2/Lt. George Robert Bernard

George Robert Bernard’s childhood is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. By his own account, he was born on September 5, 1887 at 9 Young Street, Kensington and was the only son of George Arthur Bernard, a Stockbroker, and Madame Felice Bernard and was educated at Emanuel School, Wandsworth. However, there is no independent surviving corroborating evidence of any part of that narrative.

Indeed, George himself was unable to find any such birth record at Somerset House when he searched for it in 1914. But what George did not know is that there is a birth record for George Robert Wallendorff, born on September 5, 1887 at 9 Young Street, Kensingnton to Alexandrine Françoise Wallendorff, a 28 year old dressmaker, previously living in Paris, who signed her name as the anglicized “Fanny Wallendorff”. No father was named on the birth certificate, which was registered six weeks later, and a hand written note implies that the baby was adopted.

George Robert Wallendorff Birth Certificate

Three years later, a court dressmaker called Madame Fanny W. Dubois, the same age as Fanny Wallendorff, was living at the same Kensington address. So, it would appear that George Robert Bernard may have actually been the illegitimate son of Alexandrine Françoise Wallendorff, (who later reinvented herself as Madame Fanny W[allendorff] Dubois), and was adopted shortly after his birth by Madame Felice Bernard.

But whatever the truth surrounding his early life actually is, he was clearly raised as an affluent and well educated young man and from 1911 his story is clear.  By 1911 he was renting a flat in Pimlico and working as a clerk in the pensions department of the Board of Trade, (whose responsibilities later fell to the Ministry of Labour, after it was established by the New Ministries and Secretaries Act of 1916).

In 1914 he was still working at the Board of Trade and was Secretary to the Local Juvenile Advisory Committee, Shoreditch Labour Exchange.  It’s likely that this is how he met and became friends with the Rev. Robert Robertson Hyde, Chaplain at the Royal London Ophthalmic Hospital, City Rd London, and a lifetime advocate for juvenile welfare.

At the outbreak of war, he secured permission from the Board of Trade “to serve with His Majesty’s force for the duration of the war” and subsequently joined the newly formed 18th Service Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, as a Private (3720) on Sept 15, 1914 and underwent basic training at Epsom. The 18th Royal Fusiliers were also known as the 1st Public Schools Battalion, part of the University and Public Schools (UPS) Brigade. Most of the men were educated at public schools and many were subsequently offered commissions. George was quickly singled out for promotion and on November 30, 1914 was appointed temporary 2nd Lieutenant in the 12th Battalion, The Essex Regiment.

All candidates nominated for a temporary commission were required to provide a signed certificate of good moral character for the prior 4 years from “a responsible person”. In George’s case, his friend the Rev. Hyde attested to George’s character indicating that he had known him since 1909. His educational reference was provided by the Oxford educated private Chaplain to Maurice George Carr Glyn J.P. then living at Albury Hall, Much Hadham, Hertfordshire. Providing further evidence of George’s privileged and socially well connected upbringing.

He deployed to Gallipoli, and on October 7, 1915 was attached to the 1/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment along with 4 other junior officers from the Essex and South Lancashire Regiments. At this point in the campaign on Cape Helles, the positions of the Allies and the Turks were essentially fixed and well dug in. The primary means of attrition on both sides was through the digging of mine shafts and galleries under the enemy’s lines and exploding large amounts of munitions. Consequently, in mid-August the 8th Army Corps, under the command of Major Henry William Laws, formed a Mining Company with 4 platoons, each with 1 Officer and 2 Mining Squads of 2 NCOs and 24 men. Each Division in the Corps was required to contribute a platoon and the 42nd Division, of which the 9th Manchesters were a part, duly complied. 2/Lt. Bernard became temporarily engaged in the Divisional support of these mining operations and a letter from Capt. Oliver Jepson Sutton to his father relating to events in October, and published in the Ashton Reporter on November 27, 1915, highlighted the dangerous nature of the work:

Yesterday, whilst waiting for dinner, an explosion took place underground. I went off to find out where it was, and after travelling along the trench some way, found a man coming out of a shaft. He was a bit shaky, and said he had heard a man shouting below. I could get no candles or lamps, so I doubled back to the dugout and got the lamp you sent me. Without a light it was no use going down because the mines are complicated, and I had not been in before.

Wandering about below I came across the new sub., Bernard, and in a few moments, we discovered one of the men gassed and unconscious. It was hard work carrying him out, as the roof was very low, but we managed to get him to the shaft, and there he was hoisted out. He came round in a few hours, and is now none the worse for his experience. No damage was done to the mine, but the gas from an explosion 20 yards away was forced through the ground into our mine, and was too much for the man.

Throughout October and November, the demand for more personnel to support the expanding scope of the Mining Company’s offensive activities steadily increased and the 8th Army Corps made a request to GHQ for the addition of subalterns to each platoon in order to bring the operational structure more in line with that of the Tunneling Companies of the Royal Engineers, which had just started operating in Europe. Since the requested subalterns from England were not forthcoming, 2/Lt. Bernard became one of those subalterns already at Gallipoli who was attached to the 8th Army Corps Mining Company. On the evening of November 28, 1915, he was involved in the incident that would eventually see him awarded the Military Cross, on June 3, 1916. In the early morning hours of November 29th, the following signal was sent to 8th Army Corps HQ:

From OC 8th Corp Mining Coy

29 Nov, 1915

Fusilier Bluff borehole exploded under Turkish gallery from which gas was issuing last night. After firing, Lt. McNamara and two miners entered No 2 shaft to investigate and were immediately overcome with gas, presumably the gas produced by explosion of ammonal. Lt. Bernard attempted rescue and was also overcome. Regret to report Lt. McNamara and one miner died. Others have recovered.

