THE ASHTON TERRITORIALS, the 9th BATTALION of the MANCHESTER REGIMENT.
EGYPT - 1914.
Published in the Reporter 31st October 1914.
A BATTLE IN VERSE.
Private E. ATHERTON, of the Ashton Territorials, now in Egypt, writes home to 28, Hope Street, Hurst, with the enclosed verse: -
They’re as dauntless as a lion
They’re as watchful as a cat
They will fly at any foeman
Like a terrier at a rat.
You may talk about your Tories
You may rave about your Rads
You may shriek of Labour parties
And a thousand other fads
But the fact remains we’re fighting
And we owe it, every mouthful
To the good old British fleet.
"Just a line to let you know that I am in the best of health. Egypt is a fine place, and is a very hot place. I am soldiering now. It is my duty. I am doing my best, so I can't do any more. Don't get downhearted, because I am all right."
Published in the Herald 31st October 1914.
Private W. TORKINGTON, son of Mrs. W. Torkington, of Milton Place, writes from Mustapha Barracks, Alexandria, that he has not seen a spot of rain since he left England. "We had church parade last Sunday" he writes "from 7.54 to 8.15 am. It was splendid and everybody enjoyed it immensely. At night I went to the Barracks Church - the Church of St. Georges. The chaplain asked for volunteers for a choir. I volunteered and the first rehearsal is on Friday night. We have commenced drill in earnest now. We start at 5.45 am till 8.30am. Musketry instruction from 10.55 till 11.30, and again at 2.25 till 3.15pm., then drill at 4pm until 5.30pm. Last night we commenced night campaigns, but it only lasted an hour. The latter was very interesting. We had full kit on. We are not allowed to talk, smoke, or move in any way that will make a noise. The officers sent a number of men out and we had to spot them. It was very dark and one got about six yards off before we spotted him. The food is getting very monotonous, for we have the same every day. We get bathing parade daily, and up to now I have not missed one. We have a shower bath room as well. There are six showers and I go every morning for a wash under them. It is much better than using the washing places. Last night in one of the tents there were some of the Army Service Corps men giving a farewell supper to some Suffolk regulars. They have left for the front today. I have been in the town twice now, and I don't like the place at all. The main streets are very wide and clean, but the other streets are in a filthy state. You see all kinds of nationalities represented here. The officers are forming a Sports Club for the whole battalion, and there are only three games - cricket, football and hockey. I have given my name in for the first two."
Published in the Herald 31st October 1914.
TERRIERS IN EGYPT.
Sergeant H. EARL, of Elizabeth Street, writing on October 16th from Kasr-el-nil Barracks, thanks his friends for letters received by him. "You would have laughed," he writes "if you had seen us all in the Mess, listening while they read the letters, and the shout of 'Hooray!' at the news; also at the disappointed look on the faces of the poor unfortunate ones who kept asking if anyone had an old letter for sale. I think we are getting settled now if they will only let us stop. The barracks is on the banks of the Nile, and it is very pretty round here with the palms, date trees and birds. I look out of the window across the river and the view is champion. The sun is shining brilliantly, and it is very hot, although the cold weather is supposed to be starting. I am sweating now as I write. In the town there are some magnificent buildings that look so white and clean in the sunshine. Of course, they have no mills and smokey chimneys to contend with. We don't get out very often in the daylight - only Wednesday's and Saturdays. If it was not for drilling the recruits I should be getting quite lazy. The first night my friend and I went out we got lost in the poorer part. We wandered about for a long time down dark streets with saloons on either side full of Arabs playing games and drinking. We began to get a bit funky, because they raised their fierce looking faces and scowled as they nudged one another. At last we met a fellow who could speak French, and so we got out of it. My friend, by the way, is Sergeant FRED JONES, who before we came away he applied for a commission which I think has come through, so I look like losing my pal. Last Sunday I and some more sergeants went to the Pyramids, and they are indeed one of the wonders of the world. They have really to be seen by moonlight to thoroughly appreciate their beauty. I went inside one of them down a passage cut out of the rock. It was like going down a coal pit. We saw the tombs of the ancient Kings and Queens, and had our photographs taken on camels near the Sphinx."
Back in Ashton, the Recruiting campaign continued...
Published in the Reporter October 31st 1914.
Reporter: - Recruiting for Kitchener's Army and the new Battalion of the Ashton Territorials is continuing moderately well in Ashton and district. More men are needed for both branches of the King's forces, but especially for Kitchener's Army. The standard has now been lowered. We learn that it has been proposed to form a Comrades Battalion for the Ashton and Oldham districts. The recruits for the Ashton Battalion of Territorials now number over 600. There are daily route marches of the men and drilling at the Armoury, and the recruits are rapidly becoming more efficient and performing their work with great enthusiasm.
