‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

Date of Death:18/11/1916
Service No:41522
Regiment:Manchester Regiment
Unit:2nd Bn.
Thiepval Memorial
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 13A&14C

William Charles Plant was born in the Staffordshire village of Coton Clanford (near Stafford), the age the Commonwealth War Graves have for him suggest it was in 1879 but his birth was registered in early 1880. William's parents were Charles, a labourer, and Harriet. William had two older sisters - Susanna and Lucy - and a younger brother, Bertram.  By the time of the 1891 census the family had moved to the village of West Chadsmoor near to Cannock. Sadly shortly after that census Charles Plant died. During the following decade William's mother, sisters and brother moved to Rochdale but William stayed behind in Staffordshire. His uncle Edwin Leese, Harriet Plant's brother, was a butcher in Stafford and William went to work for him and lived on the premises with the Leese family.  The 1911 census finds William reunited with his mother and siblings and they were at 9 Cross Lees in Rochdale, William still employed as a butcher. Another move came before the outbreak of war and the Plants moved to Royton. At the time of his death Harriet is listed as living at 39 Glen Grove, a lot of the people on that street were employees of the Royton Co-Operative Society so perhaps William had taken up a position as a butcher in one of their stores.
It's unclear as to when William joined the army but he was most probably a member of one of the large drafts of replacements received by the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in October 1916. Many of the new men joining the Battalion at that time were from the Oldham area. Royton men William Mills France, Allan Martin, William Southworth & John Gavin had all already been killed whilst serving with the 2nd Manchesters.
After time spent putting these new men through their paces and integrating them into the battalion it was time once again for the 2nd Manchesters to go into action. They did so on November 18th suffering terrible casualties in their attack. The immediate obstacle of the attack of the 32nd Division was a powerful system of defences known as the Munich Line amid morasses caused by recent heavy rain. The 32nd Division's assaulting units were from the 14th (incl.the 2nd Manchesters) and 97th Brigades - from left to right being the 15th Highland Light Infantry, the 2nd Manchesters, the 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and then another battalion of Highland Light Infantry.
They had taken over part of the front line on November 15th and the following day William Hickson from Royton was killed. Then, on November 17th, the Germans made a massed grenade attack on the 2nd Manchesters lines causing many casualties.
At 06:10 on November 18th the men went over the top in what was to prove the very last throw of the dice in the bloody Battle of the Somme. The Manchesters took their first objective but on the left the 15th HLI were held up by the barbed wire and on the right the 2nd KOYLI were also struggling. The 2nd Manchesters pressed on and got to the second line of German trenches, along with some of the 2nd KOYLI,but a counter attack pushed many of them back and those who remained were to be killed or captured. A single survivor returned from this latter group, he stated that his comrades lay dead or dying in front of a blazing dug-out, the woodwork of which had taken fire. A patrol the next day came upon the bodies of an officer and forty men who had died, fighting to the last, in a single group.

A sergeant later wrote:

"The Manchesters gained their objective and were the only regiment to do so. The company which was keeping touch with the KOYLI advanced as long as they did, but instead of halting at their objective they went on to a trench called Ten Tree Alley; the dug-out at the end of Lager Alley was not mopped up, so that when the men had passed beyond it the Boches came out and cut off their retreat. In the meanwhile the company that had got into Munich Trench and Trench 28 could neither advance nor withdraw;bombs were scarce, the Germans were on both sides of them and advancing up the trench in front of them; while a dug-out caught fire and the smoke was so dense that the men had to put on their gas masks. The party was either all killed, or wounded, or taken prisoner, while the fate of those who went on too far was as tragic as it was glorious and was equal to the splendid traditions of the Manchester Regiment. They halted on a small rise,and,refusing to surrender, fought it out to the last. The place was found afterwards with the bodies all grouped together"

3 Royton men died in the fighting that day - William Charles Plant was sadly one of them. From the same attack Thomas Henry Cave and Harry Lomas from the 2nd King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry were also killed. The remnants of the 2nd Manchesters, remained in the line on November 19th and were finally relieved the following day. An officer later recorded an incident that occurred after their relief:

"On our way back we were met by the new divisional general,who,as our 6 officers and 150 men and transport went by,complained that I had no intervals. I informed him that what he was looking at was the battalion!"

