John Corbishley and Ellen Shaughnessy married in the Stockport area in the late 1880s. They had two children – Peter and Joseph – before John died in the late 1890s. Ellen remarried in 1900 to William Bagley and the family was living at 29 Daw Bank when the Census was taken in 1901. They would later live at 6 Princess Street and 48 Millgate.
Peter joined the army at the age of 18, on 15 April 1908. His service papers show him to have been just less than 5’ 8”, with blue eyes and brown hair. He recorded his religious denomination as Roman Catholic. He had completed his term on 1 October 1912 and returned to Stockport where he found work at Weir Mills on Chestergate. He was still an army reservist and was recalled to the colours when war was declared in August 1914, going overseas the following January.
Not surprisingly, the Heavy Batteries of the Royal Garrison Artillery fired some of the most powerful of the Army’s guns and were stationed well behind the front line. The guns would be used to a batter and destroy enemy strongholds and targets a long distance away. 123rd Battery was equipped with four 4.7 inch guns, capable of firing a 60 pound shell at a range of over 9 kilometres. In the late spring of 1915 it was positioned south east of Potizje, on the outskirts of the Belgian town of Ypres (now Ieper).
The German attack that would later become designated as the Second Battle of Ypres had started on 22 April and would continue until 25 May. The Battery’s War Diary, held at the National Archives, records that it was itself shelled by the enemy on 5 and 6 May. The next day, the whole Battery “stood to” ready to defend against an infantry attack on their positions from the Germans who were now close to them.
On the 8th, the Diary records “Battery very heavily shelled. German batteries of all calibres. The enemy has discovered our position which was never a very secure one. We experienced heavy casualties”.
In fact, the German shelling had been so intense that the British infantry holding the front line were forced to retreat from their positions on the nearby Frezenberg Ridge. Peter was among nine members of the Battery to be killed. He was buried near to where he fell but after the War his body was exhumed and reburied in the War Graves Cemetery.