(L to R) Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
Cornelius was born in May 1891 in Salford, Lancashire. He was named after his father and his mother was called Eliza. He had 3 older siblings called James Richard, Malinda and Beatrice. James died aged 8 in mid 1891. The family were members of the Church of England.
Cornelius junior grew up at 17 Dale Street in Broughton, Salford. His father worked as a warehouseman. He died between July and September 1909, aged 61. By 1911 Cornelius junior had become a salesman at a mantle warehouse. Mantles were vital parts of gas lamps.
By the time the First World War broke out in August 1914 Cornelius had become a warehouseman for Holmes, Terry and Company on High Street in Manchester. He left this job to join the Army on the 3rd September.
Cornelius chose to join the 2nd City Battalion. The City Battalions were formed by the men of Manchester so that they could serve together. The 2nd City Battalion became the 17th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment and Cornelius was assigned to VI Platoon in B Company. He was given the service number 8875.
When he enlisted Cornelius was 5 feet 5 1/2 inches tall and weighed 132 pounds. He had a 'dark' complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He trained with the 17th Battalion at Heaton Park in Manchester until April 1915, when they moved to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire. That September they moved to Larkhill in Wiltshire, and on the 8th November 1915 Cornelius sailed to France.
Cornelius served with the 17th Battalion throughout his time in France. They were based in the Couin area during 1915 then moved to Maricourt and Bray in the first half of 1916.
On or around the 18th February 1916 Cornelius was shot and wounded. He was treated at the 21st Casualty Clearing Station and then evacuated back to the UK on the 22nd.
Cornelius was discharged from Bradford War Hospital, known to civilians as St Luke's Hospital, on the 2nd March. He then went on leave until the 14th. He spent this time with his sisters at 8 Valencia Street in Lower Kersal, Manchester.
On the 14th Cornelius was posted to the 25th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment at Southport in Lancashire. He was a member of this unit for around 3 weeks as he retrained and prepared to return to France.
On the 8th April Cornelius boarded the 'Princess Victoria' at Folkestone in Kent and sailed back to France. He joined the 30th Infantry Base Depot at Etaples the next day.
We don't know why, but Cornelius wasn't able to return to the 17th Battalion until the 29th May. He spent the period between the 23rd April and the 29th May with the 2nd Entrenching Battalion. This unit was used for unglamorous but vital tasks such as digging trenches.
During June the 17th Battalion began training to take part in the Somme Offensive, and Cornelius will have taken part in the attack on Montauban on the 1st July that began this battle.
By the 3rd over 350 of the 900 soldiers who had begun the attack were dead, wounded or missing. The 17th Battalion fought at Trones Wood on the 10th and Guillemont on the 30th. After a period of rest followed by service in the front lines they took part in the attack on the village of Flers on the 12th October. The rest of the year was spent in a quiet sector around Bellacourt.
Cornelius was awarded the Military Medal for 'bravery in the field' in the London Gazette of the 21st September. This suggests that he had carried out this act of bravery during the first weeks of the Somme Offensive. His citation has not survived, so we don't know exactly what he did.
On the 8th October Cornelius was promoted to Unpaid Lance Corporal. He was wounded in action on the 2nd November, but this must have been a minor wound as he didn't need to go to hospital.
The 17th Battalion left Bellacourt in January 1917. They did not return to the front lines until late March. Their next large battle was fought at Cherisy near Arras on the 23rd April. They then moved north to Ypres in Belgium during May.
The British were planning a major offensive in the Ypres area. As part of the preparation for this members of the 17th Battalion were used for labouring jobs behind the lines. During this period, on the 28th June, Cornelius was lightly wounded again.
The Passchendaele Offensive began on the 31st July and the 17th Battalion were again involved in the first day's attacks, at Polygon Wood. Cornelius did not take part in this attack. He had left the battalion for 10 day's leave on the 26th.
By the time Cornelius returned to the battalion over 150 of his comrades had been killed, wounded or gone missing.
The 17th Battalion did not return to the front line until the end of the month. After this they served turns in the trenches and in the rear for the rest of the Offensive, which ended in early November. They stayed in Belgium until the 5th January 1918.
Back in France, the 17th Battalion served near Harbonnieres, Moyencourt and Aurigny Rouy before a final tour near St Quentin during March. The Germans launched a massive attack, called the Spring Offensive, on the 21st March. This was aimed at winning the war before too many American troops could arrive to fight them. The 17th Battalion was in the rear near Savy on this day; they were quickly mobilised and moved to the front near Etreillers.
The Germans attacked during the afternoon of the 22nd and soon overwhelmed the battalion. The survivors were forced to withdraw to Esmery Hallon. After another attack on the morning of the 24th they fell back to Moyencourt. This position was abandoned on the 25th and by the next day the battalion were at Folies.
The 17th Battalion were in reserve here, supporting other units in the front line. At noon on the 27th the Germans attacked, and the front line units withdrew through the battalion's position. The battalion then withdrew, under fire, and was taken out of the line.
This fighting had cost the battalion around 45 killed, over 100 wounded and 310 missing, who were mostly either dead or captured. This was well over half the battalion, so the survivors were formed into 2 Companies and joined with 2 Companies of survivors from the 16th Battalion. Together they were able to form one full-strength battalion.
In early April the composite battalion was sent north to Ypres in Belgium (now called Ieper). They took up a position near the Spoil Bank by Lock 8 of the Ypres-Comines Canal. The Germans were still attacking though, and on the 25th April the battalion came under fire again.
The German attack succeeded, but a group of members of the 17th Battalion counter-attacked and pushed them back. The next day was very misty, and the Germans used this cover to break through the line and surround one of the companies of 17th Battalion men.
The other company was able to withdraw, although again they took heavy casualties from German fire. They held the line until the 29th when they were withdrawn.
This fighting had cost the 17th Battalion around 220 dead, wounded or missing. Cornelius was one of the men lost. He had been killed in action on the 27th, aged 27.
Cornelius' body was never found, so he is now one of the 34952 men remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, just outside the town known as Ypres during the war, and as Ieper today. Cornelius is on one of Panels 120 to 124, 162 to 162A or 163A. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in October 2009.