The Great War 1914 -1918 Bacup Home Front Home 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919 Brothers in Arms Wounded Fern Hill Hospital Medals & Awards Empty Chairs Chit Chat Contact  Copyright Bacup & Stacksteads Great War
The New Year of 1915, brought  with it an expectation that there would be a recruiting boom, encouraged it was thought by a comment from another district “that the lads from Rossendale and districts were faint hearted and unpatriotic”. The Bacup Times printed letters from men already serving, the contents of one letter written by Driver Harry Turner read: “I have watched your list of men who have listed. But I am sorry to say it is not what it ought to be considering that there is something like 25,000 of population in Bacup. What are your young men doing now that you have got Christmas out of the way? Why don’t you list? Can’t you leave your football matches or pictures? How can you stop at home when your friends and colonials are fighting for you as well as anybody else? Can you stay at home and see our women and children murdered while you are enjoying yourselves, or are you waiting like a lot of cowards till they have to force you with conscription?” Perhaps Harry’s letter combined with the derision from other areas pricked some consciences either way as if to show what Harry had written was not the case, within the first week of 1915, 52 men from Bacup and 58 from Rawtenstall had rallied to the call and joined the colours, by May 1915, over 1,000 men from Bacup had enlisted since the start of the war. Belgian Refugees Between late August 1914 and May 1915 250,000 Belgian refugees came to Britain. Some of the first refugees in Rossendale arrived on the 23rd October and were housed at Edgeside Hall Waterfoot.  The first family to arrive in Bacup was a family from Antwerp they arrived on February 6th and were housed in a house on Ribble Street, the father Alphonsa Marivoet was a disabled ex-soldier; he was accompanied by his wife Paulina, and daughters Leonie, Lousa, and Rosane. The youngest member of the family Charles aged 9 months was critically ill with pneumonia he sadly died and was buried on the 10th February. A few days later a second family arrived and were housed at 105 New Line; the father Lesire Camwenberg aged 32, had worked as a railway engineer before fleeing with  his wife Octaive, and children Louis, Joannes, Petrius, Charles and Rosalia.

April Showers and Easter Dances

Bacup’s first Easter of the Great War was one spent under a dull and threatening sky. The rain began falling heavily on Good Friday cancelling out many arranged Good Friday rambles and the railway restrictions meant that many families choose to stay at home. Easter Saturday was one where the rain fell in a drizzle throughout the day and for the first time in their history the Rossendale Nutters as they were known at the time did not do their annual boundary dance.

Bacup’s First Military Funeral

On Tuesday 25th May, the war was brought closer to home than it had been previously with the first military funeral. That of  Private Fred Riding a member of the 2nd Battalion East Lancashire regiment Fred had already served almost seven years in the army and would ordinarily have completed his service had the war not broken out. Fred had sadly succumbed to blood poisoning after having his arm amputated. Fred’s funeral was organised by Lieut Colonel J Craven Hoyle. The funeral procession was headed by a firing party with drummer and bugler from the East Lancashire Territorial Battalion stationed at Burnley, who marched with rifles reversed to the beat of a muffled drum. Behind these came an open hearse, upon which was the coffin draped with a Union Jack and surmounted with several beautiful floral tokens. On each side of the hearse walked several soldiers, who acted as bearers and following was another detachment of the East Lancashire Territorials under the command of Lieutenant E .M. Wright, of Bacup, followed by a carriage carrying the family.  The streets of Bacup were thronged with sympathetic onlookers, with crowds gathering all the way to the cemetery the many mills and workshops along the way having stopped work to pay their respects. At the graveside besides Fred’s family and many local dignitaries stood several wounded soldiers from the local auxiliary hospital at Fern Hill. Following the committal by the Rev Vickers English, three volleys were fired over the grave and the Last Post sounded.


