1915 PAGE 15
THE ASHTON TERRITORIALS, the 9th BATTALION of the MANCHESTER REGIMENT.
1915 - GALLIPOLI.
CIGARETTE V.C. Written & Performed by Peter Simensky © .
The Headlines in the Reporter 16th October 1915.
ASHTON TERRITORIAL V.C. HERO
ASHTON TERRITORIAL V.C. HERO
A THRILLING STORY.
Lieutenant WILLIAM THOMAS FORSHAW'S own story of the deeds which won him the V.C. are thrilling in the extreme. In response to our Reporter representative's request to describe what occurred on those two exciting days, Lieutenant FORSHAW told very modestly of his gallant feats which have thrilled not only this and his own district, but the whole country. He said, " As far as I can remember, on the morning of August 8th progress had been made along a sap parallel to a gully, and the whole of a trench which ran at right angles from each side of the saphead that had been captured and occupied. I and about twenty men were instructed to hold a barricade at the head of the sap. Facing us were three converging saps held by the Turks, who were making desperate efforts to retake this barricaded corner, and so cut off all the other men in the trench. The Turks attacked at frequent intervals along the three saps from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning, and they advanced into the open with the objective of storming the parapet. They were met by a combination of bombing and rifle fire, but the bomb was chief weapon used both by the Turks and ourselves".
ASHTON MEN'S MAGNIFICENT SUPPORT - Lieutenant FORSHAW continues: - "I was far too busy to think of myself or to think of anything. We just went at it without a pause while the Turks were attacking, and in the slack intervals I put more fuses into bombs. I cannot imagine how I escaped with only a bruise from a piece of shrapnel. It was miraculous. The Ashton men supported me magnificently. They adapted themselves very quickly to this method of fighting, and they stuck to the work doggedly, notwithstanding our loses. The attacks were very fierce at times, but only once did the Turks succeed in getting right up to the parapet. Three attempted to climb over, but I shot them with my revolver. On the Saturday evening a young officer came to the parapet and held up his hands, he seemed to be perfectly dazed, and we took him prisoner. All this time both our bomb throwing and shooting had been very effective, and many Turkish dead were in front of the parapet and in the saps. The attack was not continuous, of course, but we had to be on the watch all the time, and so it was impossible to get any sleep.
REFUSAL TO BE RELIEVED - At the end of 24 hours the Ashton men were relieved by a detachment drawn from other battalions, but Lieutenant FORSHAW volunteered to continue to lead the resistance. His offer was accepted, and Corporal BAILEY remained with him. More attacks were repulsed during the Sunday afternoon and night, and at the end of the struggle, Lieutenant FORSHAW rejoined his battalion in condition of almost complete exhaustion. He was afterwards told that the number of bombs thrown by his men and two other detachments in the trench during the weekend was no fewer than 800.
BIG DARK-SKINNED WARRIORS. Lieutenant FORSHAW continues, "We decided that we would hold on to the position whatever it cost us for we knew what it meant to us. If we had lost it the whole of the trench would have fallen into the hands of the enemy. I had half of the men with me, and the other half I placed along the trench with a subaltern. The Turks were at it for all they were worth, and they had sap heads right up to my position; but I had a fine supply of bombs, which, by the way, had been made out of jam tins by our Engineers. Obliging little fellows, those Engineers! Fortunately, we had no fewer than 800 of those bombs, but we got rid of the lot during the greatest weekend I have ever spent." The Lieutenant describes how the Turks managed to climb over the parapet of the trench. "Three times during the one night the Turks made tremendous efforts to get over the parapet, and once they succeeded, but not one of them got back again. We were too busy during the night to look after their dead bodies, but we found them lying at the bottom of the trench next morning. They were armed with rifles and bayonets, and huge men they were. Three of these big, dark-skinned warriors appeared. Immediately one made a move for a Corporal who was digging a hole from which to fire during the night. I saw the Turk make for him with his long bayonet, and I straightaway put a bullet through him from my useful Colt revolver. My weapon was a very fine friend to me during those thrilling minutes. A second Turk came for me with his bayonet fixed, evidently with the object of covering his pal, who was making for the box of our bombs, but I managed to put them both out of action. They never came over the barricade again; but realising as they did what position meant, they kept up the fusillade during the whole of the night."
USE FOR THE 'FAG'. An extraordinary feature of this 41 hours bombing is that throughout Lieut. FORSHAW smoked continuously for the purpose of lighting the fuses of the bombs. He had practically nothing to eat and no sleep during the whole period. "One can hardly remember all that did happen. We kept firing the bombs at the Turks. My lads fought splendidly - just like heroes. Lieut. SUTTON, who, by the way, richly deserved the Military Cross, and for which he was recommended, had charge of half my Company. I was acting as temporary Captain at the time. He was shot in the head as soon as he reached the other side of the trench. Lieut. COOKE also fought well and cheered on the lads."
