Didsbury War Memorial - Kathryn's history blog

Monday, 8 February 2016

Didsbury War Memorial

The Didsbury war memorial cross is located on the Wilmslow Road high street, in the grounds of the library close to the crossroads with Barlow Moor Road. The library itself was completed in 1911 on the site of a bowling green and the limestone war memorial was added sometime between 1920 and 1925. A dedication was later added with the Second World War names. The nameplates from both wars were replaced in 1996 through public funding.

 

There are 170 names from the First World War, which are listed here.

1925: Chris Makepeace, Villages of Manchester

A few memorial names...

Frederick Booth

The highest decorated soldier on the memorial is Frederick Booth, winner of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). He was born as the second of five children to parents Frederick and Martha of Cheadle in 1881. The family later lived at 3 Street Buildings, Didsbury. He enlisted in the army in 1901 as a 5' 3 and 1/4" tall 19-year-old, who had a sallow complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes. It is perhaps for his height, at the very lowest limit of what was accepted in the military, that he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Booth first saw active service in the final months of the Boer War in South Africa in 1902. He spent much of his pre-1914 career in South Africa, as well as two periods in St Helena and India. The RAMC is non-combatant and while Booth's exact role is not known (he does not appear to have received medical training) he worked his way up from the rank of private to staff sargeant, as well as earning a certificate of High Class Cooking from the National Training School of Cookery.

At the outbreak of the First World War Booth was stationed in South Africa, returning in November 1914 to spend four months at home in Britain, with his wife Sarah (nee Dewsbury) and his infant son George William at their home in Nuneaton. This was to be the last time he saw his son as just three months later George died from measles.

Booth arrived in Egypt with the Expeditionary Force on 2nd March 1915. There was a long-established military base in Egypt which was primarily used as a defensive position to ensure safe passage through the key trade route of the Suez Canal. From July 1915 until January 1916 it was also used as an outpost for the doomed Gallipoli campaign, where reserves could be brought in from and where some of the injured were evacuated to.

The DCM (source)
He served in Egypt for the rest of the Great War. During this time he was awarded the DCM in June 1916 'for excellent work. He was in charge of an advanced depot of medical stores for a considerable time and kept up supplies to troops and hospitals often under shell fire.' His hard work was also rewarded in July 1917 when he was promoted to staff sergeant, which was a 2nd class rank within the forces. His warrant officer commended him in his personal records as a 'reliable, hard-working man'.

Booth returned from Africa in August 1919 and a month later was discharged from the forces as he was suffering from tuberculosis. He was 37 and had completed 18 years of service. He died from his illness on 19th March 1920, six months after his discharge and is buried in Stafford Cemetery, close to where his wife had been living.

Cecil (Boyes) Goldschmidt

It is unusual to see German surnames listed on war memorials. Anti-German sentiment during the war meant that many with Germanic names either changed or anglicised them - most notably the royal family changed from Saxe-Couberg and Gotha to the more patriotic Windsor - while others were treated with strong suspicion. Cecil Goldschmidt was born in Yorkshire (Leeds, York and Beverley are all listed as birthplaces)  in 1889. He was raised in Withington and Didsbury by his uncle Rudolf Goldschmidt, who had been born in Germany. Rudolf was employed as shipping merchant for a cotton mill but it is not known whether it was this employment that brought the family to England.

Cecil was educated at Manchester Grammar School, where he is remembered on the roll of honour. During his education he used the surnames 'Boyes' which makes it especially interesting that he went by Goldschmidt in the army. He had worked as a student architect after leaving school. He enlisted early in the war and served in multiple battalions of the Royal Fusiliers, starting with the 20th (Public Schools) Battalion. He went to France on 14th November, 1915 but the division didn't go "over the top" until the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. It is unlikely that Goldschmidt fought here as he had been injured on 23rd June.
Men of Hut 18, in March 1915
Members of 20th battalion, Royal Fusiliers in training. (source)
He returned to the front in October and was injured again the following May, when he went to Dover for treatment. He returned again, moving with the 9th battalion from Arras on the Somme south-east to Cambrai. The Cambrai Offensive began strongly on 20th November, with the subsequent headlines declaring 'Haig through the Hindenburg Line'. However, in the coming days the snow began to fall and with ever decreasing tanks, the battle ground towards a halt in the dense Bourlon Woodland.

Goldschmidt died on the first day of the German counter-attack, 30th November. His division largely held their line at La Vacquerie but suffered a heavy artillery bombardment from early in the morning. His body was lost; his name remembered on the Cambrai Memorial. The following week, as the Cambrai crisis worsened, the unit would be relieved.
(Many thanks to David Bell for providing me with the photo of Cecil.)

Edward Shawcross

Edward Shawcross was the only son of Charles and Elizabeth, residents of 13 Chapel Street, Didsbury. Prior to military service he had been employed by Vickers and Co of Gatley. He enlisted locally into the Lancashire Fusiliers, and was likely to have been first into battle on the infamous First Day of the Battle of the Somme. The 4th Division's attack from Serre towards Beaumont Hamel was initially successful and they captured their target of 'The Quadrilateral'. Shawcross's Lancashire Fusiliers defended the raised ground alongside the Seaforth Highlanders for the rest of the day. It was here that the Highland Drummer Walter Ritchie won the Victoria Cross as he beat out the charge of the attack. Unfortunately, the German counter-attack the following day regained territory, at a cost of 4,600 British lives.

The Lancashire Fusiliers remained in the Somme region through to the end of the battle in November and then continued in the area to hold the line. Shawcross died on 27th January, 1917 and is buried at the Peronne Road Cemetery in Maricourt, at the lower end of the British line on the Somme. The cemetery was close to a field ambulance station, so it is likely that he died either of illness or injury. Throughout November there had been constant rain in the Somme region, making the heavily shelled ground unstable. It was very difficult for men in the trenches to get dry and incidences of 'trench foot' infections and gangrene were particularly high in these conditions. It is not known what the cause of Shawcross's death was.

Kathryn
PS. If you would like to know about any other names on the Disbury memorial, or have information you which to share please don't hesitate to get in contact.

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