Back in England, the 254th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers was formed. They sailed for Gallipoli and arrived at Cape Helles on December 7, 1915 where they quickly absorbed the personnel of the 8th Army Corps Mining Company, Major Laws, DSO assuming command as he was more experienced than the Tunnelling Company CO. A week later, most of the Divisional personnel temporarily attached to the Mining Company were allowed to return to their battalions and 2/Lt. Bernard re-joined the 9th Manchesters. But he had performed his duties with the 8th Army Corps Mining Company admirably and they would not forget him.

2/Lt. Bernard left the Gallipoli peninsular with the 9th Manchesters on December 28, 1915 and went with them to Egypt where he continued to serve until he was granted one month’s home leave to England, embarking at Alexandria on June 18, 1916. Back in England he stayed with his friend the Rev. Robert Robertson Hyde at St Mary’s Clergy House, Provost Street, Hoxton. On July 1st he married Eleanor Bertha Taylor at St. Mary’s Church and Rev. Hyde performed the marriage ceremony. George and Eleanor had a productive honeymoon; their son Geoffrey George Bernard being born 9 months later on April 24, 1917. George also produced a short manuscript, “Extracts from the Letters of a Temporary Tunneller” providing an account of his work with the 8th Army Mining Company and pulled from his letters home to Eleanor from Gallipoli. But before he could return to Egypt, he was seconded to the Royal Engineers by the War Office and attached to the 256th Tunnelling Company which had just been formed, and deployed to France in July.

He sailed to France and joined the 256th Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers on August 21, 1916 while they were at Agnez-lès-Duisans, near Arras. Six months later, on February 12, 1917, 2/Lt. Bernard was transferred to the 254th Tunnelling Company, East of Bethune, arriving there on February 18. Seven weeks after arriving, in the early morning hours of April 8, 1917 at 2:15am, 2/Lt. George Robert Bernard was shot by a sniper’s rifle bullet and killed in action while working on wire entanglements on top of Willow Mine dump. He was buried the next day in the Bethune Town Cemetery, along with 6 other ranks of the 254th Tunnelling Company who also lost their lives the previous day when they were buried in a covered approach to Willow Mine that suffered a direct hit by a German Trench Mortar.

The following obituary appeared in the April 16, 1917 edition of the London Times:

Times Obituary, April 16, 1917

2/Lt. Bernard was just 29 years old. Killed in Action two weeks before the birth of his son. 2/Lt. George Robert Bernard, M.C. is commemorated on the Board of Trade War Memorial, the Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour and at Emanuel School.


Many thanks to Emanuel School for their patience and their assistance in uncovering the murky details of George’s birth and (probable) adoption.

2/Lt. Alfred Gray

Alfred Gary was born on August 9, 1883 in Llangollen, Denbighshire, Wales. His father, Alfred Thomas Gray, was a merchant and spent his time between Manchester and Singapore. Alfred Thomas Gray married Jane Ann Foxwell in November 1881 in Llangollen and 11 months later Vernon Foxwell Gray was born in the Straits Settlements, Singapore. By 1891 Jane Gray was a 32-year old widow and she and her two children were living with her sister in Leamington Spa. By 1901 the family had moved to their own house in Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester and Alfred, now 17, was working as an apprentice. By 1911 Alfred was employed as a traveling salesman in the cloth business and living with his mother and a domestic servant in Chorlton, his brother Vernon having left to seek his fortune in India.

Alfred Gray was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force), from the 13th (Service) Battalion Manchester Regiment, on August 21, 1915. On October 13, 1915 he embarked on His Majesty’s Transport Ship Scotian at Devonport for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th and joined the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915.

On December 19, 1915 he lead 26 men of B Company in a diversionary frontal attack on the Turkish positions at the North East corner of Fusilier Bluff. A large mine, followed by 5 smaller mines, were detonated and the plan was for the men to advance and shelter in the crater for cover. The mines failed to create any meaningful cover for the men and they were mercilessly fired upon by the Turks. Four men were killed and 11 wounded before Lt. Gray was compelled to order the men to retire.

He somehow managed to survive Gallipoli unscathed and sailed with the Battalion to Egypt, arriving there on January 18, 1916. He attended a course of instruction in February and on October 10, 1916 left the Battalion for 47 days home leave in the UK, rejoining them on November 26, 1916.

He sailed with the Battalion to France, arriving on March 11, 1917. He was a platoon commander in B Company and is briefly mentioned in the Battalion war diary. He was promoted to Lieutenant on July 1, 1917 and shortly after, proceeded to Paris for 6 days leave on June 13-19, 1917. Not long after he returned, he was sent sick to hospital on July 11, 1917 and eleven days later was invalided to the UK and struck off the strength of the Battalion.

