Royton Roll of Honour

GEORGE WILD
Age:22
Date of Death:20/12/1915
Rank:Lance Corporal
Service No:8668
Regiment:Lancashire Fusiliers
Unit:1st/6th Bn.
Cemetery:
Lancashire Landing Cemetery
Grave Ref:H 86

The men were transferred from the Nile to smaller vessels and landed at Gallipoli on May 5th. Indications are that a Royton man, William Thomas Nelson, became the battalion's first casualty that night as they were landing. That evening while they were preparing to camp at Lancashire Landing - the area where the regulars of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers had suffered such awful casualties coming ashore in the intial landings ten days earlier - they received orders to head for the front line to relieve a battalion of the King's Own Scottish Borderers who had been in action for nine days. After a somewhat arduous and fraught evening they found their positions, little knowing that the very next day they were to go over the top.
It seems remarkable that an untried unit of territorials should be pitched straight into battle but that they were. At 11am on May 6th, less than 24 hours after arriving on the peninsula they were due to attack as the far left British unit in what was to be the Second Battle of Krithia.The 1st/6th had to move over open ground and were met with a hail of machine gun and rifle bullets but even though this was literally the unit's baptism of fire they did not waver and took their main objective, a ridge 400 yards from their starting point in the face of heavy losses.They then dug in. They had not only advanced further than any other unit that day but they had managed to hold onto their gains. 228 men were recorded as being killed, wounded or missing.
The battalion's next notable action was on June 4th, the Third Battle of Krithia. The 1st/6th Lancashire Fusiliers were not one of the units to be part of the assault on the Turkish positions but were in support of the territorial units present from the Manchester Regiment - including the 10th Manchesters from Oldham. Their tasks were to support units of the Royal Engineers in carrying equipment and tools up to consolidate any captured trenches. As the saying goes, 'no plan survives contact with the enemy' and so it proved for the 1st/6th. Many of them becoming embroiled in the fighting proper including taking part in bayonet charges and hand to hand fighting with the Turks. Both Wild brothers were injured, seemingly George was worse off having been shot through the hip. Royton man Jim Mudd was one of those killed. It had been a disastrous day for the people of Royton, nearby another four were dead - John Fitton, Edwin Hyde, James Shaw & Frank Smith.
Unfortunately it's unknown exactly what happened to George after he was wounded. He would presumably have been evacuated, to where we can only speculate - to Lemnos, perhaps Egypt or as far afield as Malta. It seems extremely unlikely he made it as far back as England as we know he rejoined the 1st/6th Lancashire Fusiliers back at Gallipoli. It is known a large batch of men, who had been wounded or sick, were sent back to the battalion in late July - perhaps George Wild was amongst them. If he was then he would have been back in time to take part in the battalion's catastrophic attack on the Turkish line on August 7th during the Battle of Krithia Vineyard. This was originally intended by the British as a minor action to divert attention from the imminent launch of the August Offensive elsewhere at Gallipoli but instead descended into a futile and bloody series of attacks that eventually gained a pitifully small patch of ground in exchange for over 4000 casualties.The fighting that the men from Rochdale,Middleton & Todmorden went through during this battle was described in a letter by a Sergeant G Brooks to his brother back home in Rochdale:

"The advance started on the 6th on our left, which was held by the 29th Division. They got on very well for I believe they had very little opposition. Then it came our turn. We were in the centre. We advanced the night before as far as our own reserve trenches and got into the firing line on the morning of the 7th August. Our battalion started their bombardment which lasted somewhere about an hour and then the fun commenced. Well over the top we went and then off as if the "Divil" was after us. On we went to the nearest cover we could find, which, in this case, was the Turks' first line. But we lost a lot before we got there.The ground was strewn with dead and wounded, but we couldn't do anything for them, for we dare not stop or it would mean a lot more casualties. So they had to stop until the stretcher bearers got to them, which was only after we had cleared the front. Sometimes that means hours or even days.The first trench we took was full of dead Turks. The next one we took was one of their communication trenches. There we had to stop as we were before a murderous fire. So we had to convert their trench into a firing line for ourselves. This is where we lost a lot of men, as we had no cover at all to speak of until we got our sandbags up.We are now holding the position which we took from the Turks on the 7th August, but they have made us work hard to hold it. They are still trying to force it from us, but I don't think they will succeed, for once we get hold we are made to stick".