(William Thomas Forshaw survived the war. He died in Holyport on May 26th 1943 aged 53 years. He was buried in Touchen End Cemetery, Bray, Berkshire, in an unmarked grave. A headstone was erected in 1991. His medals are now on display in the Manchester Regiment Museum, Ashton).
Click on the ICON to view William Thomas Forshaw's grave. Click BACK in your browser to return to this website. (Photo © courtesy of Julia&Keld).
Published in the Reporter 16th October 1915.
AN ASHTON D.C.M. HERO RETURNS HOME.
Sergeant HARRY GRANTHAM, of the 1/9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (Ashton Territorials), who has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous gallantry and ability on the Gallipoli Peninsula, returned to Ashton on Saturday, and was heartily welcomed. The houses in the immediate neighbourhood of his home, 41, Raynham Street, Ashton, were gay with buntings. Sergeant GRANTHAM gave a Reporter representative a graphic account of the way he earned his distinction, and of the gallantry and courage of Captain W.T.FORSHAW, V.C. whom he was with in the celebrated "Vineyard" during 41 hours continuous bomb throwing and fighting. "It feels fine to be back in Ashton once again," said Sergeant GRANTHAM. "It was nothing that anybody else could not have done that I was given the D.C.M. for."
"Lieut. SUTTON and myself went out two nights in succession, July 10th and 11th. We each took a piece of rope with us, attached to our wrists and to the parapet of our trench. We pulled it along with us until we reached the Turkish trenches, and so were able to measure the distance between our trenches and theirs. The Turks saw us, but we ran about five or ten yards, and then lay flat on the ground among dead Turks. It was somewhat exciting, especially when they fired at us, but luckily we were missed. Both General Prendergast and General Douglas congratulated us."
Sergeant GRANTHAM related the story of the brave deeds which won for Captain FORSHAW, of the Ashton Territorials, the V.C. He was in the same trench - the "Vineyard trench" - so called because there is a vineyard at the end of the trench - which is an advanced trench, and helped in the bomb throwing which lasted 41 hours.
"There were all sorts of bombs," said Sergeant GRANTHAM. "Round bombs, and bombs made out of jam tins and filled with explosives and bits of iron, lead, needles, etc. It was lively while it lasted. We could see the Turks coming on at us, great big fellows they were, and we dropped our bombs right amidst them. Captain FORSHAW was at the end of the trench. He fairly revelled in it. He kept joking and cheering us on, and was smoking cigarettes all the while. He used his cigarettes to light the fuses of the bombs, instead of striking matches. 'Keep it up boys,' he kept saying. We did, although a lot of our lads were killed and injured by the Turkish firebombs. It was exciting, I can tell you. There was another brave man there that day, Colour Sergeant-Major CHADDERTON. I believe he lives in Dukinfield. He not only fought well, but cheered the lads. I'll give the Turks their credit, they are clean fighters compared with the Germans. The Germans do all the dirty work," said Sergeant GRANTHAM. "There are not so many snipers now as there were at first. Everybody says the Ashton lads have done well, and they have earned the praise. We have had good officers, and the men have backed them up. Major CONNERY has been like a father to the boys. He has looked after them well. Lieutenant WADE was very popular. I saw him jump into a Turkish trench, but I never saw him again. I have lost a lot of my pals," said Sergeant GRANTHAM. "Sergeant LOMAS, my best friend, was killed by shrapnel whilst completing the work of digging in which we had started in the night. I miss TOM very much. Ashton lads are wanted to fill up the gaps in the ranks of those who have done so well." Sergeant GRANTHAM was shot in the neck by a bullet in the 'Vineyard'. He can just remember being taken on a stretcher to a French hospital ship, and thence on another hospital ship to Alexandria, and from there to the New Zealand hospital at Port Said. Although the bullet was extracted soon after the injury, the poison from the bullet got into his gums, and caused a number of abscesses, and he had to undergo an operation and have the abscesses treated, and five teeth extracted. He arrived at Devonport last week. He was taken on the Birmingham, where he arrived on Wednesday night, and was given permission to return home on Saturday.
Published in the Reporter 16th October 1915
SERGT. MAJOR FOWLER.
Returns Unexpectedly From the Dardanelles.
One of the nicer familiar figures at the Ashton Armoury before the war was Sergeant-Major J. FOWLER, who was on the permanent staff. His broad, merry face, his burly figure, and his ability as a drill instructor were well known and appreciated. The Ashton Territorials possess some of the best instructors of any Territorial Battalion - and the result has been shown in the efficiency of the 9th.
