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robert durningRobert Durning was born in Sutton, St. Helens in 1892. He was the son of Robert b.1857, an engine driver, and Margaret Durning (née Grice) b.1851.

Margaret had two children from a previous relationship: Mary Grice b.1876 and John Robert Grice b.1879.

The Grice children appeared as Durnings on the 1891 Census when the family were living in Sutton, St Helens, Lancashire. There were four other daughters: Ellenb.1882, Margaret b.1884, Martha Jubilee b.1887 and Sarah b.1890.

Robert’s father died in 1896 and by 1901 the family were living at 24 Sunninghill Street, Bolton. In 1911 they were living at 18 Grendon Street, Morris Green, Bolton. Robert was working as a piecer.

Robert enlisted in the Army at Bolton on 29th August 1914. His medical examination on enlisting in the Army recorded him as being 22 years 224 days old,  5′ 7 1/4″ tall, weighing 128 lbs with a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.

He was posted into the 6th (Service) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 12534.

Private Robert Durning sailed for Gallipoli from Avonmouth aboard HMT Braemar Castle on 15th June 1915 and was posted as ‘missing’ after action at Chunuk Bair on the 9th August 1915.

The official despatch about the action states;

“The two battalions of the New Army chosen to hold Chunuk Bair were the 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. The first of these arrived in good time and occupied the trenches. Even in the darkness their commanding officer, Lieut-Colonel H.G. Levinge, recognized how dangerously these trenches were sited, and he began at once to dig observation posts on the actual crest and to strengthen the defences where he could; but he had not time given him to do much.

The second battalion, the Wiltshires, were delayed by the intricate country; they did not reach the edge of the entrenchment until 4am, and were then told to lie down in what was believed, erroneously, to be a covered position. At daybreak on Tuesday 10th August, the Turks delivered a grand attack from the Chunuk Bair Hill-Q against these two battalions, already weakened in numbers, though not in spirit, by previous fighting.

First our men were shelled by every enemy gun, and then, at 5.30am, were assaulted by a huge column consisting of no less than a full division, plus a regiment of three battalions.

The Loyal North Lancashire men were simply overwhelmed in their shallow trenches by sheer weight in numbers, whilst the Wiltshires who were caught in the open, were literally almost annihilated. The ponderous mass of enemy swept over the crest, turned the right flank of our line below, swarmed round the Hampshires and General Baldwin’s column, which had to which had to give ground and were only extricated with great difficulty and very heavy losses.

Towards this supreme struggle the absolute last two battalions from our general reserve were now hurried, but by 10am, the effort of the enemy was spent. Soon their shattered remnants began to trickle back, leaving a track of corpses behind them, and by nightfall, except prisoners or wounded, no live Turk was left upon our side of the slope.”

The following article appeared in the Bolton Journal and Guardian on 17th September 1915.

Private Robert Durning (12534), attached to C Company of the 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, has also been posted as missing from August 9th. He is a well-built young fellow of 23, and has been serving the colours since August, 1914. On enlisting he was drafted to Preston for training, later to Tidworth, Winchester, and Blackdown, leaving for the Dardanelles in June. He was formerly employed at Messrs. Tootal Broadhurst Lee Company’s Mill, Daubhill, and resided with his parents at 18, Grendon-st, Morris Green-lane.

Then the following year, 22nd September 1916 they reported he was presumed to have on that day in August 1915.

His parents chief support, Pte. ROBT. DURNING, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, has just been reported killed in the Gallipoli campaign on August 9th, 1915, since which date nothing has been heard of him. He was an old Sunning Hill schoolboy, residing at 18, Grendon-st., Bolton, and worked as a beam carrier at the Tootal Broadhurst Lee Company’s mill. Durning’s name is on the Roll of Honour at Morris Green Church.

Helles Memorial

Helles Memorial

Rank: Private
Service No: 12534
Date of Death: 09/08/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 6th Bn.
Memorial: HELLES MEMORIAL

DBBC

DBBC

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from the DBBC young roots heritage project. The young people identified and researched the the servicemen pictured in a 1916 Bolton Journal and Guardian supplement who were killed at Gallipoli. You can visit their website by clicking on the DBBC logo.
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