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.


The battle of Romani is always more or less a standing joke with men of the 1/10th Manchesters. All things are judged by contrast, and compared to any one of their many battles in Gallipoli or France, Romani was a picnic. Campaigning in those desert days of '16 was arduous and terribly exacting, but it lacked that tension and hourly dread of death which characterised other fronts. In this case the Fusilier and Manchester brigades had been pushed forward with other troops to meet the Turks, and the East Lancashire brigade were well behind in reserve. It was forced marching with little water and under a broiling sun, and demanded the most that was in men, and the climax was as short and swift as the march had been. Men of the 10th could only faintly hear the rumble of guns, and before they properly realised there had been a battle trucks were lumbering down the single line packed with Turkish prisoners for the base at Kantara. and what a motley specatacle they presented. Unshaved, half-starved, and with tongues swollen with thirst, they looked thankful to have been taken. The Tommies, with their usual curiosity, gathered round the trucks when they halted and good-humouredly chaffed the Turks and gave them water, many of them almost to their last drop, to the thirsty men. They pointed to medals on the breasts of some of the bronzed warriors and asked what they represented, and in many cases the Turks were not slow in proudly pointing to a ribbon which stood for Gallipoli and the driving off of the British troops. Tommy's answer was invariably "Yes, you did us a flanker all right there." Intermixed with the Turks were bands of German machine-gunners who looked anything but pleasant at being captured. They glared sullenly at the British soldiers, and drew themselves haughtily away from their fellow captives, and even then it was not difficult to see that the feeling between Germans and Turks was one of distrust and hate with the latter, and bullying contempt with the former. Australians and Tommies almost fraternised with the Turks, but there was not the slightest fellow feeling between them and the Germans, for most of them knew by then that these German machine-gunners had put up their hands and afterwards turned their gun on our soldiers who had passed and spared them. Some Australians mounted the truck sides and told them exactly what they thought of them and their race, and it was told in language not exactly fitted for a Sunday School.

A day of two afterwards and the battalion moved up to Negiliat, some ten miles farther into the desert, as the work of the division now was to keep up with the railway and water pipe which were being laid down at the rate of a kilometre a day, and after this it was a case of continually moving and marching until the battalion found itself at a place called Mazar, a few days before Christmas with the cavalry well in front. The work was hard, and the marches trying, but those desert days will be counted amongst the happiest in the varied campaigning of the 10th Manchesters. A quart, and oftentimes a pint, of water per day had to suffice a man for all purposes. Out of this he must find water for tea, stew, drinking and washing in a climate where thirst is perpetual. Naturally there was scarcely a drop of water left for washing or shaving, and the consequence was that Robinson Crusoes were squatting on every sand heap, and could mother sand wives in Oldham have seen their sons and husbands they would most likely have disowned them and classed them amongst the South Sea cannibals.

Just before Christmas an attack was made on Elm Arish, the long coveted goal. The 42nd, 52nd, and 53rd Divisions marched about twenty eight kms. with their full complement of camels and were camped within sight of El Arish preparatory to an attack at dawn. Fires of an enormous size were lit on the open desert, and the valleys of sand were crowded with bivouacing troops. Everybody was healthy, good-humoured, and noisy and ready for anything, and no pains were taken to camouflage movements. Perhaps all this was to scare off the Turks, but whether it was so or not "Johnny" disappeared from El Arish before the infantry could get near him, and the cavalry rode in and occupied the village, afterwards pushing on beyond in pursuit of the fleeing enemy. The 42nd Division were ordered back to Mazar, where the 10th Manchesters spent their third Christmas of the war. Christmas for them existed in name only. It was impossible to get anything extra in the way of drink or eatables, and by an unpleasant coincidence, strangely characteristic of the British Army, bully beef and biscuits were the issue for the 25th of December, and imaginative men were left to draw mental pictures of turkeys and geese and other Christmas luxuries. A little beer did come from somewhere, but it was too pathetically small a quantity to rouse a Christmassy feeling.

Shortly after Christmas the battalion were moved up to El Arish, where they remained for a few weeks, and then came the sudden order for France and the 97 and a half miles lumping over the desert to Moascar, where the Division was to be equipped for the West. As the trucks rumbled out from El Arish an aeroplane flew the length of them and the man inside waved a farewell to troops he had been with so long and under such difficult conditions.

At Moascar rifles were handed in and service clothing and winter underclothes drawn for France, and there was a general re-organising of the battalion. Everybody was busy and everybody wanted to know what France was like, and if it was true that all British troops were being concentrated on the western front for the final grand slam against the Hun, but even all this did not prevent a good many from visiting old familiar scenes around Moascar and in the Kantara district, and there were not a few who were sorry to leave that country of colour and sunshine, which held always the fascination of the East and was becoming almost like a second home. Towards the end of February, a start was made and the battalion entrained for Alexandria, and embarked on what was to be their last sea voyage. Each man knows himself what he felt as the transports drew clear of the of the harbour at "Alec" and he looked back on the palm trees and orange groves, and the gold and purple of the sky. There were very few left of the old battalion who had entered that harbour so gaily in the September of 1914, and these few were sadder and wiser soldiers, men who had found that fighting was a bitter, merciless game, but mixed up with theirs was at least the memory of brilliant sunshine and Eastern sunsets, and they had a dim foreboding about the new venture. Men knew there could be little romance in a water-logged trench in Flanders, where battlegrounds were nearly two years old and where shells dropped where they had been dropping since the fateful days of August. But thoughts of France were soon dispelled by the beauty of the scenery. The transports hugged the Sicilian and Italian coasts for long distances, and the rugged mountain scenes excited much comment and interest amongst the troops until the marvel of marvels was reached early one morning when men came on deck to find themselves staring into the face of a real active volcano with molten lava streaming down its sides and the gloam of the sun on its slopes.

On arrival at Marseilles the troops were rushed straight from the boat to the train, which, by the way, was composed of the now familiar French horse boxes, with the none too popular inscription, "40 hommes / 6 chevaux," and commenced a three days railway journey into northern France. this was about the beginning of March, and the sun was shining gloriously in Marseilles and the air quite mild, but after a two days' run men felt the frost in the air, and saw the snow on the mountain sides, and late on the third night they stepped off the platform at Pont Remy into snow a foot deep, and had their first unpleasant taste of France.


'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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