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Robert Eccles was born in Padiham in November 1896. He was the son of Henry and Elizabeth Eccles and had six sisters and two older brothers.

At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 67 Hamilton Street, Blackburn. His father and three of his older siblings were working in the cotton industry.

By the time of the 1911 census, now aged 14, Robert was working as a coal drawer. The family were living at 38 Ernest Street, Church, Blackburn. His father was still working in a cotton mill and they had taken in a young family (surname Haslop) as boarders.

Robert first enlisted into the East Lancashire Regiment at Blackburn on 20th March 1918 and was given the number 40104. He had until then avoided being conscripted as his primary occupation of coal mining was a reserved occupation.

The officer at his enlistment medical examination recorded that Robert was 21 years 139 days old, 5ft 2.75in tall and weighed 119lbs.

Robert gave his fathers name, with the address 175 Union Road, Oswaldtwistle, as being his legal next of kin but at some point (date unknown but likely between March and August 1918) Robert married a woman named Ada. She/they resided at 6 Alice Street, Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire.

Private Robert Eccles was taken onto the strength of 4th Reserve Battalion of the East Lancs in Scarborough on 18th April 1918. He remained with the 4th East Lancs in the UK until being transferred to the 1/5th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in August 1918 and sailed to France to join his new Battalion in the field on 28th August.

On 8th October 1918 Robert was reported to have been wounded in action. He had received a gunshot wound to his head that had fractured his skull. Robert was transferred to No. 26 General Hospital at Etaples via the 3/2 W.L Field Ambulance and 46th Casualty Clearing Station and was operated on the next day.

Extracts from the Regimental History: Throughout October 1918 the Division were constantly engaged by the enemy even though they were rapidly falling back. The Germans were found to be putting up a stiff resistance at times although the infantry and machine gunners were no longer reliable.

Robert remained in hospital at Etaples until 29th October 1918 when he was transferred to England and admitted to Brownlow Mill Auxiliary Hospital in Liverpool where he remained until 6th November when he was moved to Venice Street Military Hospital. Venice Street was was attached to the 1st Western General Hospital in Fazackerley, Liverpool.

On 3rd December 1918 Robert was discharged from the Army due to his wounds (Para 392 (XVI) K.R) and was given silver war badge number B54351. He was initially awarded a pension of 13/9 per week for 52 weeks from 4th December which was later raised to 27/6 per week.

Robert appealed his pension again in early May 1919. The secretary of the local war pensions commitee at Oswaldtwistle town hall recorded that “..this man has a large wound in the vault of skull. Says he has tried his old work at the coal pit and has had three fits since December”.  A medical board was convened and concluded that Robert should be considered as having a 100% disability for the next six months.

Another medical board at the end of that month reassessed his disability as being 60%.

30th May 1919; Accrington.

Gun Shot Wound. Head.

He complains of daily headaches which he states are worse at night. He also states that he sleeps badly and has had three fits since discharge.

Operation scar 3″ long in the centre of vertex of skull. Well healed and non adherent. Irregular scar about side of skull on the anterior and upper part of left parietal well healed and non adherent. There is (lon) of bone about 2″ x 1.5″ underneath latter scar and in the aperture there is a Hernia (Perebic) which can be seen and also felt to pulsate.

Pupils equal dilate. Knee jerks very sluggish. Both hand grips good. Balance very good. There is some slight tremor of hands.

He has been supplied with a skull shield which is satisfactory.

Condition: Will improve. Revise in 12 months.

Disability: 60% for twelve months.

Robert Eccles died on 13th November 1919. His death was deemed to be due to his war service and as such is recognised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. He was buried in Oswaldtwistle Baptist Chapelyard.

Ada remarried in 1923 and became Ada Langton. She had by this time moved to 18 Woolwich Street, Blackburn.

Rank: Private
Service No: 31282
Date of Death: 13/11/1919
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/5th Bn.

Paul McCormick
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