‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

On September 3rd 1914 a meeting was announced to be held at Manchester University to consider the proposals to form a brigade of old Public School and University men to serve as ordinary private soldiers. It was felt that the not all who wished to take commissions would be able to so the idea was that it would be better to serve in the ranks than not at all. The Officer Training Corps officers at Manchester Grammar School took the lead with recruitment and many old boys of the school volunteered to help. 1023 men were enlisted before recruitment was stopped. One of those who headed into Manchester to enlist was Edward Eric Mellor. The new battalion started drilling at once, at first at Chetham's ground and when that proved too small they moved on to Platt Fields.
On Thursday September 17th a group of 300 men headed down south, with the main body following a week later. The Lord Mayor of Manchester was present for the latter's send off and expressed his pride in the way Manchester had responded to the call for recruits. After singing the National Anthem the men entrained for Leatherhead. Shortly afterwards the War Office decided that the battalion was to be the 20th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. Other 'Public Schools' battalions were the 18,19& 21st Royal Fusiliers and the 16th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment.
The 20th Royal Fusiliers reached France on November 15th 1915. By now the Army needed many more officers to fill it's greatly expanded ranks. The Public Schools Battalions were seen as an obvious reservoir of manpower for the officer corps. Although many of the men serving were happy to continue as enlisted men three of the battalions were disbanded and their members persuaded to accept commissions. These were the 18,19th and 21st Royal Fusiliers. It was widely felt that the men of the 20th Royal Fusiliers were not being given a fair go. Perhaps there was a degree of snobbishness towards these northern grammar school men. The issue was raised in parliament in March 1916 but the amount of commissions given out to those from the 20th Royal Fusiliers who sought one continued to be rather less than expected.
Edward Eric Mellor and the rest of the men of the battalion were to be thrown into action on July 20th 1916 at High Wood during the Battle of the Somme. Edward's cousin Robert Stott Mellor (entry further down this page) had been killed in action at the same location just five days before.
The 19th Brigade, of which the 20th Royal Fusiliers were part, took up their positions on July 15th as the divisional reserve and here for the first time encountered gas shells. Ahead of them the battle for High Wood raged and news began to filter through to them that it was not going well. That night they were sent forward to take over the line near High Wood. After the failed assault of July 15th (of which more can be read in Robert Stott Mellor's entry) there was a delay with the second attack due to poor weather and events not going to plan in nearby sectors. When the second attempt was made on July 20th it was in the face of German defenders who were well aware what was coming.
The plan of attack for the 19th Brigade was to advance through the the breadth of the wood's 800 yard south western face and go on to capture the whole of the wood. The 20th Royal Fusiliers were to support the 5th/6th Scottish Rifles in their planned advance up through the north eastern half of the wood. Once inside the wood the men of Edward Eric Mellor's battalion were to mop up any German positions left behind the Scottish Rifles' advance so that sappers and pioneers could prepare strongpoints at the corners of the wood. The wood was put under an intense bombardment before the 1st Cameronians and 5/6th Scottish Rifles rushed the burning wood at 03:35. In the confusion and with a counter German bombardment falling upon them and hurrying them along the men of the 20th Royal Fusiliers soon found themselves mixed up with the Scottish Rifles. High Wood's lower half was virtually free of Germans by dawn but losses were high and well dug in machine guns continued to ravage units attacking a position known as Wood Lane along the wood's flank, the 2nd Gordon Highlanders suffering greatly.
By 07:30 the attack had broken down into a shambles with chaos reigning and German shells falling upon the British occupied half of it. At one point in the fighting observers could see nothing of the wood as it was completely enveloped in black smoke. The 20th Royal Fusiliers had lost it's command structure, with most of it's officers killed or wounded. An eyewitness noted that "from quite early the unfortunate RF men seemed to be getting killed all over the place to no purpose".  Some order was restored and the Royal Fusiliers dug a new trench line in the middle of the wood which was soon under attack from a counterattack by the German infantry. Charging with fixed bayonets they crashed up against the mixed British units, the 1st Cameronians on the left getting the worse of it, and almost overwhelmed the line. A Company Sergeant Major in the 5th/6th Scottish Rifles, P.Docherty recorded:

"There was a terrific howling and shouting away on the left and word passed along that 'Jerry' was attacking. At first there was nothing to be seen from the right side of the wood as there was a slight rise just to our front. Then our Lewis guns and rifles opened up from the front. Then our Lewis guns and rifles opened up from the front, and the men in my section started to blaze away. I stood up, sheltered to my right and, looking to the dip in front of the wood, saw the old Boche coming on in the hundreds. They were big upstanding fellows, with brand new uniforms and had evidently just been flung into the battle. The way they were going was straight across our front and you couldn't miss them - they were only about 150 yards away. I fired as rapidly as I could and  must have used about 30 or 40 rounds, but they gained a footing in the wood and drove us back.."

