' Stockport Soldiers who died 1914 - 1918 - Battle Report
 
           
 
Stockport's Territorials - the first weeks of War
Date: Summer & Autumn 1914
Regiment: 6th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment

A full account of the Battalion's early period is contained in the booklet "Stockport Lads Together" by David Kelsall.

The pre-war Territorials were mobilised on the day war was declared - Tuesday, 4 August 1914. By the evening, many men had gathered at Stockport's Armoury. They were paraded and sent home till the next morning. By the Sunday, the full complement of men had been assembled. The vast majority volunteered for overseas service and they marched off to Edgeley Station to begin training. This was initially at Church Stretton in Shropshire and, later, at Northampton.

During October, the Battalion's Adjutant noted the poor physique of many of the recruits. This coupled with what he also regarded as poor discipline (due to the fact that soldiers and their NCOs were often friends and neighbours) was making for a difficult time. However, by 9 November, the Battalion was deemed ready to go on active service. They probably marched off to Northampton station singing the Battalion song:-

We are the Cheshire b-hoys

We are the Cheshire b-hoys

We know our manners

We spend our tanners

We are respected wherever we go

When we're marching down the Wellington Road

Doors and windows open wide

We are the boys of the first 6th line

We don't give a ____ for the firing line

We are the Cheshire boys.

Unfortunately, the tune is not known.

Battalion training continued until 11 December when they went into the trenches on their own for the first time . The next day, they suffered the first fatality (Private Walter Williamson, "C" Company, who came from Hyde). The Companies in the front line took part in the so-called "Christmas Truce". The Battalion History describes the day:-

"The day opened with the usual stand-to before dawn. Soon after daylight arrived someone in our lines began to play "Christians, awake!" on a mouth organ, and the thoughts of the men in the trenches immediately turned to the folks at home, who they knew were living under better conditions than they were. It was, says one who was there, nothing but mud, mud, mud, a parapet and two strands of wire between us and the Boche, who was 200 yards away. After "Christians, awake!" the Boche responded with the popular melody "Come over here!" and lo! we saw the Boche coming out of his trenches and we wondered whether it was an attack.~ The Germans were waving their arms, and immediately our men went out to meet them in No Man's Land, where we frater­nised. We ate their Saukeraut, and they our chocolate, cakes, etc. We had killed a pig just behind our lines. There were quite a lot of creatures rambling about the lines, including an old sow with a litter and lots of cattle and poultry. We cooked the pig in No Man's Land, sharing it with the Boche. We also buried several dead Frenchmen who were lying out there. So ended our first Christmas in the line."

Over the coming weeks, the Battalion was mainly engaged in fatigue work. Officers realised that many of the men were simply unfit for the rigours of trench warfare and several were sent home. At the end of January 1915, a draft of nearly 250 men was received from the 2/6th (reserve) Battalion. Officers continued to note that the quality of men was not good. In March 1915, the Battalion was withdrawn from front line service. It did not return to front line duty until January 1916.

   
           
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