Bleak month continued for town as WWI casualties mounted up in 1917
AS FIGHTING on Flanders Field continued, the losses to Ormskirk worsened as September went on.
The families would not have been informed of their loss until weeks later but as the year went on the impact would start to hit the town.
When the comrades roll was put together in the early 1920s, names only were added and hand written in loose alphabetical order.
From that original memorial the names were researched and then carved into the stone plinths erected in Coronation Park to mark the centenary of the war.
Nineteen names on the memorial are for men lost in September 2017, eight of them were remembered in last week’s article.
The four men lost on September 20, 1917 were:
Cpl Patrick Gibbons of the 5th Bn King’s Liverpool Regiment.
Patrick, born 1887, was the son of Peter Gibbons of Elm Place.
Father and son had both worked in the brick-making industry before the war.
Patrick is remembered on the Holy Trinity Church Memorial, Bickerstaffe.
Cpl Harold Turner, son of William and Annie Turner of No 1 Court, Wigan Road, (No 1 Court was just before the hospital), was just 19 years old when he died.
Baptised at the Parish Church on Boxing Day 1897, Harold had been with the 9th King’s Liverpool Regiment initially but was with the 1st Bn, London Regiment (Royal Fusiliers) by September 1917.
He is remembered on the Ypres, Menin Gate memorial.
Pte John Woods, G/19763, 11th Bn, Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment) was also just 19 years old when he was shot dead by a sniper on September 20, 1917.
John had enlisted at the age of 16 with the 21st Bn Kings Liverpool Regiment but was transferred to the 11th Bn West Kent Regiment, serving with the British Expeditionary Force from August 1917.
He was not on combat duty that day, his mission had been to reach his and comrades with who had “dug in” with food and water, but which they had not had for almost two days by the 20th. John had been dodging snipers that morning but was fatally hit on one of his runs.
His selfless act of duty is recorded in the De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour.
Cpl Whyte, who was with the same unit as John, wrote to Robert and Mary Woods after their eldest son, was killed, explaining the circumstances of his death.
The family lived at Walkden’s Cottages, Sineacre Lane, Bickerstaffem in a four-room farm labourer’s cottage.
John Woods was “buried where he fell”, according to his corporal.
The mud of Passchendaele Ridge became his grave.
John is commemorated on the headstone for his parents in Holy Trinity Church yard, Bickerstaffe.
John is also on the Tyne Cot Memorial.
The fourth casualty of September 20, 1917 was Wigan born Pte William Henry Birchall, son of John Birchall of Stanley Gate Farm, Bickerstaffe.
Prior to enlisting, he worked at the Viaduct Locomotive Works in Newton-le-Willows.
He had enlisted with the Royal Army Service Corps at Warrington in 1914 and became a horsemanship instructor. In July 1917 he was sent to France. He had married Martha Rosbotham, formerly of Ottershead Farm, Westhead, niece of Sir Stanley Thomas Rosbotham MP of Bickerstaffe.
William Henry and Martha lived in Earlstown where Martha was a schoolteacher.
William was killed during an early morning raid on two German blockhouses when his group came under heavy machine gun fire.
William’s brother, Robert Birchall, also served with the 9th Kings Liverpool Regiment from 1915 through to 1920.
William is recorded on the Holy Trinity Memorial, Bickerstaffe, the Newton-Le-Willows & Earlestown Memorial and the Tyne Cot Memorial.
His death was not confirmed until July 1918, when his family were informed.
Two men were also lost on September 21, 1917. One was 26 year-old Pte William Ashcroft, son of Thomas and Ann Ashcroft, of 14 Mart Lane, Burscough.
Before the war, William worked for the Leeds-Liverpool Canal Company. He became a stretcher bearer for the 10th Bn, The King’s Liverpool Regiment.
He is remembered on The Tyne Cot Memorial and the St John the Baptist Church Memorial, Burscough.
The second local man lost that day was 21 year-old Pte Peter Eccleston, son of Peter and Susannah Eccleston, of Ben Lane, Bickerstaffe.
Peter enlisted in November 1914 with the 9th King’s Liverpool Regiment and was wounded in France in March 1915, returning to active duty with the 64th Brigade, Machine Gun Corps in September 1916.
He died of wounds at the third Casualty Clearing station and is remembered on the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Ypres and the Holy Trinity Church Memorial, Bickerstaffe.
For more information on the men from the town and district lost during WW1 visit the Ormskirk and District Family History Society website at www.odfhs.website/pages/index. php or Lathom and Burscough Military Heritage at: http://lbmhs.co.uk/