20th (Service) Bn
XX The Lancashire Fusiliers

(4th Salford Pals)
1915 - 1918


Died on 24/10/1917
Private Fred Tortoishell
20th Lancashire Fusiliers

Private Fred Tortoishell, of the Lancashire Fusiliers, who resided at 42, High Street, Middleton, was killed in action fighting with his Regiment in 1917. He was killed instantaneously by a shell whilst attending to a wounded comrade. The deceased soldier who was 30 years of age, joined up in March, 1916, and prior to that worked at Castleton. He was a highly esteemed member of the Borough Band. He left a widow and one child.

Private Tortoishell has no known grave and his name is on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

Died 23/07/1916
Private Owen Simpson
20th Lancashire Fusiliers

Private Owen Simpson, of Nelson Street, Middleton Junction, who died in July, 1916, whilst fighting with the Lancashire Fusiliers in France, was 21 years of age and in civil life was a conductor on the Middleton tram cars. He enlisted in February, 1916, prior to which he attended St Peter's School and was a member of the brigade. He had been in France about two months.

Private Frank Tagg of the Lancashire Fusiliers, writing said. "It is with a sad heart I write these few lines to you to say how deeply I sympathise with you in your sad bereavement in the loss of your dear son Owen.
There are four crosses only to be won in France, - the Victoria Cross, Military Cross, Legion of Honour Cross, and the cross over the graves of the fallen. More get the latter than any other and Owen, poor lad, has made the great sacrifice, left home, friends, pleasure, and comfort, all for his country.
' Greater love hath no man than this, that he laid down his life for his friends.'
So once again I give my deepest love and sympathy to you, who I know, will be torn with grief and pain. He will never be forgotten by one who thought so much about him and he will always live in my heart."

They certainly could write such beautiful letters in those days.
Private Simpson is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing.
Image may contain: flower, sky, plant, bridge, outdoor and nature

William is the Lcpl 2nd row 3rd from the right
A Company 4 Platoon 20th Lancashire Fusiliers with my grandfather and his comrades (they all look so young).

19812 Cpl William McGovern DCM

This is from Hazel Acton William's Granddaughter
This is my Grandfather William McGovern on the steps of his mother house in Colyhurst Manchester. He served with the Lancashire Fusiliers during WW1 and was awarded the DCM the medal was pawned sometime during the 30/40s and of course there was never the money to redeem it. Over the years the family have tried to find it to no avail until I was browsing auction houses medal sections and low and behold found Granddads medal. It had been sold in 2003 so with very little hope I emailed the auction house and asked if they could pass my information on to the buyer and then I waited and waited and about two weeks later I had a phone call from a lovely gentleman who said he had granddads medal and would be willing sell it back to the family. He was very fair, he advised me to ring the auction house that sold the medal to him and ask for there present day valuation, he said whatever they valued it at he would sell it to me. I have to say it was a very reasonable price we agreed on and I am now waiting to complete the deal. Our granddads medal will then be back where it belongs after over 70yrs missing. My grandfather still has two children living, my mother who will be ninety next year and his son who will be eighty next year, great birthday presents.

The medal is now back in the family

The Story of Richard Arthur Sacheverell Coke - Ken Marsh, Medal News April 2013

I STUMBLED across a World War I Medal Index card for Richard Arthur Sacheverell Coke, while routinely adding to my Lancashire Fusilier database. This unpretentious record encapsulates a remarkable story. What immediately takes the eye are the entries in the "Rank" column: the first entry is scratched out, next comes Second Lieutenant and then a jump to Captain. What follows as the last entry is the rank of Private!

Other entries reveal Coke was an Officer in the Lancashire Fusiliers. He served with distinction on the Somme in the summer of 1916 with the rank of Captain. He was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry. Later, as a Private with the Royal Army Service Corps (still under his own name), he would be awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. It should be noted the same sets of initials are shared by R. A. S. Coke and the RASC. Perhaps evidence of Coke's quirky sense of humour? So what bizarre sense of circumstances had produced these startling events? Fortunately Coke's Officer's papers at the National Archives shed light on the mystery.

