The Manchester Regiment 1758 - 1958

The Sixteenth (Service) Battalion


16th (Service) (1st City Pals ) Battalion

The 16th Battalion was the first of the City Battalions to be raised. Formed in Manchester on the 31st August 1914, by the Lord Mayor and the major cotton producers of the City, notably The Fine Spinners Ass Ltd., J & N Phillip and Co., Tootal Broadhurst Lee and Co Ltd and formed by the clerks and warehousemen of Manchester

The battalion went into camp at Heaton Park in September, and in April 1915 moved to Belton Park, Grantham as part of the 90th Brigade, 30th Division. On the 29th August 1915 the battalion was taken over by the War Office. In September 1915 the battalion moved into Larkhill Camp, Salisbury, where training continued

On th 6th November 1915, the battalion set off from Larkhill and entrained to Folkstone, they landed at Boulogne and proceeded Pont Remy and then on to St Ricquier, where they were billeted. On the 17th the men continued their trek vis Brucamps, St Ouen, Flesselles and Villers Bocage, from there they marched to Hebuterne to enter the war and received their first casulties. They were trained in trench warfare by the Gloucester and Worcester regiments during the early part of December, before marching to Louvencourt on the 14th December. Christmas was spent at Bonneville, when a fire started in a farm building, the battalion spent the night fire-fighting with the locals.

In January 1916 the 30th Division was ordered to the Somme area and the 16th moved to Suzanne, which was a billeting area for the Maricourt area. Until July the battalion went the round of Suzanne- Marricourt, Maricourt -Suzanne except for short spells of training behind the lines, working with the 17th battalion doing the opposite 'shift' in miserable trenchs with no dug-outs and only a few bomb proof shelters. The training for the spring offensive was essiential but not always appreciated ( from the 16th battalion history)

" After an imaginary tot of rum we goes over an imaginary top and attacks an imaginary enemy. What I want to know is why is- Why the 'ell we can't imagine the whole bloody lots over and jimmy off 'ome?"

During this time the battalion suffered casualties on a regular basis from german artillery and raids and retaliation was organised by the british troops by way of Stokes and Heavy mortars and raids were organised.

On the 1st June the 90th brigade was relieved by French troops of the XXth corps, The preparations for forth-coming battle started as battery and machine gun positions were established. Fron the maricourt sector the battalion moved to Etinehem on the 1-2 June, where they rested and received drafts, on the 10th the relieved the 18th Kings on the other side Maricourt to study the ground over which they would attack. Here they suffered from heavy german artillery and machine guns as the trench system was prepared for the jump off. On the 16th they were relieved by the 2nd Bedfords and moved to Bois de Taille, on to Le Mesge for further training for the attack on Silesia trench, the Glatz redoubt and Montauban.

The Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916 The objective of the 16th battalion was Montauban Alley, an important trench about 200 yards in front of the village, the 2ns Royal Scots Fusiler and the 18th battalion were in support, on their right was the 17th batt.After a cold night in the assembly trenches, the battalion moved off at 8.30am. They had to traverse 3000 yards of shattered trenches and churned up ground, passing through the 21st brigade who had already taken their objective. Held up at one point while the artillery barrage moved forward, they pressed on and poured into Montauban which was levelled by then, and on to Montauban alley.

Battalion HQ was established in the village and communications set up, A, B and C coys consolidated the Alley, touch was obtained with the 17th on the right, but on the left the flank was open until late in the afternoon when 18th division came up. The gun pits beyond the alley were rushed and the first three artillery pieces were taken in the battle of the somme. By Midday the germans had become to shell their positions. At 9.30 pm the germans launched their counter attack but by 10.15 it was beaten off. The men stood to in their trenches all night and suffered through lack of water.

At 3.00am the second german counter attack started as long lines of grey figures advanced over the ridge. the batt responded with rapid and accurate rifle and lewis gun fire., but there was only 150 troops manning the defence of a trench 1000 yards long and no means of contacting the artillery. Four waves of germans were fought off but some got into the trench at the junction of the 16th and 17th battalions, bombers were sent forward to deal with them but the bombs had run out and a block was established in the trench to keep them back. At 2.30pm the battalion was relieved by the 2nd Wiltshires, the ammunition they took back was one mills bomb and 300 rounds, but they had held the trench.

