Photograph of Fred by kind permission of Mr Eddie Gardiner
Fred was born between January and March 1896 in Hollingworth, near Hyde in what was then Cheshire. His father was called William and his mother was Sarah Ann. He had 2 older brothers, John and Harry, and one younger named Charles Shepley.
William ran a 'beer house' called the Royal Oak, on Market Street in Hollingworth. This is still open in 2012. William died in 1903 and by 1911 the family had moved to 19 John Shepley Street in Hyde. Fred had begun training to be a hatter; unlike his brothers who had all found work in the calico printing trade. By 1914 he had changed careers and made tyres for motor vehicles.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Fred joined the Army on the 9th January 1915 in Manchester. He was one of thousands of Manchester men who joined the City Battalions in order to serve together. Fred joined the 4th City Battalion, which later became the 19th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He was 5 feet 4 1/2 inches tall.
Fred was given the service number 12580 and assigned to number IX Platoon in C Company. William Ernest James Hall, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection, was also a member of this platoon in 1915. He would later become an officer and win the Military Cross.
After training at Heaton Park in Manchester, in April the 19th Battalion moved to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire. They were based there until early September when they moved to Larkhill in Wiltshire. From here they sailed to France on the 8th November. Fred sailed aboard the SS Queen Alexandra.
After training the 19th Battalion went into the front line near Carnoy in early January 1916. They were based in this area until May. Fred will have spent time in the trenches and working in the rear.
On the 5th February Fred was sentenced to 14 days Field Punishment Number 1. He had been convicted of 'not complying with an order' and 'wearing shrapnel helmet over cap'. We don't know what the order was. Field Punishment Number 1 involved doing hard physical labour, and being tied or handcuffed to a fixed object for up to 2 hours per day, on 3 days out of every 4.
Fred and the 19th Battalion moved to the Maricourt area in late May, and spent most of June training to take part in the Somme Offensive that would be launched on the 1st July.
On this day Fred and the 19th Battalion attacked the Glatz Redoubt, a fortified German position near the village of Montauban. The position was captured successfully, although Fred's C Company lost around 40 men killed, wounded or missing.
Fred took part in more fighting during July, including the attack on the village of Guillemont on the 23rd. C Company managed to get through the German positions and into the village. They began to attack the German soldiers there, but they were cut off. As far as the battalion knew, Fred and his comrades were amongst the 500 members of the battalion killed, wounded or missing after the battle.
Although many of the missing soldiers were killed, Fred had survived. He was one of a number taken prisoner by the Germans. We don't know much about his captivity, although he spent some time at Dulmen Prisoner of War Camp in Westphalia, Germany. Many of the prisoners held at this camp were put to work, some in coal mines and others on farms. After the war it became a family joke that Fred had gone to fight the Germans, but ended up picking potatoes for them!
Fred's capture was confirmed in the Manchester Evening News on the 22nd September. In the same article Harry's death was announced. He had been a member of the 13th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, with service number 17153. He had died of wounds on the 5th September, aged around 22. He is buried in Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood.
John had moved to Australia in 1912. When the war began he joined the Australian Light Horse and served in France with them. He survived the war and we believe he returned to Australia after he left the Army.
Fred was held prisoner until the end of the war on the 11th November 1918. He was then repatriated back to the UK and arrived in Dover on the 16th December. He was transferred to the Class Z Reserve on the 20th February 1919 and returned to his family in Hyde. This reserve existed so that soldiers could be easily called back to the Army if war with Germany broke out again. It was never needed and Fred was finally demobilised in March 1920.
A civilian again, Fred returned to his old job making tyres, and continued to live at 19 John Shepley Street with his mother and Charles. Charles married in 1931, and his wife May came to live there too. Sarah died in 1933, aged 76, and the house was left to John. In around 1937 Charles and May moved out. At some point around this time John returned to the UK and came to live with Fred.
John married Nellie Millington in April 1940. They both lived at 19 John Shepley Street with Fred.
At the end of his life Fred worked as a spreader at a leather cloth works. He died from Uraemia, or kidney failure, on the 8th January 1944 in Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport. He was 47 years old and had never married. His funeral was held in Hyde. Fred's 15 year old cousin attended it with his father. He remembers that Fred was 'a changed man' after he returned from the First World War.
Fred's medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in June 2011, after being purchased at Pomroy's Antique Shop in Hyde during the 1960s. As well as his 1914-15 Star, Fred was also awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.