Enter Sir Montague Barlow, the MP for Salford (and later Richard Coke's powerful champion against the wrath of the Army). Barlow was the Chairman and driving force behind a committee formed in September 1914 to raise new Lancashire Fusilier battalions for the Army. The Salford Brigade Committee undertook a huge multiplicity of tasks with staggering success. In response to Kitchener's clarion call, four new Army "Pals" Battalions were raised, uniformed and kitted out. Camps were constructed with all manner of necessary facilities, including a cinematograph and field kitchens. Although the War Office provided appropriate grants, the extras were raised by public subscription and private benefactors. By 1915, the 15th, 16th, 19th and 20th Battalions of the Lancashire Fusiliers were created and in training.

Officers of 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers including Richard Coke(2nd row up 5th from left) with Sir Montague Barlow.

Barlow would later in 1920 write a letter in defence of Richard Coke to the Deputy Adjutant General at the War Office. Barlow was by then Private Secretary to the Minister of Labour so his was a voice to be heeded. In the letter he details Coke's early days in the Regiment: "I recommended Coke for a Commission in the 20th Lancashire Fusiliers. He was a successful business man although still young (Coke was born in 1892). He had been in the motor trade and was also connected with the stage and cinema business in America. On the onset of war he advised the British Consul in New York that he wished to volunteer for service. He came home at once and was exceedingly useful in the early days of raising and training the Battalion. I found him most energetic, excellent with the men, a good organiser and disciplinarian. His men were all devoted to him."

Coke had enlisted on October 26, 1914 as a Private in the Cheshire Regiment. He was discharged on March 29, 1915 on being appointed to a Commission. He became a 2nd Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers on April 15, 1915. The 20th Lancashire Fusiliers were a Bantam Battalion. It was raised on March 23, 1915 and did not cross to France until late January 1916. By late July the Bantams were plunged into the on-going Somme offensive near Trones Wood. This area had been the scene of a fanatical defence by the German army. Captain Coke's company was ordered up at 4.30am on July 24 to advance into the wood.

Coke has left us with a vivid account in his autobiographical memoir, Youth before the flood. He describes what remained of Trones Wood: "Charred tree stumps with their foliage and branches burnt as with fi re, looking like the ghosts of trees in some demented forest. Shells burst frequently. A damp unpleasant smell obtruded itself. Sweet, nauseating, clinging as the dust along the road. The smell of burnt powder, tear gas and dead men lying in hundreds. Human flesh and blood blown to bits, scattered, trodden under foot, leaving no memory but a sickly pungent protest."

Once Coke's men left the dubious shelter of the wood, they were pounded by shell fire as they raced for the shallow trenches and ordered to extend and protect. Coke was wounded by a shell splinter. However, this did not prevent him for carrying out his orders. The so-called trenches were nothing more than a series of shell holes. Coke organised their connection into a viable trench line. He tended the wounded and helped dig out men buried alive by the continuous German shelling. Dead men were routinely incorporated into the parapet. "They picked up the body and laid it on top of the bank. Then quickly covered it with earth. In a little while it had disappeared and the parapet was taking shape. Every little helps!"

Coke keenly observed the German lines in moonlight, when the shelling had mercifully ceased. "The entire landscape was a mass of churned-up earth formed into waves of monstrous, fantastic shapes, full of little holes like a gigantic cheese. It reminded one of a pithead. Or the countryside around active volcanoes. Or the moon seen through telescopes. In such an uneven maze of mounds and hollows it was impossible to distinguish the enemy trench line, or even guess where it was."

Coke's company stuck it out for an astonishing 30 hours until relief finally arrived. For his leadership, bravery and endurance he was awarded a well-deserved Military Cross.

We can only guess how this intensely traumatic episode affected Richard Coke, but affect him it certainly did. On August 26, 1916 he was again wounded, this time severely in the right leg and invalided home. Again in his letter of 1920 Barlow explains: "His leg was badly shattered, but I managed to persuade him to let the Surgeons try and save it." This speaks volumes for Coke's depressed state of mind. Eventually the leg was saved, but it remained very weak.

