Oliver MORLEY
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 1638
Unit: 1st Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 12 March 1915
Age: 24 (based on 1901 Census)
Cemetery: Estaires Communal Cemetery, Nord, France

When the 1901 Census was taken, the Morley family was living in a "two up, two down" at 12 Toll Bar Street, Stockport. 50 year old Henry Morley was a cotton spinner; his wife, Hannah, a weaver. They had four children - James (then 16), Florence (13), Oliver (10) and Elizabeth (7). They would later move to live at Manchester Old Road.

When he was old enough, Oliver joined the army and, when War was declared in August 1914, was in India on garrison duty at Jullandar with the Battalion. He had been serving for about 5 years. The Battalion arrived in France at the end of September 1914 and, over the coming months, were rarely long away from action. The fighting in which Oliver was killed as later given the official name of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and was the first major British attack of the War.

Neuve Chapelle is a village on the main road running between the French towns of Bethune and Armentieres and the front line ran parallel to the road. The infantry attack was launched at 8am on the 10th. Oliver and his mates were not part of this advance and had spent the night in billets at Le Couture. At 12.30pm, they moved out of camp as the advanced guard of the re-enforcing Division, towards Richebourg St Vaast. At 4pm, they moved forward in support of the 47th Sikhs of the Dehra Dun Brigade which was to attack the German 2nd line of trenches at the Bois de Biez. In the event, the attack was called off until the next day.

The Regimental History recounts that on the 11th: "The Battalion again moved forward and formed up in front of the battered houses of Neuve Chapelle and while here was ordered to attack on the left of the second line of the 59th Rifles. The enemy were firing freely on the village with guns and rifles......and several men were killed and others wounded. Later the enemy turned their guns on to the houses behind which the Battalion was sheltering and it accordingly moved into the open and lay down in extended order....An attack was ordered but subsequently cancelled."

The Battalion was withdrawn to billets for the night. At 5 the next morning, they moved off again towards Neuve Chapelle. There was intense shelling of the road and the men had to take cover in some trenches. At 9am, orders were received to attack the Bois de Biez which had now become the German front line. Nos. 1 and 2 Companies would lead the Battalion attack with No. 4 in close support. No. 3 would remain in reserve carrying shovels and sandbags ready to go forward to consolidate any gains. The attack was scheduled for 1pm and is described in "The Indian Corps in France":

"The moment the first two lines of companies appeared, the enemy opened a staggering fire (and) men were falling fast. By 1.30pm, the leading companies of the Battalion had succeeded in reaching the front line trenches held by the Garwhal Brigade. The remainder of the Battalion was held up for some time, owing to the necessity of crossing gaps in the trenches where roads and ditches intersected them. These gaps were marked down by the enemy and swept by machine gun fire; all attempts to pass them ending only in heavy casualties. No. 3 and 4 Companies eventually made a gallant rush and reached the front line with much diminished ranks".

As can be seen, the Manchesters had incurred these losses just trying to reach their own front line. Sometime over these days, Oliver had been badly wounded. This was probably on the day he died as he buried very close to the battlefield. He was in the process of being evacuated to a field hospital but his wounds were too severe.

   
           
   
     
© 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