I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a while and have finally got round to it. I really hope you enjoy reading this, as much as we have enjoyed researching Cecil and finding out more about his time at war.
I never met Cecil, but have had his medals, (Pip, Squeak and Wilfred) stored in my cupboard since I can remember. It seemed such a shame to have them hidden away, so a couple of years ago my mum and dad made a medal board which now sits pride of place in our back room. The medals were cleaned up and are now shining! We owned just one photo of Cecil and his Manchester Regiment plate, but did not know all that much about where he had been or where his regiment had campaigned. We eventually ended up in the Manchester archives, determined to find out more about his regiment and where they may have gone.
We were told by the archivist that Cecil’s records may have been lost after the archive was bombed during WWII, but were extremely lucky to find his records intact.
Cecil lived in Bradwell, Derbyshire and became a member of the 11th Battalion, Manchester Regiment – regimental number 24705. He enlisted at the age of 19, size 5 foot and 4 inches. He joined in Manchester on 29th May 1915. Distinctive marks included 2 moles and a scar above his right shin.
After being admitted to hospital for back pain (not sure if shot) in 1916, he spent 33 days recovering before being discharged. He was a bit of a cheeky rogue, receiving punishments for a noted absence from his billet in 1917, for drunkenness in 1918 and for some other (little!) misdemeanour later on in the year.
Cecil was awarded the 1914-1915 star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He transferred to Class Z on 15th March 1919 before returning to civilian life.
The 11th battalion was involved in many campaigns during WW1 including:
- Suvla (landing at Suvla)
- Scimitar Hill
- Somme 1916
- Flers Courcelette
- Ancre Heights
- Messines 1917
- Ypres 1917
- Langemarck 1917
- Hindenburg Line
Cecil’s brother, Lionel Middleton, enlisted with the 1st/6th Battalion with the Northumberland Fusiliers Territorial Force. Service number: 7823. Unfortunately Lionel died on 24th October 1916 and is buried in Dartmoor Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt.
A huge thanks to Andrew Holmes (@agh57) who took this wonderful photo of Lionel’s war grave:
We do not know much more about Lionel’s service, but own a commemorative silk bookmark, presented to his parents after his death:
“Sweet Jesus, receive the soul of Pte. Lionel Middleton, 15403 Sherwood Foresters, (Notts & Derby Regt), Att. to Northumberland Fusiliers”
This is the story of two brothers who went to war. One survived, one was killed in action. Through the records that have survived in an archive, and the few medals we owned, we have been able to reconstruct a tiny bit of their story and are thrilled to know more about the Middleton brothers.
Thanks for reading!
*Update August 2013:* When I logged onto wordpress today I found a message from the lovely Tim Bell (http://17thmanchesters.wordpress.com/) which I just have to share with you. Tim has very kindly taken the time to search through Cecil’s service records, managing to find out even more about his life and time at war. I am extremely grateful for all of his help and will post his message here for you to see. (I still can’t get over his promotion and demotion – what a cheeky chap!)
I re-read your post and it encouraged me to look at Cecil’s Service Record. There are some interesting aspects that you may not have noted. It appears Cecil originally enlisted in the 3rd Bttn. but he was also posted with 8th, 11th, B Company 20th (5th Pals) & 69th (Training Reserve). This is not uncommon, particularly when men were wounded.He served in the Mediterranean theatre (perhaps) and also France. Cecil was promoted L/Cpl and then lost his stripe for drunkenness. It appears he was wounded in the back on 2nd Sept. 1916 while serving with the 11th. On this date the 11th didn’t appear to be at the front, so I can’t explain the wounds. The record does say wounded, rather than accident though.http://www.themanchesters.org/11th%20batt.htm
There are two Service Histories on Ancestry. The members of thehttp://themanchesters.org/forum/index.php will be happy to assist you with identifying from War Diairies where each Battalion was situated at the relevant times. You’re so fortunate to have the Service Records!
Thanks to Tim, Andrew and all who have helped me and commented on this blog post.