Another Rochdale man, Private H.Barker also wrote back home to Rochdale, and told his father:

"You will have read in the papers by now of the advance made on August 6th and 7th It probably read well to people in England, but it only needs one to go throughout it to realise what it is. The ball started rolling about two o'clock on Friday (the 6th), when our big guns gave them a two hours' bombardment. At the end of this the left flank of our line got over the parapet and succeeding in gaining three lines of trenches at small cost. We were then warned to get ready to do our bit for the day after (the 7th). We had to go over at ten o'clock in the morning and our orders were to take a couple of trenches. This we did but the cost was terrible. The Turks had got to know somehow what was coming off, and they concentrated a great number of troops in the centre - the position we held. We had no difficulty in taking the first trench, and very little in the second, but it was what was waiting for us that played havoc with our chaps. The Turks' next trench was only ten yards away, the smallest distance that any two forces have ever fought during this campaign. It was simply swarming with Turks. They were three or four to one of us and they straight way started to try and drive us out. This they could not as we stuck on to that trench as no one would ever dream we could. I have often wondered before I came out here how the British soldier was any braver than his enemy. But I shall wonder no more as there was not a lad wearing khaki that did not play his part in that trench. Rifle fire was out of the question, but it was the only thing we could do, to pump a hail of lead over their parapet to stop them coming over the top until a supply of bombs came to hand. In the meantime the Turks threw hundreds of bombs into our lines, doing awful damage to our boys. It was not long before a large number of bombs came along to us, and then we had a chance to get our own back, and you can bet we took the chance. It was manslaughter on both sides.
We lost eleven officers (including three captains and the adjutant), so this will give you an idea of the number of men we lost, and we were only there forty-eight hours before we were relieved. I am saying only, but it looked like a month to us, as every second was spent in killing off Turks. We had nothing to eat and could not sleep a wink; there was plenty to eat sent up, but we had not time to take it. I shall remember those two days for as long as I live. We lost a lot of good lads, both of the 1st and 2nd/6th. I don't know how many more attacks I shall have to go through, but I don't think it will be possible to go through one worse, no matter how long the war continues
"

After the bloodshed of the Vineyard, the battalion spent some time in and out of the front line. The huge difference from the Western Front being that even when not in the front line the men had no rear area to retire to and were under constant threat from enemy artillery. This period was also characterised by efforts from both sides to dig under the enemy's line and explode mines underneath them, the mining experience of many of the men of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division - to which the 1st/6th Lancashire Fusiliers belonged - coming in very useful on the British side. The other main 'sport' of this time was, due to the extremely close distance some of the frontline trenches were from each other, was the chucking of grenades into the enemy's positions.
All the while men fell sick, through dysentery, disease or through sheer exhaustion. Courts Martial cases rocketed in the Helles sector of Gallipoli during this time, the vast majority of cases of men on sentry duty falling asleep. The Commanding Officer of George Wild's battalion, Lord Rochdale, stated that:

"Prisoners pleaded guilty in every case. I,along with other presidents of Courts Martial,was convinced that practically in every case the crime was committed owing to sheer physical exhaustion.Practically all the men were of good character"

Despite this the men trying these offenders were under instruction to pass penal sentences of a minimum of two years on the unfortunate men.
In the second half of November both Allies & Turks at Gallipoli had a new common enemy to endure. Gone where the huge clouds of flies that plagued them but now came winter storms. The first gigantic thunderstorm struck on November 15th and worst was to follow on November 27th with a fierce storm & howling blizzard that lasted three days. Many of the men of the 1st/6th Lancashire Fusiliers with a choice of being in their trenches standing in 3 foot of water or standing out in the open chose the latter. On the other side of no man's land the Turks did likewise. A Lancastrian,Private Watkins, recorded that:

