Rank: Private
Number: 61236
Unit: 1/6th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 2 September 1918
Age: 19
Cemetery: Manchester Cemetery, Riencourt-les-Bapaume, Pas de Calais, France

In the late summer of 1892, Thomas Greaves, an overlooker at a cotton mill, married his fiancée, Ellen Johnson at St Thomas' Church, High Lane. Norman was born at Windlehurst, near Marple, in about 1899 and was their only child.

The family worshipped at Windlehurst Wesleyan Chapel and Norman furthered his education by attending the Church's Sunday School. He was also a member of the Hawk Green Institute. He worked for Manchester yarn agents, Sewell Ltd, as an assistant buyer.

Norman enlisted into the army at Stockport and his service number suggests that this was towards the end of 1916. He was, no doubt, conscripted when he became 18. He was originally assigned to one of the Regiment's "service" battalions which had been formed for the duration of the War only. Several of these were disbanded at the beginning of 1918 and this is probably when he was transferred to the 1/6th (Territorial) Battalion.

By the beginning of September, the British Army had been steadily advancing for several weeks. There would be no more defeats but there was still several more weeks of hard fighting before the War would end. On the afternoon of 1 September, orders were received that the Manchesters' next  task would be to attack German positions at Villiers-au-Flos at dawn the next morning.

The 6th Battalion would advance with the 5th Battalion on its right. "A" and "B" Companies would lead the assault with "C" in close support and "D" remaining a little way in reserve ready to overlap and move on to a second objective. They would advance closely behind a creeping artillery barrage intended to keep the German soldiers under cover and unable to man their machine guns.

The Battalion's War Diary records that the attack was "carried out with great dash" and, by 6.10, they had reached the eastern edge of the village. However, neighbouring units had not fared as well and this now left the Manchesters' flanks open to enfilade fire. "A" Company suffered particularly badly from German machine guns located in huts on the village edge. It would take until early afternoon to dislodge the enemy from these huts and permit "D" Company to move on to the final objective.

The Diary also notes that there were a "fair number" of casualties from what we now call "friendly fire" as the area was being shelled by the British artillery. Having withdrawn from the village, allowing the British to enter, the Germans then also opened up with their own artillery. The Manchesters prepared for a counter-attack but this failed to materialise.

The next day, General Henley, commanding 127th Brigade congratulated then men "Yesterday, after three months of unbroken fighting in trenches and in the open, and in the face of stubborn resistance by Huns more than equal in numbers, you stormed and took Villers-au-Flos with the utmost dash and determination - a feat which would have been notable if performed by battalions at full strength and fresh from a period of rest. When Manchester hears of this new proof of your prowess, she may well be as proud of her sons as I am of commanding such soldiers."

The Brigade had captured 300 prisoners and many more lay dead or wounded on the battlefield. The Battalion War Diary records the 6th Manchesters losses as being 2 officers and 26 other ranks killed; 4 officers and 126 others wounded. Regimental records published after the War record that Norman was not killed outright but "died of wounds". He is, however, buried in the same Cemetery as his comrades known to have been killed during the day, so the records may be in error. However, it may be that he lived long enough to be seen by the Battalion's medical officer just behind the front line.

After the War, Mr & Mrs Greaves were living at "Lyn Dale", Hawk Green.

Further information about Norman, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

© 2006. Design and Layout are the property of Ihelm Enterprises Limited and cannot be reproduced without express permission.
Enter Search Phrase Here:(search may take up to 30 seconds) 
Close Search Window