Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Philip Sidney Marsden

Philip Sidney Marsden :

Philip Sidney Marsden : (L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

Philip was born on the 31st January 1894 in Wigan, Lancashire. His father was called Joshua and his mother was Ellen. He was the youngest of 5 children; his siblings were Joseph Forbes, Eva Ranicar, Edith Maude and Arthur Vincent.

Joshua worked as a 'clothier' or tailor. Shortly before Philip was born, in 1891, the family lived at 'Longford' on Abergele Road in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. All his siblings had been born in Wigan or Rochdale though, so the family was not there for long. At some point between 1900 and 1904 the family lived at Oak Mill House on Oak Mill Way in Hampstead, North London.

By 1911 Joshua had gone from working for another tailor to being self-employed and employing workers of his own. He and Ellen now lived at 'Oakenrod' in Rochdale, Lancashire. All of their children lived with them, except for Philip. He had been a pupil at the Mill Hill School in Hendon, London since 1906. He would leave the school in July 1911. He was a member of 'School' House, just like Arthur had been.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and Philip was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant on the 2nd September. We don't know what he had been doing between leaving school and joining the Army. He joined the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, a unit of the Territorial Force based in Ashton-under-Lyne. With the outbreak of war they had been mobilised and were camped at nearby Bury when Philip joined them.

Philip and the 9th Battalion left the UK on the 10th September. They were sent to Egypt and arrived in Alexandria on the 21st. In Egypt their main roles were to guard the Suez Canal, and to train. A large number of new recruits had enlisted around the same time as Philip and then gone straight overseas, so there were many inexperienced soldiers. Long marches in the desert helped to build their fitness.

In early May 1915 the battalion went to war. They landed in Gallipoli on the 9th and found themselves in the front line after a few days. They took part in the attack on the village of Krithia that began on the 4th June. This had been intended to be captured during late April when the first Allied troops landed, but the Turks had been able to hold them off. Philip and the 9th Battalion advanced further than most British units, but this meant when the Turks counter attacked they were cut off and forced to withdraw.

During this action Philip was wounded. We don't know what happened to him, but he had to be evacuated to hospital in Cairo. We believe Philip had been leading the 9th Battalion's Machine Gun Section up to the time he was wounded.

After just over 2 months Philip rejoined the 9th Battalion on the 17th August. The day before this he had been promoted to Temporary Lieutenant. He had missed a number of fierce battles that had inflicted heavy casualties on the unit. The battalion continued to take its turns in the front lines and in the rear in Gallipoli until the theatre was evacuated in late December. They had to contend with Turkish snipers and artillery, disease and poor hygiene, and towards the end of the year, cold weather.

After the evacuation Philip was sent back to Egypt with the rest of the 9th Battalion. Here they took part in the defence of the Suez Canal against a Turkish attack, and trained. He was able to return to the UK on leave between the 8th May and the 19th June 1916.

In August the British began an offensive that drove the Turks away from the Canal, and began to push them into the Sinai. The 9th Battalion took part in the early stages of this operation. Philip was able to go to Cairo on leave between the 26th and 30th November.

By February 1917 the Suez Canal was considered secure. As a result the 9th Battalion was ordered to sail for France, where they arrived on the 11th March. They moved north to the Amiens area and entered the front line near Havrincourt Wood on the 22nd April.

Philip had been taken ill the day before this. He was treated in hospital until the 12th May, and then joined his men in the trenches. His time with them would be short. He was killed in action on the 30th May, aged 23.

Arthur also served as an officer during the war. He was commissioned into the 11th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment) and served in Gallipoli with the 1st Battalion of the Border Regiment. He was wounded on the 7th August 1915 and spent the rest of his service in training units in the UK, reaching the rank of Captain. He was forced to relinquish his commission, 'on account of ill health caused by wounds', on the 14th June 1917.

On the 7th July, an article was published in the Ashton Reporter newspaper casting some light on what had happened to Philip. He was 'out in front of our lines' with Private 350454 Tom Fielding when they 'were hit' and badly wounded. They had been trying to find an enemy position in No Man's Land. Corporal 350351 Joseph Wilde 'volunteered to go out and assist in bringing them in. He carried Private Fielding back to our trenches, a distance of 300 yards, on his back'. Philip had insisted that Tom should be recovered first.

Despite Joseph's efforts, Tom also died that day. He was 20 years old. Joseph Wilde was killed just 4 days later, on the 3rd June. He was 2 weeks short of his 20th birthday.

All 3 men are buried in Neuville-Bourjonval British Cemetery, alongside 202 other men. Philip and Tom lie side by side in graves F. 25 and F. 24, and Joseph is close by in grave F. 14.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
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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