Lance-Corporal Albert Platt, MM

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

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

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

Lance-Corporal Albert Platt, MM

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

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

May 23, 1915

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

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

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

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

June 7, 1915

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 18, 1915

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

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

June 24, 1915

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edwin Slater

Edwin Slater was born in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire on April 13, 1892. In 1911 he was employed as an Iron Turner at Platt Brothers & Company in Oldham, as was his father.  At this time, Platt Brothers had established itself as the world’s largest textile machinery manufacturer.

He is shown below in “early 1915”,  (probably May 1915), taken from a group photo with his brother Arthur, of the 1/9th Battalion Manchester Regiment, and his sister Eleanor.

Edwin Slater 1915

There are no Army service or pension records for Edwin; we only have his Medal Index Card, his 1915 Star Roll and his British War Medal and Victory Medal Roll entry.

Edwin Slater Medal Index Card

His Medal Index Card (MIC) gives us his regimental number (22754) and tells us that he was in the 11th Battalion Royal Scots (Lothian) Regiment and that he was entitled to three medals: 1915 Star, British War Medal, and Victory Medal. It also tells us that his first date of entry of overseas deployment was August 11, 1915 to France. Finally, it indicates that he was demobilised on March 22, 1919 to the Class Z Reserve.

The Class Z Reserve was a Reserve contingent of the British Army consisting of discharged enlisted soldiers. The first Z Reserve was authorized by an Army Order of December 3, 1918 and was abolished on March 31, 1920 when the expected problems with violations of the Armistice did not materialize.

Edwin Slater 1915 Star Roll

His 1915 Star Roll matches the information on his Medal Index Card (which is not always the case). The Star Roll is a crucial document because it also records all the other men of the 11th Battalion Royal Scots with the same disembarkation date as Edwin. By researching those men, several of whom have surviving service records we can deduce many things with a very high degree of certainty.

Below is a B.103 form from one of the men Edwin deployed with (Pte. DAVID CRIGHTON, 21179).  It is identical to all of the surviving Service Records and it clearly shows their arrival in France and their assignments in the initial few weeks there.

11th Royal Scots B.103

Consequently, we know that Edwin Slater was part of a draft (the third draft) of at least 40 men who arrived at Boulogne on August 12, 1915. Almost all of these men attested and joined the Royal Scots in April/May 1915.  Many of them attested at various locations throughout the UK and then traveled to Glencorse Barracks in Scotland joining the Royal Scots one or two days later. They went through basic training and then shipped out to France on August 11, 1918 arriving in Boulogne the next day.  From there they were immediately assigned to the 5th Entrenching Battalion of the First Army. Entrenching battalions were temporary units and allocated at a Corps level. They were used as pools of men, from which drafts of replacements could be drawn by conventional infantry battalions.

Note: An analysis of the enlistment dates of the 10 men that joined the 11th Royal Scots with service numbers +/- 10 digits from his shows that he must have joined around May 10, 1915.

The following men were posted to the 11th Battalion Royal Scots, in the field, on September 18, 1915.

Rank No. Forename MI Surname Enlisted
Pte 13334 THOMAS CLOSE 01-Sep-14
Pte 20899 ROBERT GUNN 12-Mar-15
L/Cpl 21054 ROBERT FERGUSON 07-Apr-15
Pte 21056 JOHN BELL
Pte 21128 HUGH O’DONNELL 17-Apr-15
Pte 21134 WILLIAM MYLES 16-Apr-15
Pte 21173 WILLIAM GRANT 22-Apr-15
Pte 21179 DAVID CRIGHTON 23-Apr-15
Cpl 22691 JOHN HAWKINS 29-Apr-15
Pte 22721 JOHN BARLAS 04-May-15
Pte 22726 THOMAS KIRK 22-Apr-15
Pte 22764 WILLIAM BLACK 12-May-15
Pte 22776 JAMES FINNIGAN 14-May-15
Pte 22809 W GRAHAM
Cpl 22814 JOHN E BROOKS 19-May-15
Pte 22826 JOHN BRADY 17-May-15
Pte 22933 EDWARD PEARSON 27-May-15
Pte 23023 FRANK C E WILSON 31-May-15
Pte 23409 JAMES CARR 29-Jun-15
Sgt 23656 WILLIAM H PASCOE 13-Apr-15
Pte 23664 WILLIAM E SOUTH 14-Apr-15
Pte 23685 WILLIAM R WOOD 08-Apr-15
Pte 23709 ALBERT G EVEREST 15-May-15
Pte 23710 ALBERT R GALE 13-Apr-15
Cpl 23711 ARTHUR JONES 12-May-15
Pte 23715 CRISTOPHER R PAUL 17-Apr-15