The British fell back and reorganised themselves at the southern end of the wood. Private Harold Tyson of the 20th Royal Fusiliers stated about this period: "Machine guns swept us, heavies bashed us, shrapnel lashed us - but we held on"
The killing went on and then later in the morning the Brigade's reserve unit, the 2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers, were sent up into the wood. They had already suffered terribly during the German artillery barrage. Despite their weakened numbers the sight of them was no doubt a great relief to the men of the other three battalions who were grimly holding on. The 2nd RWF swept into the wood and, suffering great casualties, managed to take almost all of it. Unfortunately it was pyrrhic victory for the Welshmen, they had suffered so many losses that they couldn't hope to hold onto their gains without immediate reinforcement and the three other shattered battalions of the Brigade couldn't offer that. After a heavy artillery bombardment came the German counterattack and the Welshmen were forced to retreat back through the wood. The four broken infantry battalions of the 19th Brigade were relieved at 01:00 on July 21st. Edward Eric Mellor had been one of the many men killed on July 20th. Having lost all their officers the battalion finished the day with 397 casualties.
About a month after his death the Mellor family received official confirmation of it. This was within days of the news of his cousin's, Robert Stott Mellor, death. Shortly afterwards they would receive news that his brother, John Gerald Mellor, had died in Turkish captivity. Later that year another tragedy hit the Mellors when John's brother George died in Stockport. In November 1918 another brother, Arthur,died in Royton during the great Influenza Epidemic.
On September 3rd 1916 a memorial service was held at St.Paul's in Royton for Eric Mellor & John Barlow. The Reverend J.H Humphrey said:

"Eric Mellor was one who inspired in all who knew him the warmest feelings of friendship and regard. Of a bright and sunny disposition,clever,hardworking and persevering.If he had been spared he would,I am sure,have been an ornament to the profession for which he was preparing himself when the war broke out.Then the call of duty came to him,and with the same earnestness he set himself to become an efficient and capable soldier.He did so well that he was about to receive his commission.Instead of this he fell in battle.A good and earnest Churchman,a regular communicant,a young fellow who led a straight,manly,and pure life,we feel his loss very keenly indeed,and we sympathise with all our hearts with the mother,whose load at this time is indeed a very,very heavy one to bear,with his brothers,and all who are near and dear to him"

The Oldham Chronicle reported that special hymns were sung and special prayers said and that the 'Dead March' was played at the conclusion of the service.
The men of the 20th Royal Fusiliers who were killed in action that day along with Eric were:

