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.


From Pont Remy, which is a village about twelve miles from Abbeville, the men were marched some seven miles through the snow to the village of Huppy and there dumped in barns and other buildings where they shivered huddled round fires drawing mental pictures of eastern sunshine and wishing already they had never been dragged from that land of warmth. However, everything was new and therefore interesting and the men lost no time in getting cleaned up and making themselves acquainted with French village life. They soon learned to say "oui," instead of "aywah," and to whisper into the ears of the French peasant girl "vouley vous promenade avec moi?" a phrase which sometimes brought the pleasing and obliging reply, "Oui, monsieur," or at other times the final and disconcerting, "jamais promenade." Those few weeks at Huppy were spent in drawing rifles, gas masks, and steel helmets, in severe training with both, the reading of pamphlets on trench warfare and absorbing the experiences of older troops in France and fraternising with their fair cousins in leisure hours and lavishly parting with their numerous souvenirs of the East from the five milleme piece to the bit of stone from the pyramids. The snow faded away and spring came into the air and the fighting was many miles away. On Sundays French men and women and children in their black Sunday best, with prayer books in their hands, answered the peaceful call of the church bells so much in unison with the spring sunshine and the opening buds, whilst a ceaseless flow of military lorries bumped over the torn roads ever towards the far-away line. It was all good and forgetful,but too good to last, and after a week or two of it the battalion, now equipped with all the requisites for the front line in France was moved to Hallencourt for a few days, and then entrained for Lewecourt. From there they did a series of marches until they reached Peronne, a few days after the 1st Division and others had pushed back the Germans some 20 miles beyond. The sight of Peronne in those days will linger long in the memories of men of the 10th who were spared. At one time a flourishing town, it was reduced to a distorted pile of ruins. Unexploded shells lay in the main streets and in various attitudes on top of bricks and mortar. Bedsteads, chairs and tables protruded from walls where the roof had been torn away. It was just as if a giant mallet had come down repeatedly on the town so that every inch was covered. Clothing and household utensils lay in many cases where they had been left by the owners, the latter driven ...

lower part of column 1 missing from scan

... many cases really meant "I am miserable, cold and wet, standing in mud, and am firmly of the opinion that every moment will be my last and then, thank God, it will be over, for me at any rate." The battalion were quartered for some days at Longavesnes before taking over their part of the line, and it was in this village they lost one of their most popular officers, a man who had been with them continually since August 1914, the medical officer, Dr. Baird. His shelter lay near the crossroads at the end of the village, and about seven in the evening he was chatting with a brother officer when the crossroads "went up," through the explosion of a mine, and a falling brick dropped on his head killing him almost instantly. He was buried in the cemetery beyond the village, where lay hundreds of soldiers, Germans and ours, and men said they were sorry, which was enough, beause in their hearts they meant it. Shortly after this the battalion went into the line at Epehy, in front of St. Quentin, and had their first spell of trench warfare since the December of 1916 when they left Gallipoli. The first week there the 26th Brigade had several tasks allotted them, which included advances in the neighbourhood of Ossus Wood and Guillemont Farm. this was in the beginning of May, and the weather was almost like midsummer. The 10th were held mostly in reserve or support in these minor engagements, and life was practically the routine of trench war. After a few weeks on this sector the battalion moved back through Longavesnes and Villers Faucon in the direction of Havrincourt Wood, a place which became tragically familiar to men of the 10th. They were immediately pushed in the line here and held it on and off for over a month. the weather was brilliantly fine and warm, and the grass green and a foot high in front of the trenches. A wood in the height of summer is usually a tranquil and restful place to be in, but in this case it was a most uncomfortable rendezvous. It provided a target no artilleryman could neglect, and day and night through, the hollow crash of shells could be heard amongst the trees and boughs were torn from them and leaves fluttered to the ground, and men held their heads and waited in suspense for the jagged pieces of iron which might cut their way through the foliage and find a human billet.

Shortly after going on this front the 10th had the honour of capturing the first German prisoners taken by the 42nd Division after their arrival in France. And the honour was due to that splendid member of the battalion, whose work was admired and respected by seniors and juniors alike, Sergeant J. Sugden, a born scout and a wonderful soldier, a man who worked always unostentatiously, who performed remarkable feats of personal bravery known only to his fellow scouts and a few friends, a linguist and traveller who spoke French and German almost as fluently as English, and knew both countries as well geographically, blunt and not fastidious, but with the heart of a lion and the soul of a poet. He went out one afternoon with three scouts behind him, and after squirming on his belly he looked up to find a stalwart Prussian standing on sentry duty with his back to him and within a few yards of him. Sergt. Sugden challenged him in German and frightened him into surrender, and also dragged forth two of his pals from a dug-out, and with the assistance of his scouts walked them back to our own lines. Half an hour afterwards he was standing before General Tuffnell, caked with mud and cheerfully explaining his "bag," and illustrating his method of capture by drawing a rough sketch on the roadway, and interjecting remarks in German to three hulking Prussians, who looked anything but pleased at the turn of events. It was an honour for him and his battalion, and the 10th were highly complimented by the divisional and corps commanders for their initiative, and Sergeant Sugden added a Military Medal to his D.C.M. and other honours and went gaily off to Blighty for a week's leave. To know Sugden really one should live round a camp fire with him and listen to his stories of travel abroad; how he was employed one time at the famous Krupp works, and arrested later as a spy and escorted over the frontier by Germans and re-arrested in Amsterdam and thrown into gaol for a month; how they put him on a ship from there; and how he took up with the band of Hungarian gypsies on his arrival at Hull and went with them as far as Penistone during their tour of the northern counties, when they set everyone in Yorkshire and Lancashire guessing at their true identity. From the Continent he could jump to the wildest parts of South America or tell stories of life aboard a sailing ship. He could read a fairy tale and he could walk into the enemy's trenches and come back with all the information wanted and the enemy be none the wiser about his having paid them a visit. At Havrincourt a scheme was on foot to surround a quarry which the Germans were supposed to be occupying and which patrol reports said they did occupy. Sergt. Sugden went out in daylight and came back with information which led to the project being abandoned and which probably saved the lives of a good many brave men.

After the battalion left Havrincourt Wood they marched by stages to Courcelles, behind Bullecourt, where the Division spent six weeks in rest and training in glorious summer weather. There were only ruined villages and no civilians, but life was healthy and apples and pears were ripening in the orchards, and generally the men had a good time. The various training "stunts" they did there thoroughly familiarised them with the ground in that locality and this knowledge was a great help to them in those dark days of March, 1918, when the fighting was once again over this old battlefield. After the six weeks were up they entrained for that most dreaded of all fronts - Ypres - the home of the lost, the embodiment of all that is meant by the western front at its worst. They arrived near Popringhe about midnight and they were welcomed by the staccato barks of anti-aircraft guns and the booming crash of hostile bombs, and they rested there for a few days prior to their march into Ypres itself and down the famous Menin road into the linked up shell holes which meant the front line there.


'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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