In the lead-up to Remembrance Sunday I intended to write a short series of blogs about Stockport Scouts in World War I, but life – in the form of a short-circuiting extractor fan motor, a fire brigade callout and the subsequent 10-day clean up of smoke and water damage to the kitchen – rather put paid to that. However, here is a first instalment, with the promise of more to come...
Why Stockport Scouts? An easy choice! I grew up in Stockport and my family has been involved in Scouting/Guiding for three generations, starting with my father, who was a Wolf Cub in the pack run by his older brother in the 1930s, and later a Boy Scout (as they were then known), before coming back to Scouting as a leader in the early 1970s. My siblings and I were all Scouts or Guides in Heaton Chapel, with two of us subsequently becoming leaders, and although we no longer live there, the tradition has been passed on to our children in various parts of England, Scotland and France.
At the outbreak of World War I the Scout movement was only seven years old, but had grown like wildfire since Robert Baden-Powell’s famous camp on Brownsea Island in 1907 and the publication of “Scouting For Boys” the following year. In spite of this, the war could have sounded the death knell of the young movement as its leaders and older members volunteered or were conscripted for service, but younger Scouts rose to the occasion: patrol leaders took on the responsibility of running troops, and Scouts contributed in many ways to the war effort, as I hope to show later.
In Stockport, one of the first newspaper articles I found regarding local Scouts in WWI recounted the opening of “The Roost”, the brand-new headquarters of the 1st Heaton Chapel Scouts in 1915. Speeches by the County Commissioner and the Mayor of Stockport were unashamedly patriotic, as the following excepts show.
“At no time in the history of this country, when we were at war, was the Boy Scouts movement more valuable and important than at the present.”
“The number of Boy Scouts had been very materially altered by the war, but amongst the feelings and horror of this iniquitous war one thing the people of this country looked upon with pride – that was the enormous increase of loyalty among all classes in the nation: men, women and children had answered the call in our nation’s need.”
“The Boy Scouts were playing a splendid part in the war in which this nation was engaged, and no doubt many of the boys there were burning with enthusiasm for the time when they would be fit to take their share in the war. They were already taking their part, not in active service at the front, but they were training themselves in clean, manly habits, and in discipline preparing themselves for the time when they could take a more active part in a just cause.”
To conclude the official addresses, a list was read out of fourteen local Scouts serving in the forces as well as three on coastguard duty. I have added brief details of what I know about their service.
Patrol Leader H. Brocklebank - Duke of Lancaster’s Yeomanry. Herbert Brocklebank was born in 1897 and lived on Ellesmere Road. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant at the end of 1915 and posted to the 19th Hussars before going out to France in January 1917. He was later transferred to the Irish Horse and ended the war with the rank of lieutenant.
Scout L. Giesenberg – Lancashire Fusiliers. I have written previously about Ludwig Giesenberg (later known as Louis Gee), who lived on Peel Moat Road: he was born on 4 March 1900 and first attempted to enlist when he was just 14. At the time this article was written he was still only 15, and it is unclear how long he managed to remain in the army, as he definitely did not see active service with the Lancashire Fusiliers.
Scout H. Goodwill – 20th Service Battalion, Manchester Regiment. I have not been able to identify this young man (whose name was very hard to read), but he was one of four Scouts mentioned here who joined a Manchester “Pals” battalion.
Scout A. Green – Seaforth Highlanders. Albert Green, who lived on Tatton Road South, was born in 1897 and probably joined the army in January 1915. He was drafted to France in April 1915 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 27 November 1917. He remained with the Seaforth Highlanders throughout his army service, ending the war with the rank of lieutenant.
Assistant Scoutmaster W. F. Higson – 20th Service Battalion, Manchester Regiment. William Frederick Higson was born in Levenshulme in 1891 and enlisted in the Manchester Regiment on 16 November 1914. He was drafted to France on 9 November 1915 and remained there for over four years, with (apparently) just one period of leave in 1917. William was promoted to corporal and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in January 1919 shortly before his discharge from the army.
Scout J. Kilvert - 20th Service Battalion, Manchester Regiment. James Henry Kilvert was born in 1895 and lived in Heathfield Avenue. He enlisted in the Manchester Regiment on 17 November 1914 but never went overseas: due to an unspecified health issue, he was discharged from the army as physically unfit for further service on 2 August 1916.