By October 1917 Alfred had recovered sufficiently to marry Edith Winnifred Brittain in Chorlton, the couple subsequently making their home in Walley Range, Manchester. In August 1918 their first son, Vernon Brittain Gray was born and was followed in October 1920 by Ross Foxwell Gray.

Meanwhile he continued to serve, now with the 8th (Reserve) Battalion Manchester Regiment in Filey, and was awarded the Military Cross on May 5, 1919 for “gallant and distinguished services in the Field”. He resigned his commission on February 22, 1921 retaining the rank of Lieutenant.

By 1939 the family were living in Southport and Alfred was a manager and buyer for a wholesale garment manufacturer. After the outbreak of World War Two both of his sons served in the Royal Air Force. By the 1960s Alfred and Edith had long since retired to a small town near Exeter where Edith passed away in August 1965. Alfred Gray’s exact date of death is unclear but he was by now 82 years old and after the debacle of December 19, 1915 must have counted every day since as a blessing.

2/Lt. Sydney Naylor

Sydney Naylor was born on May 4, 1891 in Urmston, Manchester and was the oldest child of George and Edith Naylor (née Cowin). George Naylor owned a Stockbroker’s business and Sydney grew up in Urmston with his parents, two younger sisters, Edith Elizabeth and Annie Josephine, and a domestic servant. Sydney was educated at Manchester Grammar School and, like his father, became a stockbroker working at the Manchester Stock Exchange from 1909 to 1914.


At the outbreak of war, Sydney joined the Manchester University O.T.C. and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Territorial Force on November 7, 1914 where he was quickly appointed Temporary Lieutenant two weeks later. He joined the 2/9th Battalion in training at Southport but in early 1915 attended a general officer’s course in Formby followed by a physical training and bayonet fighting course at Aldershot. He moved with the 2/9th Battalion to Pease Pottage in June 1915 and on October 13, 1915 he embarked for Gallipoli with 10 other Officers, arriving at Mudros on October 24th, joining the Battalion on Cape Helles on October 26, 1915. Upon arrival it was found that two Officers already serving at Gallipoli were of a junior rank and so he was forced to relinquish his temporary appointment. On November 29, 1915 he suffered a gunshot wound to the head, losing his right eye, and was medically evacuated to hospital at Mudros and then to the UK.


He ultimately received a £250 gratuity and an annual pension of £100 for his permanent sight disability but, after he medically recovered, he joined the 3/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment at Codford in January 1916. He rejoined the 1/9th Battalion in Egypt on October 25, 1916 but within 3 days reported sick to hospital. On November 12, 1916 he was promoted to Lieutenant and was attached to the 1st Garrison Battalion, The Devonshire Regiment, in Cairo, and struck of the strength of the Battalion.


In May 1917 he became an Orderly Officer to the GOC Palestine Line of Communications (LoC) and in November was appointed Staff Lieutenant, 1st Class Palestine LoC in Rafa. He evidently had done good work because he was awarded the Military Cross in the King’s Birthday Honours List on May 31, 1918. And on June 24, 1918 he was awarded a commission as a Lieutenant in the regular forces with the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding). In September 1918 relinquished his staff appointment at his own request and was posted to the 1st Battalion, Manchester Regiment in Palestine. Four months later he returned to the Palestine LoC as Staff Lieutenant, 1st Class in Jerusalem where he remained until November 1919 when he was appointed Staff Captain to the 8th Infantry Brigade.

Inter-War Years Home Service

He returned to England in November 1921 and, after some leave, in February 1922 was posted to the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding), joining them at Aldershot the following month. He attended a training course at the School of Hygiene, Puckeridge Hill Aldershot followed by a Machine Gun Course at Seaford. He was then appointed Adjutant at the Depot in Halifax, attending an Adjutants’ Physical Training Course at Aldershot in 1925.

Prior to that, in January 1923, he married Doris Jean Robertson Brand and their daughter Gillian was born two years later on April 5, 1925.

He remained at Halifax until 1926 when he was temporarily posted to the 1st Battalion for special duty for six months in Scotland, during which time he attended a Combined Rifle & Light Automatic Wings training course. Upon his return he was stationed at Skipton and appointed Adjutant and temporary Captain of the 6th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding) on January 31, 1927, and promoted to Captain the following year. He completed his tour of duty as Adjutant in 1931 and was again temporarily attached to the 1st Battalion, at Aldershot, before moving to Southampton where he was appointed Assistant Embarkation Staff Officer in April 1932.

In 1934 he was promoted to Brevet Major and on May 26, 1936 he relinquished his appointment as Assistant Embarkation Officer and retired from the Army, on retired Captain’s pay, and was placed on the Regular Army Reserve of Officers (R.A.R.O.) List.

He and his family moved to High Halden, Old Hill, Staffordshire.

