Bolton Library and Museum Services

FAQs about Bolton and the First World War

Please note that some of the answers here will change as a result of ongoing research.

 

How many Boltonians lost their lives during World War 1?

Our Bolton War Dead and War Memorials projects are amassing information from a wide range of sources. One of the problems encountered is that some men and women are not included on memorials or rolls of honour and other appear multiple times. It is doubtful we will be able to arrive at a definitive figure, but the current total of casualties born in the Borough of Bolton (as it is now) is around 3, 300 people.

 

Who were the youngest and oldest Boltonian combatants killed during World War 1?

Youngest

There are 5 sixteen year olds (according to official recorded ages) in the database, though it is likely that there were younger soldiers as many young boys lied about their age to enlist. The last born was Private Thomas Pomfret of the 1/7 Lancashire Fusiliers, who was killed in action at Gallipoli on the 7th August 1915.

Oldest

The oldest soldier recorded in the database is Pioneer George Adamson, Royal Engineers, who was killed in action in Belgium on 7th October 1917 aged 54. 

 

Who were the First and Last Boltonian combatants killed during the War?

First Killed on War Service

Private John Proctor Ratcliffe of the East Lancashire Regiment was the first Boltonian casualty of the First World War. He died shortly after the outbreak of war on 10th August 1914 while on service at the East Lancashire Regiment depot in Preston