Edward was born on the 26th October 1873 in Burslem, Staffordshire. He was named after his father and his mother was called Winifred. He was their youngest child, and had 4 older siblings: Mary McNicholls, Sarah McNicholls, Patrick McNicholls and Annie Jennings. The family were Roman Catholics.
Edward senior worked as a coal miner and in 1881 the family lived at 22 Wellington Street in Burslem. He died at some point during the next 10 years and in 1891 Winifred lived at the same address with Sarah, Annie and Edward. They had taken in 4 lodgers, and Sarah's husband and daughter were also living with them. Edward had found work as a labourer for a bricklayer.
By 1901 Edward had become a bricklayer himself. He still lived with his mother at 22 Wellington Street. They now shared the house with 8 lodgers, Annie, her husband and 2 children. The house only had 4 rooms.
Winifred died aged 66 between January and March 1902, and by 1911 Edward had left Staffordshire and moved to Oldham in Lancashire. He was now a lodger in another family's house. He lived with the Geraghty family at 41 Kay Street. He still worked as a bricklayer.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Edward joined the Army in Shaw, on the outskirts of Oldham, on the 17th September. He joined the 13th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and was given the service number 5972. This was a new unit, made up of men who were joining the Army for the duration of the war only.
When Edward enlisted he was 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall and weighed 151 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He had '4 scars' on his chest.
The 13th Battalion was formed at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne. It moved to Eastbourne and Seaford in Sussex to carry out training. Edward was absent without leave between midnight on the 27th May and 2:30pm on the 29th. He was admonished, or reprimanded as punishment.
The 13th Battalion moved to Aldershot in Hampshire soon after this. On the 26th August Edward missed the Commanding Officer's parade without permission. He was confined to barracks for 2 days. Just over a week later, on the 6th September, he sailed to France with the rest of the battalion.
The 13th Battalion served in the trenches around Hebuterne, Bayonvillers and Chuignes during the month between the 11th September and the 14th October. They saw very little fighting and lost only 5 men. In this short time Edward got into serious trouble twice.
At 2pm on the 22nd September he went absent from duty without permission. He returned the next day at 8am. As punishment he was sentenced to 72 hours of Field Punishment Number 1. This meant he would be forced to do hard labour, that he could be kept in handcuffs or shackles, and that he would be attached to a fixed object for up to 2 hours per day.
On the 9th October Edward was absent again. He missed the battalion parade at 9am, and then missed the 'Commanding Officer's parade' at 9:30. This time he was sentenced to 96 hours Field Punishment Number 1.
Edward was taken ill on the 16th. He had had dirt blown into his left eye on the 29th September and it must have become infected because he now had a corneal ulcer. This was affecting his sight and would not heal, so he was returned to the UK on the 20th and sent to the City and County Infirmary in Perth, Scotland.
Edward was discharged from hospital on the 26th November. He had 'healed well', and his sight was now 'good'. He was able to go on leave between then and the 7th December. He spent this period at 8 Hilton Street in Oldham. We don't know who lived there.
After the end of his leave Edward joined the 14th (Reserve) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was based in Lichfield, Staffordshire. Its job was to train recruits and hold recovered soldiers like Edward until they could be assigned to a unit overseas. During December he was a member of the Lichfield Garrison Military Police. On the 23rd he was 'admonished' for a 'neglect of duty'. We don't know what he had done.
Edward left the UK again on the 19th January 1916. He was being sent to Mesopotamia, now called Iraq. He joined the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, who had arrived there 2 weeks earlier. We don't know anything about his service during this period.
During his time in Mesopotamia Edward's eye began to give him problems again. After being treated at the 32nd General Hospital in Basra he was evacuated to India on the 21st June. On the 29th he arrived in Belgaum near Goa and was admitted to hospital. He was treated for his ulcer until the 10th October. Edward was also suffering from 'headaches and slight dizzyness' that his doctors believed were due to the heat. On the 13th he was readmitted for 9 days to be treated for a hordeolum, or sty, on his eye.
We believe that Edward was classed as unfit for front line service after he left hospital. Rather than being returned to the UK he stayed in India and was assigned to the 1st Garrison Battalion of the Manchester Regiment at Bellary, around 200 miles east of Goa. This unit was made up of men who, like Edward, were not fit enough for the front. They were used to guard against unrest in the native population.
Edward seems to have made a bad first impression in his new unit. On the 6th November he was confined to barracks for 2 days for missing the Catholic Church Parade. Three weeks later he was 'drunk' and 'insolent' to a Non Commissioned Officer. He was confined to barracks again; we don't know the exact length of his punishment, but it was longer than 10 days.
During the first week of April 1917 the 1st Garrison Battalion moved from Bellary to Fyzabad, now Faizabad, near Lucknow in northern India. Edward would spend time in hospital there and in nearby Allahabad. This was usually related to his corneal ulcer, although he had also caught malaria at some point.
Later that month Edward again missed a parade. He was confined to barracks for 10 days. On the 12th February 1918 he again missed a morning parade. This time he was placed in detention for 10 days. This punishment seems to have had the desired effect as Edward was not in trouble again until October. He was absent from midnight until 10am on the 22nd and was punished by being confined to barracks for 8 days.
These barracks were not in India. The 1st Garrison Battalion had moved to Singapore in July 1918. Edward was still having trouble with his eye, and he spent the 5 days between the 16th and 20th September in hospital being treated for conjunctivitis.
The war ended on the 11th November and Edward was returned to the UK on the 28th January 1919. He suffered several attacks of malaria during this period and by the 3rd April he was a patient in the 2/1st Southern Territorial Force General Hospital on Dudley Road in Birmingham. In 2013 this is the Birmingham City Hospital.
On the 3rd Edward was medically assessed before his discharge. His last attack of malaria had been in March, and he had suffered 7 relapses since his first attack. Malaria can affect the spleen, but Edward's was 'not tender or palpable'. His left eye had still not recovered, his sight was hazy. He was discharged on the 2nd May 1919 and returned to 8 Hilton Road.
The rest of Edward's life remains a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in June 1996. As well as his 1914-15 Star, Edward was also awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.