Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Fred Bamber

Fred Bamber : Photograph of Fred in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: MR3/20/54

Photograph of Fred in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR3/20/54

Fred Bamber : (L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; 1939-45 Defence Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Territorial Efficiency Medal

(L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; 1939-45 Defence Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Territorial Efficiency Medal

Fred was born on the 7th March 1893 in the Chorlton area of Manchester. We don't know anything about his family or his early life. Between February 1912 and February 1913 Fred joined the 7th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Territorial Force based at the Drill Hall in Burlington Street, Manchester. Fred would still have had a civilian job; he trained with the 7th Battalion in the evening and at weekends. His service number was 1521 and he enlisted for four years service.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914 the 7th Battalion was called up for full time service. Fred was a bugler when the war began.

The 7th Battalion was sent overseas and arrived in Khartoum in Sudan in November 1914. By February 1915 Fred had been promoted to Lance Corporal and was a member of A Company. He was a keen boxer, the Battalion knew him as a very hard hitter, and tough. During the finals of the Battalion Boxing Championship on the 29th January 1915 Fred fought Private Minshall. The Battalion newspaper, the Sentry, described it as 'one of the best fought and pluckiest bouts we have ever seen'. They fought for 3 rounds; Minshall 'had slightly the best of the height and much advantage in reach' so he was eventually declared the winner. Only after end of the fight did Fred disclose the fact 'that he had fractured his thumb in the first round'.

The 7th Battalion took part in the invasion of Gallipoli, landing in Turkey on the 7th May 1915. We don't have any details of what Fred did during his time in Gallipoli, but we know that he did not leave the Battalion, which means that if he was ever wounded or taken ill it was not serious.

We believe that Fred was either a member of the 7th Battalion's Machine Gun Section, or close to the soldiers who were, because almost 40 years later he was able to perfectly remember the words to 'We are the 7th MGs', a song written by James Harrison, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection.

Gallipoli was evacuated in January 1916 and Fred was sent to Egypt. The 7th Battalion was based in the Sinai Desert to defend Egypt from a Turkish invasion, so Fred spent much of the next year living in primitive conditions amongst the sand dunes.

At some point during late 1916 or early 1917 Fred's 4 year engagement ended. During the early part of the war when this happened to a Territorial soldier he was allowed to leave the Army and return home. This would result in him being conscripted back into the Army almost immediately, however, and there was no guarantee that he would return to his old unit. This meant that many, like Fred, chose to re-enlist in their current unit. When he did, in 1917, Fred was granted one month's leave, his first since 1914.

The 7th Battalion moved to France at around the same time as Fred went on leave. In March its members were also given new service numbers between 275001 and 300000. Fred's was 275021.

Fred had been promoted twice since Khartoum, he was now a Sergeant. During his time in France he also served as an Acting Warrant Officer Class 2. In this rank he had the job of Company Sergeant Major. Again, he never left the 7th Battalion because of injury or sickness.

Towards the end of the war Fred was awarded two medals for gallant conduct. He was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal on the 11th June 1918. This was awarded for gallantry whilst not in action against the enemy. We don't know what Fred did to earn this award.

His second medal was awarded for gallantry in action. Fred was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the London Gazette of the 5th December 1918. This is after the end of the war, so we don't know the actual date this action took place:

For gallant conduct during an attack in charge of half a company. With great promptitude and total disregard of danger he, with two men, worked his way behind the enemy's position and captured and brought as prisoners one officer and 49 other ranks.

We don't know what Fred did after he returned to civilian life, but we do know that he stayed in the 7th Battalion until at least the early 1920s. Fred was an early recipient of the Territorial Efficiency Medal. This was instituted in 1921 to reward 12 years' service, although Fred was allowed to count his service during the First World War twice.

Fred's career and personal life are a mystery. He joined the 7th Battalion Old Comrades Association (OCA) to keep in touch with his friends from the Army, and was a prominent enough member that when William Scott (whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection) retired as Honorary Secretary in 1946 Fred was elected as his replacement.

As Honorary Secretary Fred had many responsibilities; such as keeping in touch with OCA members, organising reunions, raising money to support members who needed help, and many other tasks. He was an extremely popular Secretary and highly respected. The 7th Battalion's motto had been 'We never sleep' and Fred lived up to it!

Fred was one of 9 representatives of the 7th Battalion who attended the new Queen Elizabeth's Royal Review of Ex Servicemen in Hyde Park on the 5th July 1953. James Harrison and James Ruddock, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection, were two of the other eight.

During the late 1950's Fred suffered 'indifferent health'. He had a seizure in June 1958 and was forced to go to hospital. This was a serious illness but Fred recovered well, which was a great relief to his friends in the OCA.

Fred was back in hospital in October 1960 for a glandular operation. This was carried out at Manchester Royal Infirmary on the 1st November. Unfortunately Fred was forced to miss the 7th Battalion OCA Reunion for the very first time. His friends did not fully realize just how much work Fred put into his position as Honorary Secretary until they were forced to organise that year's Reunion!

In mid 1963 Fred was living at 71 Alexandra Road in Chorlton Cum Hardy, Manchester. Unfortunately his medical issues had continued; he was unable to use his right arm properly. This meant he was unable to write as much for the Regimental Gazette as he would have liked. It didn't stop his other activities though; he collected money and clothes from OCA members and gave them out to members in need over the Christmas of 1962.

In May 1965 Fred was well enough to go on a trip to Gallipoli organised by the 42nd Division Association. He visited the battlefields he had fought on 50 years before, and laid wreaths on the memorials. Fred was pleased to meet many former comrades, including two who had joined the 7th Battalion from the Queen's Own West Kent Yeomanry. He also met a man who 'was convinced that he had seen me lying dead after one of the battles'. The man had lived in Essex since 1918 and 'had thought me dead for 50 years'. Fred enjoyed this trip immensely.

Another trip Fred went on was the 18th Battalion OCA's tour of France and Flanders between the 29th July and the 4th August 1967.

Back in the UK Fred continued as the 7th Battalion OCA Honorary Secretary. He regularly attended reunions and remembrance services at the Manchester Regiment Chapel in Manchester Cathedral. By June 1971 Fred had moved to 24 Limley Grove, still in Chorlton Cum Hardy.

Fred went into hospital again in mid 1974, and died on the 7th July. He was 81 years old. His friends in the 7th Battalion OCA decided that after so long in the job and with fewer and fewer veterans left Fred was irreplaceable. They closed down the Association and donated its remaining funds to the Manchester Regiment Association.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council