An Illustrated History of Old Sutton in St. Helens, Lancashire

Part 43 (of 92 parts) - Sutton at War Part 1

Introduction to the Sutton at War Pages

Thinking of you in St.Helens
War has always been a great driver of change and on a personal level has caused much tragedy and grief. Lives were never the same afterwards and my own grandfather Robert Smith was gassed in the so-called 'Great War'. He was luckier than many and lived a further thirty-five years after the conflict's end, but was incapable of working. I still possess his flimsy walking stick and it's hard to imagine that it could support a human being.

On a wider level, war causes economic and social change, some of it for the better and some perhaps not. In the St.Helens Star of August 23rd 1985, A. Sharrock said:
 Sutton before the war was a lovely place, a small community with church-goers in bowler hats and smart suits although some wore cloth caps. But all were friendly. Non-existent today. Pity that everything has gone. 
Just whether the second world war caused people to be less friendly afterwards is debatable but conflicts certainly changes individuals' attitudes to life. These pages are devoted to the impact of war on Suttonners both at home and abroad. Not to celebrate war but to record what life was like in those difficult days. Also to recognise human endeavour, whether it's Nellie Bamber making brass shells at Sutton Bond, Jack Davies machine-gunning the enemy at the front in order to save British lives or Sutton folk sacrificing their health working at the poison gas works. I'm especially keen to receive any contributions so that memories can be preserved for future generations.  Stephen Wainwright
 We go through hell itself, we face death daily; we suffer punishment to our bodies and minds which is putting years on to our young lives. We sacrifice good homes, good employment and endless enjoyment to save our King and country to save it from the same fate that befell Belgium. We not only fight for King and country, but we fight for God. We believe we are the chosen people to wipe from off the earth the Satanic brutes. Picture the Germans in Sutton! Picture what would befall our young girls, bearing in mind what has befallen the girls of poor Belgium. We are helping to prevent the Germans from coming to the most beautiful island in the world. 
PTE. ERNEST WHITFIELD, 16 Platoon, D Co., 7th King’s Liverpool Regiment, B.E.F.
Letter from the Front to the St.Helens Reporter from 6/9/1915

Sutton Bond 1201 Munitions and Barracks

The old Sutton Glassworks site in Lancots Lane has enjoyed a multitude of uses over the years, including hosting the Nuera Art Silk Company, British Sidac Cellophane Manufacturers, plus Leathers and Hays Chemicals. However, during the first world war, as 'Sutton Bond', part of the site was used to manufacture munitions. Many women were employed at the factory and Frank Bamber in his memoir 'Clog Clatters in Old Sutton', recalled how this led to his family having unusual adornments in their living room:
 My cousin Nellie Bamber who lived at Bank House Cottage in Bold came with a friend to our house for dinners. They wore blue overalls and dust caps. They were working at the “Sutton Bond Munitions” with brass shell cases. I remember having two reject shell cases and two reject hand grenades on our mantelpiece. We called it the “Cornice”. 

Rows of shells at Sutton Bond munitions factory in Lancots Lane, Sutton c.1915

Rows of shells at Sutton Bond munitions factory in Lancots Lane c.1915

Rows of shells at Sutton Bond

The photograph above shows rows of stacked shells that are ready to be sent to the front. Although often known as ‘Sutton Bond’, its formal name was 'Ministry of Munitions Inspection Bond 1201’ and during its brief life after the war, it was referred to as 'Depot 1201'. In Charles Forman’s ‘Industrial Town’, published in 1978, an unidentified WW1 munitions worker described how she'd organised a trade union at the Lancots Lane works as a consequence of the dire working conditions. These included women forced to work out in the rain and having to stack heavy 24" steel shells. The work included removing grease from the shells (used to prevent rust) and painting them a khaki colour. The shells were then placed in railway wagons and taken to another factory where they were filled with gunpowder.

In August 1917 advertisements were placed in newspapers inviting tenders for scrap firewood taken from broken shell boxes that was being stored in railway wagons at the Bond. There was clearly a lot of it, as the firewood was offered in lots of between 100 to 2000 tons. Sutton Bond was a busy place, which can be seen from the items offered in a disposal auction held at the old Sutton Glassworks site on November 17th and 18th 1920. The auction was run by the Ministry of Munitions and included 495 chairs, 573 strong benches, 60 tables, 500 mugs, 226 towels, plus 2400 plates and basins.

Believed to be Nellie Green of Sutton wearing the overall and cap of a munitions factory worker during WW1 and a munitions poster


Believed to be munitions worker Nellie Green of Sutton and a munitions poster


Nellie Green and a munitions poster

Women employed at the munitions factory played football against different departments within Sutton Bond, as well as against teams such as Rainhill Munitioneers. The female works team was often referred to as 'Sutton Glass Works', despite the glassmaking plant having closed in 1903. The football team later reformed as St.Helens Ladies AFC and you can read more here.

A network of brick-lined tunnels existed underneath the factory and in addition to manufacturing munitions, the site was used as an army barracks with horses and vehicles stabled in a brick building known as the Quadrangle. In fact Sutton Glass Works had enjoyed a long association with the military. The 'F' company of the local volunteers had been based in Lancots Lane since at least the 1870s and kept an armoury there. From September 1914, the 11th Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment – known as the St.Helens 'Pals' – were billeted at the Sutton barracks. The St Helens Newspaper of September 18th reported that:
 By the kindness of Messrs. Pilkington Bros., the old Sutton Glassworks have been placed at the disposal of the military authorities for the purpose of a barracks and already preparations are busily being made for the accommodation of the new battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment. On Monday morning at 8 o’clock the tradesmen’s company and the clerks company paraded at the YMCA, and marched to Sutton, where they were engaged the whole of the day in renovating the old casting hall and making it ready for the accommodation of the men, who may be quartered there in a few days. They have been engaged upon the work throughout the week, and it is now practically completed. We understand that the place is splendidly adapted to the purpose, and when it is fitted up will be very comfortable, and be far preferable to sleeping under canvas. It is expected that the men will move into the new barracks early next week, and that they will then be supplied with their uniforms. 
The men moved in to their new barracks on Wednesday 23rd September under Captain Earle, Captain Bonnyman and adjutant Lieutenant Potter. On the following day the rather unfit men were marched to Sherdley Park for what The Newspaper said was a ‘strenuous drill’. It was far too much for some and two men fainted, with one having to be taken to St.Helens Hospital for treatment. In the St.Helens Reporter of January 12th 1915, it was announced that another company of 250 men were being formed. Putting an optimistic spin on life as a soldier, the newspaper said that more volunteers must heed their 'country's call' and join the lads already in Lancots Lane who were:
 ...making their new life in altered surroundings peculiarly attractive. They revel in the new order of things that gives them fine healthy physiques and leaves them with scarcely a care in the world. They are in very truth in an enviable position, and if more of the young men of St. Helens realised this it would not take them long to discard the attire associated with tedious labour for the uniform of the St. Helens Battalion. He can do your duty to-day and live the free and happy life more fitting to youth, and then if the supreme test comes on the great wide battlefields of Europe, what more noble sacrifice could be made than that which overtakes him while his face is towards the enemy. 
The Pals training took place at Garswood Park and Sherdley Park, where the 'C' or ‘Charlie’ Company Home Guard were based, although soldiers barracked at Sutton Bond also dug practice trenches at the 'Old Bonk' nearby. This was a large area of waste land with chemical tips, old colliery slag deposits and pools of water that children nicknamed the Green and White Oceans. This land stretched from Fleet Lane, behind Morris Street and ran along Watery Lane and up to Berry's Lane. Frank Bamber also recalled one Friday night when he and his little schoolmate Jackie Fleetwood came out of the Sutton National infant school and encountered a recruitment drive:
 We heard a band playing and the beating of a drum. We saw in front of the band a soldier with stripes on his arms. I learned later that he was a recruiting Sergeant. Behind the band were about a dozen men in ordinary clothes and cloth caps. They were marching in step to the army tunes. We thought they were "the pals". So Jackie and I fell in behind them down Ellamsbridge and then down along the school brook at Worsley Brow. Then we followed them left up Sutton Road, past and over the big clayhole, and right into "Dark Lane" called Gaskell Street into Parr. After numerous halts and many young men falling in, they marched back again to Sutton Bond. This led us towards home. What time it was, we did not know and did not care. 
After the Great War ended, the Sutton Bond site was left disused for a few years prior to the Nuera Art Silk Company taking it over in 1926.
John Molyneux V.C.
Victoria Cross
There have only been three holders of the Victoria Cross in St.Helens and two of them lived in the Sutton district. These were John Molyneux and John Davies, with the third holder Norman Harvey from Newton-le-Willows. Sgt. Molyneux, like the other two heroes, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his valour in the first world war. He led an attack on a German machine gun nest, capturing and killing many of the enemy and saving many British lives.

