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.


As the battalion filed again through the hole in the famous River Clyde onto Lancashire beach they met battalions of the 29th Division embarking for their next fateful venture, the landing at Suvla Bay. It was just before the break of dawn and most man felt sad at the thought of again treading the death-ridden ground of Cape Helles. Two hours after dawn they had lost a man killed and several wounded, and had once more become accustomed to the "phizz" of bullets and the whistle and crash of shells, and in a day or so were again holding the front line. About the middle of July the men had the privilege of seeing what, perhaps, few men on any front in this war did see. The 42nd Division were holding the centre sector, and on their right were the 52nd (Highland Division) with a French Division on their right, holding the line up to the Narrows. A "stunt" was organised for the two latter divisions, whose line ran behind that of the 42nd, and about 3 p.m. on a lovely sunny afternoon our naval and land guns opened fire on the Turkish positions, and for an hour or so the right nullah was a perfect hell for the Turks. Bodies, sods, and stones could be plainly seen in the air after the burst of the big naval shells, and when the artillery had ceased kilted figures leapt into the open as near as a couple of hundred yards from the Battalion's right post, and the uniforms of the French were discernable nearer the sea, all with bayonets flashing in the sun, and the first line of French with a high officer leading with sword held above his head. For several minutes men watched breathlessly for the Turkish artillery to burst on these kilted figures, and the dreaded rattle of machine-guns. They came all too soon, the shells at first bursting wide and then getting nearer and nearer until a huddled form here and there testified to the greater accuracy of the shooting. The brown figures of Turks could be seen leaving their trenches and running back, and before the sun set there was only desultory firing and many bodies of "Jocks" lying out in "No Man's Land." It was just one of the many battle incidents of this war, the memory of which will linger only with those who saw or took part in it.

The 10th Battalion at this time was just a little band numbering less than 200, very tired, mostly sick, and doing duty with gritted teeth. Not a single man had come to them as reinforcements, and with true military consideration they were still expected to hold almost as much of the line as if they were still a full battalion. It was not the fault of the commander there, everybody knew; the fault lay a few thousand miles over the water which cut off all retreat for the composite few holding the narrow strip of land.

The last few weeks of July and the first days of August dragged as wearily for the boys of the 1/10th as any days of the war, and had only anything like their parallel in the later stages of the advance prior to the armistice, when every ounce was taken out of the men. The sun was very hot, water scarce, and dysentery and fever rampant, and men were so precious that the M.O. could do nothing but "physic" them and send them back to the line. Men who had come on Gallipoli as bright-eyed eighteen-year-old boys had grown into haggard men, with that tired, resigned look in their eyes which some animals get when they have suffered too deeply to understand it all. The battalion came out of the line in July to their now familiar dug-outs a few thousand yards behind, and with a strength which did not find them able to find a working party of 200 men. It was about this time they got the first draft of reinforcements that had come to them since leaving England in '14. Six officers and 234 other ranks of the 2/10 Manchesters arrived one July afternoon and listened for a night or two to the scream of shells and battle stories of the 4th of June, and unpleasant hair-raising experiences of the front line trenches, and were given valuable tips as to what to do when the battalion was again ordered into the line. Sergeant-Major Chittenden, the battalion optimist, the man who always saw a better day coming and our enemies confounded, no matter how black the cloud overhead, was still the R.S.M., and was one of the first to tell the newcomers that the "blinkin' Turks would be doing a hop-scotch and a jump into Constantinople before Christmas." The new draft, however, very soon had their taste of the real thing, for a day or two after their arrival the battalion moved into Eski lines in support, preparatory to the 6th of August battle, when the troops at Cape Helles were to make a demonstration in order to draw the greater part of the Turkish forces against them whilst the 29th and 11th Divisions made a landing at Suvla Bay. That this object was achieved few will deny who were present, for from the 6th to about the 16th of August the Turks made it exceedingly unpleasant for our troops. For several hours on the morning of the 6th of August the men of the 10th lay flattened in Eski lines while two monitors and a host of our field guns battered the enemy's trenches and fires the village of Krithia, and the Turk poured shrapnel and bullets onto the support trenches as the Lancashire Fusiliers in front attempted to advance. The following day the battalion were ordered into the front line, and shortly after noon they pushed their weary way through the narrow confines of No. 7 communication trench leading from Eski lines, and passed a pile of British dead stacked pyramid-wise in order to save space. The weather was terribly hot and the smell of dead and the presence of pestilential flies and the scourge of dysentery all lent themselves towards making men depressed and low-spirited, and yet they were faced with the beginning of the famous vineyard operations where men fought so desperately and heroically, and where the 10th lost so many good lads, not a few, members of the newly arrived draft. During the night of the 13th of August, the latter were called upon on two occasions to go over the top and suffered heavy casualties both times. The line was held intact all the time, and repeated and determined enemy counter-attacks were repulsed until they were moved back a day or so afterwards from theis death-ridden piece of ground. After routine periods in and out of the line the battalion took over the Border Barricade Sector on the left on the 1st of September, and things settled into absolute trench warfare with the Turks within shouting distance of our front line troops. It was sapping and bombing and bombing and sapping from day to day. Part of "B" and "D" Companies were attached to the 125th Infantry Brigade for work on this sector. If there was one thing in these days that a Tommy detested more than another it was the almost daily issue of apricot jam, which was dubbed by the men "parapet jam," through so much of it going over the parapet rather than down men's throats. In fact, it would be interesting to know how many pound pots of "parapet" were thrown into the Turkish trenches, and if the Turks did not flatten themselves and wait for the explosion of a bomb when it was only a harmless (?) pot of jam sent by an over-generous British Tommy. After fourteen days in this sector the battalion was given a week's rest in Gully Beach, and then moved into the line on the extreme left, where their left flank rested on the sea, a sector known as the Fusilier's Bluff. Whilst here two companies of the 1/9th Manchesters, with headquarters, were placed under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Robinson, commanding the 10th, and this was known as No. 2 composite battalion, and when the colonel of the 1/9th Manchesters was killed in Fusilier Bluff Major L.C. Wilde was appointed to the command of the 1/9th.

