Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

James Alfred Ruddock

James Alfred Ruddock : Photograph of Jim in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: MR4/20/102

Photograph of Jim in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR4/20/102

James Alfred Ruddock : (L to R) Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'South Africa 1901', 'South Africa 1902'; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; 1939-45 Defence Medal; Territorial Efficiency Medal

(L to R) Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'South Africa 1901', 'South Africa 1902'; 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal; 1939-45 Defence Medal; Territorial Efficiency Medal

Jim, as he was known in the Army, was born on the 2nd June 1881 in Beswick, Manchester. He was baptised at Saint Mary's Parish Church in Beswick on the 3rd July. He was named after his father and his mother was called Louisa. He had 5 older sisters; Maria, Alice, Elizabeth, Ellen and Edith, and 2 younger siblings; Frederick and Lillian. The family were members of the Church of England.

James senior worked as a glass blower throughout his life, in 1891 and 1901 he made wine glasses. When Jim was born the family lived at 5 Purslow Street in Beswick. Lillian was born in around 1887, and by 1891 Louisa had died. In this year James and his children lived at 19 Forrest Street.

By early 1901 Jim worked as a metal polisher. We believe he lived with his father, Ellen and Lillian at 16 Junction Street in Ancoats, Manchester. He was also a member of the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Volunteer Force based on Burlington Street in Manchester.

As a Volunteer Jim kept his civilian home and job, and trained as a soldier during evenings and weekends. He would also go on an annual training camp lasting around 2 weeks. We don't know when he originally enlisted.

In October 1899 the Boer War broke out in South Africa. It had begun because of tensions between British and Boer settlers in the country. The British Army suffered some serious defeats during the early months of the war and began to send reinforcements to the country.

The Volunteer Force was not organised or trained to fight abroad, but units were asked to form Volunteer Service Companies (VSC) that could be sent to South Africa and attached to Regular Army battalions.

Two VSCs had already been formed by the Manchester Regiment and had served in South Africa by the time Jim volunteered on the 12th February 1901. He was accepted into the 3rd VSC and given the service number 8280. When he enlisted Jim was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 139 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair.

The 3rd VSC sailed for South Africa on the 15th March. It joined the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, which had been in the country for almost a year. By this time the main role of the 2nd Battalion was to man blockhouses and take part in long patrols of the countryside. This was aimed at restricting the movements of Boer fighters and forcing them to face the British. The strategy was successful and the war ended on the 31st May 1902.

Jim and the rest of the 3rd VSC returned to the UK on the 25th June. He was demobilised on the 1st July and returned home to 16 Junction Street. He continued to work as a polisher.

James senior died on the 12th April 1905, still living at 16 Junction Street. Although we don't know when, Jim had gone to live at 11 Princess Street in Harpurhey, Manchester. On the 7th August of that year he married his next door neighbour Ann Tomlinson at Harpurhey Parish Church.

Jim and Ann made their home in the Moston area of Manchester. Their son James was born on the 10th January 1906 and their daughter Gwen on the 8th March 1909. In 1911 they lived at 11 Mellor Street in Moston. Jim still worked as a brass polisher.

The couple had lost one other child since their wedding. We don't know its name. They would have 2 more children, Dennis on the 28th November 1912 and Joan on the 17th May 1915.

The Boer War had shown that the Volunteer Force was not particularly useful to the Army. Additionally, by 1907 it was in financial difficulties. On the 1st April 1908 the Volunteer Force became the Territorial Force. This was much more closely linked to the Regular Army. The 4th Volunteer Battalion became the 7th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Jim had either left by this time, or decided not to become a Territorial.

In March 1914 Jim changed his mind. He enlisted in the 7th Battalion on the 23rd and was given the service number 2174. He was now a brass finisher, and at this time he worked for Mr Mundell on Moss Lane in Hulme. He was now 5 feet 6 1/2 inches tall and weighed 143 pounds.

The First World War broke out that August and the 7th Battalion was called into service. They were sent overseas on the 10th September and arrived in Egypt on the 25th. Half of B Company did not land in Egypt and were sent to Cyprus; the rest of the battalion sailed down the Suez Canal to Khartoum in Sudan. We don't know which unit Jim was with.

The Battalion was based here until April 1915. It had many jobs, mainly based around guarding important points such as the Governor-General's Palace and railway lines.

