Author Topic: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today  (Read 610 times)

Offline UncleJack

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TAMESIDE SEVENTEEN
Exactly one hundred years ago, seventeen young men from Tameside were caught up in battle far away from home; it cost them their lives. They were members of the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and they were serving in what was then Mesopotamia - present day Iraq.
They had arrived at Basra in March 1920 after over a month at sea and sailed up the River Tigris in a steamer before arriving at Baghdad. From there they had taken a train north to Tekrit (the village which later became infamous as the home of Saddam Hussein) where they had spent their time in tough conditions protecting refugees, looking after the safety of 900 British women and children and guarding Turkish prisoners of war.
By July there were rumblings among the southern tribes and the Battalion was sent 150 miles south by train to the city of Hillah - the site of ancient Babylon. Here the officer in command at Hillah was persuaded to send out a small force to re-assure the friendly Arabs and to maintain order in the area. On July 23rd the Manchester column set out from Hillah.
The conditions were unbearable as they marched six miles south in heat that was said to be 108 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade! The men suffered greatly and the medical officer said they should rest up for a whole day. They camped in a place where there was only brackish water unfit for the men and their animals. The force was ordered to advance at dawn and, after 3 ½ hours to water the animals, left at 9am on July 24 to arrive at the Rustimiyah Canal at 12.45pm. All were affected by the great heat but the place was not too bad; there was water and in the afternoon lorries came from Hillah bringing rations, soda water and ice as the men dug a defensive trench.
At 6pm all seemed peaceful. But then news came of a well armed body of Arabs moving in on the camp. Thirty Arab flags were spotted indicating the presence of 2000 to 3000 men, some said 10000. Sniping at the camp began and some transport animals were hit. The Commanding Officer was persuaded to withdraw to Hillah which it was feared might be captured. The retreat began well at 8.40pm but they had gone only 500 yards when the Arabs opened fire.
One man particularly was to distinguish himself that night. He was Captain George Stuart Henderson VC who reorganised the men and led them to the attack three times. But tragically something had started a panic among the transport animals and there was chaos. The column was heavily attacked by fanatical tribesmen and suddenly they found themselves involved in hand to hand fighting; some lost their way in the dark on the overgrown track and small groups of men found themselves  surrounded by big groups of Arabs armed with knives, intent on booty.  Henderson was shot in the thigh; held up on the embankment by his men he called out, “I’m done now, don’t let them beat you!” Perhaps they were the last words those Tameside men heard before they were cut down. Henderson was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery.
That night, July 24th 1920, 178 men were left dead or missing, 150 were captured and 60 were wounded. Sixteen Tameside men were killed and their bodies never recovered. One further Tameside lad escaped but died of his privations later on that year. Their names are recorded on the Basrah War Memorial which sadly is impossible to visit these days. They are also remembered in the Regiment Chapel at Manchester Cathedral. These Tameside lads are not forgotten and are remembered today with pride:
ALBERT EDWARD AXON
 aged 18 of 26 Milton St, Denton. He was born in Denton in 1903 to Charles Peter and Martha Axon. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
SAMUEL BARDSLEY
 aged 23 of 16 Gerard St, Ashton. He was the son of William Henry Bardsley, 16 Gerard St, Ashton and husband of Mary Bardsley. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
THOMAS KELLY BURGESS
 aged 18 of Cedar Bank, Oldham Rd, Ashton. He was the son of Joseph and Annie M. Burgess. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
JOSEPH CARR
aged 20 of 38 Haughton Rd, Audenshaw. He was a Corporal and the son of Mrs Harriett Carr. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
JOHN CONSTANTINE
 of 7 Oldham St, Droylsden. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
ROBERT HENRY COOKE
of 46 East St, Guide Bridge. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
MAXWELL ROBERT CRAWFORD
aged 20 of 6 Matley St, Hurst Brook. He was the son of Robert Maxwell and Annie Crawford. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
WILLIAM FIELDEN
 aged 19 of 5 Wigmore St, Ashton. He was the son of Mrs Jane Fielden. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
THOMAS GALLERY
aged 22 of 7 Hurst St, Dukinfield. He was the son of William and Mrs E Gallery. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
NORMAN HADFIELD
aged 20 of 35 Queen St, Dukinfield. He was the son of Albert and Bertha Hadfield. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
HERBERT HALLWORTH
of 20 Hill St, Dukinfield. He was the son of Isaac Hallworth. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
JOHN HENRY (JACK) HEATHCOTE
 aged 18 of 32 Hanover St South, Audenshaw. He was born in Castleton, Derbyshire, in 1902 to Francis and Elizabeth Heathcote. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial and St Stephen's Church lych gate
FRANK HIGGINBOTTOM
of 11 Audenshaw Rd, Guide Bridge. He was the son of Mrs J. Dimmock. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial and on St Stephen's Church lych gate.
EDWIN JOSEPH KELLY
of 25 Back New St, Droylsden. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
THOMAS McDONALD DCM MM
aged 35 of 4 Kenyon St, Hurst Brook. He was a Company Serjeant Major and the husband of Margaret McDonald. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
LOT (LUKE) TETLOW
of 15 Back Portland St, Ashton. He was the son of Lot Tetlow and Sarah Jane Greenwood. He is commemorated on the Basra War Memorial.
Also
LESLIE RONALD CUMMINGS 
aged 20 of Hurst Vicarage. A former pupil of Manchester Grammar School, he was the son of the Revd R. W. and Florence Ellen Cummings. He died of diphtheria on December 2nd 1920 after escaping the slaughter of July 24th. He was buried at Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery.

