Robert Armitage


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Whaley Bridge In Flanders Fields -The 2nd Battle Of Ypres

Whaley Bridge In Flanders Field Kemmel

I refer for reader ease to the 6th Nott's Derby Sherwood Foresters as 6th Sherwood's.This battalion had by far the largest body of Whaley Bridge men of any First World War Battalion.

When the 6th Sherwood Foresters arrived on the Western Front they also took with them there own military band. At the dockside the band played the song "It's a long way to Tipperary" the first time it had been played in France.
The band was most popular and played for General Smith Dorrien and Field Marshall Sir John French.

On the 7th April 1915 the 6th Sherwood's took over the front line for the first time in the area of at Kemmel near Locre in the Ypres Salient to there left was the Canadian 1st Division. A pattern of 4 days in and 4 days out of the trenches became routine however this would vary depending on how active the front line was.

The trenches in places were rather close to the German trenches and there were no communication trenches. German snipers started to inflict casualties on the battalion. Coming in and going out of the trenches proved to be most hazardous.

Between the 8th and 22 April 1915 Whaley Bridge and the local area would suffer losses in quick succession. Sgt John Herbert Fletcher John William Watts, Robert Armitage and Samuel Hibbert all from Whaley Bridge would fall to the fire of the German sniper. They were all buried in the grounds of Kemmell Chatuaue now known as Kemmel Chateau Cemetery.

At 5.00.p.m on the 22nd of April 1915 The 6th Sherwood's were out of the front line at Kemmel which had a hill with a commanding view of the surrounding area their they watched a scene non would forget.

The German Army released one hundred and sixty eight tons of Chlorine gas over a 6.5 km (4 mile) front on the part of the line held by the French Territorial Colonial and Algerian troops
Approximately 6,000 French and colonial troops died within ten minutes
With the survivors abandoning their positions en masse a 4-mile (6.4 km) gap was left in the front line.
Canadian troops were able to put in a hasty defense by urinating into cloths and putting them to their faces to counter the effects of the gas. Canadians held that part of the line against further attacks until 3 May 1915 at a cost of 6000 wounded or dead.

The 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion led by Victor Odlum was one of those involved in this bitter fighting. They had been ordered to hold the line to the last man.
They did just that but suffered a huge number of casualties. One of the 7th Canadian casualties was William Brierton aged 25 originally from Whaley Bridge he had emigrated to Canada along with his brother before the war.
He was the son of J J Brierton of Buxton Road his body was never recovered and he is remembered on The Menin Gate Memorial.

The 6th Sherwood's band showed respect and compassion in seeing the surviving soldiers of the 7th Canadian Infantry leaving the trenches in what must have been a terrible state. They marched with them 6 miles to rest billets playing all the way to keep their spirits up. Victor Odlum wrote a thank you letter to the Battalion and the story picked up by the newspapers in England.

On the 20th June 1915 the 6th Sherwood's left the Kemmel area.

Kemmel Military Chateau contains the graves of many men from Disley, Dove Holes, Buxton, Chapel-en -le frith, New Mills and Whaley Bridge indeed most of the High Peak.

Casualties in this Article

Sgt John Herbert Fletcher
John William Watts
Robert Armitage
Samuel Hibbert
J J Brierton
Also to mention Tom Bramwell Chapel En Le Frith

Canadian surgeon Lt Col John McCrae was serving at Ypres and lost a close friend in the fighting. On the 3rd of May he wrote the poem 'In Flander's Fields"

'In Flander's Fields"

In Flander's fields the poppies blow,
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below,
We are the dead. Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flander's Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw,
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow,
In Flander's Fields.

New Mills Band - They enlisted en mass. (Location above perhaps Buxton?).

Tom Bramwell third left, 2nd row. His grave is right in the center of the cemetery image.

Below his Memorial in Thomas Becket Church Chapel-en-le-frith.

Kemmel Cemetery - This section contains many casualties from the High Peak.

The Reporter May 29 1915 Whaley Bridge Men feature considerably.

The Reporter November 6th 1915

The Reporter July 24th 1915

Arnold Howe was the son of George and Eliza Howe of Macclesfield Road Whaley Bridge.

Arnold enlisted aged just 16 into the Sherwood Foresters and later served with the Machine Gun Corps he was to survive the war.