"As far as your eye could see in the bad visibility of the torrential rain, to the right, to the left, and in front, were the long lines of shivering wretched Tommies and Abduls facing one another in the open"

The men of George Wild's battalion were lucky in comparison to those of the Regiment's 1st Battalion who, out on the flat plains of Suvla, lost 20 men drowned and 19 frozen to death with a further 536 hospitalised from the effects of exposure.
It had been decided to bring the disastrous Gallipoli campaign to a close but with George agonisingly close to evacuating with the rest of the battalion's survivors he was to be killed in one last action. While the men at the bridgeheads of Suvla and Anzac were to be evacuated those at Cape Helles, the 1st/6th Lancashire Fusiliers amongst them, would have to keep the enemy occupied.
On December 19th a mine was to be blown under the Turkish lines and George Wild and his comrades were then to rush forward and capture what remained. Fighting was eventually to go on for three days &, while by the standards of what they'd already been through the casualties were light, men were still dying. George was mortally wounded and died on December 20th 1915. His brother Joseph was again wounded. Just a week later what remained of the battalion were themselves evacuated from the hell of Gallipoli, leaving behind 213 of their comrades who'd never see Rochdale,Middleton,Todmorden or indeed Royton again.
The men of the battalion who died on those days between December 19th and 21st were:

BLACK LAUCHLAN Private 8567 born Wardle    
DAVIES CHADWICK  23 Corporal 8278 from Middleton    
GREENWOOD ERNEST Private 8284 from Todmorden    
INGHAM SAMUEL Lance Corporal 9744 from Milnrow    
LANGLEY WILLIAM Private 10242 from Rochdale    
MELLOR JOHN 26 Serjeant 7646 from Heywood    
NEWTON JOHN 19 Private 10899 from Oldham    
STYLES GEORGE 31 Private 10839 from Rochdale    
TURNER FRANK Lance Corporal 9581 from Castleton    
WHITTAKER WILLIAM 25 Private 10614 from Rochdale

It took about a month for official notification to reach the Wild family back in Rochdale that George had been killed. His is not one of the names on Royton's War Memorial and Rochdale's does not include the names of the fallen.
He was commemorated by the Primitive Methodist Church (which closed in 1970) on Oldham Road, Royton as was his brother Joseph.


Men of the Lancashire Fusiliers coming ashore at Gallipoli,May 1915. © IWM

George Wild was born in Royton on September 9th 1893. His parents were William, working at the time in the cotton industry - he was later a newsagent, and Hannah. William & Hannah were themselves Royton natives and George was the second of their fifth children. George's siblings were Joseph ,Ada, Walter and Emily. At the time of the 1901 census the family were living at 16 Union Street but not long after that they moved to Rochdale - the youngest child being born in that town in 1902. After that they lived on Milnrow Road, Moss Street and then around the corner from there on Berwick Street.
Before war came George worked at the Rochdale Spinning Company's Mill and was a member of the Rochdale Company of the 6th Lancashire Fusiliers, the town's territorial unit. He had joined these in 1912 or 1913, his brother Joseph was also amongst their number. Around about half the men of the 6th LF were from Rochdale with Middleton and Todmorden making up 25% each. When war broke out George & Joseph Wild would have been quickly mobilised. The battalion spent some time billeted in Rochdale before moving off to Turton up in the hills above Bolton for some initial organisation and training. In September 1914 they were trained down to Southampton and then sailed for Alexandria in Egypt onboard the SS Saturnia. The battalion then moved onto Cairo were they were stationed until May 1st 1915. That day they marched from their barracks to Cairo railway station, boarded trains and reached Alexandria early the following morning. They then boarded the SS Nile and on the evening of May 2nd set sail for Gallipoli. There were around 1000 officers and men of the battalion, by the time they were evacuated from Gallipoli in December later that year the unit would have suffered over 200 deaths and an estimated 700-800 further casualties. Obviously these figures would include drafts to replace initial casualties but it's clear the men setting off from Alexandria did not face favourable odds of getting back to Lancashire unscathed.