World War II

He was mobilized on August 26, 1939 and reported for Embarkation Duties at Newport, Monmouthshire. There he was appointed Deputy Assistant Quarter-Master General (D.A.Q.M.G.) and Embarkation Commandant, Movement Control, and promoted to Major and Local Lieutenant-Colonel. [Local rank meaning that he was paid at the rate of his substantive rank and not that of the local rank]. On October 29, 1939 he proceeded to France on temporary duty returning a week later. Upon his return he was granted the acting rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, (with commensurate pay), and appointed Assistant Quarter-Master General (A.Q.M.G.), South Wales Ports, three months later being made temporary Lt.-Col. In October 1941 he was granted the Local rank of Colonel.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 America entered the war and by the middle of 1942 hundreds of thousands of tons of US cargo was being unloaded at UK ports each month. By the end of the war the Bristol Channel ports alone unloaded more than 5.5M tons of US cargo. Col. Naylor, in his capacity as A.Q.M.G. (M) South Wales Ports, worked closely with the US Port commanders to facilitate an efficient port operation and smooth transition of control over to the US military in preparation for the D-Day landings in France.

In May 1943 he relinquished his appointment as A.Q.M.G. (M) South Wales Ports and was appointed Colonel Q (M), Bristol Channel Ports, with paid acting rank of Colonel but substantive rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He retained this position, still based in Newport, until January 1, 1946 when he relinquished his appointment and was struck off the strength. After 2 months accrued leave, he was demobilized and ceased to belong to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers, having exceeded the age limit but retained the honorary rank of Colonel.

A year earlier, on January 1, 1945, he was awarded the O.B.E., Military Division, for his wartime services. And in January 1947 he was awarded the Legion of Merit, Degree of Officer by the President of the United States of America in recognition of distinguished services in the cause of the Allies.

Colonel Sydney Naylor, M.C., O.B.E. died in Staffordshire on April 4, 1952 a month before his 61st birthday.


2/Lt. Thomas Ainsworth

Thomas Ainsworth was born on 26 December, 1894 in Great Hardwood, (5 miles North East of Blackburn), to Thomas Ainsworth Snr the manager of a cotton mill. Thomas was the youngest of six children and he was educated at Denstone College, in Staffordshire, where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps for 3 years between 1910 and 1912.

Thomas Ainsworth was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant into the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, Territorial Force on April 12, 1915. From June to July 1915 he attended an Officers training course at Balliol College, Oxford, residing at the college for a month. On October 8, 1915 he boarded His Majesty’s Transport Ship Demosthenes along with two other Officers and 134 other ranks bound for Gallipoli. They arrived at Mudros on October 20th and joined the Battalion at Cape Helles on October 22, 1915.

He survived Gallipoli unscathed and sailed with the Battalion to Egypt, arriving January 16, 1916. In Egypt he attended a 10-day school of instruction from May 28 to June 7, 1916 and he was later attached to the 126th Brigade Stokes Trench Mortar Battery on June 27, 1916.

He sailed with the Battalion to France arriving March 11, 1917. Shortly after arriving he took home leave in the UK for two weeks, from March 25 to April 8, 1917. Shortly after returning he attended a Trench Mortar School from April 13-24, 1917. On June 7th he was taken sick to hospital and remained there for 34 days. During this time, he was promoted to Lieutenant on July 1, 1917. Shortly after his return to the Battalion he was permanently attached to the 126th Brigade Trench Mortar Battery where he remained for the duration of the war. While serving with them, on October 15, 1917, he proceeded to the UK for 10 days leave.

He was mentioned in Sir Douglas Haig’s Despatch of November 8, 1918 and was awarded the Military Cross in the 1919 New Year’s Honors List. On April 1, 1919 he was awarded a Bar to his Military Cross the citation reads:

Awarded a Bar to the Military Cross:
Lt. Thomas Ainsworth, M.C., 1/9th Bn.
Manch. R., T.F., att’d. 126th L.T.M. By.

For marked gallantry and good leadership. At Braistre on 20th October, 1918, he led his section forward and, charging an enemy machine-gun post, killed the crew. His promptness of action on this occasion and later in assisting to clear up several machine-gun posts on the railway was of great value to the company to which he was attached.

(M.C. Gazetted 1st January, 1919.)

He resigned his commission on February 26, 1921 and retained the rank of Lieutenant.

In 1923 he married Elizabeth Baines and their son William Thomas Ainsworth was born in 1925. Their daughter Kathleen followed in December 1929. But by 1939, Thomas was widowed and living in Blackpool as a boarding house keeper, and looking after his two children.

On December 18, 1940 he was granted an emergency commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery and immediately attended a month’s training at the “Z” Battery Training Wing at Shrivenham, (133rd OTC Group, Royal Artillery, Anti Aircraft). He was then posted to the newly formed 127th Anti-Aircraft “Z” Battery at Nottingham (part of the 6th Anti-Aircraft “Z” Regiment) where he remained for 9 months, until September 1941. From here he was attached to the Depot of the 6th Anti-Aircraft Regiment at Woolwich for the next 3 months where he attended a short training course. In December 1941 he was posted to the 7th Anti-Aircraft Regiment in County Durham which was the location of the newly formed 228 Anti-Aircraft “Z” Battery, manned by a mixture of the Royal Artillery and the Home Guard. He remained there until April  25, 1942 when he was relegated to the unemployed list, finally relinquishing his commission on March 15, 9154.