On this date, the 11th Royal Scots were at Cambrin (near Bethune) and engaged in training, having recently been relieved in the line.  They went back into the trenches on the 25th and were involved in a significant action between 25-28th in the opening phase of the Battle of Loos resulting in 381 Officers and Other Ranks killed, missing or wounded.

It is sobering to discover that of the 40 men listed in this draft, fully 17 would be Killed in Action and a further 8 would be discharged due to wounds or sickness and awarded the Silver War Badge. Two men won the Military Medal, one was Mentioned in Despatches and one man deserted.

Edwin Slater WWI Service Medal and Award Roll

Edwin Slater’s Service Medal and Award Roll entry also indicate that he at some point was transferred to the 16th Battalion Royal Scots Regiment.

The final piece of surviving information we have is the picture below (Edwin Slater is front row, right):

Edwin Slater with Four Comrades

There is some indistinct writing on the photo but careful examination  shows that it reads: “Loos 1915, Somme 1916, Ypres 1917, Arras 1917, Soissons 1918, Blicquy 1918, The Quarries 1918”.  Also, at the bottom it says “5 Tanks, December 12, 1918”. This photo is a so called “survivors photo” taken after the Armistice with men about to be demobilised and celebrating their comradeship, service and, more importantly, their survival.

Military Medal

Edwin is wearing a medal ribbon:

Edwin Slater Wearing Military Medal Ribbon

The ribbon is for the Military Medal (MM) and Edwin Slater’s Military Medal (MM) was announced in the London Gazette on the 19th November, 1917 (and in the Edinburgh Gazette on 21st November 1917).  The action for which it was awarded would have been some time prior to this publication date. The gazette, simply says “22754 Pte E. Slater, R. Scots (Ashton-under-Lyne)”.

Edwin Slater Edinburgh Gazette 1917

Additionally, we have a short article in his local newspaper, the Ashton Reporter, regarding his award but unfortunately it provides no additional details except that it was published on October 20, 1917 a month before the official listing in the London Gazette.

Ashton Reporter October 20, 1917

Edwin’s Military Medal award was promulgated in the London Gazette of November 19, 1917. His was one of 5 MMs awarded to men of the 13th Royal Scots so it would appear that at some point he was transferred, or attached, to the 13th Battalion even though there is no mention of this on his medal roll.

At this time, the 13th Royal Scots were part of the 45th Brigade of the 15th Scottish Division. Edwin’s Registered Paper (No RP/68/121/327) indicates an award for 3rd Ypres. His schedule number (No 111419) indicates it was one of five 15th Division Military Medals awarded to the 13th Royal Scots.

The five MM awards, all from the 13/Battalion Royal Scots, were to:

16152 JAMES STEEL Schedule No 111417
20635 WILLIAM CARR Schedule No 111418
22754 EDWIN SLATER Schedule No 111419
37371 WILLIAM MULHOLLAND Schedule No 111420
15296 HENRY CHARLESON Schedule No 111422