In 1914 the army was supplied by just 16 munitions factories. The BEF had suffered an acute shortage of munitions. In May 1915, a press release was issued which stated,“The Prime Minister has decided that a new department shall be created, to be called the Ministry of Munitions, charged with organising the supply of munitions of war. Mr Lloyd George has undertaken the formation and temporary direction of this department, and during his tenure of office as Minister of Munitions will vacate the office of Chancellor of the Exchequer.” In Rawtenstall the town hall was decorated by a flag advertising the opening of a new office for the registering  of munition workers.  By December 1915 a National Shell Factory had opened at Irwell Mill situated in what was once the weaving shed it was stocked with 40 borrowed lathes The first copper- banding press was converted from an old-brick-making press, while a steam hammer was used for bottling. The capital expenditure by 31st March 1918 was £7400. In October 1918 there were 180 workers of whom 66 per cent were women. The factory produced a total of 156,900 4.5-inch shells as part of the war effort. Alexandra, Forget Me Not & Flag Day On June 19th, Bacup held its first Alexandra Day of the war.  Alexandra Day, was  a charity fund-raising event inaugurated in 1912, on the 50th anniversary of the arrival in England of Alexandra of Denmark for her marriage to the future King Edward VI. Paper roses made by the crippled children of Bacup were sold by flower sellers throughout the streets of Bacup and Stacksteads and by visiting the various mills and factories. All the proceeds going to the various organisations in need. Flag day was organised and run by the British Red Cross and St Johns Ambulance Brigade.  Small flags emblazoned with the red cross emblem were sold throughout the streets, shops, factories and mills. The proceeds going towards helping to fund the Red Cross Hospitals overseas in places such as the Dardanelles, France and Egypt.

Absent Without Leave

News reports of absentees were not uncommon; the 6th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment was reported to have 150 members absent without leave in April 1915, four of these were Bacup soldiers. Two of the four were brothers named Private Matthew and James Walsh, the third soldier was Private Alfred Evans and the fourth was Private Thomas Mitchell.  When taken in front of the Magistrate at the Bacup Court House, Thomas stated he was absent because he had been vaccinated and had a note from the doctor saying he was unfit to return to his unit. Evans stated, when questioned by the Chief Constable, that he was trying to find new accommodation for his family who were at present living in a house riddled with damp.  The brothers Walsh gave no defence other than that they had heard their regiment wasn’t giving out extensions of leave and so decided to take the matter into their own hands. The men, who were all stationed at Blackdown Camp near Farnborough, were all detained to await military escort under instruction from the commanding officer of the regiment. This was also the decision by the magistrate in September 1916, when one soldier made the following headline “Picked his Regiment”. The soldier in question was Private Fred Miller of the Border Regiment, who was brought before the magistrates dressed in uniform but carrying a spare suit. He was charged with being an absentee from the Royal Field Artillery 9th reserve battery at Preston. Fred was a time expired man in the Territorials, who joined the Royal Field Artillery at Preston which he then deserted. He then went on to join the Royal Engineers and again he deserted, joining the Border Regiment.   When picked up by Police Constable Dixon he admitted to being absent without leave from the Royal Field Artillery but he said he had a pass on him from the Border Regiment after being granted a month’s sick leave following an operation for a rupture. The Chief Constable established that Fred had served in the Dardanelles and was discharged at the end of his service. Once back in Britain he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery, but didn’t like it and made himself an absentee coming home in uniform. He left his uniform going out in plain clothes and joined the Royal Engineers at which time he was posted to the Provincial Company where he once again absented himself and joined the Border Regiment. He had, said the Chief Constable “been choosing his own regiment”. In reply Fred stated he had been awarded sick leave by the Medical Officer commanding the Cheshire area. The magistrates remanded the prisoner to await escort, P.C. Dixon being awarded 5s for arresting the prisoner. This was the standard War Office reward, paid to a Police Constable, for the capture of an absent soldier. There is no record of what happened to Fred once he was taken back into military custody and I was only able to find information on one of the four from April 1915, this was Thomas Mitchell who was killed in action seven months after his return to barracks on the 11th November 1915. During 1916 over 20 men were remanded into custody to await military escort by Bacup Magistrates.  Between August 1914 and 31 March 1920, just over 3,000 were sentenced to death in British army courts martial. Offences included desertion (by far the most common capital crime), cowardice, murder, espionage, mutiny and striking a superior officer. The First Anniversary Towards the end of July, the Mayoress of Burnley, Mrs H Worsley, launched an appeal assisted by a Committee made up of Lady Maden as President and Mrs Craven Hoyle of Leabank Hall and Carrie Whitehead acting Joint Secretaries. The appeal was to raise funds to supply comforts to the men of 5th Battalion East Lancashire Regiment whose numbers were made up of men recruited from the Burnley, Accrington, Rossendale, and Ramsbottom district. The Mayoress in making her appeal asked the public to “remember that the East Lancashire Territorials were the first Territorial soldiers to leave England on the 11th of September 1914. They had earned the highest praise from General Sir John Maxwell for their conduct as men and their efficiency as soldiers during their service in Egypt. Now ordered to the Dardanelles they have met the stern realities of war and we should all be proud that this district has produced such gallant and noble men”. The Mayor on the first anniversary of the war declared his belief that over 1,500 men had enlisted and that he had initiated the start of a Roll of Honour, which he felt was important in order to hand down in posterity to show the names of the men who had answered their country’s call. In July the Government introduced the National Registration Act. The registration ,which in Bacup began on the 15th August, included amongst others the details and employment statistics of men aged 15 to 65. This register would enable the authorities to weed out those who could be called up for military service and those who should remain in civil employment.

