Dick Green's service medals & identity disc
All photos courtesy of Dick's great grandson, Mike Light
Date of Death:26/02/1916
Cemetery:Point 110 New Military Cemetery
Richard (later known as Dick) Green was born on March 23rd 1884 at 2, Rhodes Street,Royton. His parents were Richard & Lavinia. Richard was one of two children, the other being Fred who was a couple of years older. Richard's mother appears to have died while he was still a young boy. By the time of the 1891 census the Green's were living at Croft House Place in Heyside, with several members of the extended family also resident. Richard senior, worked in a mill in 1891 but by 1901 was a Fish Hawker.
On November 2nd 1903, Dick Green married Elizabeth Hannah Cave at St.Paul's church in Royton. Dick & Elizabeth were to have three children who survived birth - Amy (1907), Ethel (1909) & Tom (1914). Dick played a prominent part in the running of Heyside Football Club (Rugby League) and was also a member of the Royton Harriers running club. He worked as a piecer at Heyside Mill.
Dick's service number suggests he joined up in late May or early June 1915 and became a member of Oldham's local 'Pals' battalion - the 24th Manchesters, also known as the Oldham Comrades. After joining up Dick would have been in Grantham and then later that year in Larkhill Camp on Salisbury Plain. On November 9th 1915 the battalion landed at Le Havre and then underwent a few days training in the arts of trench warfare under the tutelage of men of the Leicestershire Regiment.
After that the Comrades had further periods of training in areas behind the lines and did not take control of a portion of the front line until February 6th 1916. They were welcomed by the German artillery and within their first 24 hours in the line they had lost 17 men killed and at least 15 wounded. One of those killed was Edmund James. The battalion were then relieved by the 2nd Warwickshires on February 10th and were then engaged in repair and construction work behind the lines, often coming under German artillery and mortar fire.
Dick Green's original grave marker
On February 22nd the Oldham men were once again sent up to the front line and there were to be more local casualties. On February 26th Dick Green was killed, the only man from the battalion to die that day. A Royton man in the unit wrote home (somewhat embellishing his account with the tale of the German infantry assault):
"We have just come out of the trenches after doing nine days and nights in them, and it snowed nearly all the time. It is now Thursday and we are going in again on Sunday. We have had 6 more men killed, that means 25 up to now, and about 40 wounded. A fellow named Dick Green, of Heyside, has been killed. A piece of shell went through his heart. He was buried behind the trenches with the others. It was a terrible day a week last Tuesday. We got the message that the Germans were coming over the top. After 3 hours bombardment all the sky was a mass of shell and fire, and the Germans did come over. They over facing the Devonshires on our left, and every man of ours was ready for them. We had fixed bayonets and 120 rounds of the best. About a thousand Germans came over, but only 200 got back again, the others lay dead between their trenches and ours. It was something awful. We got our own back, I can tell you"
Elizabeth Green shortly afterwards received letters from members of Dick's platoon - Sergeants Swithenbank & Chapman and Lance Corporal Finley stating that he had died instantaneously. They went on that the food parcel she had sent out to Dick has arrived after his death but that the contents had been shared out among his section and gratefully consumed.
A short while later she received a letter of sympathy from army chaplain Rev.H.McColman:
"the poor 24th Manchesters are suffering more than any other battalion of the original 91st Infantry Brigade, and I know there are many sad hearts in Oldham now, but I hope they are proud ones, for all the lads have given up their lives doing their duty as men and not shirkers"
Elizabeth Hannah Green
Elizabeth's brother Thomas Henry Cave was also to be killed later that year.