Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Gilbert Radcliffe

Gilbert Radcliffe :

Gilbert Radcliffe : 1914-15 Star

1914-15 Star

Gilbert was born in August 1897 in Mossley, on the border between Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire. He was baptised on the 3rd October at St George's Church in the town. His father was called John and his mother was Jane Ann. He had 2 older sisters; Mary Lilian and Clara, and 3 younger siblings; Elizabeth, John and Harry Cook.

When Gilbert was born John worked as a labourer, and the family lived on Bankwell Lane in Mossley. By 1901 they had moved to Quickedge Road. John was now a joiner and wood planer. The family still lived here in 1911. John was now a carpenter for a property repair company. Gilbert was just 13, but he had a job as a yarn bundler in a cotton mill.

The First World War broke out in August 1914, and Gilbert joined the Army in around May 1915. He enlisted in the Oldham Battalion of Comrades. This was being formed by the men of Oldham, near Mossley, so that they could serve together. Mary and Clara had been born in the town, but John and Jane still lived on Quickedge Road, and Gilbert enlisted in Ashton-under-Lyne, so we don't know why he chose to join this unit.

The Battalion of Comrades became the 24th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and Gilbert was assigned to XVIII Platoon in E Company. He was given the service number 15363.

In early March 1915 the 24th Battalion had left Oldham for Llanfairfechan between Conwy and Bangor on the North Wales coast. They moved to Grantham in Lincolnshire 2 months later. We don't know whether Gilbert spent any time in Llanfairfechan.

In September the battalion moved one last time to Larkhill in Wiltshire. From there Gilbert and his comrades moved to France on the 9th November 1915.

During their first few months in France the 24th Battalion spent time holding the front line trenches around Albert and Arras, as well as being used as labour for various construction and excavation projects behind the lines. They saw some fighting, but were not involved in any large battles.

During May 1916 the battalion was given the new role of Pioneers. They would now focus on work such as digging trenches, building roads and buildings, and moving supplies. They were still equipped and trained to fight as infantry, but this was no longer their main role.

As Pioneers the battalion supported the Somme Offensive that began on the 1st July. They followed the attacking infantry and began to build new trenches and dug outs in captured areas. Their next operation was on the 14th. This was at Bazentin-le-Petit, again in support of a large British attack. They were constructing trenches in captured positions when they were asked to spare some men to help another unit drive some Germans out of a nearby wood. The rest of the battalion kept working, under German shellfire. This was typical of the role of a Pioneer Battalion.

After they left the Somme sector in September the 24th Battalion moved north to Armentieres near the Belgian border. They crossed into Belgium in June 1917 and were sent to Ypres (now called Ieper). They then supported the Passchendaele Offensive that was fought in this area until October.

The battalion was then sent to a completely different environment. They arrived in Italy in late December 1917 and stayed here for the rest of the war.

We don't know when, but Gilbert left the 24th Battalion at some point during his service. We also don't know why this happened. He was assigned to the 20th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was an infantry battalion, not a Pioneer unit. They also fought on the Somme and at Passchendaele, and were also sent to Italy, in November 1917.

The Allies began a major offensive on the Western Front in August 1918. This was extremely successful and soon began to drive the Germans back. To help reinforce this success several infantry units were removed from Italy in mid September and sent back to France. The 20th Battalion was one of them.

Gilbert was a member of B Company of the battalion when they first went into battle on the 3rd October. They attacked a German position near Beaurevoir. The position was part of the Hindenburg Line, so it was well defended, but by the 7th the British had broken through. They were able to make a large advance on the 8th.

This success came at a price. Gilbert was one of around 50 members of the 20th Battalion killed during the fighting. He was wounded and evacuated for medical treatment, but he could not be saved. He died on the 6th October, aged 21.

Gilbert was buried in Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension, along with 417 other men who died at the 20th, 41st and 55th Casualty Clearing Stations. His grave reference is III. C. 21.

Gilbert's medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in July 1991. As well as his 1914-15 Star, Gilbert was also awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for his Army service.

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