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2564 / 240784 Sjt Frederick Norburn – ‘B’ Coy 1/5th Bn.

Frederick Norburn was born in Bolton, Lancashire in 1891 to father Robert a 21 yrs old paper mill worker and Emily Catherine nee Martin also 21 yrs a British subject born in Poona, India, who both lived with her mother Mrs Margaret Martin a widow at 3 Independent Street, when they were married on New Year’s Day 1st January 1891 at All Saints Parish Church, Bolton.

After the wedding, the couple then resided with elder brother James Norburn and wife Alice at 7 Gaskell Street. Frederick became the eldest of nine children of the marriage with siblings, William, Gilbert, Florence, Wilfred, Emily, Alfred, Edwin and Elsie who was born in 1910.

Their father Robert, now a fireman in a foundry and Emily with their children moved to a four roomed home at 24 Myrrh St, according to the 1901 census returns, and by 1911, the now 11 strong family had again moved to 59 Croasdale Street in the town and nearer to their workplace.

The address was close by to the cotton machine making foundry of Dobson & Barlows Ltd on Kay Street, it was one of the biggest employers in the region and over 1,500 of the company workers would enlist for military service.

Frederick was by this time a 20 year old labourer at the iron foundry, prior to the outbreak of the war he worked as a turner there with other family members. During WWI the company would turn its hand to making munitions.

At the outbreak of the war the family lived at 9 Merrick Street, Frederick was to enlist quite early on 15th September 1914 into the 1/5th Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, he went out to France in January 1915.
His brothers Gilbert and Wilfred had also enlisted in the L.N.Lancs. Pre -war entrant into the territorial battalion Pte 13852 Gilbert Norburn 22 yrs, had later served with the Army Cyclist Corps had died from injuries in hospital on 5th May 1917 and was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.

Wilfred also of 9 Merrick Street had enlisted underage into the 4/5th batt on 18th October 1915 and soon after discharged, he later served with the Machine Gun Corps and survived the war.
Frederick took part in the engagements at Ypres, Passchendaele, Guillemont, Flers and Cambrai, in his three years at the front.

It was reported on page 5 of the Bolton Journal & Guardian of Friday 18th August 1916 that he was first wounded in the face on 10th August 1916 whilst at duty in the retirement from the trenches at Guillemont, he served in ‘B’ Coy.

However it was a year later on 31st July 1917 at Wieltje north east of Ypres that Frederick was to win the Military Medal in action.

The Bolton Journal & Guardian of Friday 17th May 1918 reported

“The Military Medal was awarded to him on the 31st July, 1917, at Ypres. He took charge of a platoon in a big attack, when the officers were killed, and after gaining the objective dug a strong point and held it under heavy shell fire for three days with 22 men.”

His second wound came on 30th November 1917 in the action at Cambrai, it is not known what sort of wound he received but it was severe enough to put him out of action and become one of the many who were to be captured by the enemy that day. He was in the hands of the Germans for ten weeks and was fortunate enough to be included in an exchange of prisoners.

He came back to the UK through Holland and has been in the King George Hospital London where he is to undergo an operation. He had a six day leave pass whilst awaiting his operation, and he returned to Bolton when he was presented with his M.M. by the Mayor Alderman Knowles-Edge in a ceremony at the Town Hall on Saturday 11th May 1918.

After the war Frederick was awarded the Silver Wound badge No: B37898 and a 1915 Star trio which have become separated from his extant Military Medal.

1662 Pte Gilbert Norburn – 5th Bn.

One of three soldier sons of parents Robert and Emily Norburn and the third of nine children, Gilbert was born in Bolton in 1895, his brothers were Sgt Frederick Norburn MM 5th bn and Pte Wilfred Norburn 4/5th bn.
Aged 15yrs he was employed in the local cotton mills as a piecer, an occupation usually done by a child or young person and their task was to join the ends of broken thread together on a spinning frame.

He was living at home at 59 Croasdale Street, a house near to the iron foundry where his father was employed. The family was split between working in the foundry or the cotton mills, and as he became older he changed professions and left the mill to work in the Dobson & Barlow iron foundry nearby on Kay Street as a moulder.

Prior to the onset of WWI, Gilbert enlisted into the Territorial Force on 6th May 1913 with the 5th Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was 5’5 1/2” in height and attended the 1913 annual camp, his service papers have survived.

