Oldham Historical Research Group

'What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
- Only the monstrous anger of the guns.'
from 'Anthem for Doomed Youth' by Wilfred Owen

1914 - 1918

'Oldham Terriers - Their Part in the War'

by Sergeant Maurice Bradbury, M.M.
Oldham Territorials, 1/10 Battalion, Manchester Regiment

Transcriptions of the series of articles published in the 'Oldham Standard' in Spring 1919.


It is a far cry to ask any man to throw his mind back to the early days of August '14, when khaki clad figures suddenly filled the streets of Oldham, representing the material which developed into trained soldiers eminently fit to take their places in the first line of Britain's fighting men. That is where the real active history of the 1/10th Battalion Manchester Regiment began, and the intention of these articles is to trace it to its final triumphant finish. The old '14 boys of the regiment donned the uniform for war because their country asked it and they were partially trained soldiers, but it is safe to say that they, like every other soldier in the Empire, regular or otherwise, did not then realise the horror and stern demands of modern war. But that ignorance of its realitiy at least gave them the fascination of mystery, of romance, which the later soldier missed, and the man who left the shores of Blighty in '14 and sailed into the unknown has now a memory, if he is still living, which the '16, '17' and '18 soldiers could never even understand. They were the days when the progress of war held a million possibilities and interests, and the actual scientific cruelty of it all was unknown.

Lieut.-Col. J.B. Rye, C.B.

Lieut.-Col. J.B. Rye, C.B.,
who took the battalion out in 1914, and was present in Gallipoli.

Major G.W. Hardman,
second in command of the battalion when mobilised, who went to Egypt at the outset.

The 1/10th Manchesters came into being as a mobilised force on August 5th, 1914, and for the first fortnight or so the work of organising and equipping was carried on in Oldham. They were then drafted to Bury where they carried out routine parades and completed their preparations for overseas service. It was the night of September 8th, 1914, when they entrained at Bury for Southampton in dirty, miserable weather which had turned the camp into a sticky mess of mud; but everything lay in the future then, and even the leavetakings of their womenfolk could not damp the spiritis of the men. They went straight from the train onto the Avon the following morning, and about the first sights of interest from there were a batch of Jerry prisoners marching along the quayside and several ships crammed with cheering Tommies gliding out to France. Late in the afternoon their turn came, and there are few of the 10th living today who have not vivid memories yet of the hour of departure. It was a mass of khaki covering a million conflicting emotions on a giant liner gliding into the haze of the Channel with the dream of blue beyond, and suddenly a thousand voices joined in the song "Dear Homeland, good-bye; it may be for years, it may be forever," and the Westminster Dragoons on the same boat sang "Trot, gallop, charge."

In three days the decks were a litter of sprawling figures in all the varying stages of mal de mer, and even the approaching blue of the Mediterranean could not convince these embryonic warriors that it was good to be afloat anyway; most of them prayed fervently for the ship to turn turtle and for the sea to swallow their troubles. Then came the warm sun and the smooth Mediterranean, "physical jerks," and a salt-water swimming bath on deck, and colour came back into men's faces and the ship's larder grew alarmingly depleted.
It was in these days that the old eight company system was done away with and the Battalion was formed into four companies and sixteen platoons, its total strength being 30 officers; and 996 other ranks. Gibralter was reached after about four days out, and the voyage down the Mediterranean proceeded without untoward incident except for the rumours of the proximity of submarines, and the German raiders, the Emden and the Breslau. These rumours did not, however, trouble the men overmuch when they looked at the two capable destroyers which acted as escort. It was about half-way down the Mediterranean that a most memorable meeting took place. There were seventeen liners in the convoy conveying the 42nd Division, and towards dusk one afternoon, about twenty liners were sighted away to the starboard with two British destroyers nosing around in front. There was much speculation amongst men of the 42nd Division, as to what these ships could be, but the question was settled for them when they drew nearer and sighted the khaki figures covering the decks like flies, and heard the cheers of an Indian contingent of the British Regular troops plunging through sunlight and white foam to the mud, cold, and horrors of Flanders. The destroyer escorts here changed round, the ones with the Indian convoy joining the East Lancashire Division, and the others returning West.

After about sixteen days on the water the troopships entered the harbour at Alexandria under a blazing mid-day sun and caught their first glimpse of the palm trees and bleached white minarets they were to know so well, and felt that first fascinating thrill the East gives to all men of the West, and which lingers in the corner of a man's heart no matter where future years may lead him. Then came the slow, noisy, tedious task of disembarking when men's tempers get on edge and privates relegate sergeants and sergeant-majors to the blackest depths of the unknown and wish that officers could be born as other men are, until eventually, after a lot of grousing and sweating under the irritating and fixed gaze of sleepy "Gxxxs," officers and men were packed on the hard-backed seats of an Egyptian train and jerked sheer into the beauty of an Egyptian night, with the silver snake-like coil of the Nile extending to the limit of human vision. the men woke at Heliopolis to a boiling sun and a limitless vision of sand and a thousand dirty 'bxxxs' sleeping in every conceivable attitude of Eastern abandon.

