Massey and his Platoon commander was 19-year-old 2nd Lieutenant Charles Earsham Cooke. On the morning of June 20, Gerald Massey was shot in the head and killed by a Turkish sniper when he peered above the parapet. Thomas was promoted to Lance-Corporal to fill the now vacant position and took the trouble to write to Gerald’s parents and the letter was published in the Ashton Reporter of August 21, 1915:

“I was your late son’s friend; he was my section commander and I have now got his place, but I would rather he had been spared. He had a very nice grave behind the firing line. I helped to bury him. Our minister prayed very nice over him. I placed a cross on his grave. I remain, yours, Tom Pickford.”

On August 8, at the start of the Battle of Krithia Vineyard, the battalion went into the trenches. “A” and “B” Companies with the (125th) Fusilier Brigade, and “C” and “D” Companies with the (127th) Manchester Brigade. 2/Lt. Oliver Jepson Sutton took two platoons of “A” company up to the firing line and was almost immediately wounded. Reinforcements were called for and so Lt. Forshaw and 2/Lt. Cooke took the other two platoons of “A” Company to the firing line. The recently promoted Lance-Corporal Thomas Pickford was with 2/Lt. Cooke.  What happened to him there is best understood from his own account, given to the Ashton Reporter on March 18, 1916:

“We captured the trench after the Turks had been bombed out, and for 26 hours we held it, and were continuously engaged in repulsing fierce attacks. It was a difficult position to hold, because three Turkish saps converged into it. As senior N.C.O. in the trench, I told Stanley Pearson and four of the boys to hold one of the saps, and to keep up a continuous fire, and so keep the Turks back at that point. We had to watch the two other saps. The Turks came right at us. It was a scrap! Bombs were bursting all around us. Some of the boys in their excitement caught the Turkish bombs before they exploded, and hurled them back again. They did not always manage to catch them in time, and three of them had their hands blown off. What made the position worse was that as soon as we had entered the trench a bomb laid out six of us. I was one of them. I bandaged up my leg, and bandaged up the others, and sent them back to hospital. I carried on, that is why I was recommended for the D.C.M. Lieutenant Forshaw did not know that I had not gone to hospital. He was amazed when he came near. ‘Why, I thought you had gone to hospital’ he said. ‘No sir,’ I answered, ‘we were short of men.’

Anyway, I was telling you about the fight. The Turks were at us all the time. Pearson did splendidly, and kept his men there. He fought cooly, and kept picking off the Turks. He was a smart and good lad. We hadn’t much time to waste, I can tell you, for the Turks were determined to get the trench back. Lieutenant Forshaw was in command of the whole of the firing line in the trench, which was in a very dangerous part of the Vineyard. We had to hold the place at all costs. There were 300 men on our right, and had we lost the position the Turks could have taken them prisoners. By holding on we saved a very good position. We refused to be driven out. At one moment the Turks drove us out of one traverse, but we barricaded it up with sand-bags, and they never budged us any further, for we stuck it until we were relieved. Lieutenant Forshaw, I gave you my word on it, did very well. His example repeatedly put new courage into us. It was the first time he had been in such close fighting. He threw the bombs as well as us. At one time he came to me and said, ‘How are you getting on Corporal? Do you think you can manage?’ I said ‘I think so,’ he replied, ‘You are a plucky corporal, you are doing well.’ He well earned his V.C., and I was proud of the chance later to tell the general, (or give evidence, as they call it), about him, which led to his recommendation for the V.C. One thing he did was very fine. Just after we had got the parapet up three Turks got over, and made a rush for Sam Bayley, but Lieut. Forshaw coolly shot all three with his revolver.”

The Army’s wheels can sometimes move slowly and the despatch from General Sir Ian Hamilton of December 11, 1915 covering the fighting in Gallipoli in August was not published until January 6, 1916. Subsequent to that, on January 28, 1916 the London Gazette published the list of names to be mentioned in despatches and they included all of the main players from the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment in the Battle of Krithia Vineyard:

Second Lieutenant (temporary Captain) O. J. Sutton.
Lieutenant W. T. Forshaw, V.C.
Second Lieutenant C. E. Cooke.
No. 180 Serjeant S. Bayley.
No. 2103 Corporal T. Pickford.
No. 2148 Lance-Corporal S. Pearson.

