Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Michael Reynolds

Michael Reynolds :

Michael Reynolds : Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Natal', 'Belfast'

Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Natal', 'Belfast'

Michael was born in around August 1872 in Holy Cross, Liverpool. We don't know anything about his early life or family, except that he was a Roman Catholic.

By 1894 Michael had moved to Manchester and lived at 75 Kirk Street in Ancoats. He worked at the same address for James Powell. Michael was a shoe maker.

As well as this, on the 26th September Michael joined the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Militia, so he kept his civilian home and job and trained as a soldier for a short period every year.

When he enlisted Michael was 5 feet 4 1/4 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds. He had a 'fair' complexion, hazel eyes and dark brown hair. He had a tattoo of an anchor and the letter M on his left forearm. He was given the service number 4892 and began his service with 49 days of drill.

Michael returned to Kirk Street after his initial training. He attended the 3rd Battalion's 1895 and 1896 training periods. After the 1896 period, on the 5th September, he also joined the Militia Reserve.

A member of the Militia could only be called up by the Army to serve with the rest of his Militia unit. A member of the Militia Reserve, on the other hand, was willing to be called up as an individual or in a small group and to serve in a unit of the Regular Army. John could now carry out his training with the 3rd Battalion or with a unit of the Regular Army, although we don't know which form his annual training in 1897, 1898 and 1899 took.

In June 1899 Michael also joined the 3rd Battalion's Special Service Section. This was similar to the Militia Reserve in that it was made up of Militiamen who were willing to leave their unit and serve as an individual in a unit of the Regular Army. Men could not spend more than 12 months in this Section. It was not nearly as popular as the Militia Reserve.

The Boer War broke out in October 1899 and began badly for the British. The Army suffered a number of defeats, and by the end of the year it was sending large numbers of extra soldiers to South Africa to join the war. It also created several new Regular infantry battalions. Two of these were formed by the Manchester Regiment as the 3rd and 4th Battalions, meaning that on the 17th February 1900 the Militia units were renumbered as the 5th and 6th Battalions.

At around the same time Michael and the other Militia Reservists were called up for service in the Regular Army. Michael was sent to join the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in South Africa. We don't know when he joined them, although he had arrived by August.

Using the extra soldiers arriving in South Africa the British Army began trying to force the Boers to face it in battle. They succeeded on the 21st August 1900 at the Battle of Belfast, or Bergendal. Michael took part in this battle, which lasted until the 27th and ended with the defeat of Boer forces and the capture of their temporary capital, Machadodorp (today called eNtokozweni). The Boers did not surrender; they fought on as guerrillas in small units, so Michael stayed in South Africa.

Michael had originally enlisted for 6 years. As he was overseas in September 1900 this could be extended by up to one year. In mid August 1901 Michael left the 1st Battalion and was sent back to the UK. He rejoined the 5th Battalion on the 24th. He was discharged from the Militia on the 14th September.

After he left the Militia John returned to his trade. He went to live at 28 Pilling Street off Rochdale Road in Manchester, and worked for Mr Roth, a bootmaker based in nearby Salford. The Boer War was still raging, and perhaps Michael missed Army life, because on the 10th December 1901 he re-enlisted in the Militia.

This time Michael joined the 3rd Battalion of The King's (Liverpool Regiment). They gave him the service number 6066 and assigned him to C Company. He later moved to B Company. He had gained just 5 pounds since 1894.

The 3rd Battalion had been embodied, or called into service, shortly before Michael enlisted. They were about to be sent to South Africa to fight as a unit. This could be why Michael chose them. They set sail for South Africa on the 16th December.

By this time most of the fighting was over. Most Militia battalions were used to man blockhouses and the fences between them. These were intended to restrict the movements of Boer guerrillas, and force them to fight the British. It was a successful strategy and the war ended on the 31st May 1902. Michael returned to the UK in September and returned to his civilian life.

Michael attended the 1903 training with the 3rd Battalion. He was granted leave to miss the 1904 training, and in 1905 he was rated 'temporarily unfit' so likely missed it again. His period of service ended on the 9th December 1905.

The rest of Michael's life is a mystery. He also earned the clasps 'South Africa 1901' and 'South Africa 1902' for his Queen's South Africa Medal.

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