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norburam-y2Richard Norbury was born in Southport on 23rd February 1881. By the age of nine, at the time of the 1891 census, he was living in what was known locally as ‘the doss house’. His mother, Elizabeth had obviously fallen upon hard times, she and her three sons (Thomas, Richard and Arthur) were living amongst about 20 other men and women (aged 19 to 60) at 88, Boundary Street, Southport. This was not an official ‘workhouse’, but appears to have served the same function (see this link).

Richard next appeared as a passenger sailing from Quebec upon the Empress of Britain (Canadian Pacific Line), he arrived back in Liverpool on 17th July 1908.

Having been back in England for just nine days, Richard enlisted in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 26th July 1908.

It is not clear how long Richard spent in the Army on this occasion, but in 1911 he was recorded on that years census as working as a ‘general dealer’ and living from his own means. At this time he was living at 23, Grove Street, Birkdale, Southport with his wife Kale (b. Blackburn, 1884), their two daughters [Elling?] (b. Birkdale, 1903) and Elizabeth (b. Birkdale, 1905) and son Joseph (b. Birkdale, 1909). Richards older brother Thomas was also living with them.

Richard was either recalled to the Army when war broke out in 1914, or joined voluntarily. He was given the service number 8492 and posted into the 1st Battalion of the Loyal North Lancs.

Private Richard Norbury sailed to France with a batch of reinforcements on 22nd September 1914. The majority of the 1st Battalion had been overseas as part of the British Expeditionary Force for the past five weeks. By the time Richard arrived, they would just be recovering from the great retreat from Mons.

To read about what Richard was doing in late September and October see the end of the article ‘Diary of Second Lieutenant‘, written by Lt Hyndson, an officer in his Battalion.

Richard was taken Prisoner of War following the attack at Givenchy in late December 1914 – he later appeared in a list of those missing.

21st – 22nd December 1914 – Givenchy.
On 21st December at 07:00AM the battalion, with 2nd Brigade moved by motorbuses to Zelobes (1/2 mile west of Vieille Chapelle). From Zelobes they marched to Le Touret, arriving about 12:45PM.

Orders were received that the battalion, along with the Northamptons, should make a night attack in order to regain some trenches that had been taken by the Germans on the night of 19th – 20th December near an orchard by LA QUINQUE RUE. It was noted in the War Diary that the information of the enemy’s disposition was somewhat vague.

The battalion left Le Touret at 15:30PM followed by the Northamptons and were led by a guide (an officer of 2nd Gurkhas) to a spot from which it was decided the attack should commence. The men carried 170 rounds of ammunition each.

By 18:45PM the two battalions were deployed ready to advance. A and D Coys in the front line, supported by C and B Coys at 100 yards distance. The Loyal North Lancashires took the right of the line and the Northamptons the left. The whole frontage covered about 300 yards.

At 19:00PM the order to advance was given by Major Powell and the whole line moved forward with fixed bayonets, the companies now being closed up and in two ranks.
After crossing two lines of trenches occupied by the 58th Infantry, with heavy rifle fire they charged and occupied the front line of the enemy’s trenches. After a short halt the attack was continued and another trench about 100 yards further on was captured. The battalion advanced further and was reorganised on a road by the orchard. During the advance 2nd Lieut Ellis was seriously wounded and about 20 men killed and wounded.

A line was occupied, and a reconnaissance conducted about 20 yards to the rear of the orchard. Tools were sent up to the newly held trench an hour or so later. It is written that the night was very wet and cold and the men only had minimum rations.

The line was held throughout the night, but they did suffer some casualties from bombs that were thrown from a German trench running obliquely to their right flank. At 07:00 AM on the 22nd December a Company was withdrawn from the Northamptons line due to the trenches being over-crowded.

Shortly after day break a very strong German attack developed from the direction of LA QUINQUE RUE and by 10:00AM the line became untenable chiefly owing to the enfilade fire (flanking fire) from the right flank which was very exposed.

After suffering very heavy losses and putting up a very stubborn defence, the retirement of the line commenced from the left and about 300 men succeeded in reaching the Rue de Bois.

The Battalion was collected and reformed on Rue de L’Epinette, the Machine Gun detachment cooperating with the Northamptons went up in support and a line was held by them roughly on the line when the attack had started on the night before. At about 15:00PM the battalion was withdrawn and went into billets at La Couture.

The battalion loses from this action were heavy. Captains Smart and Graham killed. Captains (De Cantect), Lieutenant Batty-Smith, 2nd Lieutenant Gilliland were all missing. Captain Hay was slightly wounded. There were 408 other ranks killed, wounded or missing, including Private Richard Norbury.

The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser didn’t report the casualties and those missing until Tuesday 23 February 1915.


You can read a fuller account of events at Givenchy by reading the article I wrote for 11026 Lance Corporal Robert Molloy who appears in the cutting above, and was also taken POW (click here for article).

On Friday 30th July 1915, the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser confirmed that 8492 Private Richard Norbury, along with 262 other men from the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment were being held as prisoners of war.


Richard Norbury, seated. Whilst a prisoner in Germany.

Richard was held captive in Germany, but it is not known exactly where, or when he was released. He was finally discharged from the Army in April 1919.

At the time of his discharge he was suffering from two disabilities. He had an injury to his left hand (scars healing at the base of his 4th and 5th fingers), and was suffering from bronchitis. The injury to his hand happened in 1917, no place given.

In September 1919 Richard was granted a war pension due his 20% disability. This was reviewed in 1921 at Liverpool, and although he was still classed as having a 20% disability he was still able to work.

Richard Norbury died in the second quarter of 1973 in Southport.

Unfortunately his service papers do not appear to have survived.

Paul McCormick
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4 Responses to 8492 PTE. R. NORBURY. L.N.LAN.R

  1. John Steadman says:

    We have just returned from a visit to Ypres and Givenchy where my Grandad was captured. The whole visit to the battlefields and cemetaries around Ypres was a very moving experience. Thank you to your information we were able to follow Grandad’s footsteps to Givenchy area were he was captured. It was a tremendous experience

  2. John Steadman says:

    I have a photograph which shows Richard Norbury with soldiers from other regiments -could this have been taken in the prison?

    What e mail address do I send the photograph to ?

  3. Katy Womersley says:


    Thank you for the information about great granddad Norbury, it was really interesting. I didn’t realise he was taken POW so early on in the war. I did know he’d been held at Wittenberg though as we have a postcard of Wittenberg POW camp which they were given to send home to their families.
    I’m not sure if he stayed for all the war at Wittenberg though as for some reason I seem to think he was moved on to a camp in Russia where he worked with metals.
    I don’t know if maybe John knows more about that?
    I would love to see the picture you have John if possible?


  4. michael leddy says:

    Very interesting, I remember him as an old man, when I was a boy. Thanks for your research.

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