Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Fred Williams

 Fred Williams :

 Fred Williams : General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasp 'Iraq'

General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasp 'Iraq'

Fred was born in around March 1900 in Denton, Lancashire. His father was called John Thomas and his mother was Elizabeth. He was the youngest of 7 children, and we know the names of 6; Harry, Mary Alice, Maud, Annie and Bertha. Harry, Mary or the other child had died by 1911.

John made felt hats. The family lived at 30 Moss Street when the 1891 Census was taken. They lived here for at least the next 13 years.

John died aged 43 in April 1904. He was buried on the 27th April at Christ Church in Denton. At some point between then and 1911 Elizabeth moved to 30 Grosvenor Street in Denton. When the Census was taken in April that year she lived with Maud, Annie, Bertha and Fred, as well as her 2 year old granddaughter Amy Wood. All the girls worked for hat manufacturers.

Once he was old enough, Fred followed in his family's footsteps and became a hatter. The First World War broke out in August 1914. Fred was either conscripted or volunteered shortly after his 18th birthday in mid 1918.

Fred joined the Manchester Regiment and was given the service number 64209. He didn't serve overseas before the end of the war that November. This means he was not awarded any First World War campaign medals.

With the return of peace the Army began demobilising thousands of war veterans. It still needed soldiers though, so the Army offered cash bounties to men willing to volunteer to stay in the Army for a certain period. It is likely that Fred took advantage of this offer, and re-enlisted for 27 months.

On the 28th February 1919 Fred was 'discharged to reenlist' in the Manchester Regiment. He was in Scarborough in Yorkshire at the time, which suggests he was a member of the 5th (Reserve) Battalion. Eventually he was posted to the 2nd Battalion.

The 2nd Battalion moved to Ireland in November 1919, and then left the UK and moved to Mesopotamia, now known as Iraq, in February 1920. Between April and July the Battalion was based in Tikrit, they then moved to Hillah. Many of the soldiers in Iraq were inexperienced and were not fully trained on all the Battalion's weaponry. Many of the men who had served in the First World War had already been demobilised, so Fred's experience, however limited it may have been, will have been invaluable to his comrades.

On the 24th July 1920 the Battalion was around 20 miles outside Hillah when it was attacked by Arab tribesmen. They held off the Arabs until nightfall, and then D Company was ordered to hold position to allow the rest of the Battalion to get away. Fred escaped back to Hillah, but 79 of his comrades were captured by the Arabs. They were released in October.

Fred and the 2nd Battalion left Mesopotamia on Boxing Day 1920 and moved to Kamptee in India. He was discharged at the 'termination of engagement' on the 18th May 1921. His conduct had been 'Good'.

After he left the Army Fred returned to 30 Grosvenor Street. He had named Annie as his next of kin in 1919, suggesting that Elizabeth may have died.

In mid 1924 Fred lived at 38 Ryder Street in Bradford, Manchester. His life after this remains a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in mid 1938.

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