Edwin PICKERING
Rank: Private
Number: 21615
Unit: 16th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 27 April 1918
Age:
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Edwin lived with his parents, Walter and Frances, at 23 Gatley Road, Cheadle. Another relative, Herbert, who was probably Edwin's brother also served in the army and is believed to have survived the war. It has not been possible to identify Walter and Frances on the 1901 Census and it is possible they were not together and/or living in the area at the time. A boy names Edwin Pickering, aged 11, is shown on the Census as living at a children's home in Stockport and this might be the future soldier.

In the late autumn of 1914, Edwin enlisted in Manchester into the 23rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment (the 8th of the City's Pals Battalions). He might have tried to join up earlier but many men of shorter stature had been rejected in the main recruiting exercise of September. By 25 November, there were some 1208 men who all joined the newly formed "Bantam" Battalion. All were between 5 foot and 5 ft 3 inches in height. Edwin was attached to the 2nd Platoon, "A" Company. After training, the Battalion left for France on 31 January 1916. The 23rd Battalion suffered the fewest casualties of all those from Manchester, due to its lack of involvement in major attacks. Edwin would, however, have taken part in the attack on 22 October 1917 at Houthulst Forest near Ypres. The Battalion was disbanded in early 1918 and the troops reassigned, mainly to other Manchester units. In Edwin's case this was to the 1st City Pals - the 16th Battalion. 

In the month prior to Edwin's death, his new unit suffered massive losses. These started on 21 March with an overwhelming German attack which pushed the British back many miles. Edwin will have been fortunate to escape death or capture on that day and throughout the following week. By 19th April, the Battalion was down to half strength and was effectively merged with the 17th Battalion. They were quickly thrown into defensive positions south of the Ypres-Comines canal. On 25 April, the enemy attacked but was driven off.

The next day, there was stronger attack. The War Diary describes it "In a thick mist, the enemy broke through the line held by the Battalion left and enveloped "C" & "D" Companies - no officers or men then with those companies has returned".

The remnants of the Battalion were now ordered to withdraw to a position north of the Canal (near Lock 8).They held this position for a further two days under regular attack and artillery shelling and, during this time, Edwin was killed.

In the chaos of battle, it became impossible to properly bury the dead and this will account for why Edwin has no known grave and is remembered on a Memorial to the Missing.

(Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

   
           
   
     
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