Offline mack

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2020, 10:45:42 AM »
nothing is known who was with captain henderson when he was killed,its believed that a 100 of the manchesters were taken to najaf and killed

at least one man from tameside was amongst those captured and later released
pte 3513466 george bromley,133 whiteacre rd,hurst

mack

Offline PhilipG

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2020, 11:34:59 AM »
Welcome, and thank you, too, for reminding us of the 1920 revolt and the Regiment's involvement in that terrible affair.     For my part, your excellent work prompted me to read once again of the battle details of so long ago.   Thanks again.   PhilipG.

Offline UncleJack

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2020, 11:48:23 AM »
Thank you Mack; this is really helpful and interesting. So you say that 100 of the Manchesters were killed in Najaf and perhaps not at the Rustimiyah Canal - which is what I'd always thought. Where did you get the information about Najaf from please?

Offline Tim Bell

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2020, 01:08:57 PM »
Hi Jack,
Have a look at a previous thread. http://themanchesters.org/forum/index.php?topic=2442.0
You’ve provided a timely reminder.
Tim
Following one Platoon and everything around them....
http://17thmanchesters.wordpress.com/about/

Offline steveg

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2020, 02:18:13 PM »
Theres a few pages about the Manchester Column in the book "Enemy on the Euphrates" by Ian Rutledge.
At 8.40pm after a decision was made by Colonel Hardcastle,Lt Tozer and Captain W.E. Hunt, to abandon camp and head to Hilla they set off.
B Company as the advance guard split into 2 files either side of the 150 AT (animal transport) wagons and six horse drawn 18 pounder guns. They were followed by A and D companies with the Sikh pioneers and 2 squadrons of Scinde horse as rearguards.
Something panicked the horses and mules, scattering all the men. Captain Henderson leads 2 bayonet charges before succumbing to his wounds.
The book says Captain Glover and 128 men of B company, disorientated  veered off the track to Hilla to the left heading towards Birs Nimrud. At some point along this track they are surrounded and attacked by a swarm of mounted insurgents. According to a survivor from another unit they were "slaughtered to a man".
Apparently if the column had stayed at the camp at Rustumiyya canal (there was a good water supply and they had superior firepower) they would have been reinforced by the Royal Irish Rifles who were on route, but hindsights a wonderful thing.
My Great Grandfather Bill Currie was captured there and held prisoner, remember relative saying that he said the women would come out and hit the prisoners over the heads with their pots as they were marched through villages, years later saw one of those Bravo two zero reconstructions, where the same thing happened to them when taken prisoner all those years later. Always amazed all the prisoners weren't executed, maybe they realised they could be used as bargaining chip after their bloodlust had passed

Offline UncleJack

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2020, 08:44:34 PM »
Thanks Steve for reminding me of this book. I was in touch with the author because he wrote about my Gt Uncle Jack Heathcote on pages 349-350. Have you read 'George Stuart Henderson The Story of a Scottish Soldier 1893 - 1920' by R King-Clark? It's another good account of what happened with some helpful diagrams and gives you a clear picture of how the different companies were positioned by the canal. Thanks again.

