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The 7th Manchesters at War

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The 7th Manchesters at War
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Gerald B. Hurst & S. J. Wilson
Date Published: 2010/04
Page Count: 244
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-117-1
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-118-8

With the Manchesters in the East by Gerald B. Hurst
The Seventh Manchesters by S. J. Wilson

From Africa to Flanders mud with the Mancunians

Predictably, the nation’s second city provided many battalions of its working men to fight in the battles of the Great War. This book concerns one of them—the 7th. What makes this volume especially interesting is that it contains two previously separately published books—each by an author intimate with the 7th Manchesters—that chart in natural progression its exploits during the Great War. In the first book we find the 7th garrisoned in the Sudan before its movement to the Dardanelle’s to take part in the ill-fated Gallipoli Campaign. After withdrawal it returned to Egypt where it took part in the operations to clear Sinai of the Ottoman Turkish Army prior to the conquest of the Holy Land. The first author, Gerald Hurst was on hand to provide Wilson’s book on the doings of the 7th during its time serving on the Western Front with its introduction. So this special Leonaur edition provides a seamless account from the outbreak of war to its conclusion for a battalion which saw constant action living up to its motto ‘We never sleep.’

Careful reconnaissance during the preceding nights, and long scrutiny by day through telescopes and field glasses left no doubt as to the weak spot in the Hun armour. He had placed low wire in front of the copse but had no protection on the flanks. A track leading from the front line showed how his men moved up to occupy this outpost position and also the probable route taken by patrols. As it also seemed evident that the copse was held at night only, the plan of the raid was obviously to give the enemy ample time to settle down in the outpost, and then dispose the raiding party so as to strike in on an exposed flank.<br>
The western side was selected, because there was little or no danger from the canal, and it left the 8th a free hand to deal with “Dean Copse.” At the appointed time our men filed quietly along and got into position across the track without any alarm being raised. Lewis guns were posted at one or two points to cut off retreating Huns. At 1.8 a.m. exactly, our guns opened fire, not upon the copse of course, but upon the enemy main lines. A remarkably good and accurate barrage was put down on the German front line, which formed a crescent within which lay the two copses, especially on known M.G. positions; while, by request, the Australian heavy guns from the next divisional sector northwards joined in with crumps on strong points behind the front line. Simultaneously the raiding party leaped up and rushed into the copse like howling dervishes.<br>
Some hours of a deathly, eerie silence, the nerve-racking quality of which is only known to those who have experienced it, and made all the more impressive by the fact that it occurred on a front which is not usually quiet, was followed by a sudden din and an unexplained mad charge of the hated English. It must have put the fear of God into the Germans of “Wigan Copse,” for they made no effort to resist and tried to “run for it.” In fact one poor devil—a youngster—who had been lying out in the grass on sentry (but must have been doing his work rather badly) got up and ran with our men. Hodge noticing his unusual headgear, seized him by the scruff of the neck and flung him bodily, rifle and everything, back to his men. No one wanted him at the moment, for the “fun” in the copse had to be encountered yet, and he went from hand to hand until one of the covering parties took him in charge.<br>
Two more prisoners were secured on the edge of the copse. Several other Germans who offered resistance were bayonetted while Hodge shot one or two with his revolver. Then it was discovered that the Hun had not left himself so badly protected as we had thought. Interlaced among the branches and shrubs at about five feet from the ground were strands of barbed wire which caused a few nasty cuts and scratches on the faces of some of our men. It was found to be impossible to go through the copse because of this, but Hodge had good reason to be satisfied with the night’s work. He had secured his toll of prisoners as ordered, without sustaining a single casualty, and had inflicted other casualties on the enemy, for his men had emptied rifles and Lewis guns at the few flying Boche and into the copse, so he gave the word to withdraw. The men had crawled out at the beginning like fighting cocks, but they came back like roaring lions. They were naturally in a great state of excitement, because it was their first venture of this sort, and it had been crowned, after a glorious five minutes’ rough and tumble, with unqualified success.<br>
2nd-Lt. Hodge was decorated with the Military Cross for this feat—the first M.C. in the division in France—and this was really the beginning of a brilliant career for him as a soldier. He was eventually transferred as a Company Commander to the 5th East Lancs. with whom he obtained the D.S.O. From there he progressed to Major with the L.F’s., and finally finished the war as Commanding Officer of the 8th Manchesters, leading back the cadre of that battalion to Ardwick Green in March, 1919. He is unreservedly one of the officers whom the Fleur de Lys are proud to claim.<br>
Sgt. McHugh and Ptes. McLean and Braithwaite received Military Medals on this occasion, and they also were glad to know that they opened the long list of decorations that the battalion was to obtain in France.
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