Bygone news: 12 Jan 1917 – The Macclesfield Times


Roll of Honour; Local Men at the Front; Death Announcements




Official intimation has been received of the death in action of Private Frank Millward, Lancashire Fusiliers, who resided with his aunt, Mrs Goodwin, at 8 Green St, Macclesfield. He had only been in the trenches four days when he was killed. Private Millward was an orphan, and after the death of his parents he was brought up by his aunt. Educated at St Paul’s School, he was employed for a time in Macclesfield, and then went to work at Gorton tank, where he had been for some time. He enlisted in the Cheshire Regiment about twelve months ago and went to France in September, when he was attached to the Lancashire Fusiliers. His last letter stated that he was about to enter the first line trenches, and he met his death four days after… Private Millward was 21 years of age and attended the Fountain Street Mission…



Notification of the death in action of Private Frank Ratcliffe, Cheshire Regt, has been received by his mother, who lives at 4 Half St, Macclesfield. He was the son of the late Mr Wm Ratcliffe, who formerly carried on a grocer’s business in Mill Lane. Born in Macclesfield twenty-two years ago, he was educated at St George’s School and attended the Bourne Primitive Methodist Chapel and Sunday School, in which he was a teacher. He was also a member of the choir. Private Ratcliffe, who was employed at Messrs Carlisle’s paper works, enlisted two years ago and went out to France in August 1916.



Company Quartermaster-Sergt Wm Speed, Ches Regt, who lived with his mother and sister, Mrs Wood, at 21 Garden St, Macclesfield, has been awarded the Military Medal for distinguished conduct in the field. He is the 15th local recipient of the honour, and has received the following certificate from Major-General E.G.T. Bainbridge… I have read… the reports of… your gallant conduct and devotion to duty in the field on October 9th, 1916, at Stuff Redoubt on the Somme. Sergt Speed… was awarded the medal in recognition of the capture of a German trench, and he was also promoted to CQMS. A native of Silverdale, Staffordshire, he came to Macclesfield as a lad and was in the employ of Mr A S Green, draper, Market Place, for three years. When war broke out he was engaged in business at Rochdale. He joined up soon after the commencement of hostilities and has been in France about twelve months. Sergt Speed has had some narrow escapes, having been blown up twice and wounded once. He is 23 years of age and was formerly connected with the local Boy Scouts, and attended Christ Church. Towards the end of last year he was home on leave, bringing with him two German helmets, which are now exhibited as prized trophies in his sister’s house…




Some interesting pictures of life at the front are contained in letters written home by Signaller Leonard R Barber, only son of Mr J P Barber, of Broken Cross. Signaller Barber is serving with the Cheshire Regiment and has been in France since early December. He writes:

We went in the front line last Monday and came out yesterday (Friday) morning about 4.30am. I can tell you it was a queer experience, the first time, but I got through quite alright. The shell fire was rather quiet while we were in the trenches, although there was a burst up every now and then. The rain we have had has been terrible, and the trenches are in a fearful state. I never saw s much mud before. It is up to the knees and higher in places, but we wear the big gum boots for the job. The dug-outs are full of water, and the size of them gives you the backache, but you settle down, being weary and tired. The work that has to be done is surprising. What with clearing the trenches of water and mud, sandbagging and wire entanglements, and heaps of other things, there is little time for anything… I am quite well, but have received neither letter nor parcel since leaving Rouen. We received five francs yesterday, so tonight we are going to have some Quaker oats and Swiss milk. We shall make it in our mess tins over a small fire in our little tumble-down hut in a wood behind the lines. The folks at home would have a shock if they could see us.

The shells are banging away as I write this, but we get quite used to it. On Christmas Eve the thunder of guns took the place of bells… on Christmas Day we had a Church parade in an old barn and it was very impressive, being intermingled with gun-fire instead of an organ. We enjoyed it all the same, and immediately after was a celebration of Holy Communion, to which I went. Then at dinner-time we had a decent dinner under the circumstances. We had goose and potatoes and some pudding, which was very tasty. When we are on rest it doesn’t mean we don’t do anything, because we do fatigue work every day, but the main thing is that we get to sleep every night, whereas we don’t in the trenches. On New Year Eve our artillery fairly let the New Year in… all the ground and huts quivered with the vibration of the gun fire.

…My friend Latham and myself were in the trenches… and it was time for us to go and fetch breakfast. We were just about to leave the trench when we heard something coming, so I said “Look out.” We both ducked behind the trench; we heard such a heavy thud after we went along the communication trench for breakfast and on coming back went to look… there was a huge German shell just where we had been… if it had exploded it would have blown everything to atoms. But… it proved to be what we call a dud. Everybody… came to look at it and later… the artillery men moved it away. It measured three feet six inches long and twelve inches across… it put the wind up us for some time.



Quartermaster Sergeant E B Dickinson, of the Army Service Corps, who when war broke out was advertising manager of the “Macclesfield Times”, says:

We are in the thick of winter. I always thought that France was quite a warm country all year round, but it is not so. I am writing this letter with gloves on. We are now in the line, living in a place once occupied by the enemy; an open plain, one mass of shell holes, and lined with trenches. To the left of us is a village (by name only)… All that is left of it is one gate of the cemetery entrance, and the bell from the church, with a piece knocked out of it. If you could see the shell holes you would be able to imagine what the Hun had to put up with just before the 1st of July. All the trees are broken… Yesterday a party of [censored] was making an effort to drain our camp by digging trenches – quite impossible – when I heard a call, “Hello! Mr Dickinson,” and young O’Brien, who used to be with your contemporary, stepped out. Needless to say, I was delighted to meet another Macclesfield boy… I have met a goodly number of Macclesfield boys… Fallon, Hart, Oliver, Fawkner, Hume, Johnson (a nephew of Mr Gleave of the Creamery), one of the Axons of Congleton, Mellor (Churchwallgate) and lastly O’Brien.



Police Sergeant Thomas Rawson, who for nearly two years was a clerk in the office of the Macclesfield Borough Police Force, has received a commission as Second-Lieut and attached to the Royal Scots. Lieut Rawson came to Macclesfield from the Chief Constable’s office at Carlisle, and in April, 1914 left the force to become a drill instructor to the Argyll and Sutherland Regt. Subsequently he was transferred to the Highland Light Infantry and afterwards joined an officers’ cadet unit. His commission is dated December 19th, and he was gazetted on Tuesday… Two members of the Borough force, Private J Heap, Grenadier Guards, and Acting-Sergt S Battersby, RAMC, have won the Military Medal.



FORD – On January 6th, 1917, at Dean Row, Wilmslow, James Desmond Ford, Wireless RNVR, aged 19 years, only son of Mr and Mrs J Kent Ford.

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