‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

Date of Death:27/12/1916
Service No:13698
Regiment:King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
Unit:9th Bn.
Sarigol Military Cemetery
Grave Reference:C.497.

Taylor Eccles was born in Royton in 1889 to parents Thomas & Ann. Thomas, originally from Manchester, was a cotton worker and Ann was a native of Royton. Taylor had six siblings - John, Mary, Robert, Clara, Fred and James. In 1891 the family lived at 12 Spencer Street. Tragedy struck in 1899 when Taylor was ten years old, his father and shortly after his mother both died. The eldest child was John who would have been around 19 at the time with the youngest, James, being around 4. The family stayed together and the 1901 census found them all together at 95 Rochdale Road with two boarders - Mary & Alice Woolley (mother & daughter). In 1911 they were, minus Mary who had moved elsewhere, at 47 Orchard Street with John having married Elizabeth and had a child of their own. Taylor was, like most others in Royton, working in the cotton industry and at the time of his enlistment was a joiner-minder at the Roy Mill. Socially he was a member of the Royton Oddfellows and also Royton Cricket Club, turning out for the Second XI.
Taylor, along with brother Fred, enlisted in Royton on September 8th 1914. They were sent to Lancaster and found themselves members of the 9th King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment when that unit was formed in October. The brothers were in training in the Eastbourne area and later based near Aldershot. It was there shortly before the battalion left for active service that Fred suffered an epileptic fit but was passed fit enough to travel. The 9th KORL headed for France in early September 1915, once there Fred had another fit and was sent home to England. He was discharged in the summer of 1916 as being no longer fit for duty. The battalion's stay in France was a brief one and in October 1915, Taylor Eccles without brother Fred by this point was sent to the Macedonian Front. The battalion left Marseille on October 27th, arriving in Salonika on November 7th.
The 9th KORL moved to camps in the Galiko Valley north of Salonika. Their accommodations are described in a regimental history:

"At the best of times their borrowed tents afford little protection from the bitter wind unless they were buried at least two feet, but the wet ground made this impossible. Snow covered everything and the thermometer dropped at night to minus 18 degrees centigrade. The town was nine miles away and out of bounds. No help could be expected from the local people - who,if not actively hostile, were certainly not friendly".

At the time the Serbians had been overrun and were withdrawing through Albania. French and British forces were withdrawing towards Salonika. The 9th KORL were to be one of the units tasked with covering the retreating 10th Division. They travelled to Doiran by train on December 7th and the following day found themselves on a bare hillside. December 9th saw forward patrols of the battalion come into contact with the advancing Bulgarians. The enemy charged and one of the battalion's companies found itself in hand to hand fighting with an opponent perhaps 6 times as numerous. The men were forced to retreat although perhaps as many as 120 men were taken prisoner. There were several men from the Oldham area, including from Royton, taken prisoner by the Bulgarians that day. The Bulgarians halted their advance with their lines looking down from high ground along the Bulgarian-Serbian/Greek borders.
A letter home from another Royton man of the battalion, Fred Green, at the turn of 1916 gives us an insight into life for the men at that time - Taylor Eccles also gets a mention:

"I got your letter and smokes on November 13th but I could not reply sooner as we were moving out of Serbia I am still all right, as also is Taylor Eccles. You might thank them at the club for the smokes they sent as I cannot get the chance to write very often. You see it is a great deal different here to trench warfare, and also a lot harder. At the time of writing we are back at our old camp, at which I arrived today. I can assure you it is hard fighting up in the mountains. I don't want to go up there again. We lost a few men out of A Company but all other companies got away without a single mishap. There is a Royton lad that lived in the same street as Taylor Eccles reported missing I am sorry to say"

The missing man mentioned was 18 year old Fred Cooper from Orchard Street who had been captured by the Bulgarians. Others made prisoner at the same time included R.Howard of Shaw Road, Harry Heywood of Reap Croft and Granville Broadbent of Heyside.
The 9th KORL were to spend much of 1916 sitting high in the hills facing the Bulgarians with leave down to Salonika an infrequent experience. No major operations took place during the winter of 1916/1917 and it is unknown how Taylor was injured but he was reported to have died on December 27th of wounds received in action.
Some weeks later the Oldham Chronicle reported that his family back at 47 Orchard Street had been notified of his death. The flags at the Oddfellows and Cricket clubs were flown at half mast in his memory. Not long after that the Eccles family moved out of 47 Orchard Street and in 1917 the wife and children of James Cooper moved in. They were at that address when his wife was notified in July 1917 of his death

photo courtesy of  Tony - his Scartho Road Cemetery website