THE ASHTON TERRITORIALS, the 9th Battalion of the MANCHESTER REGIMENT.
Published in the Reporter 6th November 1915.
We have much pleasure in being able to publish in the Reporter this week the following stirring account of the gallant deeds of the Ashton Territorials since they first landed in the Gallipoli Peninsula in May down to the middle of October.
The story has been specially written by a Non-Com Officer of the 1/9th Battalion, and it will be read with intense interest by all Ashtonians, who have followed with much keeness and anxiety the doings of their brave and gallant sons in their noble work on behalf of the honour and homes of England.
"The battalion arrived off the Peninsula on the transport Ausonia on Saturday afternoon, the 8th May, and saw a brilliant attack by the British in the evening, which was very successful, and disembarked on Sunday morning, the 9th May. C Company was 242 strong, including officers, when the landing took place. Captain HAMER was in command, Captain OKELL second in command, and Lieuts. LILLEY, STRINGER, CONNERY, and WADE were commanders of 9, 10, 11, and 12 Platoons respectively.
Turkish shells fell all round the battalion as they disembarked, but no casualties were recorded. The first night was passed on the top of the cliff, at Cape Helles, and the second day the battalion went further inland, and moved from one place to another for several days. About the third night the men had their first experience of the trenches, taking reserve for one night behind the French lines. Corporal SILVESTER was shot through the leg by a stray bullet, and this constituted the first casualty of the company. The following morning the Turks subjected the battalion to heavy shrapnel fire, but all got back to bivouac safely. All through the day the Turks shelled heavily, and the company had a further casualty, one man being badly wounded. Next morning the battalion moved to a fresh bivouac, nearer to the firing line, where for the third time new dugouts were made. The ground was good and much drier than the previous bivouacs. Whilst here all were subject to plenty of shelling by the Turks, and any number of stray bullets came along. Lieut. CONNERY had a narrow escape, shrapnel going through his coat in two places without touching him. Here we had the first two deaths on active service in the battalion, two of B Company being laid low with stray bullets. During the period the battalion was in this bivouac, and at all subsequent periods when not in the firing line, and sometimes even then, fatigues were found daily for making and improving firing line trenches and saps, together with other duties. Food at this period consisted solely of bacon, corned beef, jam and bisuits, and tea, sweetened, without milk. The battalion left for fresh bivouacs after about five days, and took over dugouts which became the battalion base for several months.
IN THE FIRING LINE.
The first experience of the firing line came about May 18th, when the battalion relieved the 7th Manchester Regiment, and stayed in the trenches seven days. C Company was put in the support trench, and two platoons went in the firing line on the fourth day. On the fifth day 30 of A Company and 20 of C Company went out in front of the firing line and dug themselves in. This night Corporal SILVESTER won the D.C.M. for carrying a wounded man in under fire, and he afterwards went out again and completed his task. The following night the whole of C Company, half of whom had not been in the firing line, were ordered out to dig in, in front of the firing line, and make a new fire trench. This rather severe task was accomplished, and the new trench made, although the officers and men were under a continuous fire, and worked half the time in the rain, without greatcoats or protection, and up to the knees in water. After 30 hours out the Company was relieved by a portion of the 6th Manchesters. Only one man was slightly wounded whilst the task was being carried through. The battalion had returned to bivouac when the Company got relieved. A few days later the battalion was split up, and sent to gain experience and confidence to various regular units. C Company was sent to the South Wales Borderers, and stayed with them during Whitsuntide. The battalion re-assembled on 2nd June, and went into the trenches on 3rd June as reserve to the Division. They were not in the actual advance of the 4th June. C Company was told off on the 5th June as ammunition, water and ration fatigue to the troops who had advanced. The work was very dangerous, and the Company lost its first member killed in Sergeant ILLINGWORTH. Previously several had been wounded more or less severely whilst digging in in the open, and by shrapnel in the dugouts. Altogether up to this period the Company had been very fortunate as regards casualties, and very little sickness was prevalent, but troubles had evidently begun. The fatigues continued on the 6th June.
ORDERED TO TAKE TWO SAPS.