The Derby Scheme

On the 11th October a man most Bacupians were familiar with Lord Derby was appointed the Director General of Recruiting. On the 16th of October he started a programme that was known as the Derby Scheme its officiel title was the Group Scheme. Under the scheme men aged 18 to 45 could enlist or attest and remain at home leaving only when called upon to do so. Those men who attested and chose to defer were classed as being in class A, those agreeing to immediate service were class B. Men in class A were paid a day's army pay for the day they attested  and then given a grey armband with a red crown as a sign that they had volunteered they were then officially transferred into Section B Army Reserve returning home until they were called up.  Men who attested under the Derby Scheme were put into 23 groups depending on their age and martital status.  The youngest single men for example aged 18 and single were in group 1 the oldest men aged 40 and single were in group 23. 18 year old married men were in group 23 and 40 year old married men were in group were in group 46. Those in group 1 were mobilised 25th Feb 1916. In Bacup recruitment under the Derby Scheme was reported as disappointing. Canvassers  visited various factories and mills in the district in particular the slipper factories, so as to get groups of men together, rather than singularly, it has to be said that a great deal of pressure was put on to any man who hadn’t already attested. One comment reported at the time was “ Waterfoot was not going to keep Kitcheners Army going”. The last day for recruitment under Derby Scheme was the 11th December 1915. 

A Second Wartime Christmas

On Sunday 7th November for the second time James Henry Lord accepted for the second time the office of Mayor. The following day the residents of Bacup awoke to find the hills and moorlands had been visited by an arctic visitation. Soon after 9am on Monday morning the snow began to fall thickly and the district was soon covered. For two hours the snow fell causing snow drifts of up to ten inches on the highest parts of the Rochdale tram system at Sheephouse and Britannia which resulted in a complete blockage between Whitworth and Bacup, with many evening commuters having to walk back to Whitworth and vice versa. At the Court Theatre (today’s Royal Court) a pantomime was performed of Red Riding Hood to entertain young and old alike, the members of the Irwell Springs Band decided to abandon their usual Christmas Eve carol service. The Bacup Times of 25th December carried the potraits of four local soldiers. Two who had died through illness, one killed in action and one missing. In the same issue, as though to illustrate that life carries on, was a guide on what to buy as presents for soldiers; leather waistcoats and trench boots along with eatables that would keep in case of postal delays such as cocoa and Yarmouth bloaters ( smoked fish ). The patients of Fern Hill enjoyed a concert party with songs provided by the Daisy Bank Concert party whose members were Miss Olive Greenhalgh, Miss Enid Greenhalgh, Miss Vera Greenhalgh, Miss Jessie Greenwood, Mr Fred Pickup, Mr E Clarke, Mr Fred Ashworth.


Special Constables
Jobs for Women By May, the Board of Trade had introduced a special register of women for war service. The circular issued at the time stated that women would be needed to work in the munitions and clothing factories, as well as work in the agricultural industries. The women of Bacup and Stacksteads were encouraged to fill in their details on the register. All the work gained through this register was paid work. A second circular shortly after announced work being available in areas such as dairy work,  farm work, leather stitching, brush making, clothing machinist, and light machinist for armaments. Training was often provided simply because as more and more enlisted the manufacturing industries needed to fill the mens places. For the first time ever two women took up positions of clerks in the offices of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company. Another job it was thought female labour was capable of doing was in the slipper industry. Unlike in other areas where heavy materials for making army boots were being made Rossendales slipper industry used soft light weight materials such as felt. With this is mind the first mens occupation in the slipper industry that the Board of Trade and the Men’s union felt suitable for women was the job of the clicker.
Reserved Occupations The Board of Trade  issued a list of reserved occupations covering the slipper works and cotton mills in December 1915. This meant  the men working in these occupations must not be attested except on condition that they return to work until called upon:-  Foremen  lasting machine operators, mechanics, electricians, stokers, overlookers, tacklers, foremen, strippers and grinders, blowing room men,  scutchers, and openers, carders, spinning masters, tapers, sizers, slashers, mechanics, electricians, engine tenters, stokers and firebeaters.  

