John Edwin RIDGWAY
Rank: Lieutenant
Number:
Unit: 2/5th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment
Date of Death: 20 or 21 November 1917
Age: 26
Cemetery: Cambrai Memorial, Louveral, Nord, France

Edwin's father owned a successful drapery shop at 33-35  Castle Street, Edgeley and he worked in the business. John Ridgway and Clara Collett had married in the late 1880s and Edwin was their first child. He had been born on 3 March 1891. When the 1901 Census was taken, the family was living at the shop premises and Edwin had three younger siblings - Sydney (then 8), Wilfred (7) and Edith (4 months). The business was obviously quite successful as the family could afford to employ a live-in servant, 17 year old Mary Proctor.

Edwin was educated at Stockport Technical School and, as with many young men of the time, he was keen to further his education and had attended the local Wesleyan Sunday School where he was a "life scholar". In later life, he had been a past Secretary of the Edgeley Tradesmen's Association.

By the time of the Great War, Edwin was working in the business' warehouse and was engaged to be married. The family was by then living nearby at The Hollies, 70 Chatham Street. Edwin enlisted in July 1915 and was immediately selected to become an officer. He was attached to the Manchester University Officer Training Corps and was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the November. He went overseas in January 1916 as an officer in the West Riding Rgeiment, but this cannot have been the 2/5th Battalion , which did not go abroad until a year later.

In October 1916, he was reported to have been wounded but this doesn't appear to have kept him from duty. However, on 16 November, he was stationed near the Somme village of Fonquevillers and reported sick, suffering with pains in his legs. He was admitted to a field hospital and, on 2 December, Edwin was evacuated to the UK where he was admitted to the Kitchener Military Hospital in Sussex.  By the following month, he had been transferred nearer home and was a patient at 2nd Western general Hospital, Manchester where the doctors had not diagnosed his complaint but noted that he was also easily tired.

On 11 June 1917, his condition was considered at an army medical board at Clipstone Camp in Nottinghamshire. It would seem, from the report, that Edwin had also been suffering from some deafness caused by shellfire but this was much improved. His original compalnt had been diagnosed as trench fever. His general health was now satisfactory and it was agreed that he should return to duty. It is probably at this point that he joined the 2/5th Battalion.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records Edwin's date of death as 20 November, although an examination of the Battalion's War Diary indicates it was the following day. On the 20th, British troops launched a large scale attack, involving the use of over 400 tanks, on German positions near the French town of Cambrai.

The attack was launched at 6.20am with a heavy bombardment of the enemy lines. Following quickly, the tanks and then the infantry attacked. On the left of the attack the British 62nd Division, which included Edwin's Battalion, advanced near Havrincourt and fought its way to near Gavrincourt. During the course of the day, they advanced 5 miles and were exhausted. It was later suggested that this was the biggest advance in battle by any unit during the course of the whole War.

The next day, they formed up at 10am ready for a further advance supported by tanks, but none arrived. The enemy barbed wire was too thick for a frontal attack across open ground. Instead "A", "B" and "C" Companies worked their way through the German trench system, throwing grenades in front of them to clear the way. They managed to make good progress like this until they came to a German strongpoint. The War Diary records "A platoon of "A" Company, under Lt Ridgway rushed the strongpoint and captured it, taking 40 prisoners. Lt Ridgway was killed."

Edwin's body was never recovered and identified and his name is now recorded on the nearby Memorial to the Missing.

   
           
   
     
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