(L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
Percy was born between July and August 1879 in Dukinfield, Cheshire. His mother was called Maria, but we don't know his father's name or whether he had any brothers or sisters. He was a member of the Church of England.
In 1891 Maria lived at 33 Cotton Street in Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire, with her married sister Sarah E. Whelan and Percy. Neither woman worked. Between April and June 1892 Maria married Enoch Garside in Ashton. By 1901 they lived at 28 Camp Street in the Hurst area of Ashton, where Ernest worked as a coal carter. Percy did not live with her; he was at 8 Canterbury Street in Ashton with his aunt Lily Grafton and her children. He didn't give a job in that year's Census.
By this time Percy had begun his military career. He joined the 4th Battalion of the King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) on the 30th April 1900. This was a unit of the Militia, so Percy kept his civilian home and job and trained as a soldier for a short period every year. When he enlisted he lived at 5 Villiers Street in Ashton and worked as a labourer. He was 5 feet 3 3/4 inches tall and weighed 119 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, hazel eyes and light brown hair. The 4th Battalion gave him the service number 7232 and he began his service with 49 days of training.
Percy's initial training ended on the 17th June, and he returned to his civilian life. On the 10th August 1900 the 4th Battalion was called up for its annual training period. This lasted just over 2 months, and Percy was disembodied on the 12th October. Percy must have taken to military life, because he joined the Regular Army on the 15th May 1901.
By this time Percy worked as a carter. He had lost 3 pounds since he joined the Militia. He had also lost 'several teeth' and the tip of his left thumb. Despite this he was accepted into the Manchester Regiment and given the service number 6718.
Percy began his service with 3 months of training at the Regimental Depot in Ashton. He then joined the 4th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Kinsale in County Cork, Ireland on the 22nd August. We don't know anything about Percy's time with this unit, except that he was absent without leave between the 15th and the 22nd November 1902. He forfeited his pay for this time.
On the 16th December Percy was posted to the 3rd Battalion, along with around 100 of his comrades. This unit was moving from the island of St Helena to South Africa, and he joined them there. The Boer War had ended just 7 months earlier, so the British were keeping large numbers of soldiers in the country.
The 3rd Battalion was based in and around Middelburg in the Cape Colony (the modern Eastern Cape Province) for most of its time in South Africa. He was granted a Good Conduct Badge on the 5th May 1905. This came with a pay rise of 1 penny (1d) per day.
The 3rd Battalion moved from Middelburg, Cape Colony to Middelburg, Transvaal (now Mpumalanga Province) in January 1906. Percy forfeited his Good Conduct Badge on the 24th April and his Good Conduct Pay on the 13th August. He returned to the UK that October and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, which was split between the Channel Islands of Alderney and Guernsey. The 3rd Battalion had been disbanded by the end of the month.
Percy's time in the Regular Army came to an end on the 7th May 1907 and he was transferred to the Army Reserve. He was now able to find a home and job, but could be called back to the Army at any point in an emergency. He had enlisted in 1901 for 12 years in total, so he would be a Reservist until the 14th May 1913.
When the 1911 Census was taken Percy lived at 82 Cavendish Street in Ashton. He worked as a carter. He was unmarried, but had 2 boarders living with him: Jane Bell and her 1 year old daughter Florence. Jane worked in a laundry.
The First World War broke out in early August 1914 and Percy rejoined the Army soon afterwards. He enlisted in the 4th Battalion. Since 1908 this had been a unit of the Special Reserve rather than a fighting unit. It existed to train Reservists before they were assigned to the 1st or 2nd Battalion of the Regiment in order to bring these units up to full strength or to replace casualties. His service number was 2695.
Percy trained with the 4th Battalion in Riby, near Grimsby in Lincolnshire until the 3th June 1915, when he was sent to France. We don't know which battalion he joined once he arrived there, so we can't say for certain where he fought.
Later in the war Percy was transferred to an unknown battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers and given the service number 63018. He spent the rest of the war with this regiment and was transferred to the Class Z Reserve at some point after the end of the war in November 1918. This Reserve existed so that soldiers could be quickly recalled if fighting broke out again. It never did and the Class Z Reserve was disbanded in March 1920.
By this time Percy had returned to Ashton-under-Lyne. At some point he married Rosetta Oldham and they had a daughter, Irene, on the 5th May 1921. At this time the family lived at 58 Dale Street in Ashton and Percy worked as a carter for the municipal corporation, an early form of borough council. We don't know whether they had any more children.
We don't know much about the rest of Percy's life. Irene married Ernest Whittaker on the 11th January 1947. By this time Percy and his family had moved to 13 Hadfield Crescent in Ashton. Percy was now a labourer, we believe in a cotton mill. This would be his home and job for the rest of his life.
Percy died on the 31st December 1953 in hospital in Ashton. He was 74 years old. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in September 2006.