Coke left hospital after ten months on May 27, 1917 and was posted to the Lancashire Fusilier 3rd [Reserve] Battalion on Humberside. He was earmarked for light duties. However, his problems were only just beginning as Barlow's letter explains: "He wrote me on several occasions, for he was very restless. He could only walk on level ground, for his leg was still very weak. He was anxious to get to the front again, or else be discharged. Being an active clever fellow, he hated hanging about doing nothing."

On June 12, 1917, Coke applied for and was granted two months leave in order to proceed to the USA. Leave was granted from August 1 to October 1, 1917. Subsequently he was granted 14 days extension. This strikes me as an odd request to make and have accepted. Coke was obsessively anxious to be more gainfully employed, even though (to quote a report in his file) he was "permanently lame and has to use a heavy stick to assist him in walking". Now seemingly surplus to requirements he was swanning off across the U-Boat infested Atlantic. He must have felt very depressed and unwanted.

A search of the www.ancestry.co.uk database reveals his name on the passenger manifest of the SS New York en-route from Liverpool to New York City sailing on August 15, 1917. The passenger list is a revealing one. There were only 11 names on it. Four were accorded diplomatic status. The rest were Master Mariners, Engineers and Merchants. Coke unsurprisingly was the youngest of the bunch. Curiously he was listed not as the serving officer he still was but as an actor. Why the deception? His travelling companion, 52-year-old Edward Lyall was also noted as an actor.

Intriguingly both Coke and Lyall are noted as "in transit". Therefore New York City was not their final destination. It should be remembered that Coke had a pre-war connection with the American stage and burgeoning cinema industry. While serving with 3rd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, he had written a pantomime for the entertainment of the troops. At this point conjecture enters the arena. Coke and Lyall's only logical destination, if not the New York theatre world, must surely have been Hollywood and the movie industry.

Mention must be made of a fellow passenger, whose difficulties drew attention away from Richard Coke. This was a 34-year-old Swiss national named Emile Muller. Muller seems to have immediately attracted the suspicion of the other passengers and was reported to the American authorities upon landing. For his nationality was crossed out on the ship's manifest and German substituted. As the USA was now at war with Germany, Herr Muller was suspected of being a spy!

As for Coke? It seems he must have come to his senses, because he returned home at the end of his bizarre leave. Still desperately unhappy, he resumed his light duties with 3rd Lancashire Fusiliers. Barlow poignantly comments that Coke was "eating his heart out and doing nothing". In December 1917 the Ministry of National Service applied for his release for work with the YMCA. Unaccountably this request was refused by the War Office. At the end of January 1918 Coke was graded fit for light military work, but permanently unfit for general service abroad. The Army would neither discharge him or return him to active service. As far as Richard Coke was concerned, he was in limbo.

By February 1918 he was attached to the 52nd Training Battalion KOYLI. Coke had reached the end of his tether. His alienation was complete. He absented himself without leave, stating it was not his intention to re-join. To all intents and purposes he had disappeared. His letter to his CO explaining his action survives. It sheds a vivid light on his tortured state of mind: "As you are aware I am absent without leave and it is only fair to warn you that I intend to remain so. From the readiness with which you endorsed my application to return to 3rd Reserve Battn., Lancashire Fusiliers, it is evident you think me unsuitable for employment in your Battalion. At the same time 3L.F. cannot have much use for me, otherwise they would have never let me come away. So why should I remain? I cannot go abroad and barred from civilian work. A man owes a good deal to his country, but he also owes something to himself. I see nothing ahead but an indefinite weary period, which prospect I honestly cannot stand."

His CO and the Brigadier commanding the Training Reserve Brigade duly reported his absence, yet both made sympathetic representations on his behalf. The CO of 52nd Battn. KOYLI called the case a particularly hard one. While the Brigadier detailed Coke's distinguished service and the young man's worries about his future after the war finishing with the apt comment: "Now he has foolishly taken the law into his own hands and set a very bad example".