Lt. Douglas Buchanan Stephenson

Douglas Buchanan Stephenson was born in Chorlton on December 19, 1890. His father, Claudius Stephenson died when Douglas was 6 years old and the family then moved to Cheadle, near Stockport. Douglas was educated at Stockport Grammar and by 1906 he was working as a clerk at the Stockport branch of the Manchester & County Bank.

Capt. DB Stephenson, MC

Douglas joined the 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment Territorials as a Private and on May 29, 1912 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion. A year later, on July 17, 1913, he was promoted to Lieutenant. He mobilised with the 1/9th at the outbreak of war but contracted influenza and developed pneumonia and so was unable to travel with them to Egypt. He returned to Ashton in early October after recuperating at St. Annes on Sea, again volunteering for overseas service and was promoted to temporary Captain. He spent October and November in Ashton managing the recruitment of new men into the Battalion.

The first large draft (5 Officers and 222 men) sent out from the UK to reinforce the Battalion at Gallipoli arrived at Cape Helles on July 23, 1915 and Lt. Stephenson was the ranking Officer of the group. Two weeks later they were involved in the Battle of Krithia Vineyard but Lt. Stephenson was not specifically mentioned. He was made temporary Captain on September 13, 1915, which is normally associated with commanding a Company, and relinquished it on October 9, 1915 when he was evacuated sick to hospital in Alexandria. He did not rejoin the Battalion until January 3, 1916 when they were temporarily in Mudros, en-route to Egypt.

He served with the 1/9th in Egypt without incident until May 27, 1916 when he again went sick to hospital and remained there for 113 days. He was promoted to Captain on June 1, 1916. On September 30th he attended a school of instruction for 3 weeks in Cairo. His older brother, Captain Claudius Stephenson of the 12th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, died of wounds on November 2, 1916 in Salonika. On February 20, 1917 he was awarded 38 days of home leave in the UK.

He rejoined the Battalion in France on March 30, 1917 and took over Command of D Company. Around two weeks later attended a course of instruction for Company Commanders in Martieny. He attended another course in May and upon his return was awarded 10 days home leave from September 27 to October 7, 1917. On December 27he attended a Lewis Gun course at Le Touquet, rejoining the Battalion 10 days later.

On the night of 11/12 February 1918, Captain Stephenson led a successful raid on the German lines (between Festubert and Cuinchy in northern France). The raiding party consisted of 3 Officers and 98 men of D company. Three men were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Capt. Stephenson was awarded the Military Cross. The citation in the London Gazette reads:

Capt. Douglas Buchanan Stephenson, Manch. R. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When in command of a raiding party he showed great dash, and at one place where the wire was not cut himself lay on the strands, thus enabling his men to pass over. He displayed great resolution, and prior to the operation, which resulted in the capture of seven prisoners and two machine guns, twenty-five of the enemy being killed, he showed the most commendable keenness, and inspired his men with great confidence, which helped to ensure its success.

On March 21, 1918 the 9th Manchesters were serving in the in the 198th Brigade of the 66th (2nd/East Lancashire) Division. The 9th Battalion were in the support line at Hervilly, East of Péronne, on the evening of March 20, 1918. The entire divisional front came under an intense artillery and gas bombardment starting at 4.40am and the Battalion was quickly moved up towards the front and by 4pm on the afternoon of March 21st, 2 Companies of the 9th Battalion were in front of Trinket redoubt. The following is excerpted from a report on operations March 21/22 by Lt. Col. EC Lloyd, Commanding Officer of the Battalion at that time:

“March 22, 1918. At about 10:30am a barrage was put down in the rear of the trenches, which was at first taken to be that of the enemy, but it increased in volume and two direct hits came on the Battalion Headquarters killing one company commander [Capt. DB Stephenson] who was there and severely wounding the Adjutant [Capt. OJ Sutton]. … A pigeon basket was luckily found and despatched to ask our artillery to cease fire.”

Around noon, the Battalion was forced to retire from their position under heavy enemy machine gun fire from both flanks. Captain Douglas Buchanan Stephenson, MC was killed in action on March 22, 1918. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Poziers Memorial, the Stockport War Memorial and the Ashton Under Lyne Civic War Memorial. He was 27 years old.

Pozieres Memorial

2nd Lieutenant Arthur William Field Connery

Arthur William Field Connery was born in July 1887 in Ashton-under-Lyne. He was the son of Major Michael Henry Connery and the younger half-brother of Hon. Lieut. Joseph Michael Connery.

Educated at the Victoria Street boarding School in Southport he joined the Great Central Railway Company and served for about 12 years in Manchester and London. Around 1913 he resigned his position in order to take up an appointment with the Central Argentine Railways in Buenos Aires.

2/Lt. Arthur William Field Connery, MC

At the outbreak of war he returned to the UK and was awarded a commission on November 14, 1914 with the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment and joined them in Southport for training. He volunteered, along with 2nd Lieut. JOHN MATLEY ROBSON and 2nd Lieut. ALLAN H. HUDSON, for active service with the 1/9th Battalion. On April 1, 1915 the three officers were sent to Egypt, where they joined the Battalion around April 13th. He landed with the 1/9th in Gallipoli on May 9, 1915 as a platoon commander in “C” Company.