On Sunday, December 18th, the 42nd Division made what proved to be their last attack in Gallipoli, when details of a minor operation were arranged. A large mine was to be exploded in front of the 10th's sector, and then men were to rush over and occupy the crater. Owing, however, to the mine not being exploded to time this venture proved a failure, and fortunately the battalion had only one casualty. Christmas Day was spent in "Geoghegan's Bluff," where the chief item in the Christmas fare was bully beef seasoned with the smell of bursting shells. Then began the final parting from the shores of the ill-fated Peninsula. On the afternoon of the 28th December, the battalion moved down to Gully Beach in parties and concentrated there, and at 9:30 p.m. the same day moved over to Lancashire Landing. In the early hours of the 29th of December they embarked on S.S. Robin Redbreast for Mudros, and the fort guns of Chanak lobbed coalboxes on the beach. It was the final crushing of hopes and ambitions, it was a dispirited remnant of as fine a body of soldiers as ever stepped into the field, it meant leaving the enemy to overrun ground every inch of which had been stubbornly fought for and dyed red with the blood of Englishmen, it was the case of a man who had fought super-human odds and realised at last that he was only human after all. Most soldiers' thoughts of Gallipoli now if they try to throw their minds back, do not envisage a shell-swept, reeking area, of battle, but rather do they think of Gallipoli as it must look now, when the clashing of arms has ceased, and when sun-tipped wavelets ripple their way to the foot of the cliffs and soothe with their music those lying beneath the crude crosses dotted irregularly on the steep slope, and bearing the too familiar inscription, "Here lie six British soldiers." the grass is again green and wild flowers have sprung from shell-rent pieces of earth, but the ground is hallowed for all time, and perhaps those know best who rest so peacefully there still.

The battalion arrived at Mudros on the 29th of December, and were disembarked the same day, and went into camp alongside the Australians. The next few days were spent in clothing and refitting the troops and generally getting them fit prior to their departure for Egypt. Lieut.Colonel Robinson was temporarily placed in command of the 125th Infantry Brigade, and Major L.C. Wilde returned to command the 10th Manchesters. The latter embarked on H.M.T. Arcadian for Egypt on the 14th of January, 1916, and reached Alexandria on the 18th after a fairly rough voyage. There they picked up their transport section and details and entrained for Cairo, where they went into camp at Mena, near the Pyramids. In the next few months the men had an opportunity of renewing acquaintance with familiar places of interest around Cairo until on the 2nd of April they started the march to Suez, halting on the way on the famous battlefield of Tel-el-Kabir. After some hard training at Suez they were moved up the Canal to El Ferdan, almost the same place where they had been stationed prior to their departure for Gallipoli. In July a strong Turkish force was reported to be marching on the Canal from El Arish, and the 10th Manchesters were picked out to do a forced march to Romani, many miles over the desert, and had to return to El Ferdan almost immediately. Orders were then issued for the formation of a Mobile Desert Column under General Chetwood. Only the fittest of men were picked for this "stunt," those considered unfit to be stationed at Kantara. The Division was to leave civilisation behind it and march into the desert to meet the advancing Turks and in the early days of August the first kilometres of the "long, long trail" were tramped, which took the Division into the Battle of Romani.


'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