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Norman Wilson was born in Offerton, the son of Henry, a flour merchant, and Sarah.

The 1901 Census records the very large family living at Jessefield, Marple Road, Offerton. His siblings were Harriett (33(, Mary (28), Lilian (25), Eleanor (23), Harold (22), Herbert (19), Frank (18), Stanley (12) and Joseph (9).

At the time of the Census, he was working as a bank clerk. Research indicates that he probably worked at the Head Office of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Bank, 43 Spring Gardens, Manchester. A man of this name is recorded on the Bank’s entry in the Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour. The bank later became part of Barclay’s Bank.

Norman was amongst the first to enlist, in September 1914, when recruitment started for the “Pals” Battalions of the Manchester Regiment. He was given a service number of 9002 and was assigned to 9 Platoon, “C” Company, 17th Battalion. He went overseas with the Battalion in November 1915 and, no doubt, took part in the engagements of the Battle of the Somme in the summer and early autumn of 1916. At some point, he was transferred to the North Lancashires. This was probably after he had been on sick leave recovering from wounds or illness. When he was fit enough to return, the North Lancashires will have been in greater need of replacements.

On 9th April 1918, the German army opened the second phase of its spring offensive in what would become known as the Battle of the Lys. As three weeks before, in the initial phase further south, the attack was of overwhelming proportions and British troops were pushed back. At 3.15pm, the North Lancashires were rushed out of reserve billets. They were ordered to take part in a counter-attack on the advancing Germans near Steenwerck, a small hamlet about 8 kilometres south of the French town of Armetieres. The counter attack went in at 5.30pm and stopped the Germans for the remainder of the evening.

At 2am, on the 10th April 1918, the North Lancashires attacked again with orders to push the enemy back over the River Lys. Again they were successful but, later, they had to withdraw their line. At 9am, they attacked in a final attempt to hold back the advancing Germans. The Battalion’s War Diary notes that “progress was being made when the enemy attacked across the Croix du Bac – St Maur Road”. Over the remainder of the day, the North Lancashires came under increasing pressure and had to withdraw, in stages, back to Steenwerck.

98 men had been killed during the day. As well as Norman. Norman’s body was never recovered and identified and he is now commemorated on the nearby Memorial to the Missing.

Further information about Norman is included in the book “Hazel Grove to Armageddon” by John Eaton.

Rank: Corporal
Number: 27040
Unit: 9th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 10 April 1918
Age: 37
Cemetery: Ploegsteert Memorial, Hainaut, Belgium

This article has been reproduced with kind permission of the Stockport 1914-18 website.


Paul McCormick
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