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.


On the 4th of June, 1915, the sun made patterns on the dusty pavements of Oldham, and at nine o'clock in the morning smiling shopgirls hurried to houses of fashion and wondered if there was a good show at any of the theatres for that night, and solid business men were settled to a study of the morning paper to ensure there had been a normal night on the Western Front.

In Gallipoli other men of the same town, at the same hour wearily drove away green voracious flies, which ahd left the decaying dead to snatch a dessert from melting jam. Men lay in expectant attitudes in sun-baked trenches waiting for big guns to begin a sudden message of death.

To one the 4th of June was an ordinary summer Friday with the added touch of excitement in the morning paper of a European war; to the other the 4th of June was the day of a decisive battle which held the possibility of an advance to the minarets of Constantinople or --- death. It was to be a real test of untried soldiers, a leap into the unknown, where England and all she held seemed so very far away as to still hold the glorious incentive. The sun reddened the sky in the same old way beyond the formidable Achi Baba, and receded in long shadows up the green slopes, and the water grew from a dark cold green into silvery sun-kissed ripples blotted with a menacing ring of grey shapes with darkly sloping objects protruding from their sides. And each man, with a parched tongue and a thought of home knew that in a short two hours streaks of flame would shoot from the water, and the land behind him, and iron would go hurtling over his head and into the blue, and the lark which had risen from the bushes beyond the artillery in the mist of the evaporating dew would quiver in the sky and make for the distantly visible mountains of Imbros.

Men prayed as they always do in such critical times, for what or to whom they could not tell, and not a few handed last messages for loved ones to men whom they thought had a better chance of "coming through" than they. Zero hour was fixed for noon, when the sun was hottest, and the bombardment for an hour earlier, and the wily Turk dozing there in his trenches, suspected nothing till the guns belched forth their warning of an advance all along the line. Half an hour after sea and land guns had opened, the fighting area of Gallipoli was shrouded in the smoke of shrapnel and lydite and Achi Baba and the Turkish lines were completely blotted from sight, and our lads were ducking from stray pieces of ships' shells rebounding from the turks' trenches. Suddenly all was perfectly calm for a short minute, and the next, Oldham boys, with their gallant comrades of the 29th Division were over the top and advancing with the steadiness of the trained and seasoned soldier. Before they had gone ten yards from their own trenches they were mixed up with a perfect hail of rifle and machine gun bullets and bursting shrapnel, but, to use the words of an officer who led a platoon there, "they went over like rabbits and made straight for the machine guns; they were glorious." Brown looking figures of retiring Turks could be seen and those who remained were bayonetted, shot and taken prisoners, and all the time officers, N.C.Os. and men of ours went down. Three lines of trenches were overrun, and the Turks finished in a race one with another who could reach the protective steep slopes of Achi Baba; but our men were tired, very tired, and the cost was terrible. Lieutenants Emmot, Ashcroft, Nevinson, Sergeant-Major Dunkerley and a host of others were down never to rise again; and men were separated, and communications were hopeless, and the promised reinforcements did not come, and one looked over his shoulder to see only the blue shimmering water where khaki-clad figures should have intervened, and yet they did not lose heart, for those of them who were left were flushed with the first fruits of victory, and thought the world was conquered. There were four "pals," men who had lived, slept and eaten together during the long months of training in Egypt. Three of the four tumbled back into the trench all "blightily" wounded and demanded of the fourth that he should accompany them "out of it all" to the peace of a hospital bed. He lay on his elbow in the sweltering trench and asked for a cigarette, and said, with a smile, he would follow them shortly. He lit the cigarette and died a few minutes afterwards. Remember him sometimes when life seems good.

The day following the sun broke on hungry, unshaven, hard-fought men, who were told the left flank had gone and they must come back to practically the original line. They came silently, steadily and reluctantly, and suffered shocking casualties, for the Turk was waiting for just such an action with machine guns, rifles and artillery, and one of the last officers in the battalion died there, Captain Owen, and many good men.

The following day the relief of the battalion was completed, and the remnants were brought to their old place near the French Artillery. Men were pale and quiet and very fatigued, and treated a grave-like hole in the ground as a bed of roses. Captain Booth could scarcely speak above a whisper, and men said one to another that he had fought like a Trojan, and feared nothing.
When the sun was sinking and the Turkish Artillery normally quiet the remnants were paraded and the roll called. Out of a rough eight hundred who went over the top at noon on the 4th some three hundred and odd answered their names, and the rest struggled with the freaks of memory to try and remember what had become of the unaccounted for ones.

A day or two afterwards, the battalion was ordered into the "Australian Lines," and from there into the centre section of the front line, and at seven on the evening of the 18th June, another Friday, the Turks made a strong attack. Men had been on night and day working parties since the last battle and were still fagged out, and now were called upon to fight as stubborn a battle as ever took place. The enemy came on in hundreds and occupied some parts of the front trench. A platoon of the 10th shoved up a barricade to prevent him advancing further, and bombed and fought him throughout the long night. More good men faded away killed or wounded in this battle. Sergeant Drinkwater was killed early on in the night, and Major Booth was shot in the eye before midnight, and one of the most popular young officers in the battalion, 2nd Lieut. Jimmy Stott, was missing, being last seen leaping amongst the Turks. Most of the front line was held by the 9th Manchesters when the attack started, and the 10th were rushed up from the second line to support. Following this battle the much needed relief came, units of the 29th Division taking over the front line, and the East Lancashire Brigade were shifted about a mile back, still, of course, under shell fire, and ever in danger of spent bullets.

It was about this time that the 52nd (Highland) Division, landed in Gallipoli and cheered the tired troops of the 42nd and 29th with the sight of reinforcements, and towards the end of the month the 11th Division of Kitchener's Army, relieved front line troops of the 42nd, which again were Manchesters and East Lancashires, and the dream of peace became a reality for a short time. It was just prior to this that Lieut. Col. Rye was invalided home and his place taken by Col. G.W. Robinson, a distinguished soldier of the Indian Service, and a few days afterwards, about the end of June, the 10th Manchesters were put under orders for a fortnight's rest at Imbros, a pretty little island in the Aegean Sea, and one night they made their way in single file towards the beach. It was beautifully moonlight and the artillery were almost quiet, and on the way down the men passed a ceremonial parade of French soldiers who were formed in a big square overlooking the Narrows, and certain amongst them were having medals pinned on by a soldierly white-haired French General. It was an unique military ceremonial function and typical of the French to perform it in moonlight amid romantic surroundings rather than postpone it for an occasion when bands could play and salute and speeches be given. It was a silent soldierly tribute to the bravery of the sons of France, and such tributes should not be put off until they become posthumous.

The battalion spent a really pleasant and restful fortnight at Imbros. Physical exercises and cleaning of kit were all they were expected to do, and the rest of their time was spent in sea bathing and generally making themselves comfortable. Signs of war there were none beyond an odd seaplane or torpedo boat destroyer, and, for the curious, a dstant view of the smoke of bursting shells on a patch well over the sea, which was Cape Helles. Around them were Greek peasants quietly toiling on the land, fruit trees, rugged mountains, and a gently rippling sea of blue. Men cast off the stoop in the shelters, born of many days in the trenches, and became brighter and more cheerful in every way. But all this was too good to last and the order came suddenly and unexpectedly one afternoon for the 10th Manchesters to leave at 2 a.m. for the notorious peninsula.


'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 :

link to home page
WW1 menu page
WW1 links page