Photograph of Edward in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR4/17/278
(L to R) 1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal
Edward was born on the 23rd June 1916 in Wigan, Lancashire. He was named after his father and his mother was called Lavinia. He had at least 4 older siblings: Elizabeth, William, Albert and Sarah, as well as 2 other brothers or sisters who had died by 1911, and he never knew. He also had 3 younger siblings: Lily, Thomas and Clara. The family were members of the Church of England.
The family grew up in Wigan, where Edward senior worked below ground in one of the area's many coal mines. We don't know where Edward lived growing up, but by the time he was 19 his parents lived at 5 Lavender Road in Beech Hill, Wigan. He had found work as a labourer and lived at 48 Lower Morris Street. He must have wanted more from life though because on the 19th December 1935 he joined the Manchester Regiment.
When he enlisted in the Army Edward was 5 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 116 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, brown hair and brown eyes. He was given the service number 3528284 and began his Army career with basic training at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ladysmith Barracks, Ashton-under-Lyne. During his training he was awarded the 3rd Class Army Certificate of Education on the 29th June. He would obtain his 2nd Class Certificate on the 7th October.
Edward completed his training and was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 22nd August 1936. They were based in Strensall near York. At around this time the battalion began to convert from an infantry unit to a mechanised machine gun battalion. This meant soldiers needed to be trained in driving, vehicle maintenance and machine gun shooting. Edward was also trained as a Despatch Rider. These men carried messages between different units. It was important that they could move as quickly as possible over any terrain, so they rode motorcycles. Edward's training for this role lasted from the 8th February to the 22nd March 1937.
We don't know when Edward was posted to the 1st Battalion. They were trying to bring the Arab Rebellion in Palestine under control until September 1938, when they moved to Singapore. Service in Palestine would have qualified Edward for the General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasp 'Palestine'. He didn't receive this medal, which suggests he didn't join the 1st Battalion until they were in Singapore.
In Singapore the battalion spent most of their time building defences on the beaches and training to defeat an invasion. Their main role was to man pillboxes on the beaches of the island.
By late 1941 war with the Japanese was becoming more and more likely. They invaded Malaya on the 8th December, and by the 27th January 1942 the British had been forced back onto the island of Singapore.
Edward was either a member of A Company or C Company when the Japanese invaded. By the end of January the British were being constantly bombed, and as the Japanese closed in their position became hopeless. The British garrison surrendered on the 15th February and Edward became a Prisoner of War (POW).
The tens of thousands of Allied prisoners were first held in Changi Prison in eastern Singapore. After a while the Japanese began to move groups to work on construction projects. At the end of the war surviving POWs were asked to list all the camps they had been held in and when they had been there. Edward only listed one location: Normanton Camp in Singapore, which he was sent to on the 25th July 1944. Edwin Jackson, another member of the 1st Battalion, was also sent to Normanton at around this time. He had been held in Changi until then. This could have been what happened to Edward. Edwin's medals are also in the Manchester Regiment collection.
Conditions in Changi were far from pleasant. The camp was overcrowded and there were shortages of food and medical supplies. However the POWs held there were relatively fortunate. Edward was not exposed to the tropical diseases, hard work and brutality that killed so many POWs in the Burmese and Thai jungle. POWs who worked on the railway thought of Changi as relatively pleasant in comparison.
Despite this, when Singapore was liberated in August 1945 Edward was suffering from malaria. He also seems to have contracted beri-beri near the end of the war. By October he still had swelling in his legs and ankles that was 'worse at night'. He was also anaemic. When Edward was assessed on the 5th October he weighed 124 pounds. By the 20th his weight was up to 139 pounds, but still suffered from 'slight oedema' or swelling in his ankles. Swelling like this is a symptom of beri-beri.
Edward had returned to the UK by December, and on the 12th he left Number 7 Military Dispersal Unit in Ashton-under-Lyne on release leave. His conduct had been 'exemplary'. He was 'a good steady type, keen and hardworking. Recommended for employment'. He officially left the Army on the 19th April 1946.
In October 1947 Edward lived at 6 Parsonage Road in Heaton Moor, Stockport. He had applied for a pension from the Army because of his malaria. The Army assessed him as 6-14 per cent disabled. They believed this was temporary, although it would be more than a year until he was fully recovered. We don't know how much Edward received or how long he received it for.
Most of the rest of Edward's life is a mystery. He married Susannah Rochford in Stockport between January and March 1948. Their only child, Miriam Rochford Schofield, was born on the 4th March 1951 in what was then the Bucklow area of Derbyshire (today split between Trafford in Manchester and Macclesfield, Cheshire).
Edward worked as a storekeeper until he retired. Towards the end of his life he and Susannah lived at 13 Bransby Avenue in Blackley, Manchester. He died from lung cancer in North Manchester General Hospital on the 4th May 1990. He was 73 years old.
Miriam had married in 1978 and lived in Bolton. She died aged 52 in April 2003. Susannah was also in Bolton when she died aged 83 in March 2005.
Edward's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in July 2006.