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Patrick Hanlon was born in Liverpool in February 1880 and was the son of Irish immigrants Bryan and Mary Hanlon of 8 Cellar Street, Liverpool.

In January 1899 Patrick attended the recruiting office at Seaforth barracks and attested into the Militia where he joined the 3rd Bn. Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 6060. Falsely claiming he was 17 years 9 months old he stated he had been living with his parents at 8 Cellar Street, Liverpool whilst working as a labourer for Mr Wallace of Carisbrooke Road in Walton. He was in fact approaching 19 years old and the reason for him making this false declaration is unknown.

One month later, 14th February 1899, Patrick travelled up to Preston and enlisted in the Regular Army where he expressed a desire to serve with the Army Service Corps. Now stating he was 18 years 6 months old (again not quite right) he was sent down to Woolwich to join the A.S.C as he wanted where he was given the the number T/14348 (Author’s note: The T prefix indicates he would have served in a Horse Transport section).

At his enlistment medical inspection the officer noted that Patrick stood one-eighth of an inch over 5ft 3in, weighed 130lbs and had a 35-37in chest. He had grey eyes, brown hair and the letters W.H tattooed on his right forearm and W.A.L.I on his left. The minimum height for a soldier in 1899 was 5ft 4in but this was in the process of being reviewed and was changed in 1900 to 5ft 3in. The minimum chest measurement at that time was 34(min)-36in(max) so he just passed that too and was deemed fit to serve for an engagement of 3 years in the Colours and 9 years in the Reserve.

Patrick’s time with the Army Service Corps didn’t last long as within four months of joining the A.S.C. he was transferred back to the Depot of his old Regiment on 1st June 1899.

One must assume this transfer did not suit Patrick as he went absent without leave between 12-26th June and was placed in prison for the same number of days on his return. On 31st August that year he went AWOL again and was declared by the Army to be an absentee. Rejoining on 23rd November he spent four days in the guardroom awaiting a District Court Martial in which he was convicted of desertion and sentenced to 56 days in prison. The kicker to this being that his previous service, 198 days, was forfeited and his 3 years in the Colours would start again.

On his release from prison in March 1900 he was posted into the 2nd Battalion of the Loyal North Lancs and sailed to Malta to join them guarding the Boers who had been taken prisoner in South Africa. He also spent time in Crete and Gibraltar during this part of his service, and managed to keep out of trouble being granted his good conduct pay in January 1902. The majority of his forfeited service was later restored to him (198 days) except the 56 days between the time of his desertion until the date of his trial.

On 18th February 1903 Patrick Hanlon was transferred to the Army Reserve and went back to his civilian employment as a dock labourer in Liverpool. He married widow Jane (nee Everett) at St Nicholas’ church on 2nd January 1905 and the couple had a son, also named Patrick, four months later. At the time of the 1911 census Patrick and his young family were living with his parents at 14 Back Summer Gardens in Kirkdale. His discharge from the Army, from the Reserves, came on 13th May 1911.

Roll around to January 1915, the war in Europe raging on past when it was expected it would all be over, and  on 20th January Patrick Hanlon enlisted again. Attending the recruitment office in Liverpool he stated he was 34 years 11 months old. In the intervening years he had acquired several new tattoos including two woman’s heads, flags, a sailor’s head, the Queen’s head, more flags and a crucifix, He was still married to Jane and they were still residing at 14 Back Summer Gardens.

Patrick was given the number 19862 and was posted into the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion where he was sent down to Felixstowe to join many other former soldiers refreshing their military training and preparing to sail overseas to join the Regular battalions in the field. However, this wouldn’t be happening for Patrick as on the morning of 19th April 1915, at Felixstowe, he was discharged from the Army for not likely to become an efficient soldier. This was on the advice of a Royal Army Medical Corps officer who had written the following a week before;

Neurasthenia and Mental Deficiency. He collects tracts and penny toys and stores them in his billet. He talks of voices guiding him and at times is quite something.

