‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

photo courtesy of Manchester Regiment Group

THOMAS SHAW
Age:20
Date of Death:30/04/1917
Rank:Private
Service No:34890
Regiment:Manchester Regiment
Unit:18th Bn.
Cemetery:
St.Sever Cemetery Extension,Rouen
Grave Ref:P.II.N.9A

Thomas Shaw was born in Heyside in 1897, it's unclear as to who his father was but his mother was Emma. At the time of the 1901 census Thomas,aged 4, was at 16 Water Street (his address right up until leaving for war) with his mother and sister Alice. There were three people boarding with them, one of whom Ernest Stott appears to have later married Emma in 1908. Another sister for Thomas, Selina, had arrived in 1905. By 1911 Thomas was working as a piecer in one of the local mills - most probably the Belgian Mill which is where he was working in early 1916.
In or around March 1916 Thomas was conscripted into the army and joined the 18th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in August of that year, one of the many replacements needed after the battalion's devastating experiences of July 1916. In that month it's total casualties were 32 officers and about 1300 men. The scale of the losses can be appreciated by understanding that a British battalion at full complement contained 30 officers and 977 other ranks. Alfred Bardsley from Royton had been one of those killed in it's failed attack on Guillemont on July 30th.
Thomas was probably one of the 507 men who joined the unit on August 4th at Busnes. The rest of the month was spent training and providing working parties. The first experience for Thomas of the front line would have been on September 3rd when the 18th relieved the 11th West Yorks in the trenches near Festubert. Time was then spent in and out of the line until October 12th when the battalion was to go over the top for the first time since it's terrible mauling on July 3rd. In company with the 2nd Royal Scots and units from the 89th Brigade,350 men from the battalion attacked German positions south of the village of Ligny-Thilloy.
There are reports that the British artillery barrage before the attack fell into No Man's Land, leaving the German defenders (a unit of Marines) unharmed and fully warned of what was to come. The men of the 18th Manchesters had to cross 300 yards to reach the German front line and as they went over the top at 14:00 were mown down by machine gun fire. Only a small number of men found a way into the German trenches and these weren't seen again. A heavy counter barrage by the German artillery helped to pin down survivors in No Man's Land until they were finally able to withdraw shortly before dawn on October 13th during a break in the bombardment. Of the 350 who went over the top some 250 were listed as being killed, wounded or missing.
For the remainder of October and into November the 18th Manchesters spent time in and out of the front line. The whole of December 1916 was spent either in the trenches opposite Blairville or in reserve billets at Bailleulval and Basseux.The new year saw them spend January and February 1917 in training and providing working parties. There was a period in the front line in March which was a particularly miserable one due to very severe weather - frost, snow and heavy rain - to which the men were exposed without any cover.To compound their misery they had to live off water and dry rations with no hot food being available to them.
On April 8th the battalion moved to trenches east of Ficheux and then the following day they received orders to occupy reserve trenches south of Mercatel and then on April 10th, two companies (A & C) were sent forward to reinforce the 19th Manchesters in the front line. On April 11th the battalion was ordered to cross the Cojeul River and move forward to the Hindenburg Line. They were in position by 16:30. A minor bombing operation was then undertaken by two platoons from D Company.Their objective was to bomb along an unmarked trench and if possible reach "Nepal trench". The party moved off at 17.15pm and initially made some progress but owing to almost blizzard conditions and darkness the men withdrew.
April 12th saw orders issued for the men, suffering greatly due to the cold and wet, to be ready to move off and bomb their way down the Hindenburg Line. At 9.00am A company were the first men away. They crossed the river under a protective barrage provided by the rifle grenadiers and the Lewis gun section. Advancing in the open, they reached the front line at Heninel trench. A sentry was killed and 100 yards further down the trench a number of enemy were attacked with bombs. The men continued to bomb their way along the trench and formed a block. 2Lt Shirley in command then sent back for more bombs and reinforcements. A group of about 30 Germans appeared in the trench and the Lewis gun team inflicted a number of casualties before the enemy withdrew. Reinforcements from C and D companies arrived and, as the opposition grew weaker the objective was taken. Altogether over 1700 yards of trench had been taken by the 18th Manchesters. One of those killed in this action was 19 year old Royton lad James Stott. They were then relieved at 18:00 by the 20th Royal Fusiliers and marched to billets at Basseux.