The London Gazette of November 19, 1917 covers awards from July 27, 1917 to September 26, 1917. But we know that these awards were for gallantry on Wednesday August 22, 1917 in the 15th Division’s attack that day. The 15th Division’s 45th Brigade attacked Potsdam, Vampir and Borry Farms at 4:45am. Under the light of flares, the 13th Royal Scots’ and the 11th Argyll and Southern Highlanders’ attacking infantry was mostly wiped out by machine gun fire. Survivors fell back to establish a line from Railway Dump to Beck House. The 13th Royal Scots tried to get forward repeatedly throughout the day but were unsuccessful. Two German counter-attacks were beaten off with rifle fire and artillery. The 11th Argyll and Southern Highlanders were themselves awarded 4 Military Medals for the same action.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves …

11th Royal Scots

The 11th were attached to the 27th (Lowland) Infantry Brigade, of the 9th (Scottish) Division and moved to Bramshott in the Bordon area of Hampshire. In late April, 1915 whilst located at Bramshott, the Battalion received orders to move to the front and on the 11 May, 1915 the main body of men boarded the S.S. Invicta and crossed the English Channel landing at Boulogne, France later that same day.

The Battle of Loos (Sep 25 – Oct 15, 1915)

As already noted, the 11th Royal Scots, as part of the 9th Division of the First Army, fought in the front line during the opening phases of the Battle of Loos between September 25th to the 28th.  Edwin Slater had been in France for just a few weeks and had arrived there after just a few short months of basic training. All of these newly arrived men were ill equipped to be thrust into the front line of a major offensive. From this draft of 40 men, Pte. WILLIAM BLACK (22764) was killed in action on the last day of the battle; less than a month after joining the Battalion in France. By the time it was over, the 9th (Scottish) Division had lost a staggering 6,058 casualties including 190 Officers.

Wounded in Action

Ashton Reporter October 9, 1915

After approximately 4 months of treatment and rest in the UK, Edwin returned to the front lines in France on February 1, 1916.

Two more men from this draft of 40 lost their lives in November and December 1915.  Pte JOHN BARLAS (22721) was severely wounded in the face on November 11, 1915 and a week later was repatriated to the UK on the HM HS ANGLIA. Unfortunately, on November 17, 1915 the ANGLIA struck a mine and sank 1 mile off the coast of England, going down in just 15 minutes.  134 people drowned; Pte. BARLAS was one of them. Later, Private DAVID CRIGHTON (21179) was killed in action on December 12, 1915 while the 11th Royal Scots were once again in the front line.

The Battles of the Somme (Jul 1 – Nov 18, 1916)

The Somme was an Allied offensive that changed its nature due to the German attack against the French in the epic Battle of Verdun, which lasted from late February to November. Huge British losses were inflicted by the Germans on the first day followed by a series of fiercely-contested phases that became attritional in nature. September 15, 1916 saw the first-ever use of tanks in the phase known as the Battle of Flers-Courcelette. The British army in France was now approaching its maximum strength in numbers but was still developing in terms of tactics, technology, and command and control.

The British Fourth Army faced three separate very formidable German defensive systems of trenches, dugouts, underground shelters and deep barbed wire defences.

At this time, the 11th Royal Scots were in the 27th Brigade of the 9th (Scottish) Division attached to the XIII Corps of the British Fourth Army.

Somme: Battle of Albert, (1 – 13 Jul, 1916)

In this opening phase, the French and British assault broke into and gradually moved beyond the first of the German defensive systems. For the British, the attack on 1 July proved to be the worst day in the nation’s military history in terms of casualties sustained.

The 11th Royal Scots were in the reserve line moving up at 8pm on the 2nd to relieve the front line troops which was achieved by 3am on the 3rd. They remained in the front line suffering casualties every day from intense enemy shelling. Trenches were consolidated and patrols sent out until July 8th when they moved to Bivouac in the rear to rest and refit.

Somme: Battle of Bazentin, (14 – 17 Jul, 1916)

The 11th Royal Scots were in the front line and attacked the German line in the early hours of July 14th. They quickly achieved their first objective, capturing 63 German prisoners in the process, but their success came with a high cost of casualties.  Three men from the draft of 40 lost their lives that day:

Rank No. Forename MI Surname Died
L/Cpl 21054 ROBERT FERGUSON 14-Jul-16
Pte 22826 JOHN BRADY 14-Jul-16
Pte 23685 WILLIAM R WOOD 14-Jul-16

More frontal attacks of the German lines were undertaken by the 11th Royal Scots on the following days, as the 9th Division attempted to secure all their objectives of the initial attack.  The Battalion was relieved from their front line duties at 8pm on the 17th July.