– Not the result of active service

Sergeant James Trimmer also of the 3rd Bn. Loyal North Lancs was instructed to escort discharged soldier Patrick Hanlon on the train journey between Felixstowe and Liverpool.

James Trimmer had been born in Battersea, London in 1890 and had joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 17th July 1908 with the number 9374. When he joined he was 18 years 4 months old and had previously been employed as an outdoor porter. Standing 5ft 7in tall he had blue eyes, brown hair and having no distinguishing marks or features. In 1908 he stated his parents were Harry and Sophia Trimmer of 94 Wilcox Road, Lambeth; and this was the same address his wife, Jane Elizabeth (nee Lewis) would live after their marriage in Lambeth during the first quarter of 1915.

James’ service records have unfortunately not survived so a lot of the information pertaining to him in this article came from his ‘Soldier’s Small Book’ which is the possession of the author.

So on the evening of Patrick’s discharge, 19th April 1915, Patrick Hanlon and Serjeant James Trimmer departed Felixstowe by train bound for Liverpool.

The Nantwich Guardian of 23rd April 1915 tells us the story of what happened next.



A shocking railway tragedy occurred near Crewe during the early hours of Tuesday morning (20th inst.), when Private Patrick Hanlon (35) of the North Lancashire Regiment, living at 13 Summers-gardens, Kirkdale, Liverpool, was found dead on the top of a compartment of the midnight express from Euston to Crewe, He appears to have clambered through the window of one of the carriages on to the roof and struck his head on the girder of a bridge under which the train passed.

The inquest was held at the Crewe Arms Hotel, Crewe, on Thursday morning before the West Cheshire Coroner, Mr J. C. Bate. The Railway Company were represented by Detective-Inspector Rogers and the Crewe police by Superintendent Thompson.

After detailing the evidence, the Coroner said he learned the deceased had previously been in the Army and had served his reserve period. About eleven weeks ago he re-joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was sent to Preston and then to Felixstowe. On account of his mental condition he was sent on Monday evening in charge of a sergeant home to Liverpool, being discharged. It was during the journey the circumstances the jury had to consider occurred.


Mrs Jane Hanlon, deceased’s wife, said her husband had been a Reservist, and his reserve period expired twelve months ago. He had been a dock labourer in Liverpool. She had been married ten years, and her husband had always been in good health. When he was first in the Army he saw service in Greece. Eleven weeks ago he joined the Loyal North Lancashires, and since then she had not seen him. She identified him by tattoo marks on his arm, of a coat of arms, the crucifixion, the Queen, and soldier and a girl. She had not known him have any mental trouble before.

Sergeant James Trimmer of the North Lancashire Regiment, stationed at Felixstowe, said on Monday last he received orders from the Orderly Room Sergeant to take deceased and hand him over to his relatives at Liverpool. The deceased, he learned from the medical police, was discharged from the regiment because he was medically unfit.

The Coroner: You knew you were sent to escort deceased because he was not mentally fit to travel alone? – Yes.

The Coroner: Who told you he was not mentally fit? – No one.

The Coroner: Had you any instructions not to let the man out of your sight? No.


The witness stated that on the journey towards Liverpool on the 12:15 from Euston he allowed the deceased several times to go to the lavatory, and he came back all right. He appeared to be quite harmless. After passing Stafford witness again allowed deceased to go to the lavatory. At the end of ten minutes, as he did not return, witness went to the lavatory at the end of the coach but deceased was not there. He searched the carriage but failed to find him. A private in the Marines, who was in the next compartment said he had seen two legs disappearing through the window as he was waking from his sleep. “I thought of pulling the communication cord” he added “but as the train was slackening speed to run into Crewe I waited until the train came to the platform. I then got out to inform the officials, but I saw a lot passengers pointing to something at the top of the coach. I identified the deceased from his clothing, The man was a perfect stranger to me.”

The Coroner: Did his conversation on the way strike you that the man was not of sound mind? – Yes, he rambled about different things, and one thing his mind seemed set upon was women.

The Coroner: Did he threaten to commit suicide? – No.

The Coroner: Did he give you any idea that he would try and give you the slip? – No.