John Molyneux was born at 3 Marshalls Cross Road on the 22nd November 1890 to mother Minnie Jane and coal miner father, Joseph, who worked as a hewer at Sherdley Colliery and was well known in Sutton as an amateur concertina player. By the following year they were resident at 8, Manor Street and shortly afterwards moved to Ell Bess Lane, which in 1902 was renamed Sherdley Road.

Young John, who was always known as Jack, was educated in Parr at Holy Trinity school. He was a nature lover and enjoyed bird watching and was said to have skipped some of his classes so he could enjoy his hobby. He left school at twelve to work down the pit like his Dad. A strong, muscular young man who engaged in boxing, Jack grew to a height of 6ft 5" and he became one of the first volunteers to enlist in the services at the outbreak of war. He was signed up by the Chief Constable at St.Helens Town Hall and he joined the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Fusiliers (St.Helens). After training at Dover, he sailed with his unit to the Dardanelles when they participated in the landings at Gallipoli on April 25th 1915. Jack received a slight wound in the fighting and endured frost-bite when a blizzard struck in November and he was evacuated to Malta to recover.

A portrait of John 'Jack' Molyneux V.C. - contributed by Jim Lamb

A portrait of Sgt. John 'Jack' Molyneux, holder of the Victoria Cross

John 'Jack' Molyneux V.C.

How the London Gazette reported how John Molyneux won his VC
London Gazette report on Jack Molyneux's heroics
In March 1916, Jack sailed to France with the rest of his unit and fought at the Somme where he was wounded again and was evacuated to England for treatment. After returning to his battalion he engaged in further action at Ypres Salient. On 9th October 1917, whilst in the Belgian province of West Flanders near Langemarck, an attack was being held up by German machine-gun fire and which was causing many casualties. So Sergeant Molyneux, almost up to his waist in mud, took it upon himself to lead a bombing party to clear a trench containing six or seven Germans, which was in front of a house that was occupied by snipers. Jack was first into the house and became involved in hand-to-hand fighting until reinforcements arrived and the enemy surrendered, leading to more than twenty prisoners being taken.

Jack Molyneux's award of the Victoria Cross was announced in the London Gazette of November 26th 1917 and he returned to England to receive his award from King George V at Buckingham Palace on December 12th. St.Helens honoured its hero over two days. On Saturday December 29th 1917 at the Town Hall, officials and fellow miners from Sherdley Colliery presented him with a £50 war bond, a gold watch and a silver cigarette case. On New Year's Day, the Mayor Dr. Baker Bates and his wife transported Jack from his home to the Town Hall in an open carriage. Enthusiastic crowds lined the streets to cheer him on his way as part of a procession along with the Volunteer Band, Scouts, Volunteers etc. At the Town Hall, Rigby Swift MP presented Sgt. Molyneux with an illuminated address on behalf of the townspeople. The Peasley Cross Concertina Club, of which his father was bandleader, presented him with a concertina. On the steps of the town hall in front of a crowd of several thousand, Jack Molyneux performed 'The Blue Bells of Scotland' with his new instrument.

John Molyneux with wife Mary on his left and mother on right with sisters and nephew - a sister worked in Sherdley Hall Gardens

John Molyneux with wife Mary on his left and his mother on his right

John Molyneux with his wife Mary

John Molyneux V.C. in later years
Jack Molyneux in later years
Jack was also presented with an illuminated address decorated with the flags of the allies, regimental insignia and the town’s coat of arms. This was painted by Brother Alphonsus of St.Helens Catholic Grammar School and was donated to the town by Jack in July 1966. In February 1918 he was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. After being demobbed in January 1919, Jack returned to Sherdley Colliery and got married. In 1925 he left the pit for Pilkington's Glassworks and during the second world war, Jack served as a sergeant-major in Pilkington's Home Guard. He continued to play his concertina and often performed at local clubs.

An article published in the St.Helens Reporter on December 15th 1989 stated that VE Day celebrations had begun in Sutton in 1945 with Jack Molyneux performing outside the Wheatsheaf Hotel. Their correspondent said he played his concertina and his son played either a trumpet or trombone (actually a cornet), while their friends and neighbours danced in celebration. It was also stated that Jack was very proud of his medal which he kept in a glass-fronted box in his living room.

John Molyneux V.C. died on 25th March 1972 at Ashtons Green Home in Parr aged 81 years. Austin Lea superintendent of the retirement home was quoted in the St.Helens Reporter as saying "He was one of the old brigade...a brave old man who never complained, even when he started to go blind". However, there was some controversy just months after the old soldier's death when his family elected to auction his Victoria Cross and six other medals at Sotheby's in London. Included in the sale was an autograph book containing autographs of fellow VC holders from a 1929 reunion held in Victoria Park that was attended by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII). Many felt that the collection should remain in St.Helens but it was instead sold for £2,100 to dealers Spinks on behalf of Jack Molyneux's old regiment, the Royal Fusiliers, for display in their Tower of London museum.