Wounded in Action Again

Pte. Edwin Slater (22754) Royal Scots was listed in the Daily Casualty List published in The Scotsman newspaper on August 24, 1916.

Daily Casualty List. The Scotsman August 24, 1916

Generally speaking, it would take approximately one month from a soldier being wounded for them to appear in the casualty list. This was in part to allow the next of kin to be officially notified before finding it in the newspaper.

An analysis of the other men appearing in this Casualty List from the 11th Royal Scots shows that they were all wounded on July 14, 1916; the first day the 11th were in the line at the Battle of the Somme.  As noted above, it could have been much worse.

In the November 11, 1916 edition of the Ashton Reporter Edwin is reported as having just been home on a 10-day furlough.

Edwin Slater. Ashton Reporter November 11, 1916

It was standard practice for soldiers wounded in action and repatriated to the UK to be awarded 10-days leave upon being fully discharged from hospital. So, this tells us that he was indeed repatriated to the UK and spent a little over 3 months in hospital before being discharged. Upon completing his leave he would then return to the regimental depot for a short period of light duty and this is borne out by the phrase in the newspaper “and has returned to Edinburgh” as the regimental depot was at Glencorse Barracks just south of Edinburgh.  After some time at the depot he would then have been assigned to one of the regimental reserve battalions based somewhere in the UK. And finally, once he was deemed to be physically fit enough to return to active duty he would have been sent back to the front as and when needed.

Somme: High Wood

On the 18th October, when Edwin was finally being discharged from hospital in the UK, the 11th were back in the Somme front lines again, involved in actions to secure the feature known as The Butte de Warlencourt. The attack was undertaken under extremely difficult conditions of heavy rain, mud and intense cold, leading to large numbers suffering from exposure and trench foot in addition to considerable losses in action.  Pte. JAMES FINNIGAN (22776) of the draft of 40 was wounded on the 20th, dying of those wounds on October 24, 1916.

For Edwin, 3 months in hospital being treated for gunshot wounds is not something anyone recovers from overnight so it’s likely he went through a 1-3 months recovery period in the UK after discharge before he had become fit enough for active duty and returned to France. So by March 1917 it’s likely that he was back in the thick of things.

Arras Daylight Reconnaissance (March 21, 1917)

By February 1917 the Allied Forces were planning and rehearsing the Arras Offensive which was scheduled to commence on April 9th.  In March, intelligence was received that the Germans were withdrawing from certain positions and so Sir Charles Fergusson, (VXII Corps Commander), resolved to test the enemy’s strength in front of Arras by means of a daylight raid. The 11th Battalion Royal Scots were selected. The “raid” was a frontal assault on the German trenches carried out by approximately 200 men and resulted in a loss of 7 Officers and almost 70 Other Ranks killed, missing or wounded. Nevertheless, they had fulfilled their mission by proving that the Germans had in fact held themselves in full strength in their line opposite XVII Corps. Reports from the raid estimated that perhaps as many as 100 Germans had been killed or taken prisoner.

The efforts of the 11th Royal Scots that day elicited a letter of praise from the Third Army Commanding Officer.

General's Letter March 21, 1917

Pte. WILLIAM SOUTH (23664) of the Draft of 40 also lost his life that day.

Now confident that the Germans had not withdrawn and were still at full strength, the Arras Offensive was put back into motion.

The Arras Offensive (9 Apr – 16 Jun, 1917)

The British were called upon to launch an attack in support of a larger French offensive: the battles of the Chemin des Dames and the hills of Champagne. The opening Battle of Vimy and the First Battle of the Scarpe were very encouraging, but once again the Offensive bogged down into an attritional slog.

