Photograph of Percy in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR4/17/298
(L to R) Military Medal; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; Special Constabulary Long Service Medal
Percy was born on the 10th August 1896 in Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester. He was baptised on the 1st November at All Saints Church. His father was called Charles and his mother was Mary Eliza. He had an older sister called Ethel May and a younger sister named Lillian.
When Percy was born his parents lived at 15 Lee Street in Chorlton, and Charles worked as a warehouseman. By 1901 they had moved to 66 Bridge Street in the All Saints area of South Manchester. Charles was a hoistman in a warehouse at this time. His job was to operate a lift or hoist for moving goods between floors.
Ten years later Charles was employed at a cotton goods warehouse, although we don't know which. Percy had also found work; he was an office boy in a firm that supplied cotton goods. The family now lived at 19 Blanshard Street in South Manchester.
In the years before the First World War Percy worked for Hogg and Mitchell. This may also have been the cotton supplier he worked for in 1911. By 1914 he lived at 28 Wellington Street in Moss Side, Manchester.
As well as working for Hogg and Mitchell, Percy joined the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in spring 1913. He was given the service number 1655. This unit was based on Stretford Road in the Hulme area of Manchester. It was part of the Territorial Force, which meant that Percy and his comrades kept their civilian homes and jobs. They trained with the battalion during evenings and weekends, as well as an annual training camp lasting around 2 weeks.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and along with the rest of the Territorial Force Percy was called into service. He was sent to Egypt in early September and arrived there on the 25th. After garrisoning the country and training the 6th Battalion landed in Gallipoli on the 6th May 1915.
Percy did not go with them. He was still in the UK on the 15th May, when he wrote this letter to his sister May.
Going down south to Crowborough tonight Saturday on ... 11-10 train ... + this is a sample of our ration. We will arrive in London 6-30 Sunday and then entrain to our huts.
Don't write until I let you know my new address.
Trusting you are well, Percy. xx
P.S. What have I done to d... this.
The 'sample of our ration' was a hard tack biscuit. Rather than using paper, Percy had written his note on it! The missing words have crumbled away.
Percy must have left the UK soon after this, because he arrived in Gallipoli on the 23rd July. The 6th Battalion had taken heavy casualties there by this point, so reinforcements such as Percy were badly needed.
The battalion served in Gallipoli until the end of the year. After early August there were very few large battles, but holding trenches under Turkish artillery and sniper fire was still dangerous. In addition, towards the end of the year the weather turned cold and wet, making life even more uncomfortable for the British.
The 6th Battalion left Gallipoli on the 8th January 1916 and returned to Egypt. They formed part of the force defending the Suez Canal from a Turkish attack. This involved spending a great deal of time living in basic conditions amongst the sand dunes of the Sinai Desert.
During the second half of 1916 the British were able to stop the Turks and begin to push them back into the Sinai. The 6th Battalion would not take part in this advance though. On the 3rd March 1917 they set sail for France, arriving on the 10th. They then moved north and took their place on the Western Front.
At around the same time soldiers serving in units of the Territorial Force were given new service numbers. The 6th Battalion was allocated the range 250001 to 275000. Percy's new number was 250177.
During the summer of 1917 the 1/6th Battalion (as it had been renamed) served around Epehy and Havrincourt. In late August they moved north to the Ypres area of Belgium. They played a small part in the Passchendaele Offensive that was fought there during the autumn and then held the front line at Nieuwpoort, or Nieuport, on the North Sea coast.
By the 1st November Percy had been promoted to Sergeant. On this day he carried out an act of great bravery 'East of Nieuport'. He was awarded the Military Medal in the London Gazette of the 4th February 1918. Unlike the majority of Military Medal citations, Percy's has survived:
For devotion to duty while on a working party repairing a dam which had been broken by enemy shell fire. The work was carried out under very trying circumstances and heavy shelling, and a serious situation was thereby saved.
At some point before he was awarded the Military Medal Percy was wounded. We don't know when or what happened to him, but it was clearly not serious enough to keep him away from his comrades at the front.
Percy left Belgium during November and by early December he was stationed near Givenchy in France. After serving in the front lines during January 1918 the battalion spent February in the rear, training and resting.
On the 21st March 1918 the German Army launched a huge offensive against the British and French Armies. They hoped to win the war before too many American troops could arrive to fight them. At first the attack was extremely successful. Many Allied units were cut off and forced to retreat.
At the time the 1/6th Battalion was in reserve, but they were quickly transported to the front. They took part in the desperate fighting that stopped the German advance during March and April. The British began their own advance in early August, and this continued until the end of the war on the 11th November.
Percy returned to Manchester after he was demobilised from the Army. Between January and March 1921 he married Mabel Annie Holt in nearby Stockport. Their only son, Norman, was born on the 21st November 1923 in Manchester.
Percy was a member of the Cheshire Special Constabulary for long enough to be awarded the Special Constabulary Long Service Medal. This was normally awarded for 9 year's service, although if he had been a member during the Second World War he could count his service 3 times.
By the early 1950s Percy and Mabel lived at 522 Stockport Road in Thelwall, near Warrington in Cheshire. In late 1952 he was taken ill and admitted to Warrington General Hospital. He died there on the 8th December, aged 56.
Mabel died in Warrington between October and December 1978. She was 82. Norman became a draughtsman and eventually moved to Farnsfield near Newark in Nottinghamshire. He kept Percy's medals in his bedside drawer until he died in December 2004 at the age of 81.
Percy's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in August 2008.