Frederick Handforth, Private 9228, 2nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 12th March 1915 at Wulverghem, Belgium, aged 20
Frederick Handforth was born on 14th December 1894 and baptised as ‘Fred Handforth’ at St Michael’s Church, Macclesfield, on 10th April 1895, the son of Elizabeth and Ralph Handforth, a carter.
In 1901 Fred was living with his parents and siblings Ralph, Alice and Amy at 15 Spring Gardens, Macclesfield; but his father died later that year. When the next census was taken, on Sunday 2nd April 1911, Fred, aged 16, was a patient in Macclesfield General Infirmary, Cumberland Street. His occupation was stated to be ‘Cotton Spinner’ but the reason for his admission to the Infirmary is not given. His mother was living at 72 Arbourhey Street, Macclesfield with her new husband of two years, James Belfield, and Fred’s siblings Ralph, Alice, Ethel and James.
The following year on 8th January 1912, at the age of 17, Fred attested at Macclesfield into the 7th Battalion (Territorial) Cheshire Regiment for 4 years service, with service number 1312. At that time he was living with his family at 72 Arbourhey Street and employed as a cotton spinner at the Lower Heyes Spinning Company. Army medical records show that he was 5 feet 3½ inches tall, weighed 108lbs, and had a 33 inch chest, with grey eyes and dark brown hair. He had a fine scar on the right side of his upper lip and a long angular scar on the left side of his scalp.
On 19th February 1912 Fred attested (in the name Frederick Handforth) for 6 years service in the 3rd Battalion (Special Reserve) of the Cheshire regiment, with service number 9228. From this time onwards he was known within the army by the name of ‘Frederick’.
The recruiting officer wrote to Mr W Smith of the Globe Cotton Spinning & Manufacturing Company Ltd at Lower Heyes Mill to ask for a character reference. Mr Smith replied that he had known Frederick personally for 9 months whilst he was employed as a scavenger in the spinning room; Frederick had left his employ on 14th February 1912 in order to enlist; he was sober and honest, and had a satisfactory work record.
Frederick’s next of kin were named as: mother (Elizabeth) of 72 Arbourhey St; brother (William) of Timperley; brother (Ralph) of Walker St, Macclesfield; and brother (James) of 72 Arbourhay St. His conduct was stated to be good.
Frederick was immediately sent for 4 months training which he completed on 18th June 1912, and he also undertook one month of musketry training in May 1913. He had two minor offences in May and June 1913, for “Throwing tea leaves into the drains” and “Being absent from Tattoo Roll Call”.
Frederick was mobilised on 8th August 1914 and joined the 1st Battalion in France on 7th October 1914. He was admitted to hospital in Boulogne in November 1914, suffering from frostbite, and was sent to England on the hospital ship ‘Carisbrooke Castle’ on 27th November. He rejoined the 3rd Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment in England on 9th January 1915, and embarked from Southampton on 6th March 1915 to join the 2nd Battalion in Belgium.
Frederick was killed in action just a few days later at Wulverghem on 12th March 1915, aged 20 years.
His medals and personal effects were sent to his mother (who had since re-married) Mrs Elizabeth Belfield, of 28 George Street West, Macclesfield.
Private Frederick Handforth is buried in grave reference I.D.5. in Wulverghem-Lindenhoek Road Military Cemetery in Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Frederick Handforth, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.