Offline mack

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2020, 01:36:41 AM »
hiya steve
nice to see your still with us,this event has never been properly discussed on our forum,theres conflicting reports about what happened on that day with regards to the manchesters,your latest find about capt glover and his 128 men add more mystery to the event,if this report by a survivor is true,then it raises the question of who was with capt henderson when he was killed,there were around 134 men of the battalion who were killed that day,that means capt henderson made two bayonet charges and a last stand with about 5 men,the figures dont add up,if you add capt hendersons men to capt glovers men,this accounts for all the battalions dead,that means non died during the stampede and non died in captivity[there was one known to have died].

mack

Offline steveg

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2020, 08:06:26 PM »
Hi UncleJack
no haven't read that book, had a quick google, looks likes its out of print. Must have been terrible for your family to lose your great uncle at 18 so soon after ww1

Hi Mack
yes i have read also on this link (below)that 100 men were taken to Najaf and executed

http://www.kaiserscross.com/304501/315743.html

thats why i found it interesting reading the other account in Ian Rutledges book, said to be from the enquiry.
How did this man from another unit see all of them killed if they had taken a wrong turn in the dark?
If there were roughly 100 men in a company, B company being the ones executed that still leaves 2 other companies with Captain Henderson?
On the men behind the medals website, in the profile of Charles Mutters, it say he was the most senior soldier in Captain Henderson's D company. It also says he gathered the 79 men around him in the dark and then they surrended at dawn. So maybe by the morning the Arabs had calmed down and were happy with all the weapons and ammo they had captured so didn't execute them?
thanks
Steve


Offline mack

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2020, 12:54:18 AM »
hiya steve
it wouldnt make sense for the arabs to march a 100 manchesters all the way to najaf just to murder them,they wouldnt have burdened themselves with them,we know for sure they killed many of the wounded from all the units involved especially the indian soldiers,but even the arabs are not stupid enough to do anything like that,theres no gain or glory,whoever it was who said they were killed at najaf was probably dramatising,if it were true,then the witness report of capt harrison and his 123 men being killed was a pack of lies,the numbers dont add up,if you add up the 100 at najaf and the 123 with capt glover plus those of D.coy killed with capt henderson,your looking at approx 250 dead ???and thats not counting those killed during the stampede

mack
« Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 10:59:05 AM by mack »

Offline mack

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2020, 01:10:15 AM »
unclejack[philip]

hiya philip
did you know that your great uncle jack was originally not listed on the CWGC,his name and that of pte 3513891 archie,donald,welford matthews were added to the basra memorial years later

mack

Offline UncleJack

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2020, 08:35:18 PM »
Yes Mack - you're right, and this I think led to the writing of a letter from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1978 which said, 'Our records contain no reference to Private J H Heathcote Private H Gibson or Private A D W Matthews, so it can only be assumed that these three soldiers survived the war period'. This letter was sent to J Darwent and is in the archives in Ashton. Strange really because Jack's mother received a pension after his death and he has always been held up as a family hero.
Not being a military person myself, please could you help confirm something for me? Uncle Jack sent a letter from Mesopotamia on June 30th and heads it with his address as 13 (or 18 - not clear) Platoon D Company. Would he have been in D Company on the night of the 24th? I assume he would.
Would like to see the Basra Memorial but I guess there's no chance just now?
Thanks,
Philip

Offline mack

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2020, 10:17:46 PM »
hiya philip
its 13th platoon.D.coy

mack

Offline mack

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Re: The 2nd Battalion at Hilla July 24th 1920 - Centenary today
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2020, 02:41:02 AM »
hiya philip
when the CWGC searched their archives for pte h.gibson,they were looking for a pte h.gibson,they have him incorrectly listed on the basra memorial as pte corrye gibson.

mack
« Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 11:00:45 AM by mack »