Photograph of Albert in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR4/17/330
(L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; Territorial Force Efficiency Medal (with ribbon of Territorial Efficiency Medal)
Albert was born between January and March 1877 in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire. His father was called Charles and his mother was Alice. He had 2 older siblings; Emily and John, and 5 younger; George, Harold, Percy, Alice and Arthur. Arthur's medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection.
Charles worked as a joiner, and he raised his family in Ashton. In 1881 they lived at 250 Church Street. They lived at 98 Charles Street in 1891, and Albert had begun to work as a labourer at a brick yard. By 1901 Albert's mother had died and the family had moved to 34 Victoria Street. Albert was now a loom operator in a cotton mill.
Between October and December 1902 Albert married Mary Ann Taylor in Ashton. They eventually made their home at 38 Portland Street and had a son named William Percy, who was born in around 1905. In 1911 they both worked in a cotton mill; Albert as a stripper and grinder and Mary as a drawing frame tenter. At this time his brother Arthur lived with them, he was a gas engine painter.
As well as his civilian work Albert had begun a military career. He joined the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 12th November 1894. This was a unit of the Volunteer Force based in Ashton. Its members lived as civilians and kept their normal jobs. They trained as soldiers during the evenings and weekends. They would also have an annual training camp, lasting around 2 weeks.
The Boer War of 1899-1902 showed that the Volunteer Force was not trained or manned strongly enough to take part in a modern war. It also received the majority of its funding from private donations and by 1907 many Volunteer units were in danger of going bankrupt. This forced the Government to act, and on the 31st March 1908 the Volunteer Force was converted into the Territorial Force. This was intended to be better trained and more able to reinforce the Regular Army in a war.
When this change took place Albert held the rank of Sergeant in the 3rd Volunteer Battalion. It became the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Albert continued to serve and was given the new service number 266. He was promoted to Colour Sergeant after passing an examination on the 8th April 1911.
Albert was awarded the Territorial Force Efficiency Medal for 12 years service as a Volunteer and Territorial. This suggests he qualified for it in late 1906, although it was not introduced until the creation of the Territorial Force in 1908.
When the First World War broke out in August 1914 Albert held the position of Company Sergeant Major. He was mobilised with the rest of the 9th Battalion and sailed to Egypt with them on the 10th September. He began the war in H Company.
Albert spent much of his time in Egypt training and overseeing the training of the soldiers under his command. There was time for sightseeing though; Albert sent several postcards and photographs to his son Willie. This photograph of Albert on a camel was also taken in Egypt.
It was May 1915 before the 9th Battalion went to war. By this time they were known as the 1/9th, because a second battalion had been formed in Ashton (2/9th). They took part in the invasion of Gallipoli, landing there on the 9th. They were involved in heavy fighting over the next few months, and took many casualties. He was the Company Sergeant Major of D Company during the campaign.
Every soldier killed left behind a family, and more senior Non Commissioned Officers and Officers would often write to them explaining how their loved one had died. Albert did this in late July or early August for the family of Sergeant Tom Lomas, number 31. His letter was published in the Ashton Reporter newspaper on the 7th August, and tells how Tom 'was killed instantly at about 9:30am. You may rest assured that he suffered no pain...when a shell burst near him, killing him on the spot'.
Albert seems to have avoided injury or illness during his time in Gallipoli. The campaign ended in late December and the 1/9th Battalion returned to Egypt. They spent 1916 preparing to defend the Suez Canal against a Turkish attack, which often involved long marches in the desert whilst living in basic conditions. By the end of 1916 the Turks had been defeated and the British were beginning to advance into the Sinai.
The 1/9th Battalion did not take part in this campaign. It was sent to France in early March 1917. At around the same time soldiers serving in Territorial Force units were given new service numbers. The 9th Battalion was given the range 350001 to 375000, and Albert's became 350026.
We don't know anything about Albert's time in France. He spent some time in the rank of Warrant Officer Class II, and also served as an Acting Warrant Officer Class I. We don't know when, but he was either wounded or fell sick, meaning he had to be returned to the UK.
By October 1918 it was clear that Albert would never be fit enough to return to duty, so on the 14th he was discharged as 'no longer physically fit for war service'. He was given a Silver War Badge with serial number B37512 to show that his discharge was honourable.
We don't know what work Albert did after the war, or whether he had any more children. He died in Ashton between January and March 1948, at the age of 71.
Arthur also joined the 3rd Volunteer Battalion and transferred to the 9th Battalion. During the First World War we believe he served with the 2/9th Battalion and reached the rank of Corporal. His service number became 350060.
The 1/9th and 2/9th were joined together to form the 9th Battalion in February 1918. Arthur was serving with them when he was killed on the 21st March 1918 aged 27. He is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial in France.
Albert and Arthur's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in January 2000.