Date of Death:30/07/1916
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 13A&14 C.
Albert Hill was born in Royton on July 9th 1895, probably at 15 Oldham Road. His parents were Samuel Eli, a shopkeeper, and Mary. Samuel was originally from Bolton and Mary from Rochdale. Albert's siblings were Sarah, Ethel and Robert
(who was to see active service in WW1 with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers); a further currently unknown sibling died in early childhood. The family remained at the same address for most of Albert's life, by the time of his death though they were at number 14 rather than 15, whether this was a move or a case of the address being changed isn't known. The 1901 census describes Albert's father as self employed coffee and potato dealer but ten years later he was a cotton warehouseman, by that time fifteen year old Albert was working as a cop packer in one of the local mills. By the time he joined the army though he was working as a clerk at Buckley & Prockter which was a store at Mumps in Oldham.
Albert's service number indicates he most probably joined the army in January 1916. We know he did so in Royton and was then sent to join the 27th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This battalion was a reserve and training unit and contained many new recruits from the Oldham area. When Albert joined them they were based in the Southport area.
There is no record as to exactly when Albert was sent out for active service but the Oldham Chronicle later reported that he had only been on active service for around about two months before his death so perhaps it was in late May. The unit he joined was the 23rd Manchesters who had been out in France since January 1916. The 23rd had been raised as a 'bantam battalion' in December 1914. The pre war minimum height for the army was 5 ft 3 inches but the need for extra manpower and also the clamour of shorter men to join the colours saw Bantam Battalions raised throughout the country whose minimum requirement was only 5 foot. These units were drawn from industrial and coal mining areas where short stature was no sign of weakness and probably also rather more common.
Perhaps the first action that Albert saw came on June 10th when the Battalion supported with heavy rifle fire and machine gun fire a failed raid by men of the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers. The parapet of Albert's unit was severely damaged by the German artillery retaliation. The casualties were thankfully light with four being slightly wounded. On June 12th the Battalion was relieved at the front line and went into billets away from the front line. They remained away from the front for a fair while and were not involved in the opening of the Battle of the Somme on July 1st which came with such terrible bloodshed. They were shortly to be sent to the battlefield though and on July 10th were in assembly trenches near Aveluy Wood and were witness to the power of the German artillery bombarding nearby positions.
On July 20th the Battalion were to be involved in a joint attack with the French. The first wave of the British attack was carried out by the 15th Sherwood Foresters at 05:00. 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. To the right of the Sherwood Foresters and the Manchesters an attack by French troops had made some headway and it was deemed vital that another attempt was made across the same ground littered with the dead of the first attack. Three of the 23rd Manchesters four companies were sent forward at 10:45 with the other left to hold the line. The assaulting Manchesters advanced through intense German artillery fire and reached the shattered remains of what had been the German front line. This had been so badly torn apart by artillery fire that it offered no cover and the men were being swept by machine gun fire with nowhere to seek shelter. They were forced to retreat back to their original starting line. Then word came from the French of a German counterattack on it's way. This news must have been met with some horror as the front trench was broken in many places and the Manchesters and Sherwood Foresters were not in the best of condition after their terrible morning. The men worked hard to prepare their defence but happily the counterattack never materialised. Albert Hill's Battalion was relieved at 21:00 that evening by the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers and then the day's losses were tallied. From the Officers and Men who had gone over the top they had lost 31 killed, 103 wounded, 10 shell shocked and 13 were listed as missing. Amongst those killed was the Battalion's Commanding Officer, Lieut-Colonel E.L Maxwell, who had last been seen leading his men forward before disappearing from the view of any survivor.
Although out of the immediate front line the Battalion was under German bombardment over the following days suffering further casualties before taking the place of the 17th Lancashire Fusiliers on July 23rd. The following day the Germans laid down an extremely heavy barrage upon Albert and his comrades killing two, wounding thirty eight with a further seven being listed as shell shocked.The Germans had apparently mistaken the movement of another British unit as sign of an impending attack which had triggered their fire. The next day brought more hell as 7 were killed, 25 wounded, 4 shell shocked and 1 man listed as missing before they were relieved by the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers. They then moved into the Divisional reserve area, their respite was brief however and on July 30th the men of the 23rd Battalion were sent forward to provide work and carrying parties to support an attack on German held Guillemont. The men of the 90th Brigade who Albert and his comrades were supporting carried out the attack managed to enter the shattered village before being forced back after suffering horrific losses. The 17th and 18th Manchesters suffered terrible casualties and none of the men of the 2nd Royal Scots who went into action returned Once the shattered 90th Brigade were back in their front line the 23rd Manchesters helped to man the trenches. Albert Hill was one of the eight men from the 23rd Manchesters killed carrying out their support work that day. None of the eight have a known grave and all are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the missing. Two other Royton men were killed in the fighting at Guillemont that day - Alfred Bardsley and Samuel Swinson.
It was not until Wednesday September 6th that Albert's parents back in Royton were notified that their son was listed as being missing. Then in April 1917 they were informed that Albert had been killed.
Still living at 14 Oldham Road, Albert's mother Mary died in 1941 aged 82 to be followed by his father Samuel two years later (aged 85). They are buried together in Royton Cemetery alongside Albert's sisters Ethel and Sarah. Ethel died in 1962 aged 70 and Sarah, by then Sarah Mayhew, in 1968 aged 77; they both too were still resident at 14 Oldham Road.
The other men of the 23rd Battalion Manchester Regiment listed as being killed on the same day as Albert, including three others from the Oldham area were:
ENTWISTLE EDWARD Private 22119 from Bury
MITCHELL ARTHUR Private 21939 from Manchester
NORCROSS FRANK 19 Second Lieutenant from Heaton Moor
PARKER CHARLES Private 22860 from Manchester
TAYLOR WILLIAM 19 Private 27440 from High Crompton
TRAVIS JOSEPH Private 33382 from Oldham
VALENTINE JOHN 22 Corporal 25889 from Shaw