Date of Death:06/07/1917
Regiment:The King's (Liverpool Regiment)
Cemetery:Gorre British & Indian Cemetery
Robert Mellor was born in 1896 in Royton, his parents being John and Ann. John and Ann were both Royton natives with John working as a cotton spinner. Robert was the fifth of six children - his siblings being Charlotte, Bertha, Annie, John and Freida. Robert's sister Bertha died, aged nine, in the same year of his birth. At the time of Bertha's death the Mellors were living at 145 Rochdale Road.
The family remained in the same area for some time, the 1901 census finding them at 159 Rochdale Road and the 1911 one at number 157 (this was the address of Robert Franklin in 1901). When the latter census was taken, Robert was working as a cop packer in one of the local mills.
The records of Robert's military service are sketchy but going off his service numbers and those of other Royton men we can piece together roughly when he enlisted and can pinpoint when he was sent for active service.
Robert enlisted in late 1915/early 1916 and was originally in the Manchester Regiment. This was probably with the 2nd/10th Battalion (an Oldham unit) who were at Crowborough in Sussex and then in March 1916 moved to Colchester.
The battalion would eventually get to France in February 1917 but Robert and many other local men were sent out to the front in the summer of 1916. To the surprise of the draft of men that included Robert Mellor they were not to join another battalion of the Manchesters but were to become members of The King's Liverpool Regiment.
The 1st King's had been decimated in an attack on Guillemont on August 8th and needed a large influx of new men to bring it's numbers back up. On August 20th Robert Mellor was one of a group of 20 officers and 750 other ranks who joined the battalion, these new men were all from the Manchester Regiment. The largest group of which were from the Oldham district. The 1st Battalion of Liverpool's local regiment now had more Oldhamers in it than Liverpudlians. The new commanding officer of the battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel S.E Norris, related that there was a great deal of discontent amongst the new men at being sent to a strange unit rather than to a battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He later wrote:
"I remembered my regimental history, and this gave some hint of the best thing to do in the big task of pulling the battalion together again. I assembled the whole of the new officers and men and told them how closely the King's and Manchesters were related, in addition to their recruiting areas being neighbours in South Lancashire. How, in 1758,the 2nd King's was constituted a separate regiment and became the 63rd Foot, the 63rd Foot now being the 1st Battalion, The Manchester Regiment. Instead of being drafted, as the imagined, to a strange regiment, they were simply coming back home again, and the old 8th Foot welcomed them back as the descendants of it's 2nd Battalion which went away so many years before.
Before I had spoken many minutes I could see the men were thoroughly interested. The impression my remarks made was profound, and company commanders told me later that when censoring letters home they noticed that nearly every man mentioned the incident. The new officers and men settled down quite contentedly, and in a very short time the 1st King's was again an effective fighting battalion. I was greatly assisted in the above incident by Second-Lieuts.Bannatyne and Walsh, both of whom had read and remembered the Regimental History"
One other Royton man had already been killed with the battalion - Thomas Henry - and there were to be several more. Although the large majority of the men had no experience in trench warfare they were in the front line just six days later on August 26th. They spent four days there in the Serre sector getting used to their new environment. The Germans were fairly active during this time and casualties in the battalion were reported as being frequent but not numerous. September and October saw the men in and out of the front line, when they were out they were stationed in Couin and other nearby villages.The 1st King's were to go into combat on November 13th, the first day of the Battle of the Ancre. This was the final
large British attack of the Battle of the Somme. The British artillery had begun it's bombardment of the German positions on November 6th and by the start of the battle had cut much of the barbed wire and many enemy defensive positions. It hadn't destroyed the dugouts built deep below the villages near the front line though.
At nightfall on August 12th all units were notified that zero hour was at 05:45 the following morning. At 20:00 the battalion marched out from Mailly-Maillet to their assembly positions which they reached before midnight. The 1st King's were one of the four infantry battalions of the 6th Brigade. The 13th Essex and 2nd South Staffords were to form the first wave with the 1st King's supporting the Essex and the 17th Middlesex the South Staffs.
The objective of the 13th Essex and 1st King's was through a strongly fortified position on the northern flank of Beaumont Hamel, known as the Quadrilateral. This position was in a hollow between the slopes leading up to Serre on the left and Beaumont Hamel on the right. It formed a German salient in No Man's Land and was well protected with thick belts of wire in front of it. As for No Man's Land, thanks to rain and constant shelling it was an almost impassible quagmire of mud. That morning the area was covered in thick fog, the men could only see 20 to 30 yards ahead of them but in turn that hid them from German view. However, once the troops went over the top the front two battalions of the 6th Brigade began to suffer heavy casualties in front of the Quadrilateral. Behind the 17th Essex the men of the 1st King's had advanced in good order but it soon became apparent that due to the amount of mud the Essex were in difficulties. The two battalions then advanced together and made many desperate efforts to get through or around the bog and into the enemy trenches. All the while the area was swept by machine gun fire and shellfire.The men on the left of the advance were forced to dig in and take shelter behind a small ridge about 30 yards from the German front line. They then received orders to hold on and draw enemy fire while those on the right could advance. On that flank a mixed group of Kingsmen and Essex had successfully advanced to their objective. Troops from the 99th Brigade then worked around the side of the Quadrilateral. As night fell the 1st King's had dug in across No Man's Land and the following morning a group of 50 or so Kingsmen were in action with the 22nd Royal Fusiliers from the 99th Brigade as they pushed into the Quadrilateral. Enemy trenches were cleared, communication trenches blocked and strong points formed. The main German position in the Quadrilateral was now cut off and other troops were able to advance past it and onto their objectives. On the morning of November 16th the 1st King's were relieved and marched out of the line.Their losses were 2 officers killed, 8 wounded and 245 other ranks killed, wounded or missing. 70 of those were dead with approaching half of those losses from the Oldham district. Counting the wounded there were probably over 100 casualties from the local area. One of those killed was John Starkey & another Royton man John Wilson was seriously wounded and passed away in a casualty clearing station on November 20th.
