James SWINDELLS
Rank: Private
Number: 52950
Unit: 22nd Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 4 October 1917
Age: 18 (based on 1901 Census)
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

James was one of the six children of James and Isabella Swindells recorded on the 1901 Census. The family was then living at 19 Newtown Street, Hazel Grove and James, senior, was a felt hat finisher by trade. Their children were Mary (then 16), William (15), Jessie (13), John (7), James (2) and Anice (3 months).

The 22nd Battalion had been raised in the autumn of 1914 as the seventh of the "Pals Battalions" formed by the Regiment which had allowed men who worked together or who were friends to enlist and fight together. However, many of the original members had been killed or wounded during the Battle of the Somme in the summer and autumn of 1916. Replacements came from all over the country although many, like James, came from the Manchester area. His service number suggests that he joined up towards the end of 1916 and was, most probably, conscripted when he became 18.

The Third Battle of Ypres is often called Passchendaele, after the village that sat on top of the ridge outside the Belgian town of Ypres and which was an early objective. The battle had started on 31 July 1917 and, in series of hard slogs, the British troops were slowly attacking their way up the slope.

The attack scheduled for 4 October would later be officially designated as the Battle of Broodseinde. British troops would advance up the Broodseinde Ridge on a seven mile frontage, east of the village of Zonnebeke. Nearly 220,000 men would be involved.

The Battalion spent 2 October in dugouts in a railway embankment near Zillebeke Lake and during the evening of the 3rd moved forward to assembly positions in Polygon Wood. They attacked at 6am in conjunction with the 1st South Staffordshires; captured their first objective and moved on to secure their second objective, described in the unpublished history of the Battalion only as the "Blue Line". Neighbouring units had not been as successful in their attacks and this left the Manchesters' flank open to heavy machine gun fire from German troops still occupying a position known as Joiners Rest. There were many casualties and two companies of the 21st Manchesters were ordered forward to support and reinforce them. Together they managed to consolidate the captured position.

At dusk, the Germans could be seen massing ready to counter attack but this was broken up by well directed British artillery fire. The Manchesters held their position until relieved on the 7th. During the attack, they had suffered nearly 300 casualties - dead, wounded or missing. James and another local man, William Crowther, would be part of the final death toll.

A year later, almost to the day, more bad news would come to Hazel Grove when it was learned that Willliam Swindells had been killed.   

Further information about James and William can be found in the book, "Hazel Grove to Armageddon" by John Eaton.

   
           
   
     
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