Arthur GASKELL
Rank: Private
Number: 4086
Unit: 12th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 7 July 1916
Age: 24
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Arthur had been born in Stockport and is thought to have lived all his life in the town until he enlisted into the army. In 1905, he married Maria Finnegan in a civil ceremony registered in the town and they would have two children together - Arthur in 1907 and William in 1909. They lived at 15 Hart Street, Stockport. Arthur worked for John Harrison at his brickmaking works on Station Road, Reddish.

The soldiers for the 12th Battalion were recruited at Ashton under Lyne from early September 1914 and Arthur's service number indicates he was amongst the first to join up. He will have gone overseas with the Battalion in July 1915.

The Battle of the Somme had opened on 1 July and many Manchester battalions had their baptism of fire that day. The 12th Battalion was held in reserve during the first week but, on the 7th, they would also go into action.

There had been successes around the village of Mametz on 1 July and a German stronghold known as the Quadrilateral had been subsequently captured. The next objective was a trench known as Quadrilateral Support. This ran between Mametz Wood and the nearby village of Contalmaison.

There seems to have been a chaotic attempt to capture the position during the night of the 6/7th but this had failed. A renewed attempt by the 12th Battalion was ordered for 8am. In the 1920s, Major Thompson described the attack for the Battalion's History (recently republished by the Regimental Archives):

"The route to the assembly point was under constant shell fire and we lost some men but eventually the Battalion formed up in good order. At 8.00am our barrage ceased, "D" and "B" Companies moved forward, followed by "C" Company. "A" Company was held back until the others got well forward. The steadiness of the men was wonderful and they went over in as good a line as if on parade, although as soon as the advance started, they were subjected to very heavy shelling and machine gun fire. As our barrage had ceased, they had no shelter whatsoever and had a distance of 700 yards to cross. As soon as the first three Companies showed themselves on the ridge overlooking the trench, they were met by a withering fire and were mown down in great numbers. The same fate awaited "A" Company. In a few seconds, hardly any of us were on our feet. The casualties were very numerous."

200 men were dead, including Arthur, Harry Hill and Bernard King. His body was never recovered and identified.

Twelve months would pass and then further bad news arrived for the Gaskell family when it was learnt that Arthur's older brother, Fred, had also been killed.

   
           
   
     
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