A few days later on February 2, the London Gazette published the names of the men who had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and on March 11 the Gazette published the citations of those awards:

2103 Lance-Corporal T. Pickford, 1/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, T.F.

For conspicuous gallantry on the 8th August, 1915, at Gallipoli, when he rallied his party, which had been driven back by bombs in the Barricade of the Vineyard, and by his bravery and example was largely instrumental in saving a precarious position.

Thomas Pickford's Annotated D.C.M. Citation

L/Cpl. Pickford had been wounded in the leg during the battle and after it was over, he was medically evacuated to hospital. By late January 1916 he was back in Ashton recovering, and had time to visit Trafalgar School Ashton, of which Captain Ralph Lees of the 2/9th Manchesters was headmaster and where he was formerly a pupil.

Sometime between August 1916 and February 1917 he was sufficiently recovered to be transferred to the King’s Liverpool Regiment as Private (310177) along with several other men of the 9th Manchesters (310176—310178 being former 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment N.C.O.s). Pickford was attached to the 1/5th Battalion of the 165th (Liverpool) Brigade and 55th (West Lancashire) Division, in XIX Corps. By July 1917 they were at Pilckem Ridge, Belgium and Thomas had become a father for the fourth time when his youngest daughter, Martha Ann Pickford, was born on May 19, 1917.

On July 31, 1917 the battle of Pilckem Ridge commenced which marked the start of the 3rd Battle of Ypres. Although the Allied attack started well, by the early afternoon the Germans counter-attacked just as the rain started to fall reducing visibility. The 39th Division on the XIX Corps’ left flank was pushed back to St Julien, exposing the left flank of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division, just as it was attacked frontally by six waves of German infantry. Attempts to hold the ground, now turned to mud, failed and the reserve brigades of the 55th (West Lancashire) and 15th (Scottish) Divisions were rolled up from North to South but were either overrun or forced to retreat. The British eventually stopped the German advance with artillery and machine-gun fire in the early evening hours.

The 1/5th Battalion King’s Liverpool Regiment had attacked at 3:50am and by the end of the day had suffered other ranks casualties of 105 wounded, 26 killed and 45 missing. Thomas Pickford was reported wounded and missing on July 31, 1917. His body was never found and so his widow was not officially notified of his death until September 18 and Form 104-76, “Death notification of a married man sent from the Territorial Force Record Office to the War Office”, was only received four months later, on January 28, 1918. Army paperwork satisfied, a weekly pension of 33sh 9d was paid commencing April 16, 1918; this to cover Thomas’ widow and six dependents. It’s not clear whether this included the 6d per day pension she was also entitled to for Thomas’ D.C.M.

Thomas Pickford was now declared officially dead, killed in action on July 31, 1918 just five days after his 35th birthday. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate and on the Ashton Under Lyne Civic Memorial.

Sergeant James Greenhalgh, DCM

James Greenhalgh was born on February 11, 1897 in the port city of Ancud on Chiloé Island, Chile. His father, Daniel Greenhalgh, was employed by the Pacific Steam Navigation Company and later became the chief of claims at the port of Valparaiso. Upon his father’s death, James and his older brother William came back to England and were adopted by their uncle John Ralph Greenhalgh, the head teacher of a school in Audenshaw and a member of the Lancashire Education Committee.

By 1911, James and William were living in Audenshaw and were both employed as Fitters at W.J. Bates & Co. Engineering Works in Denton, James as a 14-year-old apprentice. In February 1914, the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment was under strength and so a big recruiting drive at Ashton Town Hall was organized for Saturday February 14. It was widely advertised and James decided to beat the rush and attested on February 9th when he was just 2 days short of his 17th birthday. At 5ft 9” tall he was bigger than many of the recruits who would be attesting at the weekend and after 3 years of living with his uncle and aunt, both school teachers, he was better educated.

Sergeant James Greenhalgh, D.C.M.

At some point after he attested, and before the outbreak of war, he changed from manual to clerical work being employed in the accounting department of Beyer Peacock’s engine works at Gorton. Outside of work he was a Sunday school teacher at the Wesleyan Sunday School, Hooley Hill, and a member of the Y.M.C.A. Denton Road, Audenshaw.

At the outbreak of war, the battalion 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. Additionally, the old eight Company model (A-H) was replaced with a four Company model (A-D), 4 platoons in each Company and 4 sections in each platoon.

