Royton Roll of Honour

Joseph Wild was born in Royton on March 1st 1892. His parents were William,working at the time in the cotton industry - he was later a newsagent, and Hannah.Joseph was the eldest of five children, siblings being George, 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 the war Joseph worked as a joiner-minder at the Crawford Mill in Rochdale and was also a member of the Rochdale Company of the 6th Lancashire Fusiliers, as was his brother George. Around about half the men of the 6th LF were from Rochdale with Middleton and Todmorden making up 25% each. When war broke out Joseph & George 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.

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

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 assist 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 catastrophic day for the people of Royton, nearby another four were dead - John Fitton, Edwin Hyde, James Shaw & Frank Smith.
It's possible that although injured Joseph didn't leave Gallipoli and if he did it was probably only to Lemnos, the Greek Island that served as the expedition's staging post. It's highly likely that he, like his brother George, was back in action in time for the battalion's next action - a 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 Joseph 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 the Battalion close to evacuating they were to be involved 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 the Wild brothers and their 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 Wild was mortally wounded and died on December 20th 1915, Joseph was again wounded. Just a week later what remained of the battalion left the hell of Gallipoli, leaving behind 213 of their comrades who'd never see Rochdale,Middleton,Todmorden or indeed Royton again.
Again, the nature of Joseph's injuries are not known but it obviously wasn't serious enough to warrant a return to England and he served in Egypt with the 1st/6th. The Battalion were to spend 14 months there - training, manning defences and making new defence works in case of a Turkish attack towards the Suez Canal. Working building defence works out to the east of the canal was hard going - the fine sand was not easy to hold in position and it was often oppressively hot. In June 1916 the Battalion, along with the 1st/5th Lancashire Fusiliers (Bury's Territorials) took over a post named Ballybunion in the desert about six miles east of the canal. The following month news reached the British that a large Turkish force led by German officers was advancing across the Sinai Desert. A mobile column was formed to meet the enemy  head on before they reached the actual British defence line. The 1st/6th Lancashire Fusiliers were part of this force. Camels were to be used for carrying stores, ammunition and water and the men's kits were reduced to a minimum. The Turks were subsequently defeated at the Battle of Romani. The men of the 1st/6th were part of the reserve force and although they could clearly hear the sound of battle they were not called upon as the Turks were soundly routed. As the British advanced onwards the 1st/6th LF were put to work working on the defences at Romani and nearby Kantara. For the next three months this was to be their allotted task, along with spells of training and rest breaks by the seaside at Mahamdiya. At the end of November the troops moved back towards the Suez Canal for more outpost duties. Their time in Egypt came to a close in February 1917 when they were sent to France. At 07:50 on February 24th the ship carrying the 1st/6th and 1st/5th Battalions of the Lancashire Fusiliers was narrowly missed by a torpedo fired by an enemy submarine.
After disembarking at Marseille the men went by train to near Amiens and the moved forward to the front line north east of Peronne. There followed a period of training for the realities of the trench warfare of the Western Front and receiving replacement drafts. At the close of April 1917 the Battalion was providing working parties to various other units. During this time Joseph fell ill with pneumonia and died not far from the front on May 1st 1917. He is buried at Bray Military Cemetery, this was used for burials at the time by a Main Dressing Station.


photo courtesy of Bob Brown

JOSEPH WILD
Age:25
Date of Death:01/05/1917
Rank:Serjeant
Service No:240058
Regiment:Lancashire Fusiliers
Unit:1st/6th Bn.
Cemetery:Bray Military Cemetery
Grave Ref:II.G.32.