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Richard Ditchfield was born in the last quarter of 1884 in Bamber Bridge.   His father was John Ditchfield (b. 1860 in Bamber Bridge), a cotton weaver.  His mother was Mary Turner (b. 1860 in Bamber Bridge).  The family were Roman Catholics as Mary’s mother Catherine Turner was the housekeeper at Brownedge St Mary’s convent.  John and Mary were married in 1883 and they had 3 children, though one died.  Richard had a younger sister, Elizabeth Jane (b. 1887).  In 1911, the family was living at 61 Brownedge Lane, Bamber Bridge, and Richard was a weaver like the rest of his family.  In 1915, Richard married Mary Ellen Kelley at Leyland St Mary’s and the couple set up home in Leyland, which is where Richard enlisted.

Richard enlisted with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was assigned service number 24724 and posted to 6th Battalion.  6Bn came under orders of 38th Brigade in 13th (Western) Division.  They had served at Gallipoli but Richard was not with them, he must have joined them in Egypt in early 1916 and then proceeded with them to Mesopotamia.  The Battalion was engaged in the attempt to relieve British forces besieged at Kut-al-Amara, but this failed and Kut fell on 28 April 1916.  In July, General Maude replaced General Gorringe in command of the Tigris Corps and the rest of the year was spent in re-organisation before they were ready to launch their counter-attack in December.

There was further indecision and delay in early 1917, but in February, the Battalion was engaged in the recapture of Kut and the advance up the Tigris towards Sannaiyat. On 1 March, the Battalion marched to Umm-al-Tubal and then, by Zor and Ctesiphon, to Bustan where it arrived on the night of 6 March.  Here the Turks had prepared a rearguard position, but had later decided not to defend it and they were found to be entrenched on the far side of the Diyala River and an attempt to cross the river was now to be made.

A full account of the river crossing can be found in the Regimental History, (Col. H. C. Wylly, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 1914-1919, The Naval and Military Press, 2007, pp 252-256).  The crossing of the Diyala was a major success for 13th Division and for 6Bn Loyals in particular.  But it was not without cost.  From 8-11 March, they had 38 officers and men killed, and a further 65 wounded. Richard Ditchfield died of wounds at 39th Field Ambulance on 9 March, aged 32. On 11 March 1917, Baghdad was occupied by British forces.

Rank: Private
Service No: 24724
Date of Death: 09/03/1917
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 6th Bn.
Panel Reference: Panel 27.

Richard’s sacrifice is commemorated on two war memorials in Leyland but apparently not in Bamber Bridge.  However, the Brownedge memorial commemorates at Thomas Ditchfield.  Only one Thomas Ditchfield is recorded by CWGC and he came from Hulme, Manchester, and served with 22Bn Manchester Regiment.  So my supposition is that this is an error.

Bill Brierley

Before taking early retirement in 2007 and returning to his native Lancashire in 2009, Bill Brierley was head of the School of Languages and Area Studies at the University of Portsmouth.Bill has researched his own family history and has developed a further interest in World War 1 especially as it impacted on the villages of Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge, where his family originates from.Bill has also displayed his work at Lostock Hall library and contributed to other displays at Leyland Library and South Ribble Museum.
Bill Brierley

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