The Juror: I think he should have been informed as to how the man was fixed mentally. It seemed to be really necessary to keep the man under supervision seeing that his mind was in a rambling state.

In reply to further questions, witness said if the deceased had given him the slightest suggestion that he contemplated self-destruction he would certainly not have allowed him out of his sight. The man made no attempt to escape at any time. He learned deceased was not of sound intellect from conversation he heard outside the orderly room, but he did not get the information officially.

The Juror: I think you ought to have done.

The Witness: Supposing I wanted to go to the lavatory?


George Goddard Stone, a private in the Royal Marine Light Infantry on board H.M.S. Victoria, said he travelled on the 12.15 from Euston with a merchant seaman. Witness went to sleep, and as he had taken his boots off, his feet were cold. He awoke and saw the merchant seaman had gone. He then saw two feet disappearing on to the roof of the carriage. The seaman then came back, and witness accused him of getting on to the roof. These seamen have funny fits sometimes (laughter). We argued for about five minutes and then the sergeant came up. Immediately after seeing the man get on to the roof the train dashed under a bridge, and witness said to his companion”I expect that has swiped him off, or if he is still up there it will have cooled his brains a little”. He made no effort to stop the train, as the sergeant said he could not get to the guard, and the train was then running into Crewe. After the legs had disappeared through the carriage window he heard the pitter-patter of feet on the roof of the coach as though a man was running. The train was then going at about 50 miles an hour.

Asked how he thought it possible for a man to walk along the roof of a train going at that speed, witness said men that were “tapped” or the worse for drink could do funny things. He knew of a man who walked along the roof of a train to the engine, and helped the driver to drive.

When the train came into Crewe he heard someone shout for a sack, and then he knew the man had been killed.


Thomas Sargent, a platelayer on the L. and N.W. Railway at Whitmore, said shortly after six o’clock on Tuesday morning he was informed that a man had been found dead on the top of a carriage. Beneath a girder bridge three-quarters of a mile from Whitmore station he found a man’s cap. It would be about two feet from the top of a railway coach to the girder of the bridge. Near the cap he found human brains and small portion of the skull. On the plating of the girders above he also saw marks which led him to believe a man’s head had struck there.

William Farrington, 28, Wood-street, Crewe, a foreman shunter, said when the 12.15 train from  London came into Crewe Station he saw what he thought to be a sack on the first brake van. He got on to the top of the carriage and found deceased. He was lying with his feet towards the engine, and the back of his head was smashed in. The body was slightly warm. It would be possible for deceased to get through the carriage window and draw himself on to the roof by a ledge.

The foreman of the jury said there was a label board above the carriage window.

The Coroner: Would it be very difficult for a man to draw himself on to the roof? – He could do it if he was a nimble man.

Arthur Roland Whitehead, a carriage examiner, gave corroborative evidence as to the finding of the body.


The Coroner said he did not think the deceased gave any suspicion of an intention to commit suicide. He was given into the custody of a sergeant, who was given no express instructions not to allow him out of his sight. The inference was that the sergeant, being placed in a responsible position, must have known it was his duty to see the man safely to his destination. If the man was irresponsible for his actions the sergeant should have been told by the medical authorities before he left (hear, hear). At the same time, the sergeant must have understood that as the deceased was not a prisoner he must be accompanying him for some good reason. If the deceased had been of sound mind he would not have been sent in charge of a sergeant.

He (the Coroner) did not think from the circumstances the deceased gave the sergeant the slightest suspicion that he would attempt to escape, or do any harm to himself. On that account the sergeant did not seem to have exercised that strict care over the man he had in charge he should have done of he had known what the circumstances were. It was evident that under the present stress of circumstances something had been done in a less careful manner than would have been under normal circumstances.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death”, and expressed the opinion that the authorities should have sent at least two men with the deceased with instructions not to allow him out of their sight.

Despite the fact that Patrick had already been discharged from the Army, his wife Jane was deemed eligible for a pension of 15/- per week under the usual conditions.