On July 28th 2017 the Mayor of St Helens, Cllr. Joe Pearson, officially named a new development off Robins Lane in Sutton as ‘John Molyneux VC Close’ to commemorate the St.Helens war hero’s achievement in winning the Victoria Cross. Then on October 9th 2017 – one hundred years to the day that Jack won his VC – a special plaque was unveiled at St.Helens War Memorial in Victoria Square. The ceremony was attended by relatives and dignitaries, including the town’s Mayor and Mayoress and St Helens South and Whiston MP Marie Rimmer.
John Thomas Davies V.C.
Unlike John Molyneux, John Thomas Davies was not born in Sutton but he moved to the district as a young child. He was the son of labourer father John and mother Margaret (née Hughes) and was born on the 29th September, 1895 at 19 Railway Road, Rock Ferry, Tranmere. When his father obtained a position as a plate layer in St.Helens at the bottling works of Cannington & Shaw, the family relocated to 5 Sutton Heath Road. John Jnr. received his education at the Arthur Street school and then obtained employment at the Ravenhead Brick and Pipe Works.

Two photos of John Davies V.C. - left in 1929 with John Molyneux and the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII)

John Davies V.C. - left in 1929 with John Molyneux and the Prince of Wales

Two photographs of John Davies V.C.

Like John Molyneux, he was one of the first young men to volunteer at the outbreak of hostilities and elected to enlist with the 11th Service Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment, known as the St.Helens 'Pals'. For a year his battalion remained in this country for training and defence before embarking to France in November 1915. There was little action during the inhospitable winter but by the spring of 1916 there was almost constant fighting. Like Jack Molyneux, Jack Davies was twice wounded and after recovering, returned to action at the front line.

On 20th March 1918 the Germans launched a major push attempting to end the war. Against overwhelming odds, the Allied forces began retreating but also started some counter attacks to give them more time. On 24th March, near Eppeville, France, the 11th Battalion received their orders to withdraw. However, Cpl. Davies knew the only means of withdrawal was through a barbed wire-lined stream and he needed to hold up the enemy for as long as he could, so his company could safely depart.

So Jack Davies dangerously mounted the parapet to get a more effective field of fire, keeping his Lewis gun firing until the last moment and causing many enemy casualties. His rearguard actions enabled many of his company to cross the river and he himself was thought to have been killed by the encroaching Germans. Jack’s award of the Victoria Cross was posthumous, although in actual fact he'd been taken prisoner and sent to a POW camp at Zagan in Silesia, now Poland.

On 22nd May 1918 the London Gazette reported that No. 20765 Cpl. John Thomas Davies, S. Lancs. R. (St. Helens) had been awarded the Victoria Cross. This is his citation as stated in the Gazette:
 For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty under heavy rifle and machine-gun fire. When his company - outflanked on both sides - received orders to withdraw, Corporal Davies knew that the only line of withdrawal lay through a deep stream lined with a belt of barbed wire, and that it was imperative to hold up the enemy as long as possible. He mounted the parapet, fully exposing himself, in order to get a more effective field of fire, and kept his Lewis gun in action to the last, causing the enemy many casualties and checking their advance. By his very great devotion to duty he enabled part of his company to get across the river, which they would otherwise have been unable to do, thus undoubtedly saving the lives of many of his comrades. When last seen this gallant N.C.O. was still firing his gun, with the enemy close on the top of him, and was in all probability killed at his gun. 
His parents had moved from Sutton Heath to 10 Alma Street in Peasley Cross and were told that their brave son had “in all probability” died in action and was being awarded the Victoria Cross. Imagine the family’s shock and relief when a short time later a postcard arrived from Jack telling them that he was still alive and being held in a prison camp! It is believed that Jack Davies is the only live recipient of the VC to be granted a posthumous award.

Memorial in St.Helens Cemetery to Cpl. John Davies, winner of the Victoria Cross
John Davies V.C. memorial in St.Helens Cemetery
With so much bad news during the war, St.Helens liked to celebrate its heroes and like fellow VC holder John Moluneux, Jack Davies was treated to a civic reception at the Town Hall. The reception on October 11th 1918 was hosted by the Mayor, Alderman Bates, who presented the 23-year-old with £650 worth of war bonds, which had been raised by public subscription. The modest corporal thanked the gathering for the honour and explained that he had only performed his duty.

After returning home, Jack went back to work at the Ravenhead Brick and Pipe Works and he married his sweetheart
Beatrice. The couple had two sons Alan and Sydney plus a daughter Eunice. During World War II, Jack Davies was a Captain in the Home Guard but suffered a blow in 1943 when his son Alan died after an accident on the ice in Taylor Park. Jack died suddenly on October 28th 1955 at the age of sixty and his simple family memorial is in St.Helens Cemetery, Section 59, Grave 426. Beatrice died in 1976, Sydney died around 1990 and Jack's daughter Eunice passed away in 2012. Her father's Victoria Cross, awarded for his remarkable act of bravery, is on show at the Imperial War Museum in London.
Pte. Tom Griffiths - The Story of a Sutton 'Tommy'
There are many military memorials in the graveyards of St. Nick’s and St.Anne’s and each tells its own tragic tale of a young life cut short by conflict. In fact 129 men from the district of Sutton lost their lives in the so-called Great War and each Sutton serviceman's story is unique. This is the account of how one of these young men came to give his life for his country.

Thomas James Griffiths was born in Sutton c.1892 to mother Emma and coal miner father William. He had eight siblings and was brought up at 27 Norman’s Road before the family moved to 22 Peckers Hill Road. Thomas followed in his father’s footsteps and became a miner and he also enjoyed his football. Religion was important to the young man and he attended the Sutton Road Wesleyan Methodist Church where he involved himself in its Bible Class. At the outbreak of war, Thomas joined the 4th Battalion of the King's Liverpool Regiment and he went with the first contingent to France on March 6th, 1915. The battalion were soon in action and fought in the battles for La Bassee and Neuve Chapelle.

On April 27th 1915 the second battle for Ypres began. Ypres was then a small Flemish market town in the west of Belgium, 30 miles from the French border. The 4th King's had been billeted in the nearby village of Calonne from April 10th to the 23rd, training for this campaign and were now in the line at St. Jean. At noon after a bombardment by the British Artillery, the battalion began an attack in support of Gurkha Rifles troops but soon suffered severe losses.

During the engagement (known locally as the Battle of St. Julien), an officer was wounded and Private Griffiths went to assist. As he stooped over the officer, Thomas was himself shot by a sniper. It took ten to twelve hours before he could be retrieved from the battlefield and given medical attention. Griffiths was eventually transferred to hospital in Leeds, where he arrived on May 5th, and was operated on three days later. His family visited him in hospital and he was able to tell them how he came to be shot. Thomas also gave his mother a map in which he'd marked off the places where he'd fought. However, Private Griffiths couldn’t be saved. The medical treatment had come too late and he died from his wounds on May 10th.

Left: Firing party at Pte. Griffiths internment at St. Nicholas; Middle: St.Helens Newspaper 13/5/1915; Right: Thomas Griffiths

Thomas Griffiths and firing party at his internment at St. Nicholas

Thomas Griffiths firing party at his internment at St. Nicholas in 1915

Thomas Griffiths’ funeral took place at the Sutton Road Wesleyan Church on Saturday May 15th conducted by Rev. T. H. Wainman. The funeral procession was headed by members of the Sutton Young Men’s Bible Class, St. Helens Junior Football Club and members of the Welsh Wesleyan Church.