Soldiers Who Died

The following is not a complete

list of 1915 deaths just those

that I have come across whilst


Ladies selling the paper roses on Alexandra Day. A little Bacup, girl wearing the arm band of the Derby Sceheme.
Special Constables Towards the end of January a meeting was held at the Bacup Court house in order to form a  force of  Special Constables, the men were picked by the Chief Constable and seconded by the Mayor. By the end of the evening 114 men had been sworn.    
Walter Dalton 30 01 1915 Joseph Shepherd 26 02 1915 Harry Calverley  18 03 1915 M McDonough 17 04 1915 Albert Woodhead 17 04 1915 Harry Purcell 18 04 2015 Thomas Jennings 18 04 1915 Fergus Milton Kay  05 05 1915 Peter Patterson 05 05 1915 George Pope 09 05 1915 Fred Riding 20 05 1915 Harry Rickard 22 05  1915 Spencer Turner 04 06 1915 George Crabtree 05 06 1915 E P Holland 17 06 1915 William King 02 07 1915 John Aspinall 10 07 1915 Cyril Burton 10 07 1915 Joseph Musk 20 07 1915 Robert O Camps 06 09 1915 Roy Crowther 09 08 1915 Fred Ridge 09 08 1915 Thomas Edge 09 08 1915 Wilfred Towse 22 09 1915 Joseph Shepherd 26 09 1915 Archie Thornhill 26 09 1915 John Wm Crossley 29 09 1915 Henry Savage 05 10 1915 Alfred Walkden 06 10 1915 Hardman Savory 07 10 1915 John Starkie  13 10 1915 Seth Jackson 03 11 1915 Thomas Mitchell 11 11 1915 Fred Akred 25 11 1915 Harry Stott 01 12 1915 William Everitt  01 12 1915 Albert Leach 10 12 1915 Horace Wilson 19 12 1915
   Life Goes On Much The Same

War Comforts

By the end of February fund-raising for war comforts in all forms was in full swing, and unlike today cigarettes or smokes as the British Tommies called them were thought of as a lifeline of the British Army. The War Illustrated was a British war magazine which first appeared on the 22nd August 1914. The December 30th 1914 edition carried an advertisement requesting the public to donate to a fund which would be used to send tobacco and cigarettes out to the lads at the front. One young Bacup girl Alice Monks, daughter of Mr and Mrs Fred Monks of Fir Trees, Rochdale Rd was touched by the advertisement and took it upon herself to make a small collection forwarding it to the War Illustrated.  A few weeks later she received the following letter. “Dear Miss Monks, I beg to be excused for writing to you. I saw your name and address on the cigarettes and tobacco sent out to the soldiers at the front. I was pleased to see the old town represented among the numerous presents we are receiving from the friends at home in England. I can assure you the presents are useful and welcome to the men in the trenches. No doubt you will be pleased as I do to learn that your present was received by several Bacup boys who are in the trenches. Thanking you for your kindness also on behalf of my comrades from Bacup, Yours John Flynn No 6309 A Company East Lancs 11th Brigade, 4th Division”.  Sadly John died from wounds received in 1916. Other war comforts were organised through the War Comforts Committee under the leadership of Mrs Horace Hall. The first 98 parcels were sent out on the 1st May 1916, over  the eighteen months that followed over 7,000 articles were sent out. These included 3,126 pairs of socks, 1,383 shirts, 1,076 jackets, and 283 pairs of pyjamas. By the end of February 1917 over 4818 parcels of comforts had been sent out to the lads at the front from the Bacup branch this figure had risen to over 12,000 by the end of October 1918 at a cost of over £3,000 with over 336 people engaged in the making and distribution.  
Enlistments  Jan - Dec 1915 Back to Bacuptimes 1915 1915 Special Constables