News of Turkey becoming allied with Germany and officially joining the war on November 5th was not unexpected.... meanwhile, life went on for the 9th Battalion in Egypt...
Pte. HARRY ANDREW of the 9th Battalion in a letter to his cousin dated 6th November states " I write these few lines to tell you I am in good health. I received your letter. I am sorry to tell you that FRED WALLWORK is in hospital, and I will tell him to write to you when he comes out. We are having a rough time here with the natives. It is their Christmas. They are getting drunk. It lasts three days and we have been kept in fear that we should get in bother with them. Every time we went out we had to take ten rounds of ammunition. We had a bridge route march last Saturday, the greatest military display ever seen in Egypt. It took one hour and a quarter to pass. It consisted of cavalry, artillery, infantry and ambulance corps. We had one hundred German prisoners of war here last week. Cairo is a fine place; there is some grand scenery in the town. I have a good shop here - I am a telephone operator, sending and receiving messages. It is rumoured that we are going to France in about three weeks time, and I hope it is true".
In a letter published in the Reporter on 28th November, Quartermaster Sgt. BOOCOCK wrote to his wife who resides on Katherine St. " We shall be wanted here now that the Turks are at war. We are under Martial Law now. Escorts of a Corporal and two men, armed with rifles have to go with the postman. I have to take an escort with me in the mornings to fetch the food, a distance of three miles. We leave at 4.30am, and get back at 7.30am. The Regiment has been confined to Barracks for a week, but they commenced to let them out on Thursday night, one Company a night with side arms. We have to send a Guard to the English, French and Russian Embassies and we have had double guard on the barracks, and a piquet of 60 men to go in town at night. The worst thing that troubles me is my eyes, through the sun being so bright and hot. Today is as hot as one of our hottest summer days. The wireless station, one of the largest in the world, is about 25 miles from here, out in the desert. For the 50 men who are there I send every morning 50lbs of meat, 50lbs of bread, 50lbs of vegetables, 6lbs of butter and 6 x 2lb pots of jam".
In another letter sent to his former employers, Hadfield & Son, Joiners & Builders, published the same day, Quartermaster Sgt. BOOCOCK states ..." We had a nice job in our barracks on Monday morning, when 47 German & Austrian prisoners had to report themselves. Some of them thought they would be allowed to go home in Cairo again, but they were mistaken. We had a special train in waiting on the barracks square. A guard of 20 men, a sergeant and an Officer with fixed bayonets and ball ammunition was provided. There were a lot of well-to-do businessmen among them. Two of them cried when they found out that they were being sent away, and some of them became cheeky, but they were soon put in their place. Whilst crossing the barracks square to the train some of them began to march the goose step in the same way that the Germans enter the captured villages. They were stopped pretty quick, I can tell you. The prisoners left the barracks about noon for Alexandria and Malta".
Another letter published in the Reporter the same day also refers to Prisoners of War - Pte. W GREAVES, writing from Cairo to his mother, who resides on Old Street, Ashton, says he had the honour of escorting 200 German and Austrian prisoners of war from Cairo to Alexandria, about 160 miles. He was one of the 100 selected for the duty. He says he doesn't know whether the prisoners were frightened or not, but the escort got plenty of cigarettes out of them. Pte. GREAVES has also had the honour of guarding the British Embassy in Cairo, which was kitcheners residence when he was in Egypt.
A letter and menu from an unnamed 9th Battalion Private was published in the Reporter 28th November, under the heading, The Days menu in Cairo - "Today for breakfast we had tripe and onions, along with bread & butter and tea. For dinner we had stewed meat, potatoes and peas, and sago pudding; and for tea we had pineapple chunks along with the usual, so you see we are doing better now. Tomorrow our Company go to fire at Abbassa, about six miles away. We shall be gone for four or five days, and during that time I believe we shall go through a severe test of firing, as we shall have to fire the Regular Army test. Any man who scores 95 out of a possible 185 will get first class proficiency pay, which is 6d a day extra. Last night Pte. 1810 EDWARD BORSEY and myself went out, and we had some fun. My chum, L.C.WOOD bought an oil stove the other day, and at night we have been having chip potatoes for supper".
Kasr-el-Nil Barracks, Cairo.
Published in the Herald 7th November 1914.
Private NORMAN JACKSON, who is with the Ashton battalion at the Kasr-el-Nil Barracks, was prior to enlistment an apprentice at the Herald Office. In the course of an interesting letter he writes that on Friday night September 16th, the "Fall in" was sounded at 9.30pm, and the battalion started on a march which continued until one o'clock on Saturday morning. This is the second time the 9th Battalion has had one of these night marches, and the men are delighted with the moonlight tramps. The letter continues : "All the men who have not fired their standard test are to go to Abbassia for three days shooting, and when they come back the battalion will be fit for the front. The General told us we had had the finest training possible, and when we had finished we would be the same as regular soldiers, and much better than the volunteers who would be at the front at the end of this month. The training we have had lately has been hard, but, thanks to Quartermaster Connery, who has given us good food, we are all fit. The menu consists of two eggs first thing in the morning; beef, potatoes and rice pudding for dinner every day, and bread and butter and jam for tea. We get up at 4.45am and the first parade is from 6am to 7am. The next is from 8am to 10am. There is a parade at 2.30 until 4.30 every afternoon, and then we have finished for the day and are allowed out until ten o'clock at night. We have Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 2pm until 10pm. Before leaving the barracks we have to pass an inspection to see if we are smart."