Military honours were accorded to him with a firing party from the St.Helens Pals led by
Sgt. Tickle and Corporal Finney. The burial took place at St. Nicholas at 3.30pm and there was a large crowd outside the New Street church paying their respects. The firing party of a dozen or so rifles fired three volleys over the open grave and the Last Post was sounded by a bugler. 'His Country Called And He Answered' was his family’s chosen inscription on the grave’s headstone.

A plaque to Private Thomas James Griffiths of Sutton and his posthumously-awarded medals

A plaque to Pte. Thomas Griffiths and his posthumously-awarded medals

Pte. Griffiths’ plaque and medals

Thomas James Griffiths was posthumously awarded the British War Medal, 1914-15 Star, Victory Medal and a Death Plaque. Although his premature death robbed him of the opportunity of success when he was alive, Thomas would, no doubt, have been very proud of his younger brother. In 1952, whilst still living at 22 Peckers Hill Road, Sutton councillor Percy Griffiths became the Mayor of St. Helens.
Thanks to military historian Richard Houghton for his contribution to this article including supplying all images
Private William Bate by Stan Bate
My uncle, William Frederick Bate of 20 Harrison Street, Sutton, entered military service on the 18th of April, 1916 with the Territorial Force, the 2nd/10th Battalion of The Kings Liverpool Scottish Regiment. For the first ten months of his service, his Battalion formed part of the home defence force in the southeast of England. Over that period the Battalion was based in Maidstone, Canterbury, Sandwich, Aldershot and Blackstone Barracks in Hampshire.

On the 18th of February 1917, the Battalion went by train to Southampton, and four days later set sail for the French port of Havre. They reached Havre the following morning and entrained at once for Bailleul, arriving there at 11pm on the 23rd of February. Their immediate destination was Estaires, and they set out to march to their billets in the town, arriving at 8am on the 24th of February. His Battalion formed part of the 57th Division and had been allotted a section of the front line, to the South West of Armentieres; it ran from Laventie, through Flerbaix, to Chapelle d'Armentieres; a distance of seven miles.

In this part of the front line the trenches weren't dug down into the earth because of the low-lying ground. Here the defensive structures were built above ground using sandbags covered with earth; they were known as breastworks. Most of the action in this area consisted of reciprocal artillery bombardments and trench raids across no-mans land. It was due to such a raid in the early hours of May 26th 1917, that he became a member of a fighting patrol of two officers, two sergeants and 36 men who set off into no-mans land, with orders to enter the enemy's trenches and bring back prisoners.

The Grave of Private 357836 William Frederick Bate in Merville cemetery - contributed by Stan Bate

The Grave of Private 357836 William Frederick Bate in Merville cemetery

The grave of Private William Bate

Unfortunately, while the patrol was still around fifty yards from the German wire, they were caught in the beam of a searchlight and immediately came under intense fire from three machine-guns and rifles. In the fire fight that followed, two men were killed outright and eight others were injured. Nevertheless, the other members of the patrol managed to get everyone, including the dead, back to their own lines. Regrettably my uncle was one of the more seriously injured and was sent first to the aid-station in Erquinghem-Lys, and from there to the military hospital in the town of Merville, some twenty miles from the front line; unfortunately his injuries were untreatable and he died later that day, aged 24 years.

Following the death of my Grandmother, a mass card was found amongst her possessions, which I believe sums up better than anything how his family felt about their loss; it read:

A loving Son so true and kind, He was to us in heart and mind. His toils are past his work is done. He fought the fight the victory won. Some time, some day, in a Better Land. We shall meet again and understand. When last we saw his smiling face. He seemed so strong and brave. We little thought how soon he'd be. Laid in a soldiers grave. Some day, some time, our eyes will see. That dear face kept in memory.

By Stan Bate

Scroll commemorating Private William Bate - contributed by Bill Bate

Scroll commemorating Pte. William Bate of The Kings (Liverpool Scottish Reg.)

Scroll commemorating William Bate

Paratrooper Private John Moran
John Moran lived much of his adult life off Berry's Lane in Sutton, working at Clock Face and Bold Collieries and bringing up four children with wife Alice. However as a young man he had participated in three of the most well-known and dangerous airborne operations of World War 2 – the D-Day landings in Normandy, the so-called 'Bridge Too Far' campaign at Arnhem and the massive Rhine Crossing operation.

John was born on April 10th 1923 and brought up in Parr, though many of his family lived in Sutton. Nicknamed 'Paddy', he enlisted into the South Lancashire Regiment early in WW2 and was serving with 2nd/4th Battalion in 1943 when it was turned over to airborne duties. He qualified as a military parachutist on Course 72 at RAF Ringway (now Manchester International Airport), which ran from July 12th to 23rd 1943. The first major operation of the newly-formed 13th (Lancashire) Parachute Battalion's 5th Brigade of the 6th Airborne Division was
Operation Tonga.

This took place between 5th and 7th June 1944 and was a very important part of the D-Day Normandy landings, a.k.a. Operation Overlord. 21-year-old Private John Moran was among the paratroopers and glider-borne airborne troops of the 6th Airborne Division, who landed on the eastern flank of the invasion area, near to the city of Caen. They were tasked with a number of objectives. The division was to capture two strategically important bridges over the Caen Canal and Orne River. The Allied ground forces would use these to advance, once the seaborne landings had been completed. Several other bridges had to be destroyed, in order to deny their use to the Germans.

Left: Paratrooper Pte. John Moran in 1944; Right: John back in St.Helens with wife Alice - contributed by Mel Moran

Left: Paratrooper John Moran in 1944; Right: Back in St.Helens with wife Alice

Paratrooper Private John Moran

The division was also tasked with securing some important villages and destroying the Merville Gun Battery. Allied intelligence believed that this housed some heavy artillery pieces, capable of bombarding 'Sword Beach' and inflicting heavy casualties on the landing Allied troops. Having achieved these objectives, the division was then to create and secure a bridgehead, focused around the captured bridges, until they could link up with the advancing Allied ground forces.

Operation Market Garden in September 1944
Operation Market Garden in September 1944
Despite some setbacks - including bad weather and poor pilot navigation, which caused many of the airborne troops to be dropped in the wrong places - all the division's objectives were achieved. They did endure many casualties but successfully repulsed German counter-attacks until Allied ground forces from the invasion beaches reached their positions. The division's actions severely limited the ability of the German defenders to attack the Allied troops when they were at their most vulnerable, immediately after landing in Normandy.

From September 10th 1944, John Moran's division played an important role within
Operation Market Garden at Arnhem in Holland. In this operation Field Marshal Montgomery wanted to force an entry into Germany over the Lower Rhine, which if successful could have resulted in the war ending by Christmas. The huge airborne forces were tasked with securing bridges, allowing for a rapid advance by armoured units into northern Germany. However stiffer resistance than expected was encountered and the Allies failed to cross the Rhine in sufficient force and had to be evacuated.