So where was Richard Coke? As a result of enquiries made by the Provost Marshall, he was found on March 20, 1918 serving as number 371903 Private R. Coke, Royal Army Service Corps, Mechanical Transport Department, Sydenham. The fact that he didn't bother to change his name, must have made him comparatively easy to trace. Did he want to be found? Richard Coke was soldiering on. What on earth was to be done with him? The authorities were in a quandary. A memo to the Adjutant General sums up their dilemma: "This is a peculiar case. The best course of action would be to formally remove him from the service for absence and hold him to serve on his present attestation. He is a good soldier, but as he has deliberately absented himself with his eyes wide open, he should be removed under article 525".

Accordingly an entry in the London Gazette dated April 25, 1918 states Captain R. A. S. Coke has been "Removed from the army. His Majesty having no further use for his services as an officer."

What was to be done about his gallantry decoration? The stripping of his Military Cross was seriously considered. Forfeiture was not recommended since Coke had re-enlisted "and the continuity of his Army service was not broken".
Captain Coke had been graded as unfit for service abroad. Paradoxically no such bar was placed on Private Coke! He was posted to France in June 1918 and was again wounded on October 3, 1918 and sent home. While serving with the RASC in France and Flanders, Richard Coke was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. (London Gazette, June 3, 1919 refers).

He was discharged on January 23, 1919 as (ironically) no longer fit for war service. In July 1919 he enlisted for one year's service in North Russia. He sailed for Murmansk with the rank of Private. He was demobilised on December 24, 1919 and promptly volunteered again for the "small war" in Mesopotamia (Iraq), serving with the YMCA.

In recognition of his consistently valuable services His Majesty King George V was pleased to reinstate Coke to commissioned service for one day, as an "act of grace". He was appointed to a temporary commission as Captain on June 11, 1921, then relinquished his commission on the same day, yet was permitted to retain the rank of Captain (London Gazette, June 10, 1921 refers).

Coke was also allowed to retain his British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal. The Army was lenient with him. The powerful and persuasive advocacy exercised on his behalf by Sir Montague Barlow, undoubtedly helped. Barlow pulling every string he could think of, had used privileged information by quoting a compelling precedent. A Captain Hugh S. Smart of the 53rd Sikhs had failed to return to India, when his leave expired on December 28, 1914. He had enlisted under a false name as a Private in the 2nd Battalion West Surrey Regiment. Smart's name was duly emoved from the service by Gazette on June 4, 1915. He was killed in action at Festubert on May 17, 1915. Lord Rawlinson had recommended him for a posthumous Victoria Cross. The gallant Smart was later reinstated to Officer rank. As Barlow persuasively puts it: "Since gallantry was made the ground for the restoration of Smart's commission, I strongly urge the same course be adopted in Coke's case and for the same reason." The War Office Mandarins pondered the matter and decided to be merciful. For Coke's undoubted and repeated gallantry could not be denied. It was to say the least, unfortunate that his wayward sense of personal honour had made life difficult for himself. In later years Richard Coke became the respected middle-east correspondent for the Manchester Guardian. He was possibly the only man to be awarded the Military Cross as a Captain, followed by a Meritorious Service Medal when a Private. A unique sequence of awards?

" Reprinted with the kind permission of our friend Ken Marsh"

Whilst renovating a Hampshire building from the 1920's a couple of years ago, farmer's wife Sharlene Mears came across an old piece of plywood that had obviously come from a barracks or something similar
We think they were Stationed in Park House Camp Cholderton Salisbury Plain about to move to Southampton .

The photo was taken in black and white so we could read it better
Move your mouse over the messages below and a photo will come up still working on some of the messages there are two at the moment

The Fusiliers Museum in Bury is trying to find the Families of 3 Lancashire Fusiliers from the 20th Battalion (4th Salford Pals)
Whilst renovating a Hampshire building from the 1920's a couple of years ago, farmer's wife Sharlene Mears came across an old piece of plywood that had obviously come from a barracks or something similar

The 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (4th Salford Pals) had been at Park House Camp on Salisbury plain all the winter of 1915, from August until the date of their leaving on 29th January for Southampton when the 3 left their messages.

Within 12 days of writing their farewells they were inspected by Lord Kitchener in Racquinghem France, and then into the trenches on the 27th February.

What I find remarkable is that these 3 lads all made it through the next 3 years of the most horrible war imaginable, and they all came home!