AKEHURST ESMOND 18 Private 4370 from London
ASHBY GEORGE 21 Private 4393 from Oldham
BAILEY ARCHIBALD 26 Private PS/7067 from Stockport
BALL LESLIE 21 Private PS/4445 from Manchester
BALLS HERBERT Private 24661 from London
BALMFORTH WILLIAM 20 Private 4453 from Manchester
BARFORD AUGUSTUS 20 Private 7759 from Newmarket
BARKER GEOFFREY 21 Private 4423 from Manchester
BASS VICTOR Private 4594 from Buxton
BATES FREDERICK Private G/24680 from Staines
BLACKSTOCK ROBERT 35 CSM 4503 from Manchester
BOUMPHREY HERBERT Lance Corporal PS/4509 from Manchester
BOWDEN CYRIL 18 Private 4524 from Glossop
BOXOLD HARRY 21 Private 10002 from Banbury
BRADLEY GEORGE 19 Private GS/8878 from Liverpool
BROWN KINGSLEY 21 Private 4408 from Altrincham
BROWNRIDGE FREDERICK Private 4421 from Manchester
BUCHANAN DAVID 27 Private 6005 from Glasgow
BUCKLAND HERBERT 30 Lance Corporal 4572 from Manchester
BUDGE HUYTON 23 Lance Corporal 4584 from Manchester
CANSDALL LIONEL Private 7760 from Ashton-in-Makerfield
CAPPER WILLIAM 19 Private 16126 from London
CASS EDWARD Lance Serjeant 4610 from Colne
CHALONER JOHN Private 4618 from Burnley
CHAMBERS HERBERT Private 9076 from Wisbech
CHANDLER ALBERT 29 Private 24641 from London
CHURCH CHARLES 28 Private 24723 from Hungerford
CLARK JOHN Private 4640 from Keswick
CLAYTON ROLAND 26 Private 4634 from Burnley
CLEGG AGNEW Private 4637 from Manchester
COOK JOHN 24 Private 4671 from Amersham
COOP CHARLES 26 Private 4660 from Oldham
CORLETT  THOMAS 36 Private 22282  from London
COX HARRY Lance Corporal PS/4657 from Prestwick
CREWS HECTOR 19  Private PS/8702 from Cardiff
CROSSLAND RICHARD Private 4713 from Bolton
DAVIES JOHN 21 Private 8887 from Gloucestershire
DENNIS GEORGE 33 Serjeant 4752 from Berkshire
EDGE WILLIAM 18 Private PS/6821 from Bolton
EDWARDS WILFRED 24 Private 4780 from Conwy
ELLIOTT GEORGE Lance Corporal 8249 from Urmston
FOX SYDNEY 21 Private 4833 from Stockport
GARNER ALFRED Private 4850 from Oswaldtwistle
GILLMORE GEORGE 36 Serjeant PS/4868 from London
GOODIER THOMAS 26 Lance Corporal 4875 from Stockport
GOULD EDWARD 32 Private PS/7846 from Leicester
GRANT F.J 30 Private PS/4903 from London
GREEN REGINALD Lance Corporal 8322 from Dartford
GREGORY JULIUS Private 4904 from Manchester
GRINDROD WILLIAM 22 Private 4917 from Bolton
HARDMAN FRANK 22 Private 4939 from Manchester
HARRIS FRANK 30 Serjeant 4921 from Manchester
HARRISON WALTER Private 8724 born Bolton,enlisted Manchester
HEALD HUGH 25 Private 4991 from Chorley
HEYWOOD LEONARD Private 4985 from Manchester
HILL HENRY Private 5004 from Manchester
HILL THOMAS Lance Corporal PS/5007 from Manchester
HINE T.C 2nd Lt.        
HOOLE LEONARD 23 Lance Corporal 5043 from Reigate
HOWARD JOHN 18 Private 5037 from Salford
HOWARD NORMAN 32 Private PS/5040 from Bolton
JACKSON WALLACE 19 Private 5127  from Manchester
JEFFERY  LESLIE 24 Private 5132 from Manchester
JUDSON THOMAS 18 Private 8180 from Lincoln
KELLY THOMAS Private 5152 from Manchester
KELSALL RICHARD Lance Corporal  5151 from Swinton
KERSHAW JOHN 23 Private PS/5156 from Manchester
KNUDSEN ALAN 22 Private 5176 from Manchester
LABAN ELIZAH Private 7429 from Walsall
LAPRAIK LESLIE  18 Private S/94 from Sussex
LEATHER JOSEPH 31 Corporal 5204 from Atherton
LISBONA NISSIM 34 Private PS/5212 from Manchester
LUCAS FREDERICK Private 5238 from Preston
MASON WALTER 23 Private 8054 from Crewe
MATTHEWS ERNEST 43 Private PS/5302 from Manchester
MAYNARD  CEPHAS Private 5287 from London
McMILLAN JOHN 26 Private 8199 from Stockport
MIEDE CARL 24 Private PS/5322 from Manchester
MOFFATT FRED 20 Private 7435 from Macclesfield
MOORE GEORGE 22 Private 5333 from Manchester
MORTON RALPH Private 8849 from Blackpool
NORBURY JAMES Lance Corporal 5372 from Knutsford
NUTTALL CHARLES 26 Lance Corporal 5384 from Farnworth
PALMER JOHN 29 Lieutenant from Altrincham
PATEMAN LEONARD 19 Lance Corporal PS/5432 from Accrington
PEMBERTON HARRY Serjeant 5450 from Glossop
PICKING HARRY 18 Private 8202 from Essex
PIGRAM JAMES Private 8650 from Swansea
POWELL GORDON Private 8983 from Bath
PRICE JOHN 25 Second Lieutenant from Herefordshire
PROUDFOOT HAROLD Private 5480 from Manchester
RAWSON STUART 25 Lieutenant from Torquay
REASON JAMES Lance Serjeant 5514 from Manchester
REES PETER 21 Private PS/5509 from Manchester
RIDER HENRY Private 5529 from Manchester
RISK LANGFORD 22 Private 5528 from Sale
ROBERTS WILLIAM Lance Corporal PS/5540 from Salford
ROBINSON JOSEPH 24 Private 5546 from Manchester
ROSS ALEXANDER Serjeant PS/5560 from Manchester
ROSS HENRY 40 Private 8688 from Sussex
RUSSELL WILLIAM 23 Private 5568 from Manchester
SEDGLEY THOMAS 23 Lance Corporal 5609 from Manchester
SHARPLES CLIFFORD Private 5620 from London
SHORROCKS ERNEST Serjeant 5626 from Manchester
SIMONTON MASON 21 Private 5634 from Belfast
SIMPSON    ARTHUR 21 Private 5630 from Macclesfield
SMETHURST WILLIAM 21 Private 5646 from Manchester
SMITH HAROLD Private PS/5670 from Manchester
SOWBY WILLIAM 32 Private 7865 from London
STAINES HUBERT 24 Lance Corporal 5685 from Denbighshire
STOCKDALE HAROLD 21 Private 5710 from Oldham.Another Hulme old boy
SUNDERLAND JOSEPH  Private 5720 from Todmorden
SWIRE ERNEST 26 Serjeant 5726 from Colne
TAYLOR FRED 26 Lance Corporal 5744 from Birmingham
TAYLOR WILLIAM 21 Private 5738 from St.Anne's on Sea
THOMASON ALFRED Private 5736 from Urmston
TOLLER EDWARD 31 Captain from Kettering
TRIPP WILLIAM 21 Private 5764 from St Helens
TRUSSLER KENNETH 25 Private PS/8203 from Pinner
TWEEDALE JAMES Private 5751 from Rochdale
WALDRON JOHN 24 Private 8501 from Rochdale
WALLWORK HERBERT 23 Lieutenant from Manchester
WATERHOUSE HERBERT Private PS/5885 from Bolton
WAUGH WILLIAM 20 Private 8901 from Willington on Tyne
WEEKS JOHN 21 Private 9335 from London
WHITTAKER CEDRIC 26 Lance Corporal 5920 from Manchester
WILKINSON FRANK 40 Corporal 5967 from Brighton
WILLIAMSON ERNEST Serjeant 5943 born Delph,lived in Manchester
WILLIAMSON WILLIAM  20 Private 7871 from Derby
WILSON ARNOLD 19 Private 8853 from Rochdale
WINTERBOTTOM HARRY 31 Lance Corporal 5946 from Manchester
WORTHINGTON ARTHUR Private 5972 from Manchester
WORTHINGTON CECIL 33 Corporal 5971 from Manchester
WRIGHT BASSET 26 Private 5981 from London
WRIGHT DONALD 21 Private 5982 from Cheshire
WRIGHT THOMAS 21 Private 114 from London
YOUNG JOSEPH 30 Serjeant 5997 from Colwyn Bay
ZEEDERBERG ERIC 28 Second Lieutenant (served as Coventry).From Cape Town