He was involved in the bayonet charges of June 7th and June 18th, the latter undertaken by “B” Company but he and 2/Lt. John (Jack) Wade both volunteered to join them. Despite surviving these events, on July 5th 2/Lt. Arthur William Field Connery was badly wounded in the mouth by shrapnel and was evacuated to hospital in Malta. On August 8, 1915 he was invalided to the UK arriving back in Ashton on August 16th. He did not return to Gallipoli.

By November 1915 he was with the 3/9th Battalion in Southport and paid a brief visit to Ashton on December 8th before rejoining the 3/9th prior to their move to Codford, Salisbury Plain. On March 8, 1916 he was seconded to the Machine Gun Corps and promoted to temporary Lieutenant on the 6th of July.

In early 1917 he married Gladys Frances Botwell (ne Salter) a widow but sadly she died 18 months later on October 9, 1918, possibly of the Spanish Flu.

On August 9, 1917 he was promoted to full Lieutenant with precedence as from 1st June 1916, and ordered to remain seconded to the Machine Gun Corps where he remained until November 29, 1918 when he was seconded for service with the Royal Engineers (Railway Troops). On February 1, 1919 he became a Railway Traffic Officer and on June 1st was promoted and awarded the rank of temporary Captain. On November 16, 1919 he was seconded to the British Military Mission to South Russia and was awarded the Military Cross in the 1920 new year’s honours list. On August 13, 1920 he relinquished his position with the Mission and rejoined the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment on October 15th. He continued to serve with the Manchester Regiment until he resigned his commission on February 28, 1925 retaining the rank of Captain.

On leaving the Army he returned to work in Argentina for the Central Argentine Railways. Captain Arthur William Field Connery, M.C. died in Argentina on October 15, 1934. He was 47 years old.



2nd Lieutenant Charles Earsham Cooke

Charles Earsham Cooke was born in Nottingham on June 22, 1896 and named after his paternal grandfather. To family and friends he was known simply as “Earsham”.

Lt. Charles Earsham Cooke, MC

By 1901 the family had moved to Pontefract and Earsham’s father, Frederick William Cooke, was running W.J. Robson & Co Ltd, Maltsters. Earsham had a younger brother, Philip Brentnall Cooke, and a younger sister, Gladys Muriel Cooke, and they lived with their mother, Emma Louise Cooke (nee Brentnall), and father in a large house with three servants.

Earsham was educated at Marlborough College which he attended from September 1910 to July 1913. He was the 1913 Lightweight boxing champion and represented his house at cricket and rugby. After he left school he was employed in the family business and in such capacity may have sold malt to Thomas Grimshaw Hyde‘s family brewery and thus come to know him before military service.

On the 15th August 1914, on the basis of being a former cadet in the Officer Training Corps at Marlborough, he was awarded a probationary commission of 2nd Lieutenant in the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment. The York and Lancaster Regiment having their headquarters at Pontefract Barracks, Pontefract and therefore his “local” Regiment.  However, in the same edition of the London Gazette it was announced that he had become a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, effective September 2, 1914.

He joined the Battalion while they were at Chesham Fold Camp, Bury and sailed with them to Egypt in September 1914 serving with them there throughout their training and preparations for action. He landed with the 1/9th in Gallipoli on May 9, 1915 as a platoon commander in “A” Company.

On the 8th August 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. 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 Lt. Cooke took two platoons of A” Company to the firing line. 40 hours of intense fighting at close quarters followed with the Manchesters separated from the Turks at times by only a parapet.  “A” Company under Lieutenants Forshaw and Cooke held the position thus saving the entire sector from being retaken by the Turks.  Lt. Forshaw stayed at his position for the entire period, killing 3 Turks with his revolver, and personally throwing a large number of the 800 bombs used in the action.

Lt. William Thomas Forshaw was awarded the Victoria Cross and Lieutenant Charles Earsham Cooke was awarded the Military Cross. Both also being mentioned in the despatches of General Sir Ian Hamilton.

On August 18 he left the battalion for Imbros on a GHQ Escort with 25 men. But shortly after arriving there he became sick and on September 5th, he was admitted to hospital. He was treated for Jaundice and quickly evacuated to Malta where he was admitted to the “Blue Sisters Hospital”  on September 10, 1915. A few days later, on September 14th he was embarked upon the Hospital Ship Massilia and repatriated back to the UK, arriving at Southampton on September 22nd,  suffering from enteric fever.

In the UK he was allowed to recover at home until January 21, 1916 when he was ordered to join the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Codford. Here he was put on light duty and on March 23 was passed fit enough to return to full duty. A month later he was ordered to rejoin the battalion in Egypt and embarked the Ivernia at Devonport on April 23, 1916.

He rejoined the battalion in Egypt on June 3, 1916 and was promoted to temporary Lieutenant on August 27, 1916. The only other mention of him in Egypt after that is returning from a course of instruction in Cairo, in late October and taking two days leave in Cairo from February 20-21, 1917.

He sailed with the 1/9th to France, landing on March 11, 1917, and is noted as being a platoon commander on April 22, 1917 when the Battalion was in Epehy. 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. 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 on May 24, 1917. Lieutenant Charles Earsham Cooke, M.C. was 20 years old.