Published in the Herald 7th November 1914.
CAMEL CORPS RECRUITS.
Private E. WYNNE has been transferred to the British Camel Corps at Khatoum, along with about fifty of his comrades. He writes : "We have each a camel. They go in numbers, mine being 52. The reason of having a camel corps is on account of the natives really. In fact there was a bit of trouble a week or two ago, but they did not send us because we were not used to the camels. The last two days we have been riding each morning, and at nine o'clock we have finished for the day, this making about three hours work per day, so we have nothing to grumble at. The natives work for us very cheap. In fact I have a young chap who blacks my boots, cleans my buttons, makes the bed and does all sorts of odd jobs for 5d a week."
Published in the Herald 7th November 1914.
The following promotions have been gazetted in connection with the Ashton Territorial Battalion in Egypt.
Captain R.B. NOWELL to be Major.
Lieut. F.W. KERSHAW to be Captain.
Second Lieut. R.G. WOOD, W.T. FORSHAW to be Lieutenants.
Published in the Reporter 14th November 1914.
Reporter: - Ashton has now provided two battalions of Territorials. The first battalion is now in Cairo, and the new battalion, numbering nearly 900, yesterday (Friday) left the town for Southport, where they are to be billeted and undergo training to fit them, if necessary, for foreign service. Their departure was witnessed by great crowds of people, who gave them a hearty send-off. The scene was one of joyous animation. Recruiting during the past few days has been very brisk, and this second battalion will soon be at its establishment strength. The men will be billeted in King Street and neighbourhood, not far from the Hippodrome, in Southport. The spacious sands should form an ideal training ground, and the ozone in the sea breezes will do much to improve the physique and harden the men for any eventuality.
Published in the Herald 21st November 1914.
NATIVE CUSTOMS IN EGYPT.
Private J.A. BOSTOCK, of Park Road, Dukinfield, sends a highly descriptive letter. He writes that the battalion has a great deal of drilling to do, and it is very hard work. The men, however, are keeping in the best of health, although the weather is toasting hot. In the Kasr-el-Nil Barracks there are 1400 troops, and he adds : "They are beginning to look very smart indeed. We have nothing to complain of but millions of bugs. You would laugh if you saw us in our shirts chasing them in the night. There are sixteen of us in this room, and each of us with a shoe go galloping about. There are four hundred rooms in the barracks, so you can imagine what a large place it is. Cairo is a beautiful city, but fearfully dirty. I have been out twice for a walk in addition to route marches, but I was disgusted with what I saw. We have, however, plenty of fun. When the natives see us coming they run for their lives, shouting Allah! Allah! Allah! When they get out of our way they pull their tongues out, spit and dance, and appear to be highly pleased with themselves. It is Christmas here from October 30th to November 3rd, and no one is allowed to leave barracks. The reason for this is that there would be a possibility of trouble with the natives, who wash their feet in the street and sing all day." Egypt, he added, is 2700 miles from England.
Published in the Reporter 28th November 1914.
LONG AND SHORT
Tallest and Smallest Territorials in Cairo.
AN ASHTON MASCOT.
A remarkable companionship has sprung up between two of the Territorials stationed in Cairo. They are in the very truth, "the long and the short of it". No taller than the proverbial "six penny worth of copper," Master (2069) ALFRED BOOCOCK, aged 15, the mascot of the 9th (Ashton) Battalion, Manchester Regiment, Territorials, son of Quartermaster Sergeant BOOCOCK, of Katherine Street, Ashton, both of whom are stationed at Cairo, has, by his appearance in khaki arm-in-arm with the tallest Territorial in the East Lancashire Division, attracted much curiosity in the quaint bazaars and streets of the picturesque city of Cairo.
The 1/9th Battalion. Front row (arrow), Pte. 48 William Littleford. Back row, fourth from left, Pte. 1711 Sidney Ogden.
Published in the Reporter 5th December 1914.
TERRITORIAL BAND AT SOUTHPORT.
A band has been formed in connection with the Reserve Battalion of Ashton Territorials now at Southport, the names of the members being HERTBERT ASHTON, W. WHITEHEAD, JOE RHODES, S. PICKFORD, H. STAFFORD, F. BARNSLEY, A. SHAWCROSS, E. HODGKINSON, E. SIDLEY, W. STELFOX, A. SMITH, R. TASSAKER, H. YATES, W. PROCTOR, T. LEE, W. FIDLER, J. SMITH, R. DRESSER, A. FULTON, J. RHODES, Corporal BOULTON, and Sergeant H. KINDER.
