Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Ernest Sidebotham

Ernest Sidebotham :

Ernest Sidebotham : 1914-15 Star

1914-15 Star

We don't know anything about Ernest's early life or family.

By 1914 Ernest lived in the Manchester area. In late February or March of that year he joined the 8th (Ardwick) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Territorial Force based in the Ardwick area of the city. As a Territorial Ernest kept his civilian home and job, although we don't know anything about these. He trained as a soldier during evenings and weekends, as well as an annual training camp lasting around 2 weeks. His service number was 2085.

The First World War broke out in August 1914 and the 8th Battalion was called into service. They were sent to Egypt on the 10th September. We don't know why, but Ernest didn't go with them. He will have been assigned to the second 8th Battalion (2/8th) that was being formed by new recruits.

The original 8th Battalion (1/8th) landed in Gallipoli in May 1915. It was soon in action, and began to take casualties. Members of the 2/8th Battalion were sent out to reinforce it. One of the men chosen was Ernest. He arrived in Gallipoli on the 15th July.

Ernest's first major operation began on the 7th August, near the village of Krithia. It was intended to divert Turkish troops away from the British landings at Suvla Bay. The British launched an attack, but were forced back by a Turkish counterattack. The Turks continued to attack for the next 2 days, inflicting many casualties on the British.

This would be the heaviest fighting Ernest saw in Gallipoli. Although the Turkish defenders still shelled and sniped at the British, over the next few months the weather and disease were perhaps the main threats to Ernest and his comrades. We don't know whether Ernest was ever wounded or taken ill.

The 1/8th Battalion was evacuated back to Egypt in December and served there throughout 1916. In March 1917 they moved to France to fight on the Western Front.

At around this time soldiers serving in Territorial Force units were given new service numbers. The 8th Battalion was allocated the range 300001 to 350000. Ernest was given 300275.

The 1/8th Battalion served on the old Somme battleground at Epehy and Havrincourt during the summer of 1917, before moving north to Ypres in Belgium during late August. They guarded the North Sea coast at Nieuwpoort whilst the Passchendaele Offensive was fought around Ypres. In November 1917 they returned to France and were stationed around Bethune.

During 1918 the 1/8th Battalion helped to defeat the German Spring Offensive of March and April. The attacks began on the 21st March, while the battalion was in the rear, but they were quickly organised and by the evening of the 24th they were on the front line near the village of Ervillers.

The Germans shelled the village very heavily, and launched several attacks on the 25th. The 1/8th Battalion fought them all off before retreating from the village to continue fighting further west.

We don't know the exact reason, or the exact date, but Ernest left the 1/8th Battalion at around this time. He was transferred to the 4th (Denbighshire) Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and given the service number 238151. By this point in the war it was not unusual for men to be sent to join a unit with no connection to their local area.

Ernest either joined the 1/4th Battalion, which was serving as the Pioneer unit for the 47th (2nd London) Division in France, or the 4th (Reserve) Battalion, which was a training unit based in the UK. The war ended on the 11th November and he was demobilised back to civilian life on the 12th March 1919.

The rest of Ernest's life remains a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in May 1959. As well as his 1914-15 Star, Ernest 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