Men of the 20th Royal Fusiliers during early training at Leatherhead. Courtesy of IWM

In 1891 the family were living at 49 Oldham Road but by 1901 were living at Higher House which Robert Francis had inherited upon his father's death in 1894. Higher House was what many Royton residents will remember later became the Tramtracks pub and after that a nightclub, Scandals. It was where the houses are now at the corner of Rochdale Road and Rochdale Lane. Along with the house Robert Francis had inherited a half share, along with brother William Edwin, in the family's cotton mill. William Edwin Mellor was to die soon after in 1895.

Park Mill No.1/Larch Mill on the left,earlier the Highfield Mill belonging to the Mellor family (spot the WW1 tank in the photo)

The mill was the Highfield Mill on Bleasdale Street, a short stroll from Higher House. The Highfield had been built by Robert Mellor in 1876. The first of the Mellor sons to die was young Charles in 1898 aged only two years old and then in December 1903 his father Robert Francis died himself. The two Mellor widows shortly afterwards sold the Highfield which then became the Park Mill and later still the Larch Mill.
Eric was educated privately before attending Hulme Grammar School in Oldham in April 1904. He was there for seven years. Afterwards he studied law, presumably at Manchester University, and by the outbreak of war - having passed his intermediate law examination - was under articles working for his brother Robert Oswald Mellor, a solicitor (Robert Oswald went on to be half of the Mellor & Jackson Solicitors firm which still exists in Oldham).

the Mellor family home, Higher House c.1910

Date of Death:20/07/1916
Service No:PS/5312
Regiment:Royal Fusiliers
Unit:20th Bn.
Thiepval Memorial
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 8C

Edward Eric Mellor was born in Royton on 14th December 1892 the son of John Francis Mellor and Hannah. He was the ninth of eleven boys and seems to have been known primarily by his middle name Eric. His brothers were Frederick, Francis,George, Arthur, Robert, William, Harry, John, Douglas & Charles. Frederick & Francis were the sons of John Francis' first wife, Elizabeth, who died in 1877 aged only 23, two years after their marriage. John Francis remarried in 1881 to Hannah Jane Butterworth. John Francis Mellor was a solicitor and was the son of mill owner Robert Mellor.