The 19th (Service) Battalion Manchester Regiment


4th City Pals Battalion


Part One; Preliminary Training and Early Days in France


On the outbreak of the Great War the authorities of the city of Manchester approached the War office for permission to raise local battalions of infantry. The formation of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th (City) battalions began on the 28th August, the 4th Battalion commencing on the 2nd September. The battalion was recruited to strength by the 16th September and the first parade was held at the City exhibition hall under its first Commanding Officer Colonel Bertram, Charles, Percival Heywood, a Boer war veteran and ex Commanding Officer of the 6th (Territorial) Battalion of the Regiment.


 Drill and training was commenced at the City Hall and Hulme Cavalry Barracks, alternating with the 18th Battalion. The Men, at this time, were still billeted at their own homes and notices of parades were published in the Manchester Evening News. On the 15th October, Belle Vue Gardens, in the Gorton area of the City were secured as a training ground and the Battalion paraded daily from 9am to 4 pm for the next six weeks. The Men were paid 3 Shillings a Day subsistence allowance and travelled in daily from all around Manchester by train and tram.


The initial training of the Men was carried out by ex regular army and volunteer soldiers temporarily promoted to the ranks of Sergeant and Sergeant Major. Volunteers were called for from amongst the ranks to be trained as Junior N.C.O’s and the Regimental Sergeant Major taught the men Company and extended order drill. The Officers began to take a more active part in the training of their own platoons and a spirit of rivalry began to appear between the companies. Lessons in trench digging commenced and a limited number of old fashioned rifles were issued for arms drill, which the companies had to utilise in turns. Friends and relations regularly turned up at the training ground to watch and were most appreciated after parade hours when  the Men lost no time in joining them in dancing and skating to the music of the Gardens band.




On the 28th October, the Battalion lost its first Commanding Officer when Colonel Heywood died of pneumonia. His loss was felt keenly by the Battalion and when his coffin was conveyed to London Road Station the Men lined the approach as the funeral procession passed to the train. As the train left the station the buglers sounded the “last Post”.

On the 19th of November, Colonel E. A Kettlewell took over command of the Battalion and on the 30th Marched the Men to the Hutments at Heaton Park to join up with the other 3 Battalions. By this time, the Officers were dressed in their khaki uniforms but only a handful of the Men had been provided with the blue uniform. Most of the others still wore civilian clothing.


The 19th Battalion Lines at Heaton Park.



On the 3rd December 1914, the title of the battalion was changed to the Nineteenth (Service) Battalion, Manchester Regiment. It was on this date that the war office officially took over the City Battalions of the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th battalions to form the 90th Infantry Brigade under Brigadier General H.C.E Westropp.


The Men quickly settled in to their new surroundings and were well provided for. Comfortably housed and well fed they soon made their huts a home from home-hiring pianos and putting on impromptu concerts in the evenings after training had finished.

The park was a large expanse of open space and the training increased to Company and Battalion level. Men were sent on Musketry courses to Altcar rifle ranges near Formby-returning to pass on their knowledge to the Battalion. Night training was begun and route marches, along with physical instruction carried out by Lieutenant Bernard la Trobe Foster(Recently returned from a course) improved the fitness and bearing of the Men.


The Battalion signaller were formed under Lieutenant Heywood and Battalion scouts under lieutenant Swaine. There was a rush of applicants for the machine gun section under Lieutenant Mather and although there was no equipment the men were taught the theory and had a fair idea of the mechanism of the machine gun and a working knowledge of semaphore long before they departed Heaton park.


At Christmas, 1915 about half the Battalion was allowed to leave over the holiday period. The other half already celebrating theirs the week before. For those remaining in the camp, nothing was missing for the occasion. A full Christmas dinner was served and there was a plentiful supply of fruit and drink. The Whole battalion was invited to the pantomime at the Theatre Royal in Manchester, and attended under their Officers.


The issue of blue uniforms and greatcoats was completed in January 1915 and the Men began to take a pride in their appearance. The popularity of the uniform was  short lived however, as the uniforms were the same as those worn by the tramguards in Manchester. Khaki uniforms were finally issued (much to the relief of the Men) in February and was worn for the first time with the leather webbing equipment on the 21st March when the battalion, along with the other 3 Battalions, marched in to Manchester and paraded past Lord Kitchener who took the salute from the steps of the Town hall. The whole of Manchester turned out to witness it’s “Citizen Soldiers” and thousands lined the route, amazed at the physique and general smartness of the Men passed by.


After six months of hard training it was time for the Men to leave Manchester and on the 24th April 1915 they again marched through the packed streets of Manchester to London Road Station and departed for Belton Park near Grantham, Lincolnshire.









Belton Park on the outskirts of Grantham was a vast deer park and the Home of Lord and Lady Brownlow. At 1.30pm The train carrying the Pals Battalions from Manchester pulled into Grantham’s goods yard and the Men marched to the hutted camp at Belton park. The four Pals Battalions of the 90th Brigade formed part of the 30th Division under the Command of General Fry.


The arrival at Belton Park was a bit of a shock to the Battalion. The Men found themselves rationed by the Army Service Corps and were less well fed than their time at Heaton Park. The men frequented the Cafes and Restaurants of Grantham after the Days training and looked back on their time at Heaton Park with regret.


The training intensified at Belton. Long route marches in full kit, trench digging and Brigade and Divisional exercises hardened the Men readying them for their anticipated roles in France. In early June, the rifles started to arrive and live firing commenced allowing the Men to complete their Musketry courses.


On the 15th June, Colonel Kettlewell relinquished his command owing to ill health and was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel Sir H.B Hill, a retired Royal Irish Fusilier. The new Colonel was a great disciplinarian and he set about interchanging the N.C.O’s between Companies in order to dissipate the too friendly feeling that existed between N.C.O’s and Men.


On the 7th September 1915, The battalion moved from Belton Park to Larkhill Camp, Salisbury. Brigade and Divisional exercises took place and the Men received their Lee Enfield rifles and Machine Guns, enabling them to complete their musketry courses. Lord Derby made the final inspection of the Battalion on the 4th of November and the date for the Battalions departure for France was set.


On the morning of the 7th November, the 19th Battalion marched to Amesbury station and boarded the troop trains for Southampton. The men boarded the S.S “Queen Alexandria” and the Transport aboard the S.S “Archimedes”. As dusk approached, the Ships slipped their moorings and 14 Months after enlisting in Manchester, the “Citizen Soldiers” of the 19th Battalion were on their way to France.






List of Officers who proceeded to France with the Battalion.



Officers of the 19th Battalion pictured outside Heaton Hall in 1915




part two

Early Days in France