1/7th Battalion Territorial Force
Formed in 1859 as the 40th Lancashire Rifle Volunteers, later being redesignated the 16th LRV, after the Caldwell reforms they became the 4th Volunteer battalion of the Manchester Regiment, The battalion sent volunteers to fight in the Boer War as part of the Volunteer Service Companies. In 1908, after the Haldane reforms they became the 7th Battalion (Territorial Force) of the Regiment.
On the 4th August 1914, the battalion was based at their HQ at the Drill Hall in Burlington Street, Manchester, On the 20th they marched out to the Camp at Hollingworth Lake, Littleborough near Rochdale. Roughly 90% of the men volunteered for Imperial Service. the battalion was part of the Manchester Brigade, East Lancashire Division.
On the 10th September 1914, the battalion sailed from Southampton in a convoy of fourteen transport ships for Egypt, part of the first Territorial division to leave England on Active Service. Passing malta on the 21st September, (passing the regulars going the other way the next day) arriving Alexandria, 25th September.
On arrival, half of B company stayed on board and proceeded to Cyprus, where they stayed until the battalion departed to the Dardanelles. The main part of the battalion then went to Port Said and sailed down the Canal to Port Sudan on the 30th September, a half company was left there to garrison the port. the remainder traveled on by train to Khartoum and relieved the Suffolks there.
In the Sudan in the next three months, the battalion were alloted many different tasks including guarding the railways ( with armoured trains), occupying hill stations and even a half company being transformed into the British Camel Corps. In April 1915 the battalion moved, after a pleasant stay, from Khartoum to Cairo. On the 3rd May the battalion embarked aboard the Ionian and on the 7th May they arrived at V beach Gallipoli as part of the 127th Brigade, 42nd (East Lancs) Division.
On the 11th the battalion made it's way to the front lines through trenches and gullies full of water. On the 4th June they advanced under a full moon and dug in in front of the turkish trenches. At 8.00 am the bombandment started and at 11.30 the battalion attacked the trenches in front of them. A & C coys took the first trench, B & D passed through them and took the next trench.At this point the battalion came under heavy fire from the right flank and rear causing many casualties. All day long the troops held the trench against turkish counter attacks with help from other Manchesters and LFs. The men were forced to abandon the forward position as the enfilading fire cut their numbers and no reinforcements arrived, the withdrawal proved to be more costly than the advance and the battalion lost many men. The suvivors were rested on Imbros for a few days and then returned to the penninsula.
On the 6th August, the British bombardment started and the troops advanced up to Achi Baba, during the advance the 7th sent in C coy as reinforcements as streams of wounded men returned, later in the day another two companies were sent up to support the Worcesters. The men went through a 'tornado of fire' through the dead and wounded to try and find the stranded Worcesters, eventually both companies lined up in a shallow gully and went about bringing in the wounded.. It was decided that the only option was withdrawal and a the two companies were brought back in.
In the morning the assault was renewed with a bombandment on the redoubt and the barracade that had caused so much trouble the day before. C and B coys advanced but it was obvious that the shelling had proved unsuccessful as men were mown down by the turkish machine guns. In late afternoon the survivors struggled back in and during the evening stretcher bearers brought in the wounded. This action was diversionary as the Australians attacked out of Suvla, it was later that month when the battalion heard it was all in vain.
On the 15th August the battalion was pulled out of the front line to Scotch dug-outs , two and a half miles behind the lines where they were allowed some rest. On the 19th the 7th moved back up to the front, to Gully Ravine, where the routine of trench life of Gallipoli continued until the evacuation. Dysentary and diarrhoea, as well as turkish snipers reduced the ranks. When out of the trenches the men had other duties as bringing up supplies and mining. On the 8th September the battalion moved to a new position, Border Barracade, where the 7th lost 13 men when the turks exploded a mine under their position, later they lost another three when a british trench mortar fell short. As the campaign slowly slipped into stalemate and men from the battalion were attached to various units as signallers machine gunners etc, putting strain on the ones left., their health suffered and the only relief from trench life was sea bathing. In October the battalion moved to Fusilier Bluff, close to the turkish line.
The battalion stayed on the penninsular until December and in January 1916 the Battalion returned to Egypt, after spending time in the south, in June they headed north near Kantara, to take over from detachments of the 11th division which included the 11th battalion, who as the 7th Battalion did, wore the fleur de lys on their helmets.
In mid July a large column of Turks were spotted making their way across the desert from El Arish, striking for the canal. On the 24th July the 7th marched to Gilban, two days later the battle of Romani started. The turks suffered badly. The battalion was ordered to Pelusium along with the 5th and 8th, joining the 6th who were already there. the brigade attacked the enemy flank and the turks began to lose heart and retreat or surrender. The next day the brigade followed up the retreating turks to Katia. During the action it was reported that 3,000 prisoners were taken.
