‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

Date of Death:04/03/1915
Service No:2724
Regiment:Manchester Regiment
Unit:2nd Bn.
Cemetery:Ration Farm Annexe
Grave Ref:I.B.5

Allen Martin was born in Shaw in 1894 to parents John & Catherine. As time went on Allen was to become Allan (and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has him as Alan). His father worked in a cotton mill and was originally from Manchester and his mother hailed from Carnarvonshire. Allan's siblings were Mary, Margaret, Julia, John, Joseph, Catherine,James, Hubert (who had died as an infant in 1890),Hugh & Jane (who died in 1903 aged 1).
At the time of the 1901 census the Martin family was living at 86 Queen Street in Shaw. Tragedy struck the family in 1905 when Catherine Martin died aged 41, perhaps through complications of the birth of James. James went on to be adopted by a family called Stott in Rochdale. John Martin remarried in Rochdale in 1909 to Mary O'Reilly and they set up home together in Royton. In 1910 Allan's sister Margaret married William Thomas, the brother of Walter Thomas. The 1911 census has Allan at 10 Downing Street, Royton with his father, stepmother and siblings Joseph, Catherine & Edward. Also living with them was Nellie Martin who was 8 years old at the time and is listed as being John's daughter - she was perhaps the daughter of Mary O'Reilly or a relative of John's who he had adopted. By this time Allan, like most other men of his age in the town, was a piecer in one of the local cotton mills. Earlier that year another death had struck the family - Allan's brother Hugh died aged seven. A half sister, Theresa, was born in Royton in 1912 but was to die in 1914 aged two.
Allan's father and stepmother continued to live on Downing Street but it seems that before he had joined the army he had moved out as the Oldham Chronicle states his address as being on Sutcliffe Street in Heyside. Allan joined the army some time before war had broken out, in late 1913 or the early months of 1914. He had enlisted in the Manchester Regiment at Ashton-under-Lyne and probably spent some time with it's 3rd Reserve Battalion in the town. When war broke out the 2nd Battalion was rushed from the Curragh, near Dublin to France and Allan was amongst their number when they landed at Le Havre on August 16th/17th 1914. There's a good chance that Allan was one of the many new men and reservists who joined the battalion at Dublin between war breaking out and their departure from the city on August 13th.
They had hard marching ahead of them over the next few days as they hurried up towards the front as the German Army pushed through Belgium. On August 22nd they reached Hainin on the Belgian side of the border with France and reports of the approach of the Germans began to come in. The 14th Brigade, of which the 2nd Manchesters were one of it's four infantry battalions, received orders to hold the line along the Mons-Conde Canal due west of Mons. When the Brigade took up it's positions the Manchesters were in the second line along the Hainin River which was a half mile to a mile from the canal. Further ahead contact had been made by British units with the Germans and as these fell back and the 14th Brigade's flank was threatened on the afternoon of August 23rd the two battalions at the canal fell back to the defences held by the 2nd Manchesters. It was now that Allan's battalion was to face it's first action of the war. Their machine guns and those of the 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment took quite a toll on the German infantry attempting to get across the canal. The line was held until 23:00 when orders were received to fall back. An officer of the battalion recorded in his diary describes the chaos the men found during their retreat:

"...all our friends who had shown us so much hospitality when we advanced only a few days before, were now fleeing southward with what few belongings they had been able hurriedly to collect. The road was blocked, not only by the inhabitants but by de Lisle's cavalry, by guns, and by every conceivable form of military impedimenta which could not be moved southward earlier in the evening. Very old men and women were being hurried along by the younger generation, children and babies in arms, together with perambulators containing household goods, provisions and clothing, carts loaded with people belonging to them and forage both for the horse and ox-teams were mixed up with the troops on the road. The cry - 'the Germans are coming' - was heard incessantly along the route....the sadness of it all I shall never forget, as the advance of only 48 hours or so previously was so marked by the joy of the populace on the arrival of l'armee anglaise."

Battalions of the British Army would stand and fight for spells to hold back the Germans while the general withdrawal took place. The 2nd Manchesters took relatively few casualties during this period and arrived at Le Cateau in France on the evening of August 25th. The orders from High Command were for the British to continue to fall back but the commander of the Second Corps, General Smith-Dorrien, decided to make a stand at Le Cateau. The exhausted British units who made that stand included amongst their number the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.
The Manchesters were in support behind the Suffolks. At about 10:00 on August 26th the Germans hit the line held by the Suffolks and the Manchesters were sent up to reinforce the line. For the first hour or so it seemed that the men were holding their own but casualties soon began to mount up alarmingly and it became visibly apparent that German columns were pressing forward and beginning to outflank them. The retirement from their positions began at 16:00 with many dead and wounded left behind. The battalion's casualty list was 353 killed, wounded and missing. One of the wounded was John Buckley who was sent back home to England. The retreat continued and at Maretz a roll call was made and it was found only 8 officers and 339 other ranks were present, other men who had become detached from the battalion in the fighting and confusion were to rejoin later. By August 30th, still in full retreat, the situation of the battalion was described by the officer as:

"The hungry and exhausted men plodded along in a hopeless way, many men lying down by the roadside utterly worn out and broken, and every carriage was crowded with wounded, the artillery outriders and even the horses of the teams being used to carry them. To make matters worse a steady rain set in and continued through the pitch dark night".