Published in the Reporter on 5th December 1914
A TERRITORIAL'S DEATH.
Bardsley Lad Who Was the Youngest in the Battalion.
News has been received in Ashton of the death through dysentery in Egypt of Pte. 1845 FRED FINUCANE, one of the Ashton Territorials who was attached to "B" Company.
Pte. FREDERICK THORLEY FINUCANE was probably the youngest in the battalion being only fifteen years of age, but standing 5ft 8 inches tall. Born of a military family, he enlisted with his fathers written authority in March, and after going into camp at Bury, sailed with his battalion to Egypt. His heart and soul were in his work, and in his letters home he was always cheerful and happy. Only last week he had mentioned the Pyramids and other sights, and also that he had been on night manoeuvres. Several parcels are now on their way to him from home, he having been very popular among his various friends, as much for his pluck as a youngster as his quiet, unassuming ways. It came as a terrible shock to all who knew him, when his parents, who live at The Brow, Bardsley, received a telegram on Monday announcing his death. The blow has been a heavy one, both to them and to his brother, also a Territorial, to whom he was devotedly attached. They are now anxiously awaiting further news, and in the meantime try to console themselves with the thought that he never flinched from duty, and when the call came he stepped forward and offered to take his share in battling for his King and country. He has answered the "last roll call". During the week many friends have called to offer their sympathy to the deeply grieved parents, and they were much touched by such expressions of feeling in their great trouble. It was always a source of pride to him to know his grandfather, who is living in Manchester, was in the Army 15 months before Lord Roberts, and his father has an autograph letter from "Bob" thanking him for birthday congratulations on his 80th birthday, they having first met in India in 1851. The Bardsley Defence Corps will attend the morning service at Bardsley Church on Sunday, and the village band is also expected to be present in honour of the late Private Finucane. (FREDERICK THORLEY FINUCANE, son of Theodore and Emily Finucane, is buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery).
Published in the Reporter 12th December 1914.
A DUKINFIELD BOXER WITH THE ASHTON TERRITORIALS.
Private 'Kid' JAMES, a well known Dukinfield boxer, who is with the Ashton Territorials in Cairo, writing to the Editor of the Reporter says: - " The natives are a very cunning lot of fellows. If you price an article they expect you giving them the money before you get the article. You can get fruit very cheap here, and also eggs. You can get a lovely bunch of grapes here for about 1½d., and eggs you can get a basket full for 6d. Boots are very dear here. I went in one shop and priced a pair of army boots, and they wanted 25/., but I told him that I had not come buying his shop. The natives here do all the riding, while the women walk. We have had 30 German prisoners here. They were a respectable lot too. Most of them were gentlemen in business in Cairo. The weather is lovely. I have not seen it rain since I came."
Private 1068 PETER NOLAN of the 9th Battalion, in a letter written to the Reporter Office, published December 12th says, " The men of our Battalion are settling down to military life very nicely. They are being pretty well fed, as will be seen from their letters, and any man who goes short of his dinner has only himself to blame, for in Major CONNERY we have the finest quarter master ever known and he sees that every man gets his due. The photo enclosed is that of the cooks of the 9th Battalion and a jolly lot of fellows they are. Better pals could not possibly exist, and they do their little bit without a grumble. C Company have gone on a three day trek, taking with them supplies, fuel, blankets etc. So you see, every man is doing his little bit, and they seem to enjoy these route marches".
Published in the Reporter 12th December 1914.
COMING BACK TO ENGLAND?
Writing to his sister at Dukinfield, Private 2141 JOSEPH BERTENSHAW, who with his two younger brothers is in Egypt says: - "We are almost at the finish of our training, and shall be ready for France shortly, and I for one will not be sorry. We are getting quite used to Cairo now. There are some fine streets and buildings, but some awful places. Talk about slums, we know nothing in England about them. I have just finished a week at Bab-El-Hadid Police Barracks in Cairo. I was on duty as a policeman, and the sights I saw were terrible. We had to go into all sorts of places when on duty. There is a rumour going about that we shall leave Cairo on December 14th for England, to relieve the Canadian troops on Salisbury Plain. So you see we may be at home shortly after Christmas. There are plenty of tales, so I cannot attach much truth to this, but we shall not be in Cairo long. BERT and PERCY (Pte. 2158) are going fine, and I have nothing to grumble about".
The Battalions first Christmas on active service was celebrated in traditional style. Following Church Parade and a Carol Service, a traditional Christmas meal was served to the men by their Officers. Parcels from home containing plum puddings and other treats were enjoyed.