There were messages written in pencil from 3 Lancashire Fusiliers who were just about to go over to France, dated 29/1/16.
The 20th Battalion of the Lancashire (4th Salford Pals) Fusiliers is given, and one of them mentions the Machine Gun Section.
Sharlene contacted the www.lancs-fusiliers.co.uk Web Site and told Editor Capt Joe Eastwood the story and asked if we would like the piece of plywood she sent it to us and we have passed it on the XXth Lancashire and Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum

The names on the Plywood board are
21681 Pte Frank Nuttall
Click here for the National Archives records
He was in 13 Platoon of D Company 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (4th Salford Pals)
His Platoon commander was 2nd Lt H C Pemberton and his Company was commanded by Captain W J Lias his platoon Sergeant was Sgt William Dean
He probably was injured in the war as he then went into the Labour Corps Number 480294 we also think he came from Middleton
He wrote on the plaque
One Middleton Lad going to do his bit for his country left this camp on the 29/1/16/for France
Frank Nuttall 1 Mills Hill Middleton
Frank's Service Record
Frank Nuttall, the son of Alice Anne Nuttall of Number 1 Mills Hill,Middleton, Lancashire was just 19 years old when he enlisted at Salford on the 15th June 1915 for the Pals.
He was a small lad, being just 5 feet 1 inch in height, and having a chest measurement of 34 inches, ideal for a Bantam battalion, which he duly signed on for.

By the 10th August, Frank had been promoted to unpaid Lance Corporal, and by the 15th of the same month he began being paid as a Lance corporal.

Such quick promotion was not too last long however, as on the 2nd October 1915 he lost the stripe he had so quickly earned.
We shall probably never know why he lost his single stripe.

His record then shows him as “Posted” on the same day he wrote his message to us on the plywood board.

21798 L/Cpl John Higham
Click here for the National Archives records

He was in 15 Platoon 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (4th Salford Pals)
His Platoon commander was Lt C F Buckley and his Company was commanded by Captain W J Lias
his platoon Sergeant was Sgt J Meehan and we think he was from Salford he was a Lance Corporal at the end of the war
He wrote on the Board
Thank god that you are here in spring, for it is Hell in winter here.
John's Service Record
John Higham ,the son of John Higham senior, of number 31 Chapel Street Ashton Under Lyne was also 5 feet 1 inch in height, with an even smaller chest than his mate, just 33 and a ½ inches round the chest, another Bantam.

He enlisted at Salford on the 23rd June 1915 and was appointed Lance Corporal on the 5th October 1915, could he have been given the stripe so quickly lost by Nuttall just 3 days earler ?
This too was not to last and he is shown to be a Private soldier again by 11th January 1916, just a few days before he left his message for us on the plywood.

21800 Pte John W Flynn
Click here for the Natioal archives records
in the same Company and Platoon as Pte Higham above. 15 Platoon 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (4th Salford Pals)
His Platoon commander was Lt C F Buckley and his Company was commanded by Captain W J Lias his platoon Sergeant was Sgt J Meehan
From Rochdale he was a Corporal
John's message is the easiest to read it say's
20th Batt Lancs Fus
Rochdale Lancashire
Pte John N Flynn 21800
Machine Gun Section
going to do his bit
left this camp
on the 29/1/1916
for France
John's Service record
John Walker Flynn was the son of William and Jane Flynn of 74 Ashworth Street Rochdale. He also had a brother called William
He enlisted at Salford on the 24th June 1915 and due to his height of just 5 feet 1 and a half inches he became a bantam in the 4th Salford Pals, along with the 2 above mentioned.

John Flynn is recorded as being wounded in action,

But all three of these intrepid men were to survive WW1 and they all came home.

This is what Mrs Sharlene Mears ( she found the plywood with the messages) had to say today 20th May 2012:-

“Dear Joe,

Thanks for your email. The radio article sounded great. Graham said it
brought a lump to his throat hearing the messages being spoken by the
soldiers 'themselves'. I can't believe the amount of work you are putting in.
Well done to you all “

Joe Eastwood Editor The XX The Lancashire Fusiliers.