Success, however, came six months later when the 6th Airborne took part in
Operation Varsity, the largest airborne operation in history to be conducted on a single day. The division was ordered to capture the villages of Schnappenberg and Hamminkeln, clear German forces from part of the Diersfordt Forest and secure three bridges over the River Issel. The 6th suffered heavy losses and by nightfall of March 24th, around 1400 personnel were killed, wounded or missing in action out of the 7220 who landed. Around 1500 prisoners of war were captured by the division.

John returned to RAF Ringway for a refresher course in July 1945, which suggested that he had been injured during the later stages of the fighting in Normandy or later in the Ardennes. Demobbed in 1946, he returned to St.Helens where he married
Alice Holmes, and had four children - Malcolm, Melvyn, Hilary and Adrian. Like many others who gave so much during the war and put themselves in grave danger, John didn't talk to his family about it. So his individual contributions to the three operations that brought the most widespread conflict in history to a close are not known. John Moran died on October 10th 1990 from coronary thrombosis after seven years of retirement from the coal mining industry.
Thanks to Mel Moran for his contribution to this article including supplying two images
Zeppelin Attack at Bold
The photograph below is of the actual Zeppelin L61 airship that flew over Lancashire on April 12th 1918 and which bombed Bold. It was commanded by Kapitanleutnant Ehrlich with a crew of 19 and it crossed the Mersey above Malton at 18,000 feet. At 11.17pm the first of its bombs fell, damaging a milestone on the A57 Prescot to Warrington Road by Bold Bridge (also known as 5 Arches Bridge). The bomb also damaged the road surface and a water main and caused minor damage to adjacent property.

The Zeppelin L61 airship that bombed Bold in 1918 - contributed by Harry C. Redner

The Zeppelin L61 airship that bombed Bold in April 1918

Zeppelin L61 airship that bombed Bold

Frank Jones on his Prescot milkround c.1930
Frank Jones on his Prescot milk round
A second bomb was dropped at 11.20pm in a field at Abbots Hall Farm in Bold, which created a crater seven feet deep and fifteen feet across. The Zeppelin went on to bomb Wigan, killing a total of eight people (five instantly and three after the event), before returning safely to base. There were only two Zeppelin raids on Lancashire during the Great War and this was the second, although the pilot reported in his log that he had bombed Sheffield, not Wigan!

Frank Jones was living in Tasker Terrace, Rainhill at the time and has told this website that he can remember as a three-year-old boy, being taken by his mother to the front door of their house to watch the Zeppelin fly over. Frank also related how village bobby PC Patrick Fahey stood on the railway bridge and fired at it with his air rifle!

On April 14th
Dr. Baker Bates, then Sherdley estate manager and Mayor of St.Helens, wrote to Edith Hughes, wife of Colonel Michael Hughes. He explained how his wife Alice had heard the Zeppelin bomb explosions in their home at Sutton Hall:
 We have had a visit from the Zepps on Friday night about 11.30. My wife awakened me saying she was sure someone was trying to get into the house as she heard the front door bang. I listened but could not hear anything. She heard the noise again so to gratify her I made a search of the whole place and opened the front door but could not detect anything wrong. Went back to bed, in five minutes she roused me again saying both the door and windows were being tried. I got up and opened the window to listen. The telephone rang and a message came that Zepps were in the neighbourhood and Air Raid action must be taken. This was about twenty minutes after my wife heard the first explosion. She told me altogether there were two very loud ones which shook the doors and windows and about 10 or 11 explosions in the distance. Two bombs were dropped in this neighbourhood, one between a munition works and Clockface colliery on a piece of land adjoining Beesleys Farm. The other on the main road between Bold Heath and Rainhill, near what are known as Bold Bridges. The telegraph wire were all out in two sections and the poles damaged. A large hole sufficient to hold a small cottage was made in the main road, and the Widnes water main burst. The contents from the hole were blown into an adjoining field, the hedge all scorched and the windows in some houses about 200 yards away smashed. The bomb at Clockface fell into a wheat field made a very large excavation and broke several windows in the Colliery Offices. No other damage was done here. 

The bombed milestone in Victoria Park, Widnes near the Highfield Road gates and its two plaques

The bombed milestone in Victoria Park, Widnes near Highfield Road gates

The milestone in Victoria Park, Widnes

The damaged milestone was placed in Victoria Park, Widnes behind railings with an appropriate plaque. However in 1978, Frank was shocked to discover the milestone left lying on the ground by a greenhouse and began a campaign for it to be restored to a prominent position. Frank says:
 The result is more pleasing than I had expected. It is now by a circular flower bed just inside the Victoria Park gates. 
An R101 airship also flew over Sherdley Park in Sutton in 1929 and is said to have dropped mysterious, cylinder-shaped objects. It is thought that the pilot may have mistaken the Hughes' estate for that of Lord Derby's Knowsley Park, only eight miles away.

Although it has been claimed to have been another Zeppelin,
Joan Heyes (née Williams), witnessed the airship in the skies over St.Helens on its way to the park. She lived in Ellen Street, Sutton, but was attending Higher Grade School in College Street when she saw it fly over. Joan, now living in Sydney, says that she was practicing a maypole dance at the time and she distinctly remembers seeing 'R101' on the side of the craft as it drifted very slowly over the school. Frank Jones also witnessed the airship on his milk round in Prescot, although he thinks that the year was 1930. The German airship Hindenburg (LZ129) also flew over Sutton Manor on June 26th 1936 while returning to Germany from a voyage to the USA. The Manchester Guardian described the event: 'Shortly before ten o’clock the airship passed over Sutton Manor, a small mining district outside St.Helens. She was plainly visible, and the roar of her engines caused the whole village to turn out. The Swastika on her hull was seen quite plainly and the passengers aboard could be seen looking down through the windows.'
B24 Battery Cob Crash
The Battery Cob was at Northfield Farm in between Clock Face and Bold and was built in 1871 by the 2nd Lancashire Engineer Volunteers. The army paid an annual rent of £5 and used it as a rifle range during the Boer War and World War 1. It measured just 30 yards long by 15 yards wide and was triangular in section with an 8 feet wide flat top and elevated to 32 feet. There were also three smaller mounds of earth some 30 to 50 yards away. As well as having a military purpose, the Cob also served as an adventure playground for numerous Sutton youngsters who whiled away their summer holidays there!