The next Royton man killed was Albert Butterworth when on April 23rd 1917 the 1st King's were in the front line near Bailleul assisting an attack with Lewis gun and rifle fire. Albert's parents were first informed that he had been wounded in action and was in hospital but then a week later they were informed he was dead. The first report was probably erroneous as he has no known grave and is listed as having been killed in action.
In the days following Butterworth's death the Battalion was again put into support attacking units. On April 28th an assault was launched on the enemy's positions at Oppy Wood with Robert Mellor and his comrades put to work in carrying parties, ferrying ammunition up to the assault battalions. The bloodshed for those battalions was great and after an intense struggle only a small amount of ground had been gained from the Germans. That night the 1st King's were relieved and moved back to dug outs near Roclincourt where they remained in position for the next few days.
Their respite was only brief and the men were to be pitched into battle on the first day of the Third Battle of the Scarpe. The 2nd Division of which the 1st Kings were part had been so reduced in number that they were given a frontage of only 1000 yards to attack. The Division, which at full strength could have called upon 3 Brigades which together had 12 Infantry Battalions was reduced to forming one composite Brigade of four Battalions. 'B' Battalion's four companies were put together with the men of the 1st King's, the 2nd South Staffords and the 13th Essex. Troops from a different division were tasked with attacking Oppy with B Battalion advancing on their left. The night of the 3rd was lit by a bright moon and, as the troops assembled, British artillery unwisely bombarded the enemy trenches which brought immediate retaliation from their German counterparts. The assembly area in which the British troops were gathering came under heavy fire during this return fire. The shelling increased as zero hour, 03:45, approached. The men of the King's advanced on time though, having to pass through heavy shell,machine gun and rifle fire. They suffered heavy casualties but succeeded in capturing the left half of their portion of the Battalion's target - Fresnoy Trench. The right company of the Kingsmen were held up though by terrific enemy fire and the South Staffords and Essex had been caught by the full blast of the enemy's fire and were forced to take shelter in shell holes or whatever other cover was available. The left of the King's having entered Fresnoy Trench began to bomb their way southwards and to set up Lewis Guns in preparation of a German counterattack. That counterattack was launched almost immediately and in such numbers that the men managed to hold out for only 30 minutes before being forced out of the trench. The survivors of B Battalion dug in along the Oppy-Fresnoy Road, which thankfully was a sunken road. The already badly weakened 1st King's had suffered casualties numbering 109.
One of those killed fighting with B Battalion that day was James Leach of the 2nd South Staffords. At 03:40 on May 4th the men were relieved and the 1st King's moved to a camp between Arras and Roclincourt. Robert Mellor's Battalion spent almost the whole of May in camp receiving drafts of officers and men to bring them up to strength and undergoing training. On the 30th the Battalion moved into a support role in the Arleux sector, where they were principally employed digging front line trenches. On June 9th came their turn to actually man the front line for five days, thankfully for them it was recorded as being a "very quiet tour".
After that it was time for the 2nd Division to leave the Arras Front and the 1st King's journeyed by bus to Bethune before moving up into the Givenchy sector. From June 21st to 24th the line was very quiet and the men were engaged in trench improvement and the occasional patrol. June 25th saw a German raid which commenced after three hours of trench mortar fire and shrapnel shells raining down on the Kingsmen's positions. In many places the front line trenches were knocked in and significant damage was also suffered to the communicationt trenches. The Germans attacked in three places, in two of which they were repulsed. Where the Germans did breakthrough they found themselves under intense fire and many were cut off from their comrades and subsequently captured. The fighting went on through the night of the 25th/26th but by dawn the original positions had been re-occupied and communication re-establised with the battalions on both flanks. Later that day the battalion marched back to Gorre in Brigade Reserve.
The Battalion were back in the front line on July 2nd and Robert Mellor spent his last days suffering from the usual German trench mortars & bombardments. A gas bombardment occurred on the 4th, no casualties being suffered but then on July 6th, Robert was shot and killed by a German sniper.
Sadly there seems to be no mention of Robert in the Oldham Chronicle of the time but it can be assumed given the nature of his death that his parents were notified fairly soon afterwards of his death. At the time they were living at 32 Park Lane, an address previously occupied by the Scholes family.
Robert's mother Ann died in 1931 and father John in 1938. They are buried together in Royton Cemetery. In the same plot are Robert's sisters Bertha & Charlotte, Charlotte's husband Harry Armitage and 5 month old Bernard Mellor who died in 1935 and was presumably Robert's nephew