The 11th Battalion moved into the trenches on April 4th and endured heavy shelling from the enemy resulting in 4 men killed and 7 wounded. One of the men killed that day was Pte. HUGH O’DONNELL (21128) from the Draft of 40.

The 13th Battalion Royal Scots

Frustratingly, we do not know exactly how or when Edwin returned to action after his wounds but his award of the Military Medal confirms that by August 1917 he joined, or was temporarily attached to, the 13th Royal Scots.

Pte. Edwin Slater, MM

The 13th Royal Scots had a difficult time  in April 1917. The war diary reports that when they were in the line from April  9-11 they lost 207 men killed, wounded or missing. They were back in the line from April 21-30 and lost another 261 men. That is close to half a Battalion. Consequently, they spent the next few months receiving replacements made up of men rejoining the Battalion, men who had served in France but with other Battalions and new recruits fresh from basic training with no prior fighting experience.

On August 7, 1917 fifty-six other ranks arrived, chiefly of men from the 11th Battalion and 5th and 6th Battalions. We have no way to be certain but it’s possible that Edwin was temporarily attached to the 13th Royal Scots via this draft. 458 men joined the Battalion in August and they were about to be tested under the most difficult of circumstances.

August 22, 1917

The action of August 22, 1917, took place in the Ypres Salient on the Western Front as part of the Third Battle of Ypres. The attack on 22 August, although unsuccessful, advanced the British front line up to 600 yards in places, on a two-mile front but failed to reach the more distant objectives it had been set.

On 17 August, the fresh and rested 15th (Scottish) Division relieved the 16th (Irish) Division in the XIX Corps area. In the 15th Division area, supported by patrols from the 47th (1/2nd London) Division south of the Ypres–Roulers railway, the 45th Brigade on the right was to attack behind four tanks, a creeping barrage and overhead fire from 32 machine-guns but the tanks ditched short of the front line on the Frezenberg–Zonnebeke road. As soon as the infantry advance began, German artillery-fire fell along a line from Frezenberg to Square Farm, followed by machine-gun fire on the attacking troops and on the support and reserve troops even before they left their trenches. The 13th Battalion, Royal Scots and the 11th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were supported by the 6th Battalion, Cameron Highlanders. As soon as the advance began, German small-arms fire became so dense that runners could not go back or reinforcements move forward. Recognition flares were seen later at Potsdam, Borry Farm and Vampir Farm but nothing else was known of the progress of the infantry. Survivors retreated to join the 6th Camerons along the track running north-west from the Railway Dump to Beck House.

Machine-gun fire from the German fortified posts had devastated the infantry of the 15th (Scottish) Division as they struggled through the mud. A report from the 8th Seaforth described how the creeping barrage had failed to damage many pillboxes; the German defences had been underestimated and were insufficiently bombarded by the heavy artillery. The swiftness of the Germans in inflicting casualties left the survivors incapable of capturing strong points, even where the garrisons seemed willing to surrender.

The Official History of the Great War records that the 15th (Scottish) Division suffered 2,071 casualties; 1,052 casualties in the 44th Brigade and 1,019 in the 45th Brigade.

The following account, from the perspective of the 13th Royal Scots, is excerpted from The Royal Scots 1914-1919, by Major John Ewing, M.C. :

Owing to the bad weather, operations of any magnitude had to be postponed, but whenever there were any signs of improvement, attacks were launched. On August 16 our position was strengthened when we secured a hold on Langermark but after this operation rain set in again. The 13th Royal Scots, after their ordeal of July 31, 1917, were given a rest until August 20th when they took over the front line near Frezenberg, with their right flank on the Ypres-Roulers Railway. “D” and “B” were the two front companies with “C” in support and “A” in reserve. An attack, in which the 15th and 61st Divisions were to co-operate was arranged for 4:45am on August 22nd. The 13th Royal Scots, who went into action with Major Mitchell in command, formed the right Battalion of the Division, and their objective was a line extending from South of the railway to Bremen Redoubt, a fortified pill-box, exclusive. In view of the number of formidable pill-boxes to be encountered, special parties furnished by the Royal Scots Fusiliers and “A” and “C” companies of the Royal Scots were detailed to “mop up” particular points.