On this photo are two of the people who wrote on the plywood plaque sorry we are not sure who is who on it

Click here for The BBC recording for their North West Tonight programme broadcast 25/05/2012
Click on comic to enlarge it
Victor Comic purchased by Joe on Ebay 17th May 2012.
Sgt Bolton won the MM for this daring action with the 20th Battalion on the 20th September 1916 on the front line near Arras,

William Bibby
"Father of Jack Bibby, 1st Bn LF India (see link)"


Willam Bibby
Date unknown

William Bibby circa 1917
in "Hospital Blues" I am told

A locket or metal case which apparently saved him
from much more serious injury or even maybe saved his life when he was hit (in the bottom) by shrapnel
again, so I am told
It is a Victorian Silver Vesta case,
for keeping matches dry.
David Bibby
William's Grandson and Jacks son see link above )
Konstanz, Germany,
19th Jan 2012

Great Great Uncle
sent in by
Mark Crame

A few weeks ago I was preparing for a trip to the Western Front to retrace
the steps of my Great Grandfather, Sergeant Frederick Crame of the 16th
Lancers, in the first month of the Great War. My father suddenly remembered
that some of his other grandfathers brothers had also served in the Great
War. One, Oswald Roe, was killed. And so I came to learn of him, remember
him, and pay my resepects to the Great Great Uncle I never knew.

22993 Private Oswald 'Ossie' Herbert Roe

Born in Aylsham, Norfolk and registered as Herbert Oscar Roe in the June
Quarter of 1884, the 1891 Census records Oswald Roe, aged 7, as a scholar
living at Mill House, Aylsham with his father Frederic, a 40 year old
Relieving Officer born in Aylsham and mother Emily, who was 44 and born in
Lockesley, Hampshire, as well as his spinster aunt, Sarah Chapman, aged 73.
Oswald had 3 brothers, Frederic, the eldest at 15, Robert Leonard who was
12, Reginald aged 10 and his sister Beatrice who was 8. All the children had
been born in Aylsham. In the 1901 census he is recorded as a drapers
apprentice, still living at home in Aylsham with his parents and Frederick,
Leonard and Beatrice. Oswald married during the September Quarter of 1910 in
Hendon, Middlesex.

During the First World War he enlisted at Harrow, Middlesex and was killed
in action on Monday 16th April 1917 whilst serving with the 20th (Service)
battalion (4th Salford) of the Lancashire Fusiliers, which was formed in
Salford on 23rd March 1915 by Mr Montague Barlow MP, and the Salford Brigade
Committee as a Bantam Battalion. In August 1915 it was attached to 104th
Brigade, 35th Division. At the time of Oswalds death the Battalion were in
the St Quentin area following-up the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line.
On 15th April, they took part in a divisional assault on the village of
Fayet to the northwest of St Quentin and a ridge position running slightly
north. The 20th attacked a sunken track on the ridge, leading from the
village of Pontruet to a farm, les Trois Sauvages, to the east of Gricourt.
They were apparently successful, and on the 16th they sent patrols towards
an enemy trench south east of Pontruet, but it was unoccupied and no enemy
were found. They withdrew into reserve on the 17th. The 104th Brigade had
casualties totalling around 400 men of all ranks.

Oswald had previously been 128540 of the Royal Garrison Artillery and 37171
Private Roe of the Lancashire Fusiliers. At the time of his death he was
registered as being married to Mrs M. Roe of 20 Cornwall Road, Harrow,
Middlesex, and he is buried at Chapelle British Cemetery in the village of
Holnon, 6 kilometres west of St Quentin in the Aisne Departement of France;
Grave Reference IV.E.12.

We found the cemetery. Being winter time the headstones lacked their usual
cleanliness. Fortunately we had not only our crosses of remembrance but some
half full bottles of water. sadly not enough for cleaning Corporal John
Barlow, also of the Lancashire Fusiliers and another casualty of that day.

If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


I can add this about his neighbour:

He lies next to 20-year-old 21719 Corporal John Barlow, also of the 20th Battalion and who died the same day. Barlow was born at Garton, Lancashire and enlisted at Salford and was the son of John and Rhoda Barlow of 10 Byrom St, Longsight, Manchester.


Harry Smith
1915 - 1919