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Statistics and Snippets


Heaton Moor/Chapel war memorial

Photo: Phil Page

In the early weeks of the war, while volunteers were still training in the UK, only pre-war regulars, reservists and Territorials were in action. The first known casualty from the district was John Nicholas Feeney of Heaton Norris, a pre-war reservist in the Cheshire Regiment, who was killed in action at Mons on 24 August 1914 barely a week after arriving in France, while the Stockport Advertiser reported that 17 year-old Joseph Price of Heaton Norris was the first Stockport Territorial to be killed on 20 December 1914. As far as I know, John Reginald Cooper of Heaton Chapel, who had joined the Border Regiment at the outbreak of war, was the first volunteer to fall in action on 12 March 1915, although Alfred Crees of Heaton Moor was killed in a motor accident while still in training in England on 20 February 1915.


There is an obvious irony in the fact that James Yarwood of Heaton Mersey died of wounds on the day the Armistice was signed, but of course war-related deaths continued for many months - if not years - afterwards. Servicemen were not immediately discharged, and four young men from Reddish serving in the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment, which was posted to Mesopotamia after the Armistice on peace-keeping duties, were killed in the retreat of the Manchester Column on 24 July 1920 during the Arab Rebellion. The last known local death of a discharged serviceman recorded by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission was that of James Aldred from Heaton Norris, who died in Stockport on 1 July 1921.

The ages of war casualties from the district ranged from 17 to 57, with an average of 26.  At least six died before their 18th birthday, the youngest of whom was probably William Bates of Heaton Norris. His birth was registered in early 1899 and he enlisted in the Manchester Regiment in 1915 claiming to be 19: he was killed in action on 31 August 1916. The oldest was Lance Corporal John Edward Wardle of Heaton Norris, who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps in England and died of unknown causes on 14 December 1916.

For Stockport as a whole, the worst day of the war came on 31 July 1917, when the 6th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment suffered massive losses at St Julien: 15 men from the Heatons and Reddish died on that day. However, 1 July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, was almost equally deadly for the district, as 14 men were killed and at least 3 more received fatal wounds. The majority of these casualties were serving in the Manchester Regiment.

Age of servicemen

The age of wartime servicemen from the district at enlistment ranged from 14 to 57. The youngest known recruit is Ludwig Giesenberg of Heaton Moor (later known as Louis Gee), who was born on 4 March 1900 and enlisted on 9 November 1914, claiming to be 19. He was discharged from the army after three weeks but had re-enlisted in a different regiment by 22 October 1915, although it is unclear whether he ever served overseas. At least 90 other local youths joined up before their 18th birthday, with only a handful being subsequently discharged on account of their age.


The oldest known local combatant is Robert William Gill of Heaton Chapel, a pre-war soldier serving in the Manchester Regiment, who was aged 57 at the outbreak of war and who was awarded the D.C.M. in 1916 for his work with machine guns.

Heaton MoorChapelPP.jpg

Prisoners of war

At least 50 men from the district spent a greater or lesser part of the war as prisoners in Germany, while a small number were interned there from the outset. The earliest prisoner was probably Joseph Beard, a pre-war regular from Heaton Norris, who was captured on 23 August 1914, just a week after arriving in France. Most prisoners remained in Germany until the Armistice, although some of the most seriously ill or wounded men (those unlikely to recover sufficiently for further service) were repatriated earlier under the auspices of the Swiss Red Cross. One such local man was Thomas Wood of Heaton Norris, who was wounded in the thigh and taken prisoner at La Bassée on 22 October 1914 and after being repatriated a year later was discharged from the army as permanently unfit. Other sick or badly wounded prisoners who might, once recovered, still be fit for some form of war service, were transferred to internment camps in Switzerland until the end of the war: Edward Wardle of Heaton Norris wrote a letter published in the Manchester Evening News on 26 March 1917 describing conditions in the Alpine village of Mürren as "heaven" after a winter spent in a German prison camp with inadequate food and clothing


The Alps from Mürren: Photo SvA

This was particularly interesting to me as my husband's family originates in the parish of Lauterbrunnen (which includes Mürren), and although by then his direct ancestors had migrated to another part of Switzerland, many distant relatives were still living and working locally, notably in the hotels which were used as POW detention centres.


Conscientious objectors

The database currently includes eleven men known to have been conscientious objectors. When conscription was introduced, only one of these obtained total exemption from military service: he was a Quaker and had been in France since the beginning of the war with the Friends Ambulance Service.  Three of the remainder undertook non-combatant service in the army and three others accepted "work of national importance" (farm work or similar). The other four refused any form of war-related service and were court-martialled and sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour.

Female service

The only female casualty recorded locally is Gertrude Mary Powicke, a teacher and women's suffrage campaigner born in Hatherlow who worked with the Friends War Victims Relief Committee in France and later in Eastern Europe. She contracted typhus in Poland during an epidemic there and died in Warsaw on 10 December 1919. However, her actual connection to the district is slight: her father, a Congregational minister, moved to Heaton Moor after his retirement and presumably submitted her name for inclusion on the local war memorial. 

The Roll of Honour of Hanover Congregational Church is relatively unusual in that includes four women, at least one of whom served as a nurse in France, and there are a small number of other women in the database who served overseas either as nurses or with the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps.

Brothers and others

There are many examples of multiple servicemen from the same family: brothers, fathers and sons, and - in at least one case - brother and sister. To date the largest family group I have identified consists of the seven Holland brothers from Reddish, who all enlisted before February 1916. William, Charles, Fred, James and Edward all survived, but George was killed in action in October 1916 and Arthur (who was initially discharged on medical grounds but re-enlisted) lost his life just over a month before the Armistice.

Friends, neighbours or colleagues often joined up together, among them a group of young men from the Heaton Mersey Lacrosse Club who joined the 6th (Territorial) Batallion of the Manchester Regiment in the first days of the war as a way of avoiding the training period for new recruits and seeing action more quickly. Brothers Joseph and Thomas Kirk of Heaton Moor formed part of this group and were both commissioned as Second Lieutenants in April 1915, but neither would see the end of the war: Thomas was killed in action on 4 June 1915 ("the first officer from St Paul's to be killed") and Joseph, after being wounded in Turkey, died in a motorcycle accident while at camp near Salisbury on 10 February 1916.


About a dozen men from Reddish enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps on the first day of official recruiting - possibly members of the local Red Cross or St John's Ambulance Brigade. Most of these men were posted to military hospitals in England, although a few went overseas: among those who remained in England was William Gilfoyle, who died apparently of natural causes in hospital in Newcastle on 1 November 1917.


Several smaller groups later joined the different "Pals" batallions of the Manchester Regiment, contributing to the heavy local casualties on the Somme mentioned above.

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