On August 14th the division moved back to Romani, training continued and a draft received from England. In September the 7th moved to Negilat for garrison duties. Batches of men were sent to Alexandria for R&R. In November they moved again to Khirba. where, after some time training, the brigade marched into the desert towards the turkish held El Arish. the attack was a 'wash out' as the turks abandoned the town without fighting. the brigade headed back to El Mazar
In early February 1917 the battalion entrained for Kantara where it meet up with a draft containing many ex-members of the 7th who had recovered from their wounds. The crossed the Suez Canal on the 5th February for the last time. At Ismailia the eastern kit was handed in, the battalion lost the fleur de flys flashes from their tropical helmets and now wore a divisional flash on the sleeves ( diamond shaped, with each brigade having it own colour, the number of the battalion was picked out in red on an orange background)
On the 3rd March 1917 the 7th boarded the Kalyan (with the 8th battalion) and headed to France, landing in Marseille on the 10th March. They entrained north to the mud of Pont Remy and later to Liercourt where the division was re-equipped and training for the western front carried out. By the end of March they moved on again to Dompierre
At the end of April, the battalion moved off again to the front line trenches at Epethy looking up atthe Hindenburg Line. After around a month there, the battalion was moved to Havrincourt Wood where D coy suffered many casualties after being caught by german shellfire. Guarding by day and patrolling by night the 7th occupied Manchester Trench, and Cheetham Hill, after a stay of three and a half weeks, the battalion moved to Ruyaulcourt to brigade reserve for training for an assault on Wigan Copse a week later. The 7th attacked with bayonets 'like howling dervishes' the germans ran for it and the battalion took back three prisoners and returned like heros. The 7th left Havingcourt on the 8th July for Achiet where more training ensued.
On the 1st August news came through of the big offensive at Ypres and rumours of a move up there began, but it wasn't until three weeks later when the move happened. The battalion marched to Aveley and then entrained to Poperinge, their first visit to Belgium.
The Division was detailed to hold taken positions and provide support for the attacking troops. On the 7th September the 7th moved through Ypres along the Menin Road to Cambridge Road, where they were shelled regularly ( as was all the front) On the 9th September an attack was planned on Borry and Beck, to be carried out by the 5th batt with the 7th in support, the jump off trenches were spotted by the germans and heavily shelled and the attck was cancelled and the 7th retired toToronto Camp again.
On the 20th September the battalion moved up north to Nieuport where they met the 66th Divison ( the second East Lans Division) the battalion were billeted at Coxyde where they also met the 2nd battalion, later moving to near Dunkirk. From there the battalion took over the front from the 5th, it was described like having a real war in Blackpool, patrolling was done in a bathing cosume with a tin hat and a revolver!
On November 16th the division proceeded to Bethune arriving at Mazinghem 5 days leter, later to move on again to Givenchy. Here the battalion went in and out of the front line in four day stints In December the 7th moved to Gorre chateau and spent christmas there in heavy snow. In the new year the 7th moved back to the brickstacks area. In February 1918 the 7th moved to Burbure near Lillers.Around this time the army was reorganised into three battalion brigades to try and ease the manpower shortages, the 42nd div lost the 9th and the 8th battalions and 200 men of the 2/10th came over from the 66th divison to the 7th.
The 21st March brought the expected German spring offensive, on the 23rd the whole division boarded London buses and travelled to Ayette. A small battle surplus was left behind and the remainder took up a defensive line between Ablainzeville and Courcelles. As orders changed on an hourly basis, the brigade held a defensive position while stragglers told of heavy enemy attacks. On the morning of the 25th all three brigades were in the front line ready for the germans. The 40th division, hearing the 42nd were in place them withdrew through them.After repulsing german attacks, orders came to fall back to trenches north of Longest wood. Orders came again to fall back through the wood. The withdrawal complete, the 7th were on the right of the division on the edge of Bucquoy. there were no trenches and the men dug in as best they could.
On the 26th March while the germans put their plans into action with machine guns and snipers, the seventh had to put up with the worst type of shellfire, from their own guns. The germans knocked out machine guns hastily set up while the divisional artillery were gassed and bombed by aircraft.
On the morning of the 27th the attack began again, the main assault falling on the 6th batt, the 7th suffered from machine gun fire and shelling. Evening brought a respite but daylight on the 28th it resumed but by the end of the day, with more allied artillery support the germans lost interest and their attack was checked. The 7th were withdrawn only to be sent back into the front line at Gommecourt. On the 7th April the 7th were relieved by the West Ridings and marched away proudly.