Commonwealth War Graves St Sever, Rouen

He is buried in the Commonwealth War Grave at St Sever, Rouen and commemorated on the:

  1. Ashton-Under-Lyne Civic Memorial.
  2. Leeds Corn Exchange Memorial.
  3. Marlborough College Roll of Honour.

Lieutenant Oliver Jepson Sutton

Oliver Jepson Sutton was born in Stretford on July 29, 1882. His father Charles William Sutton was the head librarian of Manchester from 1879 to 1920. His mother, Sarah Hannah Winder Sutton, died when he was 7 years old and his father married Maria Pocklington just over 2 years later.

He had 3 brothers and one half brother.  Charles Evans Sutton, John Francis Sutton and Albert Bernard Sutton. His half-brother George William Sutton was born in January 1893.

Oliver was educated at William Hulme’s Grammar School, Manchester.  By 1911 he was working as a librarian at John Rylands Library in Manchester and living with his father, step mother and half-brother (who was also a librarian) at 323 Great Clowes St, Higher Broughton.

A former private in the 6th Manchester Regiment, he was commissioned into the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment on September 2, 1914 along with several others. Around the same time, his younger half-brother George William Sutton was commissioned into the 1/8th Lancashire Fusiliers. Both brothers joined the 42nd East Lancs Division at Chesham Fold Camp at Bury; Oliver to the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment of the 126th Brigade and George to the 1/8th Lancashire Fusiliers Battalion of the 125th Brigade. They sailed with their Battalions to Egypt in September 1914 serving with them there throughout their training and preparation for action. On February 9, 1915 Oliver was promoted to Lieutenant. Oliver landed with the 1/9th Manchesters in Gallipoli on May 9, 1915, his half-brother William a few days earlier. But William didn’t last long, as on June 6, 1915 he was wounded and medically evacuated to England.

On the evening of July 10, 1915 Lt. O.J. Sutton volunteered to make a reconnaissance of the new trenches being dug by the Turks. He went out under cover of darkness with Sergeant Harry Grantham and the following night went out again to verify their observations.  Sgt. Grantham later described the event to the Ashton Reporter:

“Lieut. Sutton and myself went out two nights in succession, July 10th and 11th. We each took a piece of rope with us, attached to our wrists and to the parapet of our trench. We pulled it along with us until we reached the Turkish trenches, and so were able to measure the distance between our trenches and theirs. The Turks saw us, but we ran about five or ten yards, and then lay flat on the ground among dead Turks. It was somewhat exciting, especially when they fired at us, but luckily we were missed.  Both General Prendergast and General Douglas congratulated us.”

The Battalion went into the trenches again on Aug 7th and two platoons under Lt. Sutton proceeded to reinforce the firing line on the right at 2:30pm. Shortly after arrival, Lt. Sutton was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel and eventually had to go back to the Casualty Clearing Station. He was subsequently evacuated to hospital in Cairo where he remained for 75 days before rejoining the Battalion in Gallipoli on October 21, 1915. Upon his return he was immediately appointed temporary Captain while the Battalion was in the trenches. 3 weeks later, his brother William rejoined the 1/8th Lancashire Fusiliers having recovered from his wounds.

On January 28, 1916 Lieutenant Sutton, who was now serving with the battalion in Egypt, was mentioned in despatches of General Sir Ian Hamilton and awarded the Military Cross on February 1st for his reconnaissance work of July with Sgt. Harry Grantham (who had been awarded the DCM).

In May 1916 he was awarded 33 days leave in the UK returning on June 19, 1916. By September 1916 he was temporary commander of C Company relinquishing command to Major T. E. Howorth in December upon Howorth’s return to the Battalion.

He sailed with the Battalion to France, arriving March 11, 1917 and in June 1917 was promoted to Captain with precedence from November 9, 1916. On May 3, 1917 he was appointed temporary adjutant. He took 14 days leave to the UK from June 5 – 19. He took 5 days leave in Paris from August 14-19 and 13 days hone leave in the UK from October 20th to November 2nd.

On March 21, 1918 the 9th Manchesters were serving in the in the 198th Brigade of the 66th (2nd/East Lancashire) Division. The 9th Battalion were in the support line at Hervilly, East of Péronne, on the evening of March 20, 1918. The entire divisional front came under an intense artillery and gas bombardment starting at 4.40am and the Battalion was quickly moved up towards the front and by 4pm on the afternoon of March 21st, 2 Companies of the 9th Battalion were in front of Trinket redoubt. The following is excerpted from a report on operations March 21/22 by Lt. Col. EC Lloyd, Commanding Officer of the Battalion at that time:

“March 22, 1918. At about 10:30am a barrage was put down in the rear of the trenches, which was at first taken to be that of the enemy, but it increased in volume and two direct hits came on the Battalion Headquarters killing one company commander [Capt. DB Stephenson] who was there and severely wounding the Adjutant [Capt. OJ Sutton]. … A pigeon basket was luckily found and despatched to ask our artillery to cease fire.”

Around noon the battalion was forced to retire from their position under heavy enemy machine gun fire from both flanks. Captain Oliver Jepson Sutton, M.C., was reported wounded and missing in action on March 22, 1918. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, France. Captain Sutton was 35 years old.