Most of the hostile shelling fortunately dropped behind the line of the assembled troops, but the attack, though carried out with the utmost gallantry, made little progress. Numerous Boche aeroplanes audaciously buzzed over our lines and inflicted several casualties on our men, who were met, moreover, by a terrific machine gun fire, particularly from the large pill-box known as Potsdam. The Royal Scots formed a line in front of Vampir and Potsdam and beat off several counter-attacks, but were unable to make any impression on the enemy’s defences. Ultimately, Major Mitchell established a new line from the railway, slightly in front of our original position, which the Royal Scots, in spite of a galling shell fire, including “shorts” from our own artillery, maintained without serious difficulty. Heavy losses were inflicted on the Boches by our rifle and Lewis Gun fire, on one occasion a party of sixty of the enemy being almost annihilated. Their exertions however, told heavily on the men, and they were very exhausted when on the night of the 22nd they were relieved and marched to a camp near Ypres.

The number of 13/Royal Scots casualties was again alarmingly high, (276 killed, wounded and missing including two officers killed), and as a result of the two actions in the salient practically a new Battalion had to be formed.


We do not know what happened to Edwin between his winning the Military Medal in August 1917 to the end of the war but if we are to believe his Medal Roll at some point he transferred to the 16th Battalion Royal Scots from where he was demobilised. However, that does not seem to add up. The 16th Royal Scots were reduced to a cadre strength and attached to the 39th Division in May 1918 after suffering heavy casualties. They were finally disbanded in France on August 14, 1918 but we know that Edwin was not demobilised until early 1919.

Edwin Slater with Four Comrades

As noted earlier, the writing on the above photo says “Loos 1915, Somme 1916, Ypres 1917, Arras 1917, Soissons 1918, Blicquy 1918, The Quarries 1918”.

Loos 1915, Somme 1916, Ypres 1917 and Arras 1917 all fit well with the battles fought by the 11th Royal Scots. Whereas, Soissons 1918 [23 July – 2 August 1918], The Quarries 1918 [12-16 Sept 1918] and Blicquy 1918 [Nov 11, 1918] fit well with the 13th Royal Scots.

It’s my belief that Edwin’s Medal Roll is wrong and instead of the 16th it should actually say 13th – but this is pure conjecture on my part.

Class Z Reserve
Pte. Edwin Slater was demobilised to Class Z reserve on March 22, 1919.

The Class Z Reserve was authorised by an Army Order of December 3, 1918. There were fears that Germany would not accept the terms of any peace treaty, and therefore the British Government decided it would be wise to be able to quickly recall trained men in the eventuality of a resumption of hostilities. Soldiers who were being demobilised, particularly those who had agreed to serve “for the duration of the War”, were at first posted to Class Z. They returned to civilian life but with an obligation to return to military service if called upon. The Z Reserve was abolished on March 31, 1920.

Royal Visit to Ashton-under-Lyne May 20, 1938

Edwin was presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth when they visited Ashton on May 20, 1938 at the very end of their 4 day tour of Lancashire.

Edwin Slater with King George VI and Queen Elizabeth
Ashton May 20, 1938

Not only was he presented to the King and Queen, he also had the honour of accompanying them when they briefly met with some of the disabled ex-servicemen of Ashton, as can be seen in the photo below.

Royal Visit to Ashton May 20, 1938
With Disabled Ex-Servicemen


Edwin Slater died in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire on November 23, 1945. He was 53 years old.


The History of the 9th (Scottish) Division, 1914 – 1919
Major John Ewing, MC

The Royal Scots, 1914-1919, Vol I 1914 – May 1919
Major John Ewing, MC

The Royal Scots, 1914-1919, Vol II May 1917 – May 1919 and Appendices
Major John Ewing, MC