It was here that the real training of the 1/10th Manchesters began. In a camp on the Libyan desert where the sun struck an unprotected head like a blow from an axe, parades began at six in the morning and continued until three and four in the afternoon, under the command pf Lt.-Col. Rye, C.B., assisted by Capt. E.J. de Pentheny O'Kelly, a regular officer from the Welsh Regiment, who had acted as adjutant prior to the war. Platoon, company and battalion training was gone through, the 200 recruits who joined at Bury being placed under the special care of four regular army sergeant instructors from the South Wales Borderers, who in a month's time taught them pride of regiment, barrack square drill, and a lot of musketry.

About the middle of November the battalion was warned to hold itself in readiness for work on the Suez Canal, where the Turks were known to be contemplating an attack, and shortly afterwards the machine gun section of the battalion proceeded to Rautara, on the canal, at an hour's notice, and took part, along with the divisional artillery and cavalry, in the defence of the border line, when several thousand Turks made their ill-fated attempt to invade Egypt by crossing the canal. A number of the battalion transport section, under Corporal Kershaw, accompanied the machine gun section, who were under the command of one of the ablest and most popular of officers, Captain Leach. The machine gunners were the first of the battalion to get into action after the outbreak of war, and gave an excellent account of themselves. the Turks were thoroughly routed, and left many dead and prisoners behind. The divisional cavalry followed the remnants of the defeated force into the desert for some distance but were forced to give up the chase through lack of water and supplies.

It was about this time that it was decided to annex Egypt and put a new Sultan on the throne, and troops from every battalion in the division were picked to line the coronation route and give any protection necessary to the loyal natives. At that time a percentage of Egyptians were anything but friendly and it only required a spark to make the feeling blaze into open revolution, but the overwhelming display of military force was fortunately sufficient to keep them quiet, and the new Sultan was put on the throne without any undue disturbance taking place.
During these months at Helipolis all ranks took the opportunity of visiting the world-famed historic places of Egypt, and the Pyramids at all hours had always a sprinkling of khaki around them. The cotton operatives of Lancashire who probably had never seen the sun set beyond the coast of England had every day before him the rich and varied colouring of the Eastern sky, and none amongst these new-fledged Tommies could help but acclaim the beauties of the run from Heliopolis to Cairo, when the sun was setting behind the Makattan Hills in a blaze of purple and gold, leaving the pyramids standing like black sentinels against the brilliant background.
After about 18 weeks on the sand at Heliopolis the battalion exchanged places with the 1/9th Manchesters who came from the Abbassia Barracks about three miles out of Cairo. This was the battalion's first taste of barrack life since mobilisation, and it was doubly welcome after sleeping on sand, and literally eating it in a good many cases.


'Oldham Men's Fights on Many Battlefields'
'Mobilisation and the Journey to Egypt'

Part 1

Final Days in Egypt
Guarding the Canal
Reception prepared for "Johnny Turk"
Off for ill-fated Gallipoli

Part 2

Journey to Gallipoli
First Sounds of Battle
Queen 'Lizzie' in Action
A Vision of Hell

Part 3

March to Gallipoli Trenches
The First Man Killed
Impressions of Real Warfare

Part 4

Gallipoli's Decisive Battle
The 4th of June
Oldham Men's Fiercest Combat
How Heroes Fell

Part 5

Return to Cape Helles
Christmas Day in a 'Bluff'
Departure from Ill-fated Peninsula

Part 6

The Battle of Romani
German Prisoners' Sullen Glare
Third Christmas of the War
The order to go to France

Part 7

Approach to the Trenches
Impressions of Ruined Peronne
In the Line at Epehy

Part 8

Horrors of Ypres in 1917
From the sands to La Bassee
Gas Attack Almost Wipes Out a Company
A Stand of Almost Unsurpassed Bravery

Part 9

Greatest Battle of All Times
Holding Up German Offensive
Bravery V. Unprecedented Violence
A Slice of Hell

Part 10

The Grand Slam
Weeks of Continuous Fighting
Oldham Lads Face Hail of Bullets
A Glimpse of Unsurpassed Heroism

Part 11

Last Stages of the Struggle
Fight with Germany's Best Troops
Glorious Charge for Welsh Ridge

Part 12

Transcriptions by Sheila Goodyear :

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