Disaster struck the Battery Cob on August 30th 1943, when just after 5pm a B-24 Liberator bomber crashed into it, killing all nine personnel on-board. The USAAF 392nd Bomb Group plane had departed Burtonwood just minutes earlier intending to return to its base at Wendling in Norfolk. Exactly why it crashed isn't known but eye-witnesses said that the bomber only just missed a chimney at the 'Magnum' poison gas works. Frank Gomme was quoted in the St.Helens Star of 9/1/2003 stating that the accident may have been as a result of a collision:
 I'd just passed the Battery Cob and was near Bold Road when I heard a loud spluttering sound. I turned to see this American B-24 Liberator passing over the old poison-gas factory in Reginald Road. It seemed to strike something in low-level flight and then continued towards the Battery Cob. The aircraft's wheels were down and they hit the Cob causing the plane to spin on to its back and burst into flames. 
However, Colin Briers says that he doesn't believe that the crash, that he witnessed as a young boy, was caused by a collision:
 As a ten year old I was playing on Clock Face Rec with my mates. We looked up and right over our heads, travelling back towards Burtonwood, was a B24 flying at not more than four or five hundred feet with what looked like two of its engines ablaze with thick black smoke. We all legged it out of the Rec and across the fields and actually saw the explosion at the Cob. It's more likely that it was caused by engine problems than a collision and was probably looking for an emergency landing. Sadly the Battery Cob got in its way.
PC Edward Longland was off-duty and in the yard of Northfield Farm and saw the Liberator fly overhead and crash into the Cob, just 300 yards from where he was standing. He immediately rushed to the scene and heroically attempted to assist the men, helped by Civil Defence Warden Robert Wilson and Special Constable John Redhead. This was despite the flames and a number of minor explosions amongst the wreckage which had been strewn over a large area. In February 1944 at Widnes Police Court, the three were given bravery awards, although all of the crew and passengers had died in the impact. David Fisher writes that a family member had attempted a rescue on that fateful January day:
 One of my uncles, along with a sailor on leave, pulled a crew member's body from the Battery Cob plane crash and then quietly exited the scene because he had nipped out of work early and was in fear of losing his job on the railway! He was 17 at the time.

Two images of the Battery Cob air crash and T/Sgt Leo E Lovasik, who was one of the B24 Liberator bomber’s crew

The Battery Cob air crash and T/Sgt Leo E Lovasik, one of the B24 plane's crew

Battery Cob crash and T/Sgt Leo E Lovasik, one of the B24 plane's crew

Ken Morgan lived in Wilbur Street and was pedalling home on his bike after visiting relatives in Sutton Leach when he saw smoke from the crash. He joined the large crowd that had already gathered but caused his parents worry by staying for too long:
 My parents were in a bad state because we used to play on the cob and they thought I might have been involved. I still remember the walloping I got from my Dad! For weeks afterwards we lads scoured the site for souvenirs. Pieces of perspex were very popular and we used to make rings by boring holes with red hot pokers and filing down the rest.
Eric Pritchard regularly played as a schoolboy in the Battery Cob area and was another witness of the crash. He later recalled the horror of seeing the dead bodies in the Whalley's World column within the St.Helens Star newspaper:
 Having witnessed the horrendous crash of the American Liberator, minutes after it came down, and seeing the US servicemen lying around dead, was very upsetting, even to young lads.
However there was one survivor as an Airedale was seen to jump out of the plane when it crashed. It's not known why the terrier had been onboard and what happened to it, except that the dog was removed from the scene by a rescuer.

An RAF Wellington with an Anzac crew also crashed near the Battery Cob. A tip of the plane wing struck it and the aircraft performed a belly-flop, landing almost in one piece near the Boundary Vaults pub on Bold Road. Youngsters who were playing on the Cob had to dive to the ground as it approached. It was policed day and night, before being loaded onto Air Force carriers and removed. The accident took place about a year before the Liberator crash. Fortunately no-one was injured although the Wellington is said to have left its undercarriage in a ditch before skidding to a halt.

The owner of Northfield Farm, Eddie Sefton, levelled the Battery Cob in 1961 as Alan Parry remembers:
 I was driving a lorry for W Hancock on Bold Colliery when the farmer asked the bulldozer driver I was working with to flatten the Cob for cash in hand, which the driver did.

War Memorials at St. Nicholas and St. Anne’s

1) A- Z Military Graves / Memorials at St. Nicholas:
Rifleman Joseph Critchley
L. Cpl. J. F. Ashurst (2934500), 27 years, Queen's Own Gordon Highlanders, Mill Lane, Sutton, St.Helens, Died June 3rd 1943
Driver James Bridge (T/182977), Royal Army Service Corps, Mill Lane, Died August 14th 1944
James Banks, 22 years, Killed in action in West Africa July 29th 1943
Pte. J. Brown (386084), 30 years, Corps of Military Police, Died June 16th 1946
Rifleman Joseph Critchley (241027), 23 years, South Lancashire Regiment, Died December 7th 1917
Pte. William Davies (21352), 41 years, 11th Battn. South Lancashire Regiment (Pals), 43 Tennyson Street, Sutton Manor (formerly of Wrexham), Killed in action July 1st 1916
Pte. H. Fairclough
(1606612), 36 years, Lincolnshire Regiment, Killed in Egypt on December 20th 1947
Petty Officer John Roger Fairclough (66502RN), 41 years, Killed onboard submarine HMS P-615 on April 18th 1943 when it was torpedoed off Freetown - More here
Rifleman J. Fairhurst (40264), South Lancashire Regiment, Died September 13th 1919
Corporal Arthur Balfour Fowles (K14638), 21 years, 82 Waterdale Crescent, 12th Battn. Kings Liverpool Regiment, Died of wounds September 19th 1916
Sgt. William Gerrard
(14002), 23 years, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, Died April 5th 1917
Pte. Thomas James Griffiths (I4456), 22 years, 4th Battn. King's Liverpool Regiment, Died May 10th 1915 from wounds received at Ypres
Gunner Peter Heyes (37395), 36 years, Royal Field Artillery, Died May 24th 1919 More...
Gunner R. Heyes (228859), 36 years, Royal Field Artillery, Died August 4th 1920
Gunner H. Johnson (14117768), 18 years, Royal Artillery, Died June 3rd 1946
Robert David Jones, Killed in action 1914-18 War
Gunner J. Kirkham (20436), Royal Garrison Artillery, Died on December 29th 1916
Pte. Frank Light (3386846), 23 years, 1st Battn. East Lancs Regiment, Killed in Holland October 27th 1944
Sgt. John Lowcock (240192), South Lancs Regiment Prince of Wales Volunteers, Killed in action Chercq, Belgium on November 8th 1918
A/Bombardier John Machin (31206), Royal Field Artillery, Died of wounds May 9th 1917
Guardsman T. Marsh (2720849), 27 years, Irish Guards, Died September 29th 1944
Gunner W. Owen (199396), Royal Garrison Artillery, Died October 7th 1918
Pte. Benjamin Price (241322), 26 years, South Lancashire Regiment, Killed in action March 24th 1918
Pte. William Rigby (17855), Royal Defence Corps, South Lancashire Regiment, Died March 10th 1917
Rifleman Thomas Rimmer, 20 years, 5th South Lancashire Regiment, Died of wounds received in action on May 13th 1915
Pte. James Rimmer (brother of above), 31 years, Killed in action June 1st 1918
L/Corporal Joseph Seddon (300359), 26 years, King's (Liverpool Regiment), Formerly 250183, Lancashire Hussars, Killed in action January 1st 1918, interred in Bedford House cemetery, Ieper
Gunner Thomas Seddon
(228789), 19 years, Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery, Killed in action in France October 28th 1917, interred in Dicky Bush Cemetery, Ypres
Corporal A. R. Smaje (116002), 22 years, Royal Marines, Died December 17th 1945
Pte. R. Taylor (7285), South Lancashire Regiment, Died April 9th 1920
Pte. Douglas Thompson (3654417), South Lancashire Regiment, 26 years, Died April 10th 1947
A.C.W. 1st Class Evelyn Louise Waddilove (2039050), Women's Auxiliary Air Force, Died July 1st 1943
Richard Herbert Warburton (28888), 13 Marshalls Cross Road, 9th Battn. South Lancashire Regiment, 44 years, Died November 28th 1919
Pte. W. Wood (17871), Royal Defence Corps, Died December 1st 1918
2) A- Z Military Graves / Memorials at St. Anne’s:
Pte. James Arnold (66467), Lancashire Fusiliers, 19 years, Died August 20th 1918
Peter Atherton, 21 years, Killed in action June 8th, 1944
Pte. Thomas Henry Crosby (19037), South Lancashire Regiment, 23 years, Died November 1st 1915
Sgt. William F. Glover (2214477), Royal Engineers, 33 years, Mill Lane, Sutton. Died September 7th 1940 diffusing an unexploded German bomb
Pte. William W. Leyland (3652190), South Lancashire Regiment, 26 years, Died August 11th 1941
Pte. Thomas Wilson (21194), 34 years, 15 Woodcock Street, Sutton, 11th Battn. South Lancs Regiment Prince of Wales Volunteers, Died September 15th 1914
Rifleman Ralph Woods
(4371), South Lancashire Regiment, Died September 17th 1917
Sherdley and the Red Cross Fund
In 1914 Edith Hughes, wife of the newly-promoted Colonel Michael Hughes of Sherdley Hall, created a St.Helens Red Cross Fund. Alice Bates of Sutton Hall assisted Mrs. Hughes by organising fundraising events. She also coordinated a 'Smokes for Tommy' campaign and the St.Helens Citizens Motor Ambulance Appeal on behalf of Edith. In the former, pipes and tobacco pouches were despatched to soldiers abroad and by February 1915, 4836 pipes and 783 ¼1bs. of tobacco had been sent. In the latter, ambulances costing £400 each were sent to the Front to convey wounded soldiers to hospital.

