Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Fred West

Fred West :

Fred West : (L to R) Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

Fred was born on the 4th September 1897 and baptised at Christ Church in Chadderton, Oldham. He lived at 62 Coalshaw Green Road with his mother Jane, his father William, his two younger brothers John and Harry, and his grandparents William and Hannah Dingsdale. Fred’s father worked as cardroom hand in a cotton mill and Fred went to work as a cotton mule piecer, a job that involved repairing broken threads on the machines.

Fred joined the Army on the 3rd May 1915 in Oldham at the age of 19 years and 248 days. He was described as being 5 foot 3 inches. He was given the service number 15307 and was placed into the 24th (Service) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, later known as the Oldham Pioneers. By the 12th September 1915 he moved to Salisbury Plain for training. As a soldier in a pioneer battalion, Fred had a specialised role in constructing and repairing trenches, tunnels and other fortifications.

During the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 the Oldham Pioneers were tasked with converting captured German trenches and building fortifications around Fricourt. In 1917 the battalion was involved in the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as the Battle of Passchendaele. Under heavy shell fire the Pioneers prepared an area near Sanctuary Wood for troops to attack.

Fred was awarded the Military Medal for his actions during Battle of Passchendaele. 'On September 30, 1917, when working in Nonne Bosschen under heavy shell fire he set an excellent example of steadiness. He went to the assistance of a wounded comrade and got him away to safety, and afterwards returned to help bring in and bury two dead men'.

In November 1917 the Oldham Pioneers moved to Italy where they helped prepare ground for infantry attacks, construct defences and repair bridges. They ended the war near Udine in North East Italy.

After the war Fred returned to work as a cotton spinner until the depression of the early 1920s when he was laid off like hundreds of others. He then worked on the construction of the new Broadway road, now the A663 to Failsworth. This outdoor employment gave him a taste for working in the fresh air and he later got a job as a gardener with the Parks Department at Chadderton Urban District Council. Fred was later transferred to Foxdenton Park where he was put in charge of grounds, bowling greens and tennis courts. He worked here until he got a job at Royton and Crompton Secondary Modern School as groundsman where he stayed until retirement.

Fred’s hobbies included bowling where he won many competitions and played for the county. He was also fond of growing flowers using the facilities of the parks, school and family as his own house had no garden.

He was married to Eva Dunkerly and they had three daughters, Amy, Elsie and Eva. Fred died on the 8th February 1983 aged 86.

A tradition in his home was that every year, the week before Armistice Day, the medals would come out of the drawer for a polish before the Sunday parade. They were donated to the museum collections in 2014.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf

Telephone: 0161 342 5480
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Army Museums Ogilby Trust logo
Tameside Metropolitan Borough logo
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Army Museums Ogilby Trust logo
Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council