To the great surprise and delight of Mrs. Fowler, who resides in Carlton Road, Smallshaw, Sergeant-Major Fowler returned home early on Tuesday morning from the Dardanelles quite unexpectedly. A Reporter representative who called to renew acquaintance with Sergeant-Major Fowler was impressed by a glow of radiant health which seemed to emanate from him. He looked as fit as a fiddle, and bronzed. "I only landed at Plymouth yesterday," he said, "and made my way straight home. It is a treat to be out of the sound of the guns, for, as you know, on the Peninsula we were never out of range of the guns, but we became accustomed to it. I was wounded in June, and it was a narrow shave. I was shot through the scalp. An eighth of an inch lower and I should have 'gone west'. After being attended to I was taken to hospital, and when I recovered I returned to the Dardanelles. The boys have done remarkably well. They were well trained in Egypt, and soon became quite the equal of the regular forces. All the officers did well, I can see Major CONNERY sitting outside his dug-out, exchanging greetings with all who pass by. It did not matter who it was, officer or man, Major CONNERY could always say something appropriate, and the fun used to be great. All the boys worship the Major."
Published in the Reporter 16th October 1915.
Ashton Man on Six Weeks Furlough.
Private JOHN TRAVIS, of the 1/9th Manchester Regiment, Ashton Territorials, returned to his home on Warrington Street, Ashton, on Friday. He was in Plymouth from the previous Wednesday. He has been in the Ashton Territorials about four years. He saw a good deal of hard fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula, and had some exciting experiences. There was a constant fire from rifles and shells from the Turks, who occupy a very strong position. It was while he was in the reserve trenches early in June that he began to be sick, and later suffered from enteric fever. He was sent to hospital at Lemnos, and while on board ship in the harbour an enemy aeroplane flew over and threw a number of bombs. Fortunately there was no serious damage. A brother, Private 2161 JAMES TRAVIS, was killed while in the trenches on June 20th. He was formerly a member of the Ashton Volunteers, and enlisted in the Territorials when they were mobilised. Private JOHN TRAVIS speaks very highly of the work performed by the Ashton men. "They have worked hard ever since they went out," he said. "In all Gallipoli there never was a braver or happier lot of men than the Ashton Territorials. They all went with good hearts." Private TRAVIS was seven weeks at Port Said, and is now enjoying a six weeks furlough. (His brother, James Travis is buried in the Lancashire Landing Cemetery).
Published in the Reporter 16th October 1915.
THREE ASHTON BROTHERS.
One Killed and Two Wounded.
The latest list of casualties from Gallipoli contains the name of Private 2965 ISAAC THOMPSON, of the 1/9th Manchester Regiment, and of Mossley Road, Ashton. Private THOMPSON, who was only 19 years old, belonged to a fighting family. His father, Mr. William Thompson, years ago served in the 2nd Manchesters, and at present he is engaged in making munitions at Park Bridge, and relatives have gone through the Indian and the Crimean campaigns. According to official news, Private ISAAC THOMPSON was killed in action on September 7th. From a letter sent by one of his cousins, who is also in the Ashton Territorials, he was shot through the head, and his comrades were present when he was buried. Two brothers have been wounded, Private WILLIAM SCHOFIELD THOMPSON, who had been in India for six years, returned with the 1st Manchesters last September, and he was wounded in December. The other, Private GEORGE THOMPSON, is a signaller at present attached to the 18th Battalion Cheshire Regiment. He was rejected for the Ashton Territorials, and then went to Stalybridge, where he was accepted for the Cheshires. He was wounded in May, and returned to his regiment three weeks ago, going back to the very place where he received his wound. The last letter received from Private ISAAC THOMPSON was dated August 7th, and when his parents received it, his death would have taken place. He spoke of the Peninsula of Gallipoli, stating that it was a "hell hole", adding, "I think the Turks are getting a bit tired now, and they seem to be very quiet." A letter, dated September 4th was received from him by some friends in Hope Street, Ashton, and on the day the message left the battlefield, Private THOMPSON was killed. He spoke of the awful time they were having there, and hoped they would soon be coming back again. Mrs. Thompson informed the Reporter representative that she had six brothers and nephews, and two brothers-in-law in the forces at the present time. (Isaac Thompson is recorded on the Helles Memorial to the missing).
Published in the Reporter 16th October 1915.
ASHTON TERRITORIAL WOUNDED.
Private FRANK CHEVALIER writes to the Editor of the Reporter: - " Being a reader of your paper, I write these few lines to let you know how I am faring. I was in "A" Company, 9th Manchester Territorials, and was wounded on the 7th of August, and am now in hospital at Bristol. Our boys made a bayonet charge and captured a trench. We were sent in to reinforce them, as the Turks were making a counter attack. Along with my mate, I was engaged in throwing bombs. We had been working very hard, and things were getting hot. It was in the afternoon when we were in the captured trench. I got hit in the early hours of the next morning. I was sent to St. Davids hospital, Malta, I was there three weeks, then I was sent to England."