William's mother, Harriet, died in 1930 aged 77 and at that time was living on Sixth Avenue on Oozewood. She is buried in Royton Cemetery along with William's two sisters and Bertram's wife Ada.
The other men of the 2nd Manchesters listed as being killed the same day as William are listed below. The many similar service numbers to William indicate those men who joined around the same time as him with most being from the Oldham area. There are at least two with close links to Royton, Benjamin Helliwell was living in the town at the time of his enlistment and Thomas Wainman's parents lived in Heyside

ASPINALL THOMAS Lance Corporal 2508 from ailsworth                                   
BABBAGE JOHN 2nd Lt                                            
BARDSLEY EDWIN Private 41370 from Denton                                        
BARNISH  STEPHEN  Private 24306 from Atherton                                        
BAYLISS  REGINALD 22 2nd Lt born High Wycombe                                    
BENTLEY  CHARLES Lance Corporal 4647 from Blackpool                                       
BIRCH WILLIAM 36 Private 41359 from Oldham                                    
BLAKEWAY JAMES Private 33805 from Manchester                                    
BRADBURY ARNOLD  Private 41374 from Denton                                        
BURGESS  WILLIAM Private  2393 from St Helens                                        
BURNHAM ARTHUR 35 Private 34672 from Middlewich                                    
CIRCUIT PERCY 20 Private 41385 from Manchester                                
DEVENEY THOMAS 27 Private 4815 from Salford                                    
FRANCE CHARLES Private 41424 from Denton                                        
FRANCIS THOMAS Private 9180 born Atherton,enlisted Burnley                                       
HARROP JOHN 35 Private 41464 from Chadderton                                    
HELLIWELL BENJAMIN 33 Private 41466 lived in Royton, appears on the memorial in Shaw                                   
HOWARTH HARRY 41 Private 41454 from Ashton under Lyne                                    
HUNTINGFORD JESSE 24 Private 2496 from Twickenham                                    
JEFFERY ERNEST Private 34662 from Accrington,lived Toronto                                        
JENKINSON WILLIAM 27 Private 41476 from Hyde                                
JOYCE WILLIAM 18 Private 23742 from Guernsey                                    
KAY VICTOR Lance Corporal 41481 from Manchester                                    
KETTLE ARTHUR 37 Private 11869 from Manchester                                    
KING GEORGE Private 41479 born Surrey,enlisted Manchester                                        
KNIGHT WALTER Private 2784 from Manchester                                        
LOGAN NATHANIEL Private  569 from Oldham                                        
LUNDIE WILLIAM 38 Lance Corporal 9831 from Liverpool                                
MASON JAMES Private 41499 from Oldham                                        
MULHOLLAND HENRY Private 30003 from Manchester                                    
MURPHY JOHN 21 Lance Corporal 2857 born Oldham,lived in Manchester                                    
McINERNY JOHN Private 16067 from Manchester                                        
McMINN FREDERICK Corporal 1289 from Salford                                        
NALBOROUGH ALFRED Lance Corporal 2026 from London                                        
OGDEN WILLIAM 23 Private 41508 from Oldham                                    
ONIONS ALFRED Lance Corporal 16828 born Failsworth,enlisted Manchester                                        
PARRY JOHN Lance Corporal 5981 from Sheffield                                        
PENDLEBURY THOMAS Private 1697 from Salford                                    
PRING LEONARD Private 2631 born Aldershot,enlisted Cork                                        
RAYNER OLIVER 23 Captain from Norfolk                                    
RICHARDSON JOHN Lance Corporal 3543 from Stalybridge                                        
ROCK WILLIAM Private 16629 from Bury                                    
SHERRIFF JAMES Private 9610 from Co.Cavan                                    
TAYLOR LAWRENCE Private 41541 from Oldham                                        
THOMAS ABRAHAM 36 Corporal 41539 from Oldham                                    
THOMPSON JAMES 32 Corporal 9952 from Stretford                                    
TURNER GEORGE 21 Private 41546 from Oldham                                    
WAINMAN  THOMAS 28 Private 41580 lived in Oldham,parents were living in Royton.Played for Oldham RL                                  
WEBB JOSEPH Private 41565 from Droylsden                                    
WHITEHEAD ROBERT Private 41579 from Oldham                                    
WOOD GREAVES 41 Private  5366 from Oldham                                
WOOD JAMES 24 Private 41576 born Droylsden,enlisted Ashton-under-Lyne                                    
WOOD JOHN Lance Corporal 7685 from Hollinwood                                        
WYLIE ALEXANDER 27 Private 41583 from Oldham