Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Edward Louis Lavelle

Edward Louis Lavelle : Photograph of Edward in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: Acc.5147

Photograph of Edward in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: Acc.5147

Edward Louis Lavelle : (L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; France and Germany Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal

(L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; France and Germany Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal

Edward was born on the 24th May 1893 in Chorlton, Manchester. He was named after his father and his mother was called Elizabeth. Edward was their eldest child. He had 7 brothers and sisters: Mary Isabella, Elizabeth Alice, Nora, John, Annie, Catherine May and Thomas. The family were Roman Catholics.

In 1901 Edward senior worked as a stoker at a gas works. The family lived at 20 Mitton Street in South Manchester. By 1911 they had moved to 4 Birch Street, off Moss Lane in Hulme, Manchester. Edward senior was now a general labourer for the Manchester Corporation Tramways. Elizabeth was a charwoman. Edward, Mary and Norah were no longer living with the family. Norah was at school, Mary was a domestic servant and Edward was a soldier.

Edward had enlisted into the Manchester Regiment on the 12th November 1910. He had joined the 3rd Battalion and was given the service number 1483. The 3rd Battalion was a unit of the Special Reserve. A Special Reservist was a man who had not previously served in the Regular Army. They kept their civilian career, but trained to be a soldier for a short period every year. Unlike the Territorial Force, which was intended to serve as complete units within the UK or Empire, Special Reservists could be sent to join Army units anywhere as individuals or in small groups.

When they first enlisted Special Reservists carried out 6 months of basic training. Edward had been going through this when the Census was taken. Afterwards he would return to his home and civilian job, although we don't know what this was.

By June 1913 Edward had been promoted to Corporal. He was attached to the Regular Army at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne between the 30th June and the 27th July, alongside several other 3rd Battalion soldiers. One of these was William Ashton, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Edward will have been mobilized, that is called into the Army full time, by an order issued on the 4th. The 3rd Battalion was not intended to fight as a complete unit, it existed to train soldiers and send them to fight in other units. On the outbreak of war the 3rd Battalion moved to Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire. This was so that it could also be used to protect the Humber estuary from a German attack.

We don't know how long Edward stayed in Cleethorpes. At some point he was assigned to the new 11th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment that was being formed at the Depot. This was almost completely made up of new recruits, so soldiers with Edward's experience will have been invaluable.

By April 1915 the 11th Battalion had moved to an area of Surrey near the villages of Witley and Frensham. After a final inspection they set sail for Gallipoli on the 30th June.

Edward and the 11th Battalion took part in the landing at Suvla Bay which began on the 6th August. This was intended to support the British forces already fighting at Cape Helles in Gallipoli by diverting Turkish soldiers to deal with this new threat.

The landings did not go well. Inexperienced soldiers were coming ashore in darkness and under Turkish fire. This was made worse by poor leadership, meaning that several days after the landings the British had suffered many casualties and had not captured the high ground from the Turks.

Edward and the 11th Battalion endured 4 months of stifling heat, lack of water and poor health. The British were not able to advance; instead they held their trenches under heavy shell and rifle fire. The campaign had been a failure and the 11th Battalion was evacuated to Egypt in mid December.

The battalion trained in Egypt, and prepared to defend it from a Turkish attack, until early July when they sailed to France. They would now take their place on the Western Front. They served in the front lines in the Arras sector until early September. They then moved to the Pozieres area and took part in the Battles of Flers-Courcelette and Thiepval Ridge later that month. These were part of the Somme Offensive that had begun on the 1st July, before the 11th Battalion had left Egypt.

At some point Edward was promoted to Sergeant. He was also transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. We don't know when either of these events took place.

Edward was serving with the 2nd Battalion when the Allies began their offensive at Amiens on the 8th August. This was the first of many Allied victories that began to drive the Germans back. At some point during the fighting in August and early September Edward carried out an act of great bravery. He was awarded the Military Medal for it in the London Gazette of the 24th January 1919. Unfortunately there was no citation with the announcement so we don't know exactly what he did or where he did it.

