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Salford Remembers: Stories of Eccles Pals ‘ripped to shreds’ at Battle of The Somme

Friday 1 July marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the most (in)famous conflicts of the First World War.

Local and national celebrations are taking place to mark the first day of the battle.

SalfordOnline.com brings you the stories as they happened in July 1916.

Local men from our town of Eccles had all enlisted in the weeks after war broke out with the German empire and were known informally as the ‘Eccles Pals’

While there was no official battalion of this name, these men were all part of the 2nd Salford Pals, the 16th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers.

The ‘Pals’ were regiments dreamed up by the country’s military recruitment commander Lord Derby, to allow men to fight – and die – alongside their neighbours, friends and co-workers.

Hundreds of men from the same streets or factory floors joined up.

All would figure on the opening day of fighting at The Somme, suffering terrible casualties.

Below are the stories of just a handful of men from Eccles who perished on that fateful day.

Sergeant 15210 Edwin Croft 6th platoon ‘B’ company 16th battalion Lancashire Fusiliers

Edwin was born in Eccles in 1880, a son to John and Fanny Croft, and lived in King Street, Eccles, he had three older brothers John (b.1872), Thomas (b.1878) and William (b.1876) and a sister Sarah, born in 1873.

Edwin married Catherine McKinnon in 1907 and they had a daughter, Euphemia born in 1909, at this time he was employed as an iron moulder who made stoves and grates at Hodgkinson’s Foundry in Pendleton and lived with his family in Gardnen Street, Eccles.

Prior to the outbreak of war Edwin was with the Manchester Regiment Territorial’s with the service number 3186.

He enlisted with Manchester Regiment but transferred to the Eccles Pals Lancashire Fusiliers at this own request, to be with his mates. Edwin then was in the same platoon and battalion as many of the Eccles lad who he knew well, and like them he went ‘over the top’ on 1 July at the Somme.

He was killed in action leading his men forward and his body was recovered from ground held by the Germans, he was buried behind the lines, aged 35.

Edwin was reported in the Eccles and Patricroft Journal as being ‘a most capable and experienced non-commissioned officer.’

Edwin is remembered at the CWGC Memorial at Thiepval, The Roll of honour at St. Andrew’s Church and at Peel Green Cemetery.

Lance Corporal 11665 Samuel Grindley 5th platoon ‘B’ company 16th Lancashire Fusiliers

Samuel was born in Eccles in 1894, a son to James Walter and Felicia Grindley who in total had five sons, Albert (b.1892), Joshua (b.1901) and James Walter (b.1906) and resided at Monton Lane, Eccles

Samuel and his brother Albert both worked at the Eccles Rubber Company, Samuel married Winifred Fleming in 1915.

Prior to the war Samuel had been presented with a Royal Humane Society Certificate when he saved two boys from drowning, several boys were sliding on the ice when two of the boys fell through it, at great risk to himself, Samuel managed to save them.

Samuel enlisted with Captain Tweed’s 16th Lancashire Fusiliers in 1914, after training at home they proceeded to France, landing at Boulogne on the 22 November 1915, there they were taught about trench war fare

The battalion attacked Thiepval Ridge on The Somme on the 1stJuly 1916, the battle resulted in the Eccles Pals being almost wiped out, Samuel among them.

Samuel is remembered at the CWGC Memorial at Boulogne, Rolls of Honour at St. Andrews, Eccles Provident Industrial Co-operative Society and Peel Green Cemetery.

Lance Corporal 11 834 Thomas Edward Mellor 8th platoon ‘B’ company 16th battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (1st Eccles Pals)

Thomas was born in Eccles, in 1893, the only son of Thomas and Harriett Mellor, he had three sisters Mary Ann (b.1878) Marion (b.1883) and Olive (b.1888).

Thomas was educated at Eccles parish Church School and was a choir boy at the Church for five years.

He was a commercial traveller for Wilson Bros and Knowles in Manchester.

Thomas married Ada Mary Kuhn at St. John’s Church, Altrincham on 21 August 1915 and they lived at ‘Rivington’ Hale Road, Manchester.

He enlisted, with his life time mates, Stephen Sharples and Walter Fiddes all three were to be sadly killed on the first day of the Battle.

They all joined the ‘1st Eccles Pals’ company of 16th battalion Lancashire Fusiliers lead by Captain Thomas Tweed. After training period at home they proceeded to France, landing at Boulogne on the 22 November 1915, there they were taught about trench war fare before going on the ‘front line’

The local newspaper wrote: “Lance-Corpl T. Mellor of the 1st Eccles Pals who is officially reported ‘wounded and missing’ has presumably shared the fate of his comrades who set out to storm the first line of German trenches on the morning of July 1.

“The only news that has come to hand since is that of comrades, who saw him fall and were themselves withdrawn later in the day. Mellor, who was recently married, is the only son of Mr and Mrs T.E. Mellor. His life long pals, Sharples and Fiddes with whom he enlisted, shared whatever his fate has been”.

Thomas is remembered at the CWGC Memorial ay Thiepval, Roll of Honour at Eccles Parish Church and at Peel Green Cemetery.

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SalfordOnline.com's Local History Editor and Senior Reporter.