On their return to their trenches , the Padre asked for volunteers to bring in the wounded still laying out in no mans land, the survivors, all thoughly exhausted, stood up to a man. What was left of the battalion was withdrwn to Happy valley off the Bray Albert Road where they stayed until the 8th when they returned to their old assembly trenches.

At 6.40am on the 9th July, along with the 17th and 18th battalions, the batt was to attack Trnes Wood, after previous attacks had failed, by 8am they had cleared the wood whenthey were subjected to a very heavy bombardment by the german artillery which caused terrible casualties to them and they were compelled to fall back. By 2.30pm the 17th and 18th were also forced to retire, and the 16th was ordered to attack the woods again and occupy the south and south west portion of the wood.

The attack commenced at 6.40 under heavy shrapnel, HE and machine gun fire, but the speed of the advance meant they didn't suffer too badly. When tey entered the wood they found a single coy of the 18th still holding out, working togther they bombed up Trones Alley. Orders were then received that the northern portion of the wood was to be taken and 3 coys of the 16th along with a South African coy patrolled northwards, by 5.00am the next day the wood was reported clear. 30 minutes later the germans counter attacked in force, occupying the northern portion and cutting off some Manchesters patrols, the reserve coy was sent up and the germans were pushed back from the southern edge of the wood again. later an artillery barrage was brought down on the german troops in the wood but they still held it. More fighting continued in the morning, and on the 11th the troops were withdrawn to the Maricourt trenches. (Trones Wood was eventually captured on July 14th by the 54th Dvision)

On 22nd July the battalion was detailed to take part in the attack on Guillemont and moved up to Mansel Copse area, on the 24th they moved again to the assembly trenches at Cambridge Copse. It should be noted here that the battalins losses had been made up from drafts from many different regiments in a very short time and had not had time to assimilate into the battalion.

The attack started on the night of the 29th July, the battalion moved to be in their positions for 4.45am the next day, they attacked in dense fog and were savaged by machine guns and rifle fire from both flanks, several attempts to get through were made but eventually they were beaten back with heavy casualties. The 18th batt and 2nd RFs made the village but were cut off by the german barrage, two coys of the 17th were sent up but failed to relieve the situation. In the early hours of July 31st the battalion was relieved and returned to Mansel Copse near Mametz.

On the 1st August the battalion was on the move again eventually going into billets at Essats near Bethune on the 11th. where it remained until the 11th September, training and supplying working parties.

On September 3rd the batt moved back into the trenches, this time the Festubert trenches with a coy of the 17th to make up their strength. Over the next couple of weeks they alternated days in the waterlogged trenches with other battalions and on the 17th they moved on again, from 21st September to 4th October they were at Fleselles. On the 10th they moved again arriving at Fricourt ( via Montauban again) on the 11th they moved up to Flers Support and Grove Alley, On the 12th they lost their CO Lt-Col Knox and Major Elstob took over command. By the 16th the battalionwas back at switch trench in reserve for an attack bythe 21st brigade on the 18th. On the 22nd the battalion moved again to Bailleulval, where they stayed until 29th when they relieved the Sherwoods in the Bellecourt trenches. Here the battalion had a relatively quite time, doing 5 days in the trenches and 5 days in billets, there was little aggression from either side in a informal truce situation.

Manchester Hill, 21st March 1918

to be continued

On the 13th May 1918 the battalion was reduced to training cadre. On the 18th June 1918 they were made part of the 42nd Brigade, 14th Division at Boulogne & crossed to England, on to Cowshot & were reconstituted with newly-formed 29th Battalion on the 4th July 1918. landed at Boulogne.

On the 11th November 1918 as part of the 42nd Brigade, 14th Division, the battalion finished the war in France, Petit Audenarde, on Belgian Frontier N.E. of Roubaix.