Pozieres Memorial

Lieutenant Robert Gartside Wood

Robert Gartside Wood was born in Stalybridge on June 10, 1890. His father, Robert Wood, was a licensed victualer (landlord of a pub) and later became an alderman of Stalybridge. In 1911 Robert Gartside Wood was living with his family at the Fox Tavern on Ridge Hill Lane and working as a clerk at a cotton mill but by 1914 he was working at the Stalybridge Gas Works.

He was commissioned into the 9th Battalion Manchester Regiment on February 20, 1914 and sailed with the battalion to Egypt serving with them through their training and preparations for action. Whilst in Egypt he was promoted to full Lieutenant on November 4, 1914 along with several other junior officers.

Lieutenant Wood landed with the Battalion in Gallipoli on May 9, 1915 and the 1/9th went into the line for the first time on May 21st. Divisional orders were to advance the line 100 yards by digging new fire trenches at night, under cover of darkness. The 1/9th achieved their goal but the 1/10th Manchesters, immediately to their left, failed and so were compelled to try to achieve the same goal but now in broad daylight. Major Richard B. Nowell in a letter to Alderman Wood described what happened and it was published in the Ashton Reporter on November 13, 1915.

The letter stated that Lt. Wood went from his own lines to the assistance of a man wounded in the forward trench of the 10th Manchesters, which was under construction. He reached it in safety, though the approach was swept by machine gun fire, but was shot in the leg immediately after he got out the wounded man. He succeeded in rolling back into the trench, where he in his turn was rescued from drowning in the liquid mud by Private Burke and Private Smith. He was subsequently brought away by these two men, and carried to hospital.

He was wounded on May 25, 1915 by a machine gun bullet to the left buttock and left tibia with compound fracture. He was medically evacuated from Lemnos to Malta sailing on the hospital ship Neuralia, embarking on May 26 and disembarking on June 4th. In Malta he was admitted to the  Blue Sisters Hospital where he remained for approximately 2 months. At Malta, he subsequently embarked the hospital ship Somali on August 2nd, disembarking at Gibraltar on August 6th. Three weeks later he embarked on the Andania finally arriving at Plymouth on August 30, 1915. Here he was medically assessed and admitted to Mrs. Burns’ Hospital for Officers, Stoodley Knowle, Torquay where he remained for several weeks, meeting the King and Queen who happened to make an official visit to the hospital while he was there.

Lt. Wood, who was by this time recuperating at home, was interviewed by the Ashton Reporter, and stated:

“When I was wounded our surgeon saw that both the ankle bones were broken, and it looked almost impossible for it to heel. He said there was no hope, and on the hospital ship that took me away from the Peninsula they asked me if they might take the leg off. I said I would wait until we got to hospital at Malta to see what they said there. At Malta I was placed under a surgeon who, before being attached to the forces, was the head surgeon in St. Thomas’ Hospital, London. I went under two operations, and after the second it was thought there was no hope of saving my foot. I lay on my back absolutely numb for three months. My foot was saved, and I am recovering very well from the injury.”

Lt. Wood was awarded the Military Cross for his actions that day (Gazetted November 8, 1915) and was later also awarded the French Croix de Guerre (Gazetted February 24, 1916). He received his Military Cross from the King at Buckingham palace on Thursday February 3, 1916.

Despite his upbeat statement to the press, his recovery was long and painful and throughout the course of the next two years he was medically assessed on a regular basis. Shortly after receiving his medal from the King he rejoined the 3/9th Battalion at Codford passed fit for light duty, (office work). This was a little optimistic and he was subsequently granted 6 weeks medical leave from June 2 to July 13, 1916.  He was again passed fit for light duty and on November 23 joined the Command Depot at Heaton Park. As a decorated officer he was a natural fit for recruiting and so on March 10, 1917 he was assigned to recruiting duties in the Manchester recruiting area.

On September 12, 1917 he was promoted to Captain with precedence from June 1, 1916 and in January 1918 joined the 8th Reserve Battalion, Manchester Regiment at Filey. Here, on March 4, 1918, he was pronounced permanently unfit for active service, the medical report noting that his operations had left him with a permanently shortened leg and that he still walked with a limp.

Somewhat remarkably, the Ministry of Labour requested his services and he was eventually transferred to the 191 Prisoner of War Company which was a Labour Corps company that used prisoners of war as skilled but forced labour.

On October 15, 1918 he married Eliza Esther Hardy, of Stalybridge, at Manchester Cathedral but there wasn’t to be much of a honeymoon as he embarked for France 4 days later en-route to a Prisoner of War camp. He was finally demobilised on November 2, 1919, with medical category B2 and joined the Territorial Reserve. He was promoted to Captain in the Territorial Reserve on February 3, 1921 and finally relinquished his commission on Sept 30, 1921 retaining the rank of Captain.

In 1923 he was accepted into the Special Constabulary, a part-time volunteer  arm of the regular police force, where he served for at least the next 19 years. reaching the rank of Inspector.  He served in this capacity during World War Two and subsequently received the Defence Medal to accompany his Special Constabulary Long Service Medal with Long Service Clasp. Throughout this time he and his wife continued to live in Stalybridge, on Mottram Old Road, where he worked for a brewery until they retired to Blackpool. Captain Robert Gartside Wood, M.C., died in 1965 in Blackpool. He was 75 years old.