Frederick WHATMOUGH
Rank: Private
Number: 8959
Unit: B Company, 17th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 2 June 1916
Age: 19
Cemetery: Chipilly Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France

Frederick was named after his father who, in 1901, was running a tobacconist's shop at 79 Great Portwood Street. His father had married Ellen Bradbury at St Mary's Church in Cheadle in the summer of 1894. Fred was their eldest child and had been born in the opening months of 1897. A sister, Mary, was born in about 1900.

Nothing is known of Fred's early life but, after leaving school, he went to work in Manchester for Peel, Watson & Co, 6 Parker Street. The family was living in Heaviley at the time of the Great War. Their address is not known but it may have 9 St Paul's Street, where his parents were known to be living in the early 1920s.

In September 1914, he joined the second of the newly formed Manchester Pals battalions and was assigned to No. 6 Platoon in "B" Company. Some details of the recruitment and training period can be found here.  Fred undertook some extra specialist training and would become one of the Battalion's signallers.

Fred and his comrades went overseas on active service in November 1915. As well as anyone can prepare for such a thing, he will have been prepared to lose his life in battle. But it would be a tragic accident that eventually claimed it.

Since the beginning of the year, the Battalion had been undertaking regular tours of duty in the front line trenches. When out of the line, they had undertaken various fatigues preparing for the forthcoming major attack which would later be officially known as the Battle of the Somme. During May, the time in the trenches had been around the village of Vaux but, on 1 June, this sector was taken over by French troops. In the early hours of the 2nd, the Manchesters marched away from the front line to a reserve camp in a wood called the Bois Celestines, some miles to the rear where they would camp in huts. The wood was just north of the village of Chipilly, on the banks of the River Somme.

His Company Commander, Captain Vaudrey, wrote "I very much regret to have to break the news to you of the death of your son, Signaller Whatmough, who was drowned whilst bathing here - a few miles behind the firing line - yesterday afternoon, June 2nd. Though a strong swimmer he must, we think, have been seized with cramp and despite efforts made by his comrades, particularly a man named Hassall, he sank and was drowned. We worked hard to recover him, but it was too late when we did. He will be buried with military honours tomorrow. Since being out here he has always been good at his work and anxious to do his duty; and a favourite amongst his comrades. As you know, he joined right at the beginning of the War, and has been with us all the time, and although his death did not actually occur in the face of the enemy, he died for his country which he served so well. We fully realise how much you will feel this blow and I hope you will accept the sympathy of the officers and men of his company."

Norman Vaudrey was killed leading his men into the attack on 1 July 1916. The man who tried to save him, Hassall, will be Pte Frederick Hassall, from Higher Broughton. He was serving with No. 7 Platoon, "B" Company and was killed in action on 10 July.

   
           
   
     
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