[1415 Cpl. Alfred Afford]

24th March 1915. Reveille at 5-00 a.m. Breakfast at 6-00 a.m. Moved at 8-30 a.m. about two miles into fresh billets. Fell in at 5-00 p.m. to watch the 1st Sherwoods in, who were coming in for a rest from the trenches. It was a pathetic sight to see the soldiers coming in tired out. Ges Barnes and Joe Bennett was among them and it was a touching sight to see Ges Barnes break down in tears when he saw all his companions from Whaley Bridge. Many of the men met brothers who they hadn’t seen for years. Some of the men had beards two or three inches long. They all looked ready for a rest.

The Manchester Courier December 28 1915

The Manchester Volunteer Regiment held its first manoeuvres yesterday with the Cheshire Volunteer Regiment in a scheme on the borders of Derbyshire and Cheshire.
our photographs show...

1. A party of the Blue force marching along the road towards Pot Shrigly. 2. One of the guns on a difficult muddy road.

1. Three of the Blue army are taken prisoner by the garrison of Whaley Bridge while in possession of the station.
. 2. Commandant Norquoy gives instruction.

3. Recognisance.

Note: The above picture is the one reproduced in the Reporter artical.

Jack Depledge was the son of James and Eliza Depledge of Shallcross Mill Fernilee. Aged 16 he enlisted into the 6th Sherwood’s arriving in the trenches in June 1915.

Surviving the war he married Olive Clayton later living in Bramhall Cheshire.

The couple had a son William Marshall Depledge who was killed when H.M.S Gould was torpedoed by German U Boat U358 on March 1st 1944 aged just 18.

William Marshall Depledge Jack Depledge's son killed WW2 on HMS Gould 1944.

Believed to be Jack Depledge c.1900

The Reporter May 29th 1915

The Reporter April 3rd 1915

The Reporter November 13th 1915

Harry Jodrell - Lying down on the right.

1911 Resided Fernilee Cottages Whaley Bridge employed Bleach Works.

Father Henry Jodrell employed Gunpowder factory. - Mother Sarah Jane Jodrell - Brothers John, Albert and Joseph.

Enlisted into Whaley territorial’s January 1912 attends each annual camp.

France 28 Feb 1915 wounded on 20 July 1915 Gun Shot Wound Left Arm at Hooge.

Returned to UK discharged from Army as injury permanent 12/6 pension per week. Moves to 66 Macclesfield Road Whaley Bridge.

The Reporter January 30 1915

Captain Richard Kirk Military Cross 6th Cheshire Regiment
Killed in Action 13 November 1916

Richard Kirk was born in 1885 in Whaley Bridge the son of James Henry and Mary Kirk living at 12 Haybottom Taxal. Richard spent his first 20 years or so in Whaley Bridge before the family moved to Stalybridge. Richard worked for the Manchester & County bank and joined the 6th Cheshire Regiment.

Richard is mentioned in Edmund Blunden’s autobiographical “Undertones Of War” in which he leads Blunden through the front-lines of the Somme detecting key positions. Edmund also writes of Richard’s act in which he won the Military Cross but hints that Richard was starting to show signs of the stresses of being in the frontline trenches Blunden writes

“I was pleasantly helped by Captain Kirk the most reticent of men some time later we heard how he crossed no mans land and fought several Germans in a dug-out the light of which attracted his notice. However he now seemed afraid of even me."

Richard Kirks Military Cross Citation Reads

“ When leading a patrol in the enemy’s trenches, he shot 3 of the enemy in a dug-out and skilfully withdrew his patrol without any casualties on finding that the alarm had been given.”

On the 13th November 1916 in the Battle of the Ancre Captain Richard Kirk MC led his men over the parapet to charge the German lines and was fatally hit by a German sniper.

He is buried at Lonsdale Cemetery Authuile.

Remembered on Stalybridge War Memorial.

Dorris Olive Bostock married George William Walton at Taxal St James 1915.
Miss Bostock's parent Mosses Bostock and Martha nee Lomas Depledge.

Arnfield's Works New Mills in first World War Circa 1915. Works used to manufacture ammunition. Photo shows workers with shells. On extreme right is Mr Arnfield the owner's son who lived at Beech house, Church Lane. Second on right in group of five ladies in second row is Mrs Selina Barton (Bill Barton's father's first wife.) Second from left in front row, kneeling, is George Wheeldon. On extreme left and right are the two Mr Arnfields. In centre of window at rear is Frank Bowden. Fourth from right in third row from front, beneath Frank Bowden, is Mary Baum.

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