The battalion landed at Gallipoli under shell fire on Sunday May 9, 1915 and at that time James Greenhalgh was an 18-year-old Lance-Corporal with “B” Company. In June he was severely wounded in the neck and shoulder by a Turkish bullet while deepening a sap and was medically evacuated to hospital in Malta. After he recovered, he returned to Gallipoli and was subsequently promoted to Corporal. In November he was promoted to sergeant and later that month was again wounded, this time not so severely, when he was struck in the face by shrapnel. He was treated in the field and did not leave the battalion.

By late December, the Allies made the decision to evacuate the Peninsula and operations switched to disguising the intent to leave through a number of small distracting operations. The battalion war diary for December 19, 1915 is unusually expansive:

Morning quiet. In the afternoon a small action took place at 14:15, a large mine was exploded about 30 yards from the N.E. corner of FUSILIER BLUFF and immediately after 5 smaller mines. It was expected that this mine would form a large crater and a party was told off to occupy this. The party consisted of 16 bombers, a working party under 2nd Lieut. GRAY and 26 men of ‘B’ Coy. All went exactly as ordered and the men went over the parapet in a splendid manner, but unfortunately the mine failed to form a crater and when the men got out there was no cover at all and the Turkish trench being intact the enemy fired deliberately from loop holes at the party. 2nd Lieut. GRAY stayed out until it became evident that nothing could be done when he gave the order to retire. The enemy shelled the MULE TRENCH and our Support Line very heavily whilst the action was in progress but did little damage. Our casualties amounted to 3 killed, 1 missing, 11 wounded. The night passed quickly.

In James’ own words (as published in the Ashton Reporter on July 15):

“It was on the 19th December, 1915, I was ordered to take a party of men over the top, and we got to within ten yards of the Turkish trench. At the same time there was a mine blown up. It should have made a big hole in the front of the Turkish trench. The intention was for us to have got in this hole, but when we got to the place no hole had been made, and we had to lie in the open, and the Turks potting at us from ten yards away. It was a good job the Turks were nervous, or else there would have been none of us left to tell the tale.

The object was for us to get in the crater and build it up with sandbags, and then our bombers could have bombed the Turks out of their trench, but it didn’t come off as we expected. Anyway, we all got back to our trench except one poor lad who was killed.

Lance-Corporal Davies, D.C.M. was with the same party of men.”

In fact, when 2nd Lieut. Alfred Gray gave the order to retire, Sgt. Greenhalgh and L/Cpl. Davis stayed exposed, just 10-12 yards away from the Turkish trench, and covered the other men’s withdrawal while under heavy fire, only returning to safety themselves after their party had been able to return to the Allied trenches.

On June 2, 1916 the London Gazette announced the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal to Sgt. Greenhalgh and the London Gazette of June 21 carried the following citation:

1623 Sjt. J. Greenhalgh, 9th Bn. Manch. R., T.F.

For conspicuous gallantry when covering a retirement under very heavy fire at a few yards range.

The annotated D.C.M. listing does not provide much additional information but the long-forgotten administrative code of “B1-131” directly links this award with that of Lance-Corporal Davis.

James Greenhalgh Annotated DCM Citation

2/Lt. Alfred Gray, who was commanding the small group of Manchesters, was eventually awarded the Military Cross, in May 1919, for “gallant and distinguished services in the Field” but there is little doubt that this action, on this day, was a significant contributing factor to his award.

James Greenhalgh served with the 9th Battalion for the duration of the war, serving in Egypt and France, and was demobilised on February 27, 1919. On April 9, 1925 he married Emily Louisa Mantle in Ashton and by 1939 they had moved to Liverpool and ran a small grocery shop, on Finvoy Road. Eventually, they retired to a small bungalow close to the sea at Abergel, North Wales. James Greenhalgh, D.C.M. died on April 17, 1976, a month before the death of his wife. He was 79 years old.

RSM John Alexander Christie, DCM

John Alexander Christie was born on June 15, 1869 in Belfast to John and Mary Anne Christie (née Archer). When he was 18 ½ years old, he joined the 2nd East Lancashire Regiment at Belfast on January 5, 1888. Within 3 years he had been promoted to Corporal.

Regimental Sergeant Major John Alexander Christie, D.C.M.

