1/9th (Ashton) Battalion Territorial Force in the Great War
On the 10th August Lord Kitchener announced that the Territorial Force could volunteer to serve over seas, but at that time, the Ashton Territorials found themselves below their permitted establishment, having only 24 Officers and 888 men. This prompted a big recruiting campaign. In Ashton, men and boys queued to enlist and within a week the number of the Battalion had risen in total to 1003.
On the 12th August the Ashton Battalion accepted the invitation for Foreign Service, whereby they became one of the three infantry brigades of the East Lancashire Brigade.
On the 20th August, the Ashton Territorials, 9th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, marched into a tented camp at Chesham Rd. Bury to join the 4th and 5th East Lancashires and the 10th Manchesters, which made up the East Lancashire Brigade. Training at Bury ensued.
The 9th Battalion left Bury for Southampton on the 9th September. The following day they boarded HMS Aragon, leaving at midnight bound for Egypt.
They arrived at Alexandria on the 25th, and were transported to the Citadel and Kasr-el-Nil barracks, Cairo.
From January onwards, strenuous training was carried out. The physical fitness of the men was paramount. They endured long marches into the desert in full marching order. As part of their duties, from time to time, the 9th Battalion found themselves guarding the Suez Canal.
On Sunday 28th March 1915, General Major Sir Ian Hamilton reviewed the Division in Cairo.
Verbal orders were received for the 9th Battalion (as part of the East Lancashire Division) to prepare to move to the Dardenelles at short notice.
The 9th Battalion received their firm orders on the 1st May, and were concentrated at Port Said by the evening of the 4th.
On 5th May, the men of 9th Battalion embarked on the AUSONIA.
The horses, mules, one cart and two machine-gun carriages, along with Major Newell, Lt. Broadbent and 26 other men embarked on the transport Commodore.
On the 9th May the 9th Battalion landed under heavy fire at Sedd-el-Bahr, (V Beach), they moved quickly from the beach into bivouacs.
On May 11th, the 9th Battalion, as part of the East Lancashire Division, received orders to take over the whole of the British front line. They were now in reserve positions behind the Manchester Brigade and the Lancashire Fusilier Brigade.
On May 25th, the designation of the Division was changed and as the 42nd East Lancashire Division it took precedence in numerical order of the other Territorial Divisions, this placed the 9th Battalion in the front line.
During the following months, the 9th Battalion found themselves straightening up the line of trenches, establishing rifle pits in front of the front line, undertaking reconnaissance of the new Turkish trenches, attacking the Turkish trenches, and holding their new position. Fierce fighting in Krithia Nulla and in and around the Vineyard took place, resulting in many casualties.
Disease, sickness, and heavy rain that turned to snow blizzards and frost in the November of 1915 claimed many more casualties. The 9th Battalions numbers were dwindling fast.
On the 26th December, orders were received to leave the Peninsula, and on the 28th the 9th Battalion embarked on HMT Redbreast bound for Mudros West.
By early January the 9th Battalion were back in Egypt on guard duties of the Suez Canal. March was spent on out post duty in the desert at Kabrit where work was carried out on preparing the defensive positions.
The Battalion returned to Suez in early May where they were once again place on guard duty of the Suez Canal. Training and route marches were also order of the day.
On December 20th all available troops were mustered (30.000 in all) at El Maadan, where they prepared for a rapid attack upon the Turkish positions at El Arish, but in the early hours of the 21st, before any order had been given to attack, the Turks fled.
The defence of the Suez Canal was finally made secure by February 1917.
On the 4th March the 9th Battalion embarked on HMT Arcadian bound for France. They disembarked at Marseilles on 11th March and moved by train to Pont Remy, arriving there on the 14th March. From Pont Remy the 42nd Division was moved to an area ten miles east of Amiens, there the 9th Battalion was issued with rifles and steel helmets. They began training on the tactics of trench warfare, trench digging, route marches were also order of the day.
The 9th battalion moved to Haquaix on 18th April, and on the evening of 22nd April, they took over a section of the front line and support line at Epehy.
They went into a reserve area on 9th July, undertaking various training exercises and rest. On the 22nd August they were entrained bound for Ypres. The 42nd Division took over a sector almost a mile in width, enduring appalling condition due to bad weather and constant heavy enemy shellfire.
The 9th battalion left the front line at the end of September and took over the coastal defence at the Nieuport front, under constant shellfire and arial attack. In December the battalion went into the line near Bethune with the 10th battalion.
The battalion moved to Gorre on the 24th where trench warfare continued with raids from both sides. In a raid on the 11th February the battalion went over the top in a successful action in the sector opposite Festubert, with artillery stopping any German escape or reinforcements.
On the 15th the battalion was withdrawn to the Busnes/Burbure/Fouquieres area. The army was going through a dramatic reconstruction at this time with brigades being reduced from 4 to 3 battalions. Some battalions were broken up to supply drafts to under strength battalions. Some 260 officers and men of the 9th joined with the 2/9th while 210 others joined the 1/5th and the 1/6th
Those left in the battalion remained as a training cadre. In August 1918 they absorbed the 13th Manchesters and were later reconstituted as the 9th battalion. They ended the war in Soire le Chateau near Avesnes.
Many thanks to Linda, please visit her site on The Ashton Territorials and full acknowledgement must be given to Robert Bonner for his excellent book Volunteer Infantry of Ashton under Lyne, available from the regimental museum