Six days later on April 18th  the battalion were back in the line in trenches north west of Neuville-Vitasse. On April 23rd they went over the top at 06:00 along with the 19th Manchesters. The leading wave, keeping close to the moving British artillery barrage, had hardly left the front line when the German machine guns opened up from in front and both flanks. Due to number of officer casualties the attack faltered but after some reorganisation it continued ahead.Led by Lieutenant Watson and 2nd Lieutenant Lawrence, the only officers remaining, the Battalion reached the objective at 20:00. Almost immediately these two officers were wounded and command of the men, now less than 100 strong, now fell to the NCO's. Fierce fighting continued until about 21:00 when the men, exhausted, out of bombs and ammunition were forced to withdraw. Between 21.30 and midnight about 53 men, from all companies reached the old front line and the line was secured. They were relieved the following day by the 2nd Wiltshire Regiment.
The casualties suffered during these actions in April were 15 officers and 346 other ranks killed, wounded and missing.
Thomas Shaw was one of them many men injured and he made it as far as one of the base hospitals in Rouen before succumbing and he died there on April 30th 1917 (the second young Royton man to die of his wounds from the doomed attack, James Greenwood having died five days earlier). The following day his mother received a telegram to notify her of his death.
The men of the 18th Manchesters who died fighting alongside Shaw,Stott & Greenwood were:

ADSHEAD SYDNEY  2nd.Lt        
AKEHURST JOHN 38 Private 41692 from Brighton
ALLPORT  GEORGE Private 10296 from Chorlton cum Hardy,Manchester    
ANDERSON WILLIAM 33 Lance Corporal 23292 born Glasgow,lived Blackpool
ARMSTRONG THOMAS 19 Private 47839 from Wigan
AUSTIN HARRY 32 Private 41741 from Sussex
BALDWIN MARK 21 Private 43824 from Wigan
BARKER HAROLD Private 43936 from Manchester    
BARKER HENRY Private 301738 from Manchester
BECKETT BERNARD 18 Private 300319 from Manchester
BIRCH THOMAS Private 48004 from Salford    
BISHOP WILLIAM 19 Private 36005 from Manchester
BLISS FREDERICK Private 41735 born Northants,enlisted Eastbourne    
BOLDSTRIDGE HENRY Private 7591 born Liverpool,enlisted Manchester
BRAY GEORGE 20 Corporal 31311 from Newtown,Wales
BULLOCK CHRISTOPHER Private 47842 from Burnley    
BURNS THOMAS 21 Private 44140 from Manchester
CARTER CHARLES Private 43702 from London    
CATTERALL GEORGE Lance Corporal 43865 from Wigan    
COLES ERNEST Private 41774 from Northants    
COLLINS LEWIS 40 Private 41696 from Hastings
DAWES ALLEN Private 47850 enlisted Ashton under Lyne    
DEVENPORT JOHN Private 43889 born Patricroft,enlisted Wigan    
DEVLIN JAMES 38 Private 48012 from Manchester
DRURY HUGH Private 43663 born Pendleton,enlisted Manchester    
DUNCAN HARRY 25 2nd.Lt from Denton
DUNN RICHARD Private 29342 from Salford    
EDGE EDWIN Private 43762 enlisted Atherton    
EMINTON FREDERICK 30 2nd.Lt from Gillingham
EMRICK ERNEST from Manchester
ENTWISTLE JAMES 26 Private 35522 from Hulme, Manchester
FAULKNER EDWARD 19 Private 44186 from Manchester
FIDDES RICHARD Private 10487 from Manchester    
FRENCH ALBERT Private 35116 from St Helens    
GILL NOEL 20 Captain from Co.Tipperary    
GOODWIN ARTHUR 24 Private 44041 from Manchester
GREEN JAMES 21 Private 47857 from Manchester
GRICE WILFRED 27 Private 352178  from Denton