The 2nd Battalion's advance continued and by the 4th November they had reached the Oise-Sambre Canal at Ors. The battalion attacked across the canal under heavy fire and successfully captured their objective on the other side. Edward was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his bravery during this fighting. This citation was published in the London Gazette on the 18th February 1919:

Near Ors, on 4th November 1918, for marked courage and devotion to duty as platoon sergeant. He led the rush on an enemy machine-gun post and captured its crew. Afterwards he exposed himself repeatedly to sniper's fire in his efforts to assist in the reorganisation of his Company. After he had been wounded he remained at duty till he had to be carried away.

A number of other gallantry medals were won by the 2nd Battalion that day, including a Victoria Cross awarded to Second Lieutenant James Kirk for his 'magnificent self sacrifice' supporting the crossing. The war poet Wilfred Owen, an officer in the battalion, was killed during the fighting.

Edward was wounded twice during the war. The 2nd Battalion was withdrawn from the front on the 6th November so his wound at Ors was probably his second. The war ended on the 11th, when the battalion were at Sambreton. They were involved in training and in work behind the lines for the rest of the year. During December they moved to Assesse. The end of the war meant that the Army could begin to demobilise the millions of men serving overseas. This would be a long process and Edward was not released from the Army until the 27th April 1919.

Edward returned home to his new wife. He had been in the UK at the beginning of 1918, although we don't know why, and on the 23rd February he married Ethel Mason at St Oswald's Parish Church in Collyhurst, Manchester. He gave his occupation as 'packer'.

The couple continued to live in Manchester, and had 4 children. Ethel junior was born between January and March 1920, Edward H. between January and March 1924, Agnes between April and June 1927 and Frank between July and September 1930.

Edward kept in touch with his former comrades, and on the 27th June 1937 he joined several of his friends from the 11th Battalion Old Comrade's Association in Hyde Park, London, for King George VI's Royal Review of Ex-Servicemen. The new King had been crowned just 2 months earlier.

Towards the end of the 1930s a second war with Germany became more and more likely. Edward decided to rejoin the Army, but must not have wanted to give up his job as a packer. The Special Reserve had been disbanded after the First World War, so Edward's only option was to join the Territorial Army, which he did on the 25th January 1939.

When he enlisted Edward was 5 feet 6 1/2 inches tall. He had blue eyes and brown hair. His eyesight was poor enough to need glasses, but we don't know whether he actually wore them. When he enlisted his address was 80 Tamworth Street in Hulme.

Edward joined the 183rd Anti Aircraft Battery, Royal Artillery. This was based on Stretford Road in Hulme, and was part of the 65th (The Manchester Regiment) Anti Aircraft Regiment. This had been formed in December 1936 from the previously amalgamated 6th and 7th Battalions of Edward's old regiment. His service number was 1442153. He was called out for compulsory training on the 6th August and before it ended Britain declared war on Germany.

We don't know much about Edward's war. The 65th A.A. Regiment was based in the UK during the early part of the war. They played a part in defending Manchester and the North West from German air attack during the early part of the Blitz. In September 1940 they moved north to form part of the Orkney and Shetland Defences.

The 65th Regiment was part of the Heavy Anti Aircraft Branch of the Royal Artillery. At some point Edward was transferred to the Coast Artillery and Searchlight Branch. We believe this happened before the 65th Regiment was sent to the Middle East in March 1943.

We don't know which unit Edward joined, but it was one that was converted into infantry in January 1945. British forces fighting in North West Europe had taken heavy casualties by this point in the war, and they were short of men. At the same time the Germans were far less able to launch air raids against the UK, so it was decided to convert a number of artillery units into infantry and send the men in them overseas. Edward found himself in the 307th Infantry Brigade. This arrived in Europe on the 23rd April 1945, just 2 weeks before the end of the war. We don't know whether he saw any fighting.

Edward held the rank of Bombardier, or Corporal, at the end of the war. We don't know when he left the Army for the second time.

The rest of Edward's life is also a mystery. He returned to his family and his job as a packer. By the mid 1960s Edward had retired and he and Ethel lived at 8 Baroda Avenue in Newton Heath, Manchester. He died at home on the 17th June 1965 aged 72.

Edward's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in November 2011.

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