Flowers, fruit, grapes, games, cards, pipes, tobacco, cigarettes and stationery were also taken to St.Helens and Providence Hospitals by Mrs. Bates and her husband Henry. Dr. Baker Bates was the Sherdley Estate Agent and so the couple always acted on behalf of Henry's employer. When the Providence Hospital issued their annual report for 1917, they erroneously credited the Hughes's largesse as gifts from Dr. and Mrs. Bates, causing much embarrassment. An understandable mistake as Henry and Edith were also Mayor and Mayoress of St. Helens.

C.D. Fothergill Tobacco and Cigar Manufacturer St.Helens
Woodbines were purchased from C.D. Fothergill, tobacco and cigar manufacturer and importer's of Church Street, St.Helens, at a cost of 6s 8d per 1000. They also supplied pipes and tobacco, although when there were shortages some pipes were purchased from Rylance's of Liverpool Road and Dewar's of Church Street. It was felt important that all supplies should be obtained from St.Helens businesses. In February 1915 an anonymous postcard was sent to Mrs. Hughes alleging that the fund was being exploited for the benefit of one or two individuals and that there was strong feeling in the town over this. These claims were dismissed as being from a jealous rival of Fothergill's.

Left: Receipt sent to Edith Hughes for payment for an ambulance; Right: St.Helens Newspaper - contributed by Merrick Baker-Bates

Left: Receipt sent to Edith Hughes for payment for an ambulance; Right: St.Helens Newspaper article on Edith’s Red Cross work in the town

Receipt sent to Edith Hughes for payment for a Red Cross ambulance

The article (above) contributed by Merrick Baker-Bates is probably from the St.Helens Newspaper of November 27th 1914. The red underlining was done by Mrs. Michael Hughes, as she is described in the article. Edith sent the cutting to Dr. Baker Bates complaining about the references to a committee. She wanted it making clear in future that her work was private and that she alone funded the comforts given to soldiers in hospital. The proceeds from her Red Cross Fund were used only for the Motor Ambulance Appeal and for purchasing flannel for making shirts and other clothes that were passed onto the Red Cross Society. In December 1917, Mrs. Hughes was made a vice-president of the Red Cross in recognition of her efforts although in reality it was the Bates's who did most of the work.

The Hughes's also permitted a Red Cross Fête and Gala to be held in a field behind Sutton Grange adjoining Sherdley Park. This took place over four days on September 5th, 6th, 7th and 9th, 1918. There were roundabouts, swings, shooting galleries and sideshows. The British Red Cross Society was paid £100 by the promoter John Collins and they also received admission fees of 1d per person. The promoter from Edge Hill, Liverpool retained the rest of the proceeds.

At the same time a Red Cross committee had use of an adjacent field in Sherdley Park (known as The Annexe) to host sports events as well as their own stalls offering hoop-la, try your strength machine, roulette board, fishing tank, cocoanut shies, billiards and ginger beer. Admission to this was 6d with persons able to transfer from the sports field to Mr. Collins's 'country fair' field free of charge. On September 11th two roundabout proprietors
Nicholas and Daniel Connelley appeared in court for employing David Lamb at the Sherdley fête. Lamb had been an absentee from the army for over a year and the St.Helens magistrates fined the Connelleys £2 each.

William Barrington of the Royal Garrison Artillery wrote to Edith Hughes to thank her for a gift of tobacco

Letter of thanks sent to Edith Hughes from soldier William Barrington

Letter of thanks sent to Edith Hughes

Captain Hughes's Homecoming
One of the joys of reading old newspaper reports is that they often painted very vivid portraits of events. It might be an account of a walking day or a court case but the remarkable attention to detail allowed the reader to imagine in their minds-eye being present at the time. Such was the reporting of the homecoming of Captain Michael Hughes and his wife Edith from the Boer War, known at the time as the Transvaal Campaign. The couple who resided at Sherdley Hall were the chief landowners in Sutton but were also renowned for their generosity to local people, especially the poor. Their return from service in South Africa was turned into a major event and was reported in great detail by the Liverpool Mercury. Here without editing is their account from December 10th 1900:
Homecoming Of Captain Hughes, St. Helens. - Enthusiastic Welcome.
Captain Michael Hughes
The Sutton and Peasley Cross district of St. Helens was the scene of enthusiastic demonstrations on Saturday afternoon on the occasion of the return home from South Africa of Captain Michael Hughes, of the Black Watch, and Mrs. Hughes, of Sherdley Hall, St. Helens. Captain and Mrs. Hughes are very popular, and highly esteemed by the residents of the district, as well as by the townspeople generally, and for some weeks preparations were in progress for according them a thoroughly demonstrative welcome. Whilst in South Africa, Captain Hughes, attached to his old regiment, the famous Black Watch, served on Lord Roberts's staff, and distinguished himself by carrying despatches between the Commander-in-Chief and General French, a distance of over 100 miles, unattended, in a couple of days, with important messages to “Bobs.” Mrs. Hughes devoted her services to hospital work, and was, for a considerable period, the matron of one of the hospitals at Bloemfontein.

