Frederick BIRCHALL
Rank: Private
Number: 203235
Unit: B Company, 1st Battalion LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 14 October 1918
Age: 21
Cemetery: Ledeghem Military Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium

Frederick was 3 when the 1901 Census was taken. His parents were James and Susannah and he was living with them and his much older brother, George, at the family home at 40 Baker Street, Heaton Norris. His grandmother, Elizabeth Birchall was also living them. After the War, James and Susannah had moved down the street and were living at No. 49.

Frederick enlisted into the army at an early stage of the War and is believed to have the joined the Regiment's 1/5th Territorial Battalion.  He was given the service number 6346 and records show men with numbers close to this were being killed as early as the spring of 1915. At the beginning of 1917, Territorial soldiers were all re-allocated six-digit numbers as above. At some point after this, Frederick was transferred to the 1st Battalion. This was, probably, after recovery from a wound or long-term illness. When he was fit enough to return the 1st Battalion will have been in greater need of replacement troops.

At the beginning of October 1918, Frederick and his mates were resting in cellars in the Belgian town of Ypres (now Ieper). Around the 8th, they moved back into the front line near Ledeghem railway station, in expectation of taking part in an attack. These orders were subsequently cancelled and the Battalion returned to Ypres on the 10th.

On the 13th, the men moved by light railway to Waterdamhoek (about a mile south of the village of Moorslede) and took up positions between the Menin - Roulers road and Ledeghem. Three companies would form part of the 29th Division's reserve force but Frederick's "B" Company would follow close behind the 2nd Royal Fusiliers and "mop up" any pockets of resistance in Ledeghem.

Zero hour was at 5.35am and, under heavy shellfire and through gas, "B" Company moved down the main street of the village, capturing 40 Germans and a pill box. By 7am, they had completed their task but had lost 13 men. They had captured 74 prisoners and five machine guns. The Company would be in action again later in the day, but it is most probable that Frederick had been one of the 13 casualties.

As for the rest of the Battalion, the Regimental History records that it had "moved off at 6.35am marching on a compass bearing owing to the fog and smoke with officers carrying their revolver in one hand and their compass in the other. So intent was the Commanding Officer on his compass bearing that, before he knew his peril, he found himself floundering in a very wet and cold moat."  Their attack continued throughout the morning until they were 2 miles east of the village.

The battalion now re-organised (and was probably joined by "B" Company") and, at 12.30pm, it advanced again. This proved difficult as there was machine gun and artillery fire. Some advance was made and, by nightfall, the Battalion stopped 1000 yards short of its second objective (the road between Salines and Steenbeck). It was to prove to be their last major action of the War.

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