The battalion arrived around Tournan, only 15 miles from Paris, at 08:00 on September 5th. It must have been with some joy that later that day the men discovered that their long and seemingly never ending retreat was finally at an end. That day the Allied counteroffensive began, the beginning of the Battle of the Marne. No doubt nearing complete exhaustion the men of the Manchesters were back on the march the following day at 07:00 back towards the battle and the now retreating Germans. The Battalion was again in action on September 9th when they came under German artillery fire before clashing with their infantry around the woods near Prisseloup, the Germans broke off contact during the night and retired. The battalion was involved in further fighting near St.Marguerite in mid September incurring a few fair casualties. It was around this time that Allan Martin was injured - damaging an ankle after falling into a trench. He spent time in hospital in Harrogate and Leeds and was then given some home leave back in Royton, he was there in mid October - a fact reported by the Oldham Chronicle on October 14th. Probably before he returned to the Battalion the 2nd Manchesters were involved in some sharp fighting from October 18th to 20th in which they had lost 11 killed, 130 wounded and 72 missing. It would appear that one of those wounded at this time and sent home back to England was fellow Royton man John Saxon. While Allan was home on leave he was obviously under great stress from his experiences at the front. His sister Margaret going outside to check on him after he had gone to the outside toilet and not returned found him crying and saying that he wouldn't be coming back again, a prophecy that sadly came true.
It's not known when Allan returned to his unit and whether he was involved in the further fighting the hard pressed 2nd Manchesters were involved in throughout October. A notable event being a German assault on the Manchesters positions on October 29th in which the enemy took part of the forward trench but were later repulsed. During this fighting two men particularly distinguished themselves - Roytoner Sergeant John Hogan and Lieutenant James Leach. Their citation read:

"For conspicuous bravery near Festubert on 29 October, when, after their trench had been taken by the Germans, and after two attempts at recapture had failed, they voluntarily decided on the afternoon of the same day to recover the trench themselves, and, working from traverse to traverse at close quarters with great bravery, they gradually succeeded in regaining position, killing eight of the enemy, wounding two, and making sixteen prisoners"

There was still no break for the battalion and they suffered over 100 casualties in the period October 21st to 29th. At the end of the month the 5th Division, of which the 2nd Manchesters 14th Brigade was part of, was sent to the Ypres area where the Germans had launched an offensive on October 19th. The First Battle of Ypres ended on November 22nd without the 2nd Manchesters seeing any great action or casualties. On December 5th they were sent into trenches in a very waterlogged area, east of Wulverghem. The German held Messines Ridge overlooked the whole area and made movement
by day a very dangerous affair. On December 14th during an artillery bombardment, Royton man William Mills France was killed along with six others. The winter of 1914/15 was very cold and wet and the men of Allan Martin's battalion lived in trenches knee deep in mud and water and many men fell victim to trenchfoot. There was little in the way of fighting, the Western Front was now settling down to the trench warfare but casualties were almost a daily affair.
The first three months of 1915 saw the battalion in and out of the front line with little to report in way of action but in March the battalion lost 8 men killed and 29 wounded. One of those to die was Allan Martin, shot by a sniper and later dying of his wounds at a medical post in Wulvergham. One other man is listed as having died that day, Private Albert Dixon (9674) from Manchester
A short while afterwards Lance Corporal W.Thornley (6078) wrote to Martin's father:

"I am very sorry to inform you that he was hit by one of those beastly snipers you read so much about, and he has died from the wound that he received. Hoping you will not take this too seriously as we are all fighting for the freedom of our King and Country. Believe me, I remain, Yours in Sympathy"

Later that year, Allan's stepmother Mary died aged 38. His father John married for a third time in 1918 to Sarah Jane Gresty, the widow of Albert Gresty and moved to 10 Berkley Street. He was still resident there when he died in 1930 and was buried at Crompton Cemetery with his first two wives, son Hugh and daughter Theresa. After the war John Martin had had the following epitaph put on Allan's headstone in Belgium:

"Till the morning breaks and the shadows flee away"

On September 10th 1916 a requiem mass was held at St.Joseph's and Allan was mentioned as being one of the 13 parishioners to have died so far. Allan's name does not appear on the Royton War Memorial or that of Crompton & Shaw. His great niece, Mary Thomas, has lobbied for his name to be added to Royton's and one must hope that his omission will soon be rectified.  In 1918 Allan's sister Margaret and brother in law William Thomas had a baby born called Walter Allan Thomas in memory of his two dead uncles, sadly little Walter Allan died aged only six days old.