On the 7th June the Company was detailed to strengthen the firing line, and joined the Fusiliers, and a man was killed before the Company had been in the trench half an hour. In the afternoon the order was received for 100 of the Company to take two saps which were very troublesome to the troops in the firing line. This order was carried out, but was only partially successful. Out of the 100 who took part the Company lost 45 killed and wounded, including Captain HAMER, Lieut. STRINGER, and two sergeants killed. Lieut. WADE did excellent work on this night, and it was with regret that he obeyed the order to retire from the ground he and the men had so hardly won. On the afternoon of the 8th the Company took over the guard in the gully, and Lieut. CONNERY, with his platoon and Sergt.-Inst. CHRISTIE, took over the redoubt from the Marines, which was subjected to a continuous heavy fire from Turkish guns and machine guns. Whilst Lieut. CONNERY was on this duty the Turks several times knocked the parapet down, and under a hot fire he himself, ably assisted by Sergt.-Inst. CHRISTIE and some of the men, rebuilt it as often as it was knocked down, and in addition greatly improved the defences. After 48 hours of this strenuous work the platoon was relieved. Meantime, the remainder of the Company in the gully were also having a hot time, and another four were added to the list of killed. From here the Company went into reserve again with the remainder of the battalion, and after a few days rest, B and C Companies relieved a portion of the East Lancashire Regiment in the firing line.
A TERRIBLE NIGHT.
Captain OKELL had left the Company and gone to hospital, and Lieut. ROBSON joined the Company. Lieut. WADE was now in command of the Company, and with him were Lieut. CONNERY and Lieut. ROBSON. Lieut. ROBSON, however, was taken on the machine gun section to replace Lieut. MARSDEN, who had been wounded, and this left only two officers. During the period the company was in this trench B Company made an attempt on the 18th June to clear the Turks out of two small trenches, but they found the Turks in such great numbers that they had to retire, and the Turks charged our trench, which was held by a few of C Company and a number of the 10th Manchesters, and gained a footing in the part of it. Both Lieut. WADE and Lieut. CONNERY took part in B Company's attack, volunteering for the job, and led portions of the men, but Lieut. WADE unfortunately failed to return when the Company retired. It was a terrible night, and several attempts were made by various units to recover the ground lost, but without success. B Company lost heavily, and Captain SUGDEN was mortally wounded. Lieut. CONNERY had his rifle taken from him, and this left him without any weapon. He was the only officer now left to C Company, and he worked all night long like a Trojan, and kept the remnant of the Company well together. He also carried ammunition and distributed it until he fell from pure exhaustion. Even then he carried on again immediately he revived. Two days later found the Company with B Company in support to the remainder of the battalion, and after a few days there the battalion went to bivouac for a few days rest. Lieut. HANDFORTH took over command of the Company on the 28th June.
WORK DESERVING RECOGNITION.
Lieut. CONNERY was posted as assistant quartermaster, and this left the Company again with only one officer. His loss was very keenly felt by the whole lot. Still another misfortune came. Sergeant Major FOWLER had been wounded. Sergt. Inst. CHRISTIE was appointed battalion Sergeant Major in his place. FOWLER had been untiring in his work, and officers, N.C.O.'s, and men all appreciated his good work, especially the N.C.O.'s. Wherever the Company went he was always to be found in the hottest corner. Another N.C.O. for special mention is Corporal PLATT, who was continually doing good work. It is almost certain that had Lieuts. WADE and CONNERY and the two N.C.O.'s mentioned been recommended for various good works carried out by them some distinction would have been awarded. A small draft of 20 arrived from the 2/9th Battalion, and five of these were posted to C Company. On 1st July two lieutenants of the 11th York and Lancs. Regiment, Lieuts. PORTER and DIXON, were posted to the Company. On 3rd July the battalion went into the trenches in reserve, and Lieut. ROBSON went to hospital with fever on the 7th July, and unfortunately died of the disease. Lieut. CONNERY was badly wounded in the mouth with shrapnel on the 5th July, and went into hospital. On 10th July the battalion relieved a Manchester battalion in the firing line, and during the period here was subjected to a heavy bombardment by the Turks, which was occasioned owing to an advance on the right by the Scots, and many casualties were recorded. Amongst others, C Company had Lieut. DIXON killed. The battalion returned to its base on July 18th. Another draft of over 200 officers, N.C.O.'s and men arrived from the 2/9th Battalion on 23rd July, and one officer, Lieut. RUTTENAU, and 90 N.C.O.'s and men were posted to C Company to bring it somewhat in line with the others.
On the 8th August the battalion went again into the trenches, A and B Companies with the Fusilier Brigade, and C and D Companies with the Manchester Brigade. Immediately C and D Companies got in the trench 100 of C Company were detailed for the firing line. These were told off at 8.30am, and by 10 o'clock they had made a feint charge to draw the Turkish fire whilst an attack was being made at another point. This attack carried out its object admirably, and the Company earned the praise of the officer commanding the 1/5th Manchester Regiment, who was in command of the firing line, and also very high praise from the general commanding the Division. In this affair the Company had Lieut. PORTER and four men killed and 21 N.C.O.'s and men wounded. Lieut. RUTTENAU, who was also in the charge, had a very narrow escape; a bullet passed along his coat, tore his belt, and carried away his coat pocket and water bottle. He was not well at the time, and his sickness increased until he was compelled on the 14th August to go into hospital, thus leaving the Company again with only Captain HANDFORTH as officer.
