Date of Death:08/10/1916
Cemetery:Fauborg D'Amiens Cemetery
Abraham Singleton was born in Newton, near Hyde, in 1896. His parents were Henry & Lucy who were both from Oldham. He was the eldest child with younger siblings being Harold, Elizabeth, John & Grace. When Abraham was three or four years old the family moved from Newton back to his parents home town. A few years later and they had moved onto Crompton before settling in Royton sometime during the period of 1909-1911. The census of 1911 has them at 18 Spencer Street in Royton. By the time he enlisted in Royton, on December 11th 1915, Abraham was working at the Park Mill. He was then summoned to the barracks of the Manchester Regiment at Ashton-under-Lyne on February 5th 1916. With him that day were lots of other local lads, including John Barlow & Harry Brassington. Singleton and those other two were sent to the 27th Reserve Battalion which was in Southport at the time. Abraham was sent out to France on July 4th 1916, along with John Barlow, and posted to the Manchester Regiment's 23rd Battalion.
The battalion has been formed in Manchester in November 1914 as the 8th of the City's Pals Battalions. They were one of the army's new Bantam Battalions. These were for men under 5 foot 3 inches tall (the old, prewar, army height restriction) and were drawn from industrial and coal mining areas where short stature was no sign of weakness and probably also rather more common.
On July 18th the battalion had arrived in the area of the Battle of the Somme where after severe fighting the British had gained possession of Trones Wood, Bernafay Wood, and Montauban. The French Army on the right had pushed forward a similar distance to the east and north-east bringing the junction of the two armies together near Maltz Horn Farm, half a mile south of Trones Wood. Two ruined villages, Guillemont and Ginchy, lay on the right flank of the British advance, and father to the south lay Falfemont Farm… all these points were strongly fortified by the enemy.
On July 20th the British and French launched a joint attack. The 15th Sherwood Foresters who were in the trenches opposite Maltz Horn Farm had been chosen to make the attack but the day previous they had been badly shaken by shelling and gas which left only two of it's four companies in a fit state to operate. The 104th Brigade, of which the 23rd Manchesters were part of, were instructed to supply supporting troops and at very short notice two companies of the 23rd were ordered up and reached their positions at 3am. The Sherwood Foresters went over the top at 5am in an attack that
proved unsuccessful. The rising sun illuminated the troops as they advanced, the company on the right reached their objectives but were forced back, that on the left was devastated by enemy fire upon topping a ridge. Survivors from both arrived in dribs and drabs to the trenches manned by the 23rd Manchesters.
The French attacking to the right of the Sherwood Foresters had made headway and the two companies of the 23rd Manchesters in the front line were sent forward at 10:45 to secure their flank with the remainding two companies also moving up, one was ordered to follow the other two and the remainder was to hold the trench. The attacking troops again reached the shattered German trench but were swept by machine gun fire and were forced to retreat. Word then came from
the French that a German counterattack was coming,and the men of the 23rd and the hard hit 15th Sherwood Foresters (who counted amongst their number Royton man Frank Sutcliffe) dug in for an attack that thankfully never materialised.
The following days found the men of the 23rd under prolonged German shellfire with a fair few deaths and many more being wounded and shellshocked. They were relieved from the frontline on July 25th. On July 30th the battalion was lent to the 90th Brigade to provide working and carrying parties to support an attack on Guillemont. In this action 5 men from the 23rd Manchesters were listed as being killed, 30 wounded, 4 gassed and 11 missing. The death toll would later be established as eight, one of whom was Royton lad Albert Hill. Two other Royton men were killed in the fighting at Guillemont that day - Alfred Bardsley and Samuel Swinson.
After a spell out of the front line the battalion, on August 19th, took up position again on the front line. The position taken up was in a very poor condition with many dead British and German bodies to be found. The battalion managed to improve their position greatly before being temporarily relieved on August 22, they were back again on August 24th. They were neighbours to the 17th Lancashire Fusiliers who were to launch an attack the following day at 17:45. The Manchesters were to act in support carrying up rations, ammunition and water. Over the course of the 25th and 26th nine men from the battalion were to die. John Barlow who had been at Ashton with Abraham that first day back in February, been in the 27th Battalion and then transferred together to the 23rd,was one of those.
That was the end of the battalion's involvement in the Battle of the Somme and they were then withdrawn and sent to the Arras area. September found them in and out of the front line in that sector, when they were out of the line they were billetted in the town of Arras itself. Then on the night of October 8th/9th the 23rd Manchesters were in the front line when gas was discharged by the British and two hours later three strong patrols went out and attempted to enter the German trenches. The enemy lines were found to be strongly manned and the parties were forced to retreat as the defenders hurled grenades at them. The battalion's war diary states that two men were killed by a shell and three men wounded. A further 33 suffered from the effects of gas which had settled in their own trenches rather than drifted across to the Germans.
Abraham Singleton was one of those killed, the identity of the other man is at the moment a mystery.
A week or so later a letter arrived at the Spencer Street home of a Private Shaw, also of the 23rd Manchesters, that said that Abraham had been killed. On October 16th another letter, from Private A.Deane, to his parents on Cambridge Street contained the line "I suppose you have heard of poor Abraham Singleton having been killed in action". It was presumably through the parents of these two Royton soldiers that Henry & Lucy Singleton discovered that their son was dead. Then the following week two further letters arrived from France. The first was from an Army Chaplain:
"I performed the sad task of burying your boy's body and his grave is here in the cemetery for soldiers. I sympathise with you most sincerely for your loss. Like many another mother you have given of your best for your country"
the second from a Captain A.McKenzie:
"I regret to have to inform you that your son (27423) Private Singleton was killed in action on the night of the 8th. He was struck by a shell and killed instantaneously. The officers, nco's and men of the company sympathise with you in your bereavement and all realise that in him they have lost a true and brave comrade"