On the 8th The battalion straggled into Soustre, after a meal and a short rest they moved on again to Louvencourt for a deserved rest, after a week there, the division moved up to Hebuterne. Here the germans were overlooked by the allied forces for the first time, and the artillery and airforce made the most of it. Firstly the battalion was engaged on defence work but the german army was content with steady shelling. The division was relieved on the 6th May and went into camp around Henu for rest and training, including the training of an American battalion.
On the 6th June the 7th moved back into the line at Hebuterne and were not relieved until the 6th September. A raid was carried out on the 16th June which was succesful if not costly. On the 8th July another raid by D coy only managed to bring back one dead german ( for identification purposes) and later in a show of bravado, Lt Wilkinson and some of his 'transport men' recovered a german wagon abandoned in No Mans land. Another raid on the 19th July was succesful and a german post and prisoner taken, this position was then consolidated with a communications trench and a further attack on The Triangle , a redoubt at La Signy farm, was organised. This was taken with some skill and the defenders were killed or fled. On the 27th July, A coy attacked a trench beyond the triangle but were withdrawn in bad weather. The 7th then held La Signy farm against german counter attacks on the 3rd August, to be relieved on the 6th.
On August 18th the battalion went back in to the line and orders were receivced for an attack along the whole army front on the 20th on Serre ridge.. Under a heavy mist on the morning of the 21st the 7th attacked, C & D coys were in the vanguard and after a fight took their objectives, A & B coys then passed through them and continued on to their objectives. The ground won ( approx 5000 yards) was consolidated and counter attacks fought off. The next assault was the crossing of the Ancre River in the early morning of the 23rd. Large amounts of prisoners were taken (with the ELs) on the far bank. The 6th battalion was then ordered off to Warlencourt with the 7th in support, but finding the enemy were prepared for them, it was decided to wait for daylight, when dawn broke it was found they germans had withdrew.
On the 27th August, the battalion moved to near Loupart Wood and on the 30th the proposed attack was cancelled as the germans had withdrew once more and the division followed them to Riencourt where the 8th and the 10th were succesful. The next village in line was Villiers au Flos, 5th and 6th battalion were to take the village with C coy of the 7th attacking with the 5th, and B coy assisting later in the succesful attack. On the morning of the 3rd September it was found the next village had been abandoned (Basastre) and a fighting patrol was unable to locate any germans in the next village. Cavalry finally found their rearguard near Ytres.
On the 6th September the division came out of the line for a deserved rest and marched back to Warlencourt. On the 22nd September the division moved up to positions near Havincourt wood (again) with the attack on the Hindenburg Line in preparation. The division was to attack along Chapel Wood Switch to take the Hindenburg line in enfilade. On the 27-28th the artillery barrage was intense, the batatlion attacked taking casualties as it moved out of Femy wood. D coy pushed on through to their objectives taking many german prisoners, Pte Jack White winning a VC for taking a MG post single handed. the position although heavily counter attacked was held and reinforced by the 5th batt. A further night attack on the german lines was succesful and a large amount of prisoners taken without a shot being fired. The attack had been a tremendous success but had a cost, out of 450 men there had been over 300 casualties, they had taken 600 prisoners, 2 field guns and many machine guns.
In October the battalion advanced out of the devasted somme area toards the Selle river, the battle commenced on the 21st October, the 7th went forward with the 6th on the left, the 5th on the right and the 7th in close support, there was heavy fighting and the germans were covering their retreat skillfully with machine guns ( Pte Wilkinson of the 5th won a VC here) the 7th provided a defensive flank for the 5th so it could reach it's objective and C coy joined them and advanced to their final objective. On October 23rd the division marched back to Beauvois and continued training.
On November 3rd the battalion marched again and the next day the attack on Mormal Wood commenced, after fierce fighting the garrison was surrounded and Le Quesnoy was captured. The battalion was to continue the pursuit. the next night was spent at Viesly and the second at Pont a Pierre, the next day saw them at Herbignies. The next morning in heavy rainfall the division advanced ( the 8th suffered badly from hidden machine gun nests firing on their flanks. Neverthe less the attack continued and the germans were dislodged. At this point their orgainised retreat became a rout. the advance of the division was now rapid, Hautmont was captured after street fighting and by the evening of the 9th an outpost line had been established on the SE of Maubeuge. At 11am on the 11th the battalion paraded outside the church and the bugles sounded cease fire for the first and last time in the war
'Taken from 'With the Manchesters in the East' and the 'Seventh Manchesters, July 1916-March 1919'
also the second part of the battalion history is available as a download here :-
"Go One Better"