James Trimmer, no doubt relieved with the verdict of accidental death and no-blame being placed on him personally, returned to Felixstowe. Now, whether James was always supposed to be going out to France in June 1915 or whether he was sent out with the next batch of reinforcements because of what had happened to Patrick Hanlon remains to be seen; but on 3rd June 1915 he stepped onto French soil and joined the 1st Battalion in the field.

The next thing we know about James is that he was wounded during the Battle of Loos as his name was included in a list of wounded men in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser on 23rd October 1915. Then on 18th August 1916 he was killed in action during the attack at High Wood on the Somme battlefield.

War Diary: 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 2nd Brigade. 1st Division 1.


(This is an extract – for full document click here)

An attack on a big front will take place today. The 33rd Divn on our Right will capture German Trench running through centre of HIGH WOOD and will establish a strong point at N.W. Corner of the WOOD. 2nd Brigade will join up with Left Brigade 33rd Divn at this point. 1st Brigade will attack on our left. The Battalion will attack and capture the German Trench in S.3.D up trench running along N.W. edge of HIGH WOOD from S.3.D.95.75 to S.3.B.75.15.

Prior to the intense bombardment Northampton Regiment will evacuate the eastern portion of the German Trench captured last night and will afterwards co-operate by bombing inwards. The assaulting coys will move forward as follows:- D and C Coys in 2 lines at 50 paces interval, D. Coy on Right, C Coy on Left, each line at 5 paces extension.

D Coys front line will consist of 3 platoons of D Coy, of which the right platoon will be responsible for seizing the German Trench along the N.W. Edge of HIGH WOOD; their 2nd line will consist of 1 platoon of D Coy and 1 platoon of B Coy; the latter platoon will move into position in new front line on D Coys left – & will be in position by 1.30pm. …… D Coy on obtaining its objective, will establish a strong post which will consist at first of a barricade, bombers and 1 Lewis Gun in German trench near point S.3.B.72 just clear of N.W. Corner of HIGH WOOD.

After capturing German Trenches running West Edge of HIGH WOOD, Battn must hold it against possible attack from E and N.E until such time as troops of 98th Brigade come up and take over. Strong-post to be established by D Coy will protect our right flank. 2. Nr High Wood 18.8.16 In conjunction with troops on our flanks, the Bde attacked the German trenches just west of HIGH WOOD.


In conjunction with attacks by the French and ourselves from THIEPVAL to the SOMME, the Battalion attacked the German Line from the right of 1st Northamptons about point S.3.B.0.8 to N.W Corner of HIGH WOOD S.3.B.72 and also trench running along Western edge from S.3.B.72 to S.3.D.95.75.

Zero Time 2.45pm. At that hour the right platoon, which was detailed to attack, trench S.3.B.72 to S.3.B.95.75 and to form strong point at N.W corner of WOOD at S.3.B.72, left their trenches and was seen to advance into our intense bombardment, which was not timed to lift until 0.03. Remainder of right appears to have followed on too quickly and suffered a similar fate, though up to the present, no survivors have been found capable of giving a reliable account. The left delayed their assault until about 0.02 and, advancing close under our barrage entered the German Trench without difficulty assisted by Northampton attack on the right. By the time the 3rd Line got in, only 1 officer had not become a casualty. He, realizing that, on the right the trench was unoccupied, extended his men down the trench to within 200 yards of HIGH WOOD and commenced the consolidation of the position.

Casualties during this attack had been heavy. Captain M.A. Cross and Captain D.O.H Tripp D.S.O. had been killed. Lieutenants Nicholl, Ware, Stephenson, Harrison, Heaton and Bulling had been wounded. There were 30 Other Ranks killed, another 110 wounded and approximately 50 men missing.

James’ body was recovered and buried with honour in the Delville Wood Cemetery at Longueval.

For his sacrifice and service to his Country James’ next of kin would later receive his 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Allied Victory medal in addition to a memorial plaque and scroll both bearing his name.

Rank: Serjeant
Service No: 9374
Date of Death: 18/08/1916
Age: 26
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.

Paul McCormick
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