In April the renamed 1/7th Battalion returned to Egypt and joined their comrades preparing for the invasion of Gallipoli. The battalion landed on this Turkish territory on the 7th May. We don't know whether Jim was wounded or taken ill at any point during his time in Gallipoli.

Within days the battalion was in the front line and taking casualties from the Turkish defenders. On the 4th June the British launched a large attack on the village of Krithia. Jim and the 1/7th Battalion advanced further than most British units, but this meant when the Turks counter attacked they were cut off and forced to withdraw without capturing the village.

The 1/7th Battalion lost many men killed and wounded during this fighting. Their next large operation took place on the 6th and 7th August, again in the Krithia area, and again unsuccessfully.

From then on life in Gallipoli was quieter, but no less dangerous. The 1/7th Battalion took its turn in the front line and in the rear; it took casualties from Turkish snipers and artillery as well as losing men to diseases such as diarrhoea and dysentery.

The 1/7th Battalion left Gallipoli on the 21st January 1916 and returned to Egypt. They moved into the Sinai Desert and began preparing defences to protect the Suez Canal against a Turkish attack.

In March 1917 Jim and the 1/7th Battalion was sent to the Western Front in France and Belgium. At around the same time soldiers serving in Territorial units were given new service numbers: Jim's became 275470. He was promoted to Corporal during his service.

The 1/7th Battalion fought at Havrincourt during April 1917. In late July they moved to Achiet-le-Grand. Here, during August Jim fell ill. He suffered from myalgia, or muscle pain. As he said later, he 'gradually stiffened up with muscular pain'. He reported sick and was sent to Number 9 General Hospital in Rouen.

Jim did not recover, so he was sent back to the UK for more treatment. He was admitted to Woodside Red Cross Hospital in Springburn, Glasgow on the 17th August. By December he had transferred to the 2nd Northern General Hospital in Leeds, Yorkshire.

During December the Army considered transferring Jim to the Class P(T) or Class W(T) Reserve, so that he could return to his civilian job. We don't know whether this actually happened. His family lived at 91 Hall Street in Moston at this time.

Eventually Jim recovered enough to return to duty in the UK. He was posted to B Company of the 8th (Reserve) Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, although we don't know when. They moved from Hunmanby in Yorkshire to nearby Filey in April 1918.

On the 12th September 1918 Jim left the Manchester Regiment. He was transferred to the London Electrical Engineers, a Territorial Force unit of the Royal Engineers. He was given the service number 442853. Jim was assigned to the 16th Fortress Company.

Fortress Companies were used to defend the British coast. The London Electrical Engineers controlled all the Electric Light (searchlight) units in the UK. Some were used to defend against enemy ships, others against aircraft. Jim was in an anti-aircraft unit. We know this because on the 14th August 1919 he qualified as an engine driver, so he could now tow the searchlights.

We don't believe Jim served overseas again before the end of the war in November 1918. He seems to have stayed with the 16th Company until the 31st March 1920.

The next day Jim re-enlisted in the 7th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Shortly afterwards his service number became 3511581. Now that the war was over, this unit was back to training during evenings and weekends.

During 1921 Jim was an early recipient of the Territorial Efficiency Medal. This had been instituted earlier that year to reward 12 years' service, although Jim was allowed to count his service during the First World War twice.

In late 1921 the 7th Battalion merged with the 6th Battalion to form the 6/7th Battalion. Jim applied to carry on serving. He was promoted to Sergeant in the new unit on the 1st February 1922.

We believe Jim had continued to work as a metal grinder and polisher when he wasn't training with the 6/7th Battalion. He finally left the Army on the 31st March 1929. He did not cut his links with the 7th Battalion; he was an active member of its Old Comrade's Association (OCA), especially after the Second World War. He continued to attend reunions and remembrance services until the early 1960s.

On the 5th July 1953 Jim was one of 9 representatives of the 7th Battalion who attended the new Queen Elizabeth's Royal Review of Ex Servicemen in Hyde Park in London. Fred Bamber and James Harrison, whose medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection, were two of the other eight. Even in his 70s, Jim was still 'a very fit specimen'.

By this time Jim and Ann lived at 114 Atwood Road in Didsbury, Manchester. She died in February 1964 aged 80 and was buried in grave 313 of St John's Church in Pendlebury. Jim was 84 when he died on the 8th December 1965. He was buried with her on the 13th.

Jim's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment shortly before he died, in September 1965.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council