With the outbreak of the war he was embodied from 5th August 1914 and served at home, during which time during 1915 he was no stranger to being ‘confined to barracks’.

He had a total punishment of 14 days C.B. whilst on active service, ranging from being absent from his billet, non -compliance with an order by refusing to take a bath, being late on parade, irregular conduct in that he was found tampering with private property and of insolence to an NCO.

He embarked for France on 14th January 1916 with the regiment landing the day after. On the 31st January 1916 was sentenced to 7 days field punishment again for insolence to an NCO.

He transferred on 1st November 1916 into the West Lancashire Divisional Cyclist Corps becoming Pte 13852 he listed his next of kin as his father Robert of 26 Fleet St.

He was admitted to hospital from 24th April 1917 with an injury to his left knee, it was inflamed by an abscess which would not heal and was described as ‘dirty’. The doctors attempted to aspirate, but the abscess tracked up his thigh and caused further complications and at 4.45pm on 5th May 1917 he died in hospital aged just 22 years old and was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery. (Headstone No: XVIII -K-3A)

The private inscription by the family on his C.W.G.C. headstone reads;

“ No morning dawns no night appears but what we think of him “

His name appears on the 1914-19 memorial at St Pauls Church, Astley Bridge.

His mother applied for the Territorial Force War Medal which was received on 6th August 1920, for his war services he was also awarded the British war medal and Victory medal which were received by his parents on 9th July 1921.

Pte 7445 Wilfred Norburn – 4/5th Bn.

Wilfred Norburn was born in Bolton at the turn of a new century on 12th January 1900. On 12th July 1905 aged 5 years he, together with siblings William 12, Gilbert 9, Florence 7, Emily 2 and baby Alfred were all baptised together at their local St Mathew’s Church, a regular occurrence for families at the time. He was the youngest brother of Sjt 2564 / 240784 Frederick Norburn MM and Pte 1662 Gilbert Norburn.

The family can be traced back to early 1830’s Bolton when the majority of the working ages were employed in the local cotton industry.

11 yrs old Wilfred was still at school on the 1911 census returns, when his father was a Fireman at the local foundry, the family had moved house a number of times over the last decade and settled in a house near the workplace. Wilfred being no exception, when he left school he too entered the cotton mills and became a spinner.

WWI into its second year, on the 18th October 1915 aged just 15 years he had followed his elder brothers’ example and enlisted as Pte 7445 of the 4/5th battalion L.N.L. Regt.

His service papers which exist in entirety show that his nominated next of kin was his father Robert Norburn of 9 Merrick Street, and his stated age was 19 years 9 months he was just 5’4” in height. He had convinced the recruiters that he was old enough and had managed 146 days of service when he was discharged on 11th March 1916 under Kings Regulations as being under 17 years of age on enlistment, one can only ‘assume’ as to how he was found out. Found out he was, no doubt due to parental involvement and was duly returned home to his family.

When he was old enough to enlist he did so on 2nd February 1918, with the 8th (Reserve) battalion of the Machine Gun Corps as Pte 187312, these service papers are also extant. On his description page it is stated that he had dark hair and brown eyes and a sallow complexion, his age was recorded as 18yrs and 3 months.

He was called for service at the reception depot Bury from 2nd May 1918 and served at Rugely Camp in Staffordshire this was a large training facility for troops at that time on the Lord Lichfield estate. He received his inoculations and vaccinations also dental inspections at Clipstone Camp in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire in May and June of 1918.

On 1st July 1918 he was promoted unpaid acting lance corporal but reverted to Pte on 20th October 1918 after being posted between reserve battalions.

He appeared on a Regimental Conduct Sheet on the 10th November 1918 for overstaying his pass by one day for which he was confined to barracks for a week, and also forfeited 1 day’s pay. The following month on 17th December 1918 again confined to barracks for a week for ‘Irregular Conduct’ for being in possession of an S.D. (service dress) cap and badge.

From his service record it would appear that he spent his service at Rugely Camp until being demobbed in 1919 and did not go overseas at all. There is a Medal Index Card to a Pte 118033 Wilfred Norburn of the M.G.C. for the issue of a British War Medal & Victory Medal, but with such a difference in numbers it is thought not to be the same soldier.

Garry Farmer
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