HAFT ISRAEL Private 47879 from Manchester    
HALL RALPH 19 Private 43778 from Atherton
HAMPSON JOHN Private 47858 from Manchester    
HASSETT PETER Private 9117 born Salford,enlisted Manchester    
HEANEY GEORGE Private 43924 from Manchester    
HENSTOCK FRANK Private 48014 from Manchester    
HEWLETT CYRIL 19 Private 29170 from Oldham
HEYWOOD FRANK Private 35835 from Oldham    
HILL JOHN  35 Private 377063 from Oldham
HOBBS HARRY Private 28210 from Oldham    
HOLLINGSWORTH ARTHUR 40 Private 43731 born Northwich,enlisted Atherton
HOLMES CHARLES Private 47866 from Dukinfield    
HOWARTH JOHN 36 Private 43871 from Wigan
HOWARTH  WILLIAM 18 Lance Corporal 43747  from Walkden
HUMPHREYS JOE Lance Corporal 48023 from Oldham    
HUNT GEORGE Private 11278 from Didsbury,Manchester    
HUNTER WALTER Private 10129 from Manchester    
HYDER FRED 36 Private 41703 from Sussex
JACKSON JOHN 28 Private 36374 from Oldham
JACOBS HYMAN 23 Private  27325 from Manchester
KIRKHAM SAMUEL Private 44056 born Cheshire,enlisted Manchester    
LEMMON BERTRAM 23 Private 47918  from Manchester
LOMAS SAMUEL 24 Private 377213 from Oldham    
LONG LEO 20 Private 34926 from Manchester
LONGLEY  JOHN Private 47882 born Horwich,enlisted Manchester    
LYNCH ERNEST 21 Private 43777 from Atherton
MARLER HAROLD Private 36754 from Oldham    
MARTIN GEORGE 26 Lieutenant from Dover
MAYBURY REGINALD 2nd.Lt        
MAYER AMOS 19 Private 21943 from Manchester
MIDDLETON GEORGE 23 Private 44162 from Manchester
MIDGLEY WILLIAM 29 Private 11033 from Manchester
MILLER ALBERT Lance Corporal 1836 from London    
MILLER JAMES Lance Corporal 12147 from Stockport
MITCHELL DANIEL 19 Private 36279 from Oldham
NORBURY THOMAS 27 Private 36194 from Manchester
OAKES WILLIAM Private 26850 from Manchester    
ORRELL HARRY 26  Private 17719 from Bury
OWEN JOHN Lance Corporal 11147 from Manchester    
PALMER HERBERT 35 Lance Corporal 2864 from Manchester
PARKER ALFRED Private 47869 from Middleton    
POOLE THOMAS 23 Private    44007 from West Gorton,Manchester
PYE WILLIAM Private 43816 from Hindley    
QUINN NORBERT Serjeant 10261 from Moston,Manchester    
REDMAN MAURICE Private 41731 from Sussex    
RIGBY JOHN Private 44034 from Manchester    
RYDER WILFRED Private 43925 from Gorton,Manchester    
SANDERSON FREDERICK Private 44037 from Liverpool    
SAYLE WILLIAM 19 Private 47914 from Manchester
SCOTT HERBERT 20 Private 44738 from Bow,London
SEDGWICK CHRISTOPHER 34 CSM 10838 from Moston,Manchester
SLOAN IRVINE Private 2280 from Salford    
STAMP RALPH 23 Private 44130 from Gorton,Manchester
THOMAS WILLIAM 30 Serjeant 9998    from Manchester
TOOLE EDWARD Serjeant 10223 from Manchester    
VICKERS  WILLIAM 28 Private 11153 from Kearsley
WAINWRIGHT JOHN  20 Private 43804 from Atherton
WALSH JOHN 20 Private 44139 from Manchester
WARHAM JOHN Private 10227 from Manchester    
WESTPHAL BENJAMIN 24 2nd.Lt from Jamaica
WHALLEY JAMES 32 Lance Corporal 43845 from Atherton
WHEALE ERNEST Private 48030 from Salford    
WHITEHEAD ALFRED 32 Lance Corporal 35107 from Manchester
WILLIAMS RALPH 21 Private 44019 from Stockport
WILLIAMS SAMUEL 20 Private 43827 from Atherton
WILLIAMSON ALFRED 19 Private 43697 from West Hampstead,London
WILLIAMSON SAMUEL Private 47916 from Manchester    
WITHINGTON WILLIAM Private 43974 from Salford    
WOOD EDMUND 29 Corporal  9951 from Spilsby,Lincs
WORSLEY RICHARD 19 Private 44090 from Irlam
WYATT SAMUEL 20 2nd.Lt from New Mills