Date of Death:12/10/1916
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 13A&14C.
Robert Hilton was born in Royton in 1893 to parents William & Amelia. He was their fourth of nine children. Robert's siblings were Joe, Arthur, Frank, Edwin, William, Amelia, Fred and Harry. Both Edwin and William died before they reached the age of 1 (in 1896 and 1897 respectively). The family were living at 24 Ethel Street by the time of the 1901 census and this continued to be the family home for the remainder of Robert's life. His father,William, died in 1910 aged 46. By this time the four oldest boys, Robert included, were all bringing in a wage as cotton workers. In 1911 he was working as a piecer but by the time he signed up in 1916 he was a joiner minder at the Holly Mill. At least two of the other brothers saw active service - Joe with the Royal Field Artillery and Frank with the Manchester Regiment.
Robert enlisted in Royton in spring 1916 and was at first with the 27th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a reserve unit based in Southport and then in the same area, Altcar.
The 16th Battalion - which had started life back in August 1914 as Manchester's 1st City Pals - had been in action during the Battle of the Somme on the first bloody day on July 1st and then again on the 9th. They suffered the inevitable heavy losses and a week or so later the replacement troops began to arrive. Robert Hilton was one of them, in total the reinforcements came from 28 different battalions. There was no time given to integrate these men effectively in with the shattered men of the original battalion and a week or so after Robert joined the men were moved up to assembly trenches on May 24th ready for an attack on Guillemont. The attack started on the night of the 29th July and the 16th Manchesters
moved up to their 'jumping off' position at 20:30. They reached this at 03:00 on the 30th, having suffered some delay due to a heavy gas shell bombardment. Zero hour was at 04:45 amidst dense fog. The 16th went forward in three waves and reaching a railway line that ran through the sector formed up before pushing on towards Gullemont. They then passed through the German wire, which had been wrecked by the British artillery, and came under heavy rifle and machine gun fire. Fire was coming at the men from both flanks - from one side as Guillemont station was still in enemy hands and from the other as touch with the 18th Manchesters attacking to their right had not been established. After several gallant attempts to overcome various machine gun nests the Battalion was driven back and the survivors withdrew to a line slightly in advance of their original starting point. On the Battalion's right the 18th Manchesters suffered terrible casualties (one of the dead was Albert Bardsley), the casualties of the 16th were 30 killed, around a hundred injured and many missing presumed prisoners.
In the early hours of July 31st the 16th Manchesters were relieved and returned to Mansel Copse near Mametz. The battalion eventually found themselves in billets at Essats near Bethune on August 11th and remained there until September. On September 3rd the men moved back into the front line, near Festubert, with a company of the 17th Manchesters to make up their numbers.Over the next couple of weeks they alternated days in the waterlogged trenches with other battalions and on the 17th they moved on again, from 21st September to 4th October they were at Fleselles. On the 10th they moved again arriving at Fricourt on the 11th they moved up to Flers Support and Grove Alley. On the 12th they were held in reserve for the 17th Manchesters who were taking part in an attack, in the evening they were ordered forward to support them. During this move Robert was killed along with nine other men. It would seem he was hit and then died of his wounds that same day.
The other men killed were:
BOYD FRANK Private 35463 from Manchester
CORKHILL JOHN 26 Serjeant 6596 from Ardwick,Manchester
HADFIELD DOUGLAS 24 Lance Corporal 6496 from Manchester
HILL ROWLAND 21 Private 6628 from Manchester
MASON CHRISTOPHER 23 Private 6276 from Moston,Manchester
MOORE HARRY 22 Private 27320 from Manchester
NAYLOR HERBERT Serjeant 6660 from West Didsbury,Manchester
PARKINSON FRANCIS 32 Private 27047 from Salford
WINSTANLEY GERALD 18 Private 43013 from Altrincham
The Oldham Chronicle of October 28th reported that Robert's mother Amelia had received official notification that he had been killed in action.