A "WAKES" HOLIDAY.
The battalion returned to bivouac on the 14th, and a few days later removed its base to a pleasant spot on the beach, where a pleasant "Wakes" holiday was spent. The fighting strength of the Company had at this date been reduced again to 140, including all ranks.
On 22nd August a further draft of officers, N.C.O.'s and men arrived from the 2/9th Battalion and C Company was allotted one officer, Lieut. AINSWORTH, and 15 N.C.O.'s and men. Lieut. INGHAM was also transferred from another Company. Although at this date the Company had had 117 officers, N.C.O.'s, and men as reinforcements.
TRENCHES IN AUGUST ATTACK.
The trenches claimed the battalion again on 25th August for a period of 16 days, and during this time the Company was again unfortunate, losing 4 killed and 9 wounded. After eight day's rest at the base the battalion relieved the 7th Lancashire Fusiliers in the trenches, where a further period was spent, and C Company for the first time came through without any casualties in killed or wounded. Captain HANDFORTH, who had not been in good health for a long time, was compelled to go to hospital, and Lieut. AINSWORTH took over the machine gun section, leaving only Lieut. INGHAM with the Company. We are now in the middle of October, and the past few weeks have seriously depleted the ranks through sickness.
VERY GOOD FOOD.
For several months the food has been very good and varied, and included fresh beef, bacon, dried and fresh vegetables, dried fruit, rice, jam, milk and bread, and as regards both quality and quantity everything has been satisfactory. Whatever happens to the Company in the future, its work since it came on the Peninsula to the present time will always be looked upon proudly by its members as a credit to the 9th Battalion, and to the dear old town of Ashton, to which the battalion belongs." Written 15th October, 1915. Gallipoli Peninsula.
THE ASHTON TERRITORIALS AT THE DARDANELLES. A SPECIAL REVIEW OF FIVE MONTHS MAGNIFICENT WORK.
A number of interesting communications have been received from Major M.H. CONNERY, the well beloved old quartermaster of the Ashton Territorials. Writing on October 13th, Major Connery says : -
"I am quite fit. Things are very quiet just now. We all hope to be home for Christmas. The nights and mornings are cold here, but it is still quite hot by day. Lieutenant J. BROADBENT and Captain D.B. STEPHENSON have been invalided away, so we have not many officers now. Two companies of the 9th Battalion have been sent to the 10th Battalion, and two companies to the 5th East Lancashires, but I expect they will be only away from us for a few days. "
Writing on October 15th, Major Connery says :
"One is never safe here. Winter is coming on. The battalion moved up into the firing line today. They will have 14 days in the firing line and seven days out."
Writing on October 19th, Major Connery says:
"I still keep very fit, but I feel frightfully upset today. Our new commanding officer, Major W.J. ANDERSON (late of the West Riding Regiment) was on a tour of inspection along the firing line, when a bomb hit him above the heart. I expect another commanding officer will be appointed shortly. He will be our tenth commanding officer, which speaks for itself of the work our battalion has done. Thanks for letters and papers. I got the Reporter all right. Please only send me the Reporter. As long as I am spared and I have good health, I will stick to the dear old ninth. They have done grandly, and I do not intend to come home whilst there is anyone of the 9th left out here. I greatly miss QMS BOOCOCK, and I should like him to come back. One of his sons is with me now. He is a good lad, and works very hard indeed."
In conclusion, Major CONNERY pays a tribute to General BALDWIN, of the East Lancashire Division, Territorials, who he says, "died in the trenches fighting like a man, with a rifle and bayonet in hand."
LIEUTENANT SUTTON'S HEROISM.
In another letter to an Ashton gentleman, Major CONNERY mentions that Lieut. O. J. SUTTON was wounded on the same day as Lieut. Colonel NOWELL. It was Lieut. SUTTON, he says, who organised a party to find out how far his platoon was from the trenches of the Turks. He took with him Sergeant GRANTHAM, who it will be remembered, has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Major CONNERY says that it was a big blow to the battalion when Colonel WADE got wounded. He adds that they were expecting to have a "big show" in a few days, and says that they gave the Turks 'socks' the other day, and found one of the enemy's ammunition depots. The Turks, he says, are getting short of ammunition, and they have been very quiet, and one can now go and make a morning call in peace.