He deployed with them to Gibraltar on January 29, 1893 where they remained for 2 years and 3 months returning to England on April 30, 1895 as a Sergeant. He passed a Regimental Transport Course the following year but in January 1897 he went absent without leave from Aldershot for a week and upon his return was arrested, stripped of his rank and, at his own request, transferred to the Army Reserve on February 15, 1897. While he was a civilian, he married Emma Tyler, in December 1898, and would eventually have seven children, the first two dying as infants in late 1901. Earlier that year he had been allowed to rejoin for another 12 years which would extend his service to 21 years.

At the outbreak of the Boer War, he was called up for service on December 18, 1899 and deployed to South Africa with the 1st Battalion East Lancs Regiment in January 1900. There he served for a year before being invalided back to England but would later be awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with Paardeberg, Dreifontein and Cape Colony clasps.

Back in England he spent two years at the Regimental Depot and by July 1902 had been promoted back to Sergeant. In March 1903 he was posted back to the 1st battalion then in Ireland, where he passed his Mounted Infantry Certificate, but after 7 months transferred to the 2nd battalion in Poona, India where he and his family remained for the next 3 years. In India he passed his School of Musketry course at Satara in June 1906.

Returning to England in October 1906 he was posted back to the 1st Battalion East Lancs Regiment in Ireland again and in 1908 was preemptively granted permission to continue in the service beyond 21 years. As such, he was posted to the 5th Battalion at Burnley in December 1910 as Sergeant-Instructor. Here he received a Certificate of Proficiency Royal Small Arms Factory, Enfield Lock, in May 1912. In 1914 he received his Long Service and Good Conduct Medals but his military service was far from over.

Shortly after the outbreak of War, he sailed to Egypt with the East Lancs Division, in early September 1914, just over 2 months after his youngest son, Albert Frederick Christie, was born in Burnley. In Egypt, the men drilled, trained and improved their physical fitness and on May 5, 1915 they embarked at Port Said for Gallipoli, arriving there on May 9th. Sgt. Christie was 45 years old and he was about to spend the next 8 months living under canvas in extremely difficult conditions which would severely challenge men less than half his age.

On March 18, 1915 the 9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment war diary notes that Colour-Sergeant James Holt of the pre-war permanent staff was invalided home from Egypt. In August 1914 the Cheshire Reporter lists three permanent staff members: Sergeant-Major Fowler, Colour-Sergeant Holt and Sergeant Craig. These men were regular Army N.C.O.s, permanently attached to the 9th Battalion, whose remit was to properly train the men and instill in them the same professionalism found with the regular forces. Only two traveled to Egypt with the battalion; Fowler and Holt. To lose such an experienced man just a few weeks before deployment to Gallipoli was a huge blow and it is likely that Sergeant-Instructor Christie was attached to the 1/9th Manchesters in March or April to fill this gap. Although we do not know exactly when Christie joined the 9th, we are certain that by May 23rd Sergeant-Instructor Christie was attached to them and assigned to “C” Company as he is referenced by name in Lance-Corporal Albert Platt’s interview with the Ashton Reporter. Christie would remain attached to the 1/9th for the duration of the war and provided exemplary and invaluable service.

On June 7, “C” Company was involved in a bloody bayonet charge that resulted in almost 50% casualties, Sgt. Christie was one of them but was only slightly wounded and did not leave the battalion. Remarkably, on the following day he was with Lieut. A.W.F. Connery, and No 11 Platoon, took over a small redoubt from troops of the Chatham Battalion, Royal Naval Division and spent the next 48 hours under heavy fire from Turkish shells and machine guns rebuilding the parapet a number of times as the bombardment repeatedly knocked it down. From the Ashton Reporter:

“On the afternoon of the 8th the company took over the guard in the gully, and Lieut. Connery, with his platoon and Sergt.-Inst. Christie, took over a redoubt from the Marines, which was subjected to a continuous heavy fire from Turkish gun and machine guns. Whilst Lieut. Connery was on this duty the Turks several times knocked the parapet down, and under a hot fire he himself, ably assisted by Sergt.-Inst. Christie and some of the men, rebuilt it as often as it was knocked down, and in addition greatly improved the defences. After 48 hours of this strenuous work the platoon was relieved.”