In preparation for the homecoming of Captain and Mrs. Hughes, the residents along the route from St. Helens Junction Station to Sherdley Hall, a distance of about two miles, had elaborately decorated their houses and the streets generally with flags, banners, and bunting. Just outside the St. Helens Junction Station an elaborate fancy arch had been erected, upon which appeared the words, “Sutton Greets You.” At the entrance gates to Sherdley Park there was another magnificent decorative display, and the words “Welcome Home” were affixed to another fine arch. The general arrangements for the proceedings had been completed by a special committee, of which Lieutenant-Colonel McTear was the chairman, Mr. W. Briers hon. treasurer, and Councillor Dr. Bates the active hon. secretary, and the absolute precision and splendid success which marked the whole proceedings testified to the ability and thoroughness with which the scheme was conceived and carried out.

The train conveying Captain Hughes and Mrs. Hughes reached St.Helens Junction shortly before half-past two, and was greeted with enthusiastic cheers. Captain and Mrs. Hughes were received on the platform by Colonel McTear, Councillor Dr. Bates, Mr. W. Briers, and other gentlemen, and a handsome bouquet was presented to Mrs. Hughes by Miss Ada Royle and Master William Bates. As the party crossed the footbridge to the station exit the crowd of many thousands gathered outside the station set up enthusiastic cheers, which were renewed as Captain and Mrs. Hughes entered the carriage awaiting them. The Sutton company of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion South Lancashire Regiment, under Captain Masson, lined the roadway, and, after Captain and Mrs. Hughes had exchanged personal greetings with the members of the reception committee, and other gentlemen and ladies, a move was made for Sherdley Hall.

The entire route was thickly lined with spectators, and great enthusiasm prevailed. Captain Hughes's carriage was followed by one containing Mrs. Bates, Master Willie Bates, Mrs. Royle, and Miss Ada Royle. The general procession was headed by a large body of horsemen – tradesmen, principally, of the district, and they were followed by the volunteers, workmen from the London and North-western Railway Company's sheeting department, a number of whom were dressed as “handy men,” in blue tunics, and dragged along a splendid wooden representative of a 4.7 gun. Then came the members of the Sutton Cricket Club, Sutton Conservative Club, Sutton Horticultural Society, Sutton Men's Club, Vulcan Social Club, Redgate Burial Society, the Rechabites, Good Templars, Oddfellows, and others.

The children from Sutton National Schools, Peasley Cross Schools, St. Joseph's Schools, and Holy Trinity Schools brought up the rear of the procession, which comprised in all about 3000 persons. There were numerous bands, heading certain sections, including the Sutton-road Brass Band, Parr (St. Peter's) Brass Band, Nutgrove Brass Band, and Ravenhead Brass Band. Splendid arrangements had been made, and were carried out without hitch, for the lining of the roads and carriage drive near the hall, and the school children lustily sang “Soldiers of the Queen” and “God Save the Queen.” An interesting ceremony took place at the entrance to the hall, where Colonel McTear, on behalf of the subscribers, presented to Captain and Mrs. Hughes a beautifully illuminated address in album form, and bound in red morocco(?). The address, which was read by Councillor Dr. Bates, referred in congratulatory terms to the safe return of Captain Hughes and Mrs. Hughes from South Africa, expressed heartfelt appreciation on the part of the residents of the district for the many kindnesses they had received, and a sincere hope that the recipients would long be spared to dwell amongst them in happiness and in the enjoyment of good health.

Sergeant-Major Hunniford(?), of the 2nd Lancashire Royal Engineer Volunteers, who was present with a number of officers and men, then handed to Captain Hughes, on behalf of subscribers in St.Helens, including the St.Helens Football Club, of which Captain Hughes is president, a handsome silver-cake-basket, weighing 30 ounces, and which was suitably inscribed. Mr. Coates on behalf of the servants and employees of Sherdley Hall, presented a beautiful aneroid barometer. Captain Hughes, who was well received, acknowledged the gifts in thankful terms, and said he and Mrs. Hughes had been so touched by their reception that afternoon that they would never forget it. He remarked that neither he nor Mrs. Hughes had had a day's illness since leaving St. Helens, and during their absence they had covered from 15,000 to 20,000 miles in their journeyings. He thanked them very sincerely for their kindly reception and for their handsome presents on their return home. (Cheers)

The school children afterwards marched back to their respective schools, where they were entertained to refreshments, and at the Sutton Conservative Club the members had an enjoyable supper and concert in celebration of the occasion. In the evening there was a display of fireworks near the hall, and many thousands of persons gathered in the locality. Arrangements are being made for a further gathering at Sutton, at which Captain Hughes will be presented with a sword of honour, and Mrs. Hughes will be the recipient of two handsome silver rose bowls, subscribed for by members of the Sutton Conservative Club and the Sutton Women's Conservative Association respectively.
The Liverpool Mercury December 10th 1900

(Nb. "Bobs" was the nickname of Lord Roberts a.k.a. Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts)

Captain Michael Hughes of Sherdley

War-Related Articles On Other Sutton Beauty & Heritage Pages:
Three Heroic Sutton Nurses in Sutton Tragedy Part 1; Dad's Army Tragedy in Sutton Tragedy Part 1; A Letter from the King of Belgium to Sutton in Sutton Trivia & True Facts!; What 'Lord Haw Haw' Said About Sutton in Sutton Trivia & True Facts!; A Sutton Schoolboy's Memories of WW2 by Bill Bate in Memories of Sutton Part 2; Growing Up in Sutton Manor by Alan Pugh in Memories of Sutton Part 16; Memories of Sutton Part 11 Sutton Oak CDRE recollections
Other War-Related Articles:
Three Heroic Sutton Nurses in Sutton Tragedy Part 1; Dad's Army Tragedy in Sutton Tragedy Part 1; A Letter from the King of Belgium to Sutton in Sutton Trivia & True Facts!; What 'Lord Haw Haw' Said About Sutton in Sutton Trivia & True Facts!; A Sutton Schoolboy's Memories of WW2 by Bill Bate in Memories of Sutton Part 2; Growing Up in Sutton Manor by Alan Pugh in Memories of Sutton Part 16; Memories of Sutton Part 11 Sutton Oak CDRE recollections
Stephen Wainwright
This website has been written and researched and many images photographed by myself, Stephen Wainwright, the Sutton Beauty & Heritage site owner. Individuals from all over the world have also kindly contributed their own photographs. If you wish to reuse any image, please contact me first as permission may be needed from the copyright owner. High resolution versions of many pictures can also be supplied at no charge. Please also contact me if you can provide any further information or photographs concerning Sutton, St.Helens. You might also consider contributing your recollections of Sutton for the series of Memories pages. Sutton Beauty & Heritage strives for factual accuracy at all times. Do also get in touch if you believe that there are any errors. I respond quickly to emails and if you haven't had a response within twelve hours, check your junk mail folder or resend your message. Thank you! SRW
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