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Willie Baxendale was born on the 23rd January 1897 in Chorley to Thomas and Mary Alice Baxendale (nee Aspinall). His mother Mary Alice was already a widow when she married Thomas at St. George`s Church in Chorley on the 5th April 1890.

Mary Alice`s first marriage was to grocer James Haslam Cottam in 1883 and they had a son Richard (1883) and a daughter Margaret (1886) prior to James` death in 1886 at the age of 26.

By 1901 Thomas and Mary Alice had also had another three children; Peter (1891), Alice (1894) and Ethel (1899). At the time the family was living at number 146 Pall Mall in Chorley. Thomas Baxendale was working below ground as a labourer in a coal mine. Mary Alice`s two children from her first marriage were also living with the family, Richard was an apprentice joiner and Margaret a cotton weaver.

The family moved to 72 Duke Street in Chorley and this is where they were living in 1911. Willie`s father Thomas had left the coal mine and was employed as a night watchman in a cotton mill while Willie had secured an apprenticeship as a joiner in the building trade.

Unfortunately we cannot be certain when Willie enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment because his service papers are not available but his number suggests it was probably in September 1914. When he enlisted he was allocated the service number 2032 and posted to the 4th Battalion

Willie sailed from England to France as part of “C” Company of the 1/4th Battalion on the 4th May 1915. He was wounded in action on the 15th June 1915 at Festubert.

An article with a photograph of Willie Baxendale appeared later in the local paper in Preston;

baxendale

Before censorship became an issue in WW1 the men very often included great detail of things they had witnessed when writing home to their families. Extracts from the letters invariably ended up being printed in the local newspapers. Sometimes the men were just eager to tell their stories and they sent them directly to the paper.

After the 1/4th Battalion`s first major action at Festubert a letter penned by a driver in the A.S.C. who was also from Chorley appeared in the Lancashire Daily Post.

 The 4th L.N.L.`s

THEIR FIRST BIG ACTION “Been thro` hell and back” – Feared heavy losses

A letter has been received this morning at Chorley, under date June 16th, from a driver in the motor transport department of the A.S.C. – in it he says:-

“I have just heard that several of our boys are amongst those who suffered severely in last night`s attack. Out of 1,100 only 403 answered the roll call. The fire of the big guns was terrific. I did not know our Territorials were in the district until last weekend, and the night I was going to see them, they went into the trenches.

I was busy last night helping with the stretchers for the wounded. There were about 20 of them got into the last trench, and the bomb throwers were out of bombs, and the Germans cleared them out. They got there without Officers or non-comms, and from particulars every man was a hero. God grant that the remainder may return safe.

Our boys have gone through the mill and paid the penalty. I can`t explain my feelings, I am full up, and wish I could wake and find it was all a dream. Chorley`s roll of honour will never be tarnished as long as men like ours are here.

Would to God those in England who are eligible would do their duty and finish this terrible slaughter. It is not fighting. You see men in khaki clayed up to the face with arms, legs and heads bandaged and arriving in hospital close to where I am camped. I have just seen 50 or 60 Chorley chaps in tents, they are all more or less wounded and will be removed home soon. I am awfully depressed and can`t get my mind off the thoughts of our Chorley lads”.

Because no service papers are available for Willie Baxendale we do not know how long he was out of action for but at some point he was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and later he joined the Royal Engineers. He made it to the end of the war and was finally discharged to Class Z on the 6th February 1919.

After the war he was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his service to his country.

Willie Baxendale married Lizzie Mangnall in St. George`s Church in Chorley on the 3rd April, 1920. His home address at the time was still at Duke Street in Chorley and his occupation was a joiner.

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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