On June 22 another veteran, Regimental Sergeant Major Joseph Fowler, senior member of the battalion’s pre-war permanent staff, was wounded when he was shot through the scalp, and forced to leave the peninsula and go to hospital. Sergeant Christie was given an immediate field promotion to acting Regimental Sergeant Major, confirmed one month later and ante-dated to June 22.

By August, sickness was becoming widespread and on August 3 Christie was medically evacuated to hospital in Alexandria, with pneumonia, on the hospital ship Assaye. He rejoined the battalion at Gallipoli on October 28 and remained with them until they evacuated the peninsula two months later on December 28, 1915. On Saturday November 6, the Ashton Reporter published a first-hand narrative of events at Gallipoli by an un-named N.C.O. of “C” Company. In his report he specifically called out the good work of Sgt.-Major Christie, along with Sgt.-Major Fowler and Lance-Corporal Albert Platt as well as two young 2nd Lieuts.

“It is almost certain that had Lieuts. Wade and Connery and the two new N.C.O.s mentioned [Christie and Platt] been recommended for various good works carried out by them some distinction would have been awarded.”

The battalion sailed to Egypt in January 1916 where they were engaged in the defence of the Suez Canal from potential attack by the Turks from the Sinai. In March he was admitted to hospital at Suez suffering from Pyrexia, rejoining the battalion two weeks later. In June he was granted one month’s leave in England embarking at Alexandria on June 4, 1916 and rejoining the battalion at Kantara on July 27, (leave being exclusive of travel time).

On February 13, 1917 the London Gazette made the following announcement (Christie’s B.103 making the clarification: for distinguished service in the [Gallipoli] Campaign):

Decorations and medals conferred by HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF SERBIA. (September and October, 1916.) Cross of Karageorge, 1st Class (with Swords):

2218 Acting Regimental-Serjeant-Major John Alexander Christie, Manchester Regiment.

On March 2, 1917 the battalion embarked HMT Arcadian at Alexandria for France, arriving at Marseilles on the 11th.  On May 2 he was promoted to Temporary Sergeant-Major (Warrant Officer Class I) for the duration of the War. He attended a 4th Army School of Instruction for 5 weeks at Flixecourt followed by 10 days leave in England, rejoining the battalion in the field on August 15, 1917.  While he was in training the London Gazette carried the following announcement on July 24, 1917:

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the award of the Distinguished Conduct Medal to the undermentioned Warrant Officers, Noncommissioned Officers and Men for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty in the Field: —

2218 S.M. J. A. Christie, E. Lan. R. attd. 1/9th Bn. Manch. R.

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He has performed consistent good work throughout, and has at all times set a magnificent example of courage and initiative.

R.S.M. John Alexander Christie, D.C.M.

As can be seen from the annotated D.C.M. listing above, it was awarded specifically for his actions in Krithia Gully, (actually starting on the afternoon of June 8), rallying his men and repeatedly rebuilding the parapet over a 48-hour period while under heavy fire but also, as the inscription states, for his repeated good work throughout the Gallipoli campaign.

Shortly after he returned to France from leave, he was wounded on September 9, 1917 and again 8 days later on the 17th, remaining with the battalion both times. He was not so lucky on March 26, 1918 when he was wounded by shellfire in the left thigh and treated at 26th Field Ambulance. From there he was medically evacuated to No 9 General Hospital, Rouen and then transferred to England on the hospital transport ship Panama, on March 31. In England he was treated at Red Cross Hospital Highfield Hall, Southampton, being discharged on May 7, 1918, 36 days later. After 3 weeks leave, he reported to the 4th (Reserve) Battalion, East Lancs Regiment at Scarborough on June 1 where he remained until he was discharged upon completion of his service on May 6, 1919. He had served for a quite remarkable 31 years 122 days, the majority of the war years in front line infantry positions with the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment.

In his civilian life he remained in Burnley, and became the landlord of the Derby Arms Hotel, Standish Street, Burnley. He remained active after the war with the South African War Veteran’s Association, the 42nd Division Old Comrades’ Association and the British Legion and had been in charge of every Burnley Armistice day parade of ex-servicemen since the War. But on September 8, 1934 he died after a month’s illness and was interred at Burnley Cemetery. Regimental Sergeant Major John Alexander Christie, D.C.M. was 65 years old. His wife, daughter and four sons survived him.