Edward Ronan (Nickson), L/Sgt 15334, 11th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment
Killed in action 1st or 2nd July 1916 in the Somme, France, aged 46
Edward Ronan was baptised on 9th February 1870 at St Michael’s Church, Macclesfield, the son of Harriet and Matthew Ronan, a broker of Macclesfield.
On 13th October 1889 Edward married Mary Elizabeth Hayes at Christ Church, Macclesfield; both were aged twenty, and Edward was working as a mineral water manufacturer. In the marriage register, Edward was named as Edwin Ronan, and even signed his name as such; but all other details are correct, and there was no Edwin Ronan in Macclesfield at that time so it must be the same person.
Edward’s father died in 1882; in 1891 Edward, his wife, and their daughter Harriet (aged 1) were living at 115 Chestergate with Edward’s widowed mother, and his brothers Matthew Henry (24) and Fred (18).
Ten years later in 1901, Mary and her children William Alfred (7) and Harold (10 months) were lodging at 15 Green Street, Macclesfield with her brother-in-law Henry Potter. Mary described herself as a widow and was working as a silk piecer to support herself and her children. In 1911 Mary was still alone, but described as married, lodging with John Keefe in Bank Street with her children Harold (11), Rose (6) and Alexander (2). Of Edward and Mary’s twelve children, seven had died.
Edward joined the East Lancashire (Accrington Pals) Regiment in Accrington on 17th September 1914, under the false name of Edward Nickson. The men initially trained locally, but in February 1915 the battalion left Accrington for training at Caernarvon, and in May that year moved again to Penkridge Bank Camp near Rugeley where it joined the 12th, 13th and 14th Battalions of the York & Lancaster Regiment to form the 94th Brigade, 31st Division. The battalion made further moves in July and September 1915, first to Ripon and then to Hurdcott Camp near Salisbury, before the 31st Division embarked in December for Egypt to counter a Turkish threat against the Suez Canal. In the last week of February 1916, the 31st Division was ordered to France, to take part in the joint British-French attack on the Somme.
In the evening of 30th June, the 11th East Lancashires left their camp at Warnimont Wood and marched seven miles to the trenches near Serre. At 2.40am on Saturday 1st July, the leading companies of the battalion reached the front line trenches to find them already heavily shell-damaged. The build-up had not gone unnoticed and, as daylight broke, the forward lines were again pounded by enemy shellfire. At 7.20am the men went ‘over the top’ and were immediately cut down by machine gun and rifle fire. The few who made the journey across No Mans Land to the enemy trenches eventually had to withdraw, due to lack of support. Out of some 720 Accrington Pals who took part in the attack, 584 were killed, wounded or missing.
Lance Serjeant Edward Ronan has no known grave and is commemorated on Panel Ref. Pier and Face 6 C. of the Thiepval Memorial in France. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Lance Serjeant Edward Ronan, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
In Macclesfield, Lance Serjeant Edward Ronan is not known to be commemorated on any war memorial.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Census (England & Wales): 1891, 1901, 1911
Cheshire Parish Baptism Registers: St Michael’s Church, Macclesfield
Cheshire Parish Marriage Registers: Christ Church, Macclesfield
WWI British Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects
WWI British Army Medal Rolls Index Cards
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
The Accrington Pals website