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WW1 Salford – Two best friends, shot at dawn for desertion

Over the past few months SalfordOnline.com have been relating stories about the men from Salford who fought and died in the First World War.

Here is a rather different story about two Salford men who were to die from gunshot wounds, sadly fired by their comrades.

Herein there is friendship, false identity, and an entirely understandable desire to escape the horrors of war.

This sorry tale is made all the more intriguing by the excuse given to the father of one of the men as to his son’s death.

Read on.

24-year-old Private Albert Ingham (10495) was the son of George and Eliza Ingham, of Atherton Cottage in Lower Kersal.

Together with his best friend, 21-year-old Private Alfred Longshaw (10502), they worked as clerks at the Salford Goods Yard of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company.

They were known to be inseparable and even volunteered together, serving in the 11 Platoon of C Company in the 18th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.

Both men saw active service on the Somme and they were due to be transferred to their Brigade’s machine gun unit for service in the trenches.

But rather than face another terrifying day of death and destruction on the frontline of battle, the pair decided take a chance and attempted to escape.

They would get as far as the port of Dieppe – both wearing civilian clothing and attempting to board a ship to take them home to England.

The men were noticed absent after roll call on the evening of 5 October 1916.

They faced a military Court Martial after their arrest, which gives a fascinating insight into their state of mind at the time.

At their trial witness were called including Sergeant H. Emnett of the Intelligence Corps at Dieppe Base.

He told the court: “About 9.30 am on 1st Nov 1916 I was on duty visiting shipping at the port and I visited the SWEDISH vessel BELLEVILLE. I there saw the accused and knowing that he was not one of the original crew I [illegible] him as to his identity.

“He said, ‘I am an American. I left America about eleven months ago.’ He refused to answer any other questions. Not being satisfied I took him to the Intelligence Office and further questioned him.

“He said, ‘My name is Sam Bostock, I am an American citizen and I refuse to give you any particulars about myself.’

“About 3.15 pm the same day I again saw the accused. I said to him, ‘I want to question you again, Ingham’.

“He said: ‘Alright I’ll tell you all about it. My name is Ingham and belong to the Manchester Pals Battalion being attached to a Machine Gun Corps.

‘Having lost most of my comrades I needed to clear out with Longshaw. When at Buire about 10.30pm on 5 or 6 October we left our billets and struck for the coast.

‘We hid by day and travelled by night. We purchased the clothes and been at a village and arrived at Dieppe about a week ago. Since then we have been working on the ships. No one on board knew who we were.

‘Further on we found some old coats and caps on the ship, which we wore, throwing the uniform into the dock.

‘I left with my chum firstly to see those at home and then to try and get into the Navy along with his brother who is serving there.

‘I was worrying at the time through the loss of my chums. Also about my mother at home, being upset, through learning bad news of two of my comrades. I plead for leniency on account of my service in France of twelve months and previous good conduct. I beg for a chance to make amends.’

The Court Martial retired to consider their verdict and after some deliberation they stated: “I recommend that the sentence be carried out as this is a clear case of deliberate desertion.

“Except as regards previous character which is reported good there are no extenuating features to this case and I therefore recommend that the extreme penalty be inflicted”.

Both men were told to stand in front of a firing squad and shot at dawn on 28 November 1916.

The company Captain released this short statement: “I certify that the Sentence of Death awarded by F.G.C.M on No.10495, Private A. Ingham. 18th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment, attached 90th Company Machine Gun Corps, and confirmed by the Commander-in-Chief on the 28th November, 1916, was duly executed at 7.12 a.m today in my presence”.

Following their executions, they were buried side by side in the Bailleulmont Communal Cemetery in France: Albert in grave B.12 and Alfred in grave B.13.

In a final twist to this story Alfred Ingham’s father was told that his son had been killed by gunshot wounds and his name was added to the Charlestown Roll of Honour.

However Alfred’s comrades told him the truth about his son’s death.

He petitioned the War Ofice and eventually had the words, “Shot At Dawn, One Of The First To Enlist, A Worthy Son Of His Father” inscribed on his son’s headstone.

The unique inscription was his way of denouncing the official lie.

They were finally pardoned by announcement made in August 2006, along with 304 other shot soldiers.

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