Hon. Scoutmaster Dr. A . J. Middleton – Royal Army Medical Corps. The only man with this name in the RAMC as far as I can see was a clerk, not a doctor, so is presumably not the right man. There is no obvious candidate living locally on the 1911 census, so for now the honorary Scoutmaster remains unidentified.
Scout C. Paine – 7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment. Charles Edmund Paine, who lived in Howard Road, was born in 1897 and joined the 6th Battalion, Manchester Regiment (not the 7th as stated in the newspaper article) on 22 September 1914. Although he was only 17 at the time, Territorial battalions such as the 6th accepted recruits a year younger than regular battalions, with the proviso that they should not serve overseas before they were 19. Charles was duly drafted to France on 4 August 1916 and shortly afterwards was transferred to the 22nd Battalion, Manchester Regiment. He was attached to the Machine Gun Corps later in the war, and although he appears to have escaped major injury, he was hospitalised with appendicitis in July 1918 and probably took no further active part in the war.
Assistant Scoutmaster L. G. Robinson – Army Cyclist Corps. Leslie George Robinson was not originally from Stockport and was probably born in London in 1891. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant from Manchester University OTC on 3 September 1913 and was drafted to France with the Army Cyclist Corps in April 1915. After being promoted to lieutenant he was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and was awarded the Military Cross on 1 January 1917.
Scout H. Saull - 20th Service Battalion, Manchester Regiment. Harold Vincent Saull was born in 1897 and lived in Norman Road. The battalion named in the newspaper article is incorrect: Harold actually enlisted in the 7th (Territorial) Battalion, Manchester Regiment in September 1914 aged 17. He was drafted to France on 2 August 1915 (when he was still under the official minimum age for overseas service) and was later transferred to the 2nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He was awarded the Military Medal during his time with the Royal Fusiliers and ended the war as a corporal. When Harold was discharged from the army on 12 April 1919, he was granted a small temporary disability pension for “debility” – usually used to mean weakness or poor health following illness or injury.
Second C. Tyson - 7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment. Cyril Tyson, who lived on Wellington Road North, was born in 1896 and enlisted in the 7th (Territorial) Battalion, Manchester Regiment on 13 May 1915. He was drafted to Egypt to serve with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 13 July like 1916, but after spending two months in hospital in Cairo at the beginning of 1917 he was transferred to the Cheshire Regiment, and from there to the Royal Army Medical Corps in March 1918. Cyril served as a nursing orderly in the RAMC and sadly contracted pneumonia through his exposure to infection in the course of his duties: he died in Cairo Hospital on 10 October 1918. He is recorded on the Stockport and Heaton Moor/Heaton Chapel war memorials.
Scout E. A. Vine – Rifle Brigade. Ernest Albert John Vine must have lied about his age to enlist because the only man of that name was born in July 1899 and he had joined the Rifle Brigade by January 1915. He lived in Brook Road but was originally from London. Ernest was drafted to France on 2 May 1915 and later transferred to the Tank Corps, where he was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 30 January 1918.
Second W. Woodyer – 19th Service Battalion, Manchester Regiment. William Percival Woodyer was born in 1895 and lived in Buckingham Road. He enlisted in the Manchester Regiment on 8 September 1914 and was drafted to France on 8 November 1915. William was wounded in the knee in July 1916 and was reported to be “doing well” in hospital in Boulogne, but he was discharged from the army as no longer physically fit for service on 18 December 1918.
Scout W. Wrigley - 7th Battalion, Manchester Regiment. This is possibly William Wrigley, a young man born in 1895 who was living in Slade Lane, Levenshulme when he enlisted on 12 November 1914
King’s Scout Patrol Leader C. Roey(?) – coastguard duty. (This name was very hard to read and I cannot identify him.)
Second F. Bromley - coastguard duty. Possibly Frederick Hewitt Bromley, who was born in 1899 and lived in Colenso Grove.
Scout E. Stanley - coastguard duty. (Not identified.)
(Taken from the Alderley & Wilmslow Advertiser, 1 October 1915.)
Several of the Scouts named here can be found in the database on my free website dedicated to World War I servicemen from the Heatons and Reddish.