- 1st Battalion
- 2nd Battalion
- 3rd (Reserve) Battalion
- 1/4th Battalion
- 2/4th Battalion
- 3/4th and 3/5th Battalions
- 1/5th Battalion
- 2/5th Battalion
- 4/5th Battalion
- 5th Battalion
- 6th (Service) Battalion
- 7th (Service) Battalion
- 8th (Service) Battalion
- 9th (Service) Battalion
- 10th (Service) Battalion
- 11th (Reserve) Battalion
- 1/12th Battalion (Pioneers)
- 2/12th Battalion
- 13th (Home) Battalion
- 14th Battalion
- 15th (Service) Battalion
- Home Service Only
- Battalion not known
This article was written by Paul McCormick and was published in the Blackpool Gazette over two parts in March and April 2016.
Amongst the 8000 soldiers that arrived at Blackpool Central Station in early November 1914 were over 1200 men of the 4th and 5th Territorial battalions of the Loyal North Lancs. who were billeted upon housekeepers and hoteliers in the northern end of the town whilst conducting their training on the sands of Clifton Park Racecourse.
Soon after they arrived in Blackpool an appeal made by Lord Derby in the Grand Theatre, met great opposition from townsfolk when he asked local recruits to join the 4th Loyals. A committee was formed that claimed the town’s honour was at stake if they allowed Derby to fill his ranks with Blackpool men, as it was not in the Regiment’s recruiting area at that time. However, given the proximity of the town to the Regimental depot in Preston there were already large numbers of Blackpool men serving, or would elect to serve, with the Loyals instead of regiments more traditionally linked with the town.
Two of the first casualties sustained by the 1st Battalion were from Blackpool and formed part of the British Expeditionary Force that had sailed to France just eight days after War was declared. During the night of 13th September 1914 the 1st Battalion had crossed the Aisne to face the right wing of the German First Army who were occupying the high ground surrounding the vast plains in the area and were planning to attack a factory near Troyon the next morning. The men were caught out in the open when the thick fog that had been hiding their advance lifted at the break of day. Second Lieutenant J.G.W Hyndson wrote in his diary about how the German machine guns were constantly traversing up and down their line causing a truly appalling number of casualties. Amongst these was 19-year-old Private Harry Melling, an apprentice bricklayer pre-war who had been living in Allendale off Lytham Road, and 19-year-old Private Richard Waring, son of Margret Waring of Beech Street, North Shore, who died two days later from the wounds he had sustained that morning.
The Battalion were still in the general vicinity of Troyon a month later when Private William Keen (pictured opposite), born in Blackpool but lived in Preston, was killed during a German attack on the British trenches. Soon after this, the Battalion moved on towards Ypres where Private William Broadley of Devonshire Road was killed whilst they were tasked with re-taking the trenches along the Bixsencote to Langemarck Road.
Blackpool men’s participation in the War wasn’t limited to the Western Front. The 2nd Battalion of the Regiment were with the British Indian Expeditionary Force B in German East Africa and on 4th November 1914 they took part in the Battle of Tanga which was the first major event on this continent and saw the British defeated by a significantly smaller force of German Askaris and colonial volunteers. This Battle earned its nickname ‘the Battle of the Bees’ due to the large swarms of African bees that had been disturbed in their hives and had furiously stung both the attacking and defending forces alike. Private Thomas Bamber, a pre-war regular soldier from Blackpool, was amongst the 44 Loyal North Lancs’ casualties on this day.
Back in Blackpool on 16th February 1915, Corporal Harold Butterworth of the 2nd/5th Battalion was found dead in Blackpool Central Public Library. This was the staff headquarters for the troops based in the town and Harold was noticed missing after going up some steps whilst on guard commander duties. A bugler boy found Harold dead at the top of the concrete steps 25 minutes later and the inquest found he had tripped being tired after a 15 and a half our shift overnight with no sleep.
The 3rd/4th and 3rd/5th Battalions arrived in Blackpool in October 1915 and soon several officers reported that a lady had approached them on numerous occasions whilst they were resting in the Queen’s Hydro hotel and questioned them on when they were leaving for the Front? A chambermaid also noted that the lady, Mrs M. J. King, had pinned the curtains down in her room leaving a small gap to peep through which she did exclusively when the troops were outside. Mrs King was summoned before magistrates for displaying excessive and unwelcomed curiosity about the movements of the newly arrived troops but maintained her innocence by saying her interest was that she had relatives serving with the British at the Front. She was fined £10 for breaching the Defence of the Realm Act.
To improve their training and attempting to replicate what would be encountered in France, on South Shore they constructed a replica of the trenches at Loos stretching a total of almost two miles and featuring communications trenches, dug outs, saps, redoubt fortifications, firing trenches and telephone dugouts. The training trenches, which went on to become a tourist attraction, are now located under Watson Road Park and were partly excavated in July 2014.
Casualty reports filtered back to Blackpool steadily throughout the War and were often supplemented by letters from officers or comrades expressing their sympathies with the families. In late March 1916 the family of Lance Corporal John Cartmell, 1st Battalion, received the awful news that he had been killed by a mortar whilst leaving the trenches around Arras. It may have been some comfort to read comments by a fellow soldier stating that he had “never seen a cooler man under fire… He was thought the world of by everybody and would do anything for his pals, no matter how dangerous the work”.
Amid the horrors that were happening overseas, the people of Blackpool would turn out in large numbers to offer their support to the soldiers billeted in the town. On the morning of 18th March 1916 two men of the 1/4th Battalion were honoured with Distinguished Conduct Medals presented by Colonel Gratton on the promenade to the sound of the drums of the 3/4th Battalion band and 300 marching men which was the first ceremony of its kind in the seaside resort. One of the two men being honoured was Company Quartermaster Sergeant Edmund Lester (photo opposite), a professional footballer pre-war he was being recognised for his gallantry during the Battle of Festubert, the great bayonet charge of June 1915. His citation reads ‘For conspicuous gallantry and good service. When all his officers were killed or wounded he took command, rallied his men by standing out in the open, and led them with great daring both in the advance and subsequent retirement’.
The Earl of Derby had made the suggestion earlier in the War that men might be more willing to enlist in the New Armies if they could be assured of fighting alongside their own friends, neighbours and workmates. Kitchener gave his blessing to this idea and sanctioned the raising of battalions by local councils, or even individuals, of what became known as ‘Pals Battalions’.
The Battle of the Somme between July and November 1916 is remembered above all battles for the huge numbers of casualties amongst these Pals battalions. The 7th Loyal North Lancs. was one such Battalion and much is written about their D Company, the Preston Pals, however perhaps not so well known is that the three other companies making up the battalion were filled by ‘Pals’ from Blackpool, Kirkham and the Fylde, and Chorley.
A failed attack on the Somme near Guillemont on 23rd July 1916 saw the 7th Battalion suffer over 70 casualties and at least three were closely connected with Blackpool. One was Lance Corporal Albert Hinkley who was born in Sheffield but resided on Topping Street. Another casualty was 21-year-old Private Graham Forbes who was the son of George and Mabel Forbes of 56 Saville Road and the third was Private Thomas Clifford Armitstead who was born and raised in Blackpool and died of wounds later that day.
The three Blackpool Pals weren’t the first Loyals with Blackpool connections to be killed on the Somme and they wouldn’t be the last. Private Arthur Butler, who was born in Blackpool but resided in Manchester, was killed on the 7th July 1916 as the 9th (Service) Battalion were attacking two successive lines of German trenches and another 9th Battalion man, Private William Gough, was killed after being ordered ‘over the top’ at Hessian Trench on 21st October.
The 31st July 1917 saw the start of the Third Battle of Ypres, Passchendaele and Blackpool would lose at least six Loyal North Lancashire Regiment soldiers who died here in the mud and rain on the Ypres salient. Siegfried Sassoon later famously wrote the line “I died in hell – they called it Passchendaele” which for Lieutenant George Glaister (pictured left), Second Lieutenants John Herbert Ogden and Volney Mather and Privates Fred Rawcliffe, William Booth and Patrick Charles Doherty, was nothing but the truth.
Paul McCormick is the creator and administrator for the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment website. Since 2010 he has been researching the soldiers that served during the First World War and sharing their stories on his website. You can contact Paul through the website 'Contact Me' page or on Twitter and Facebook.
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