Date of Death:25/08/1916
Regiment:East Lancashire Regiment
Richard Mannion was born in Widnes in 1880, his parents (both originally from Warrington) were Thomas & Margaret. Thomas worked as a clogger. Richard was the second of seven children, the others being Mary, William , James, Edward, Thomas & Monica. The Mannions moved to Royton when Richard was still a young boy, he was no older than four. The 1891 census has them living at 81 Park Road and eleven year old Richard is listed as being a Cloggers Apprentice. A series of deaths were hit the family - in 1894 both James (8 years old) and Thomas (1) died. Then in 1896, Richard's father Thomas died. Next was Monica who died at the age of four in 1900. At around this time Richard had left Royton and was serving in the army in the Boer War. Which regiment he served with and how long he was in the army for is unknown but there's every chance his service was with the Manchester Regiment. The next time he appears in the historical record is when he married Margaret Daly in Oldham in 1907 (his mother Margaret had died by then at the age of 48 in 1903). Richard & Margaret possibly had two daughters - one, Nellie, is a definite (born in Royton in 1909) and there's a very good chance that Mary Mannion born in 1913 in Crompton was also theirs.
By the outbreak of war Richard and family were living at 11 Dyehouses, a row of cottages on Sandy Lane. He enlisted in Oldham and was at first in the Manchester Regiment (battalion currently unidentified) before he was transferred to the 8th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment. The 8th had been formed in Preston in September 1914 and reached France, along with Richard, in late July 1915. They spent the first year of their active service in and out of the front line without being involved in any great engagements. That was to change for them and so many other new units of the British Army in July 1916 at the Battle of the Somme.
The village of Pozieres had been one of the British objectives on the first day of the battle. The 34th Division suffered heavy losses that day, amongst some battalions catastrophic, without getting anywhere near Pozieres. On July 15th Richard and the rest of the 8th East Lancs were to be pitched into an assault against the German positions there. The intelligence on the situation was that the village was only lightly held and that the main force had fallen back. This information was incorrect as the men of 112 Brigade were soon to discover. The four infantry battalions of the Brigade were to attack in the morning across a narrow front - the 8th East Lancs in the vanguard, followed by the 6th Bedfords, then the 11th Royal Warwicks and finally the 10th Loyal North Lancs were to bring up the rear carrying stores,ammunition etc. The main features in the area were the sheer white sides of a chalk pit cut into the surrounding slopes.As the 8th East Lancs advanced across No Man's Land, which was heavily churned after three weeks of British artillery bombardment, they were met by withering German fire. The regimental history states:
"men dropped like ninepins, and the companies rapidly dwindled away until the remnant, reinforced by other units of the brigade, managed to dig in around the Chalk Pit. Elated by their success, a large number of the enemy began to emerge from the village but were themselves driven back by machine gun fire"
an officer of the 11th Royal Warwicks wrote after the war:
"The advance up to crest had been unopposed, but as the troops came over the crest above the Chalk Pit they were met with heavy and decisive machine gun fire. This fire was so accurate that the brigade became immobilised on it's narrow frontage and the three leading battalions, which had pressed forward with great boldness, became to a greater extent inter-mixed"
On the 112 Brigade's flanks no advance had been made so the Germans began to make the most of this and attacked the brigade's right flank which a company of Warwicks were forced to deal with. Rumour spread amongst the advance troops that the Warwicks were retiring but the situation was eventually stabilised. The British troops were however now pinned down and open movement invited instant death. Men from all four battalions were by early afternoon to be found mixed together in the Chalk Pit. At 17:00 in an attempt to rescue the situation a huge artillery bombardment began which razed most of what was left of Pozieres to the ground. At 18:00 the men of 112 Brigade attacked again and one again they were met with heavy machine gun fire from straight ahead and also from the flanks. Composite platoons made up of men from the mixed up battalions reached the outskirts of the village before being shot down, the troops of the 8th East Lancs eventually dug in about 200 yards short. The action was called off a little after 20:00 and the exposed troops had to remain out there until retiring at about 02:30 the following morning.
The 8th East Lancs had suffered 374 casualties that day with approaching 100 killed. Richard Mannion was most probably one of those injured, he was severely wounded in July 1916 all the available evidence points to it having been on that day. From France he was taken back to England and found himself in hospital in Chester. There he had a leg amputated, he never rallied after the operation and passed away in the hospital on August 25th.
Richard's body arrived back home in Royton the following night and he was buried in Royton Cemetery on Tuesday 29th August 1916.A squad of soldiers were present at the burial under charge of Sergeant Major Shaughnessy, the local recruiting sergeant. The coffin was covered with a Union Jack and there were also floral tributes on the coffin from the nurses, matron & medical staff of the hospital in Chester. At the end the Last Post was sounded by his graveside. The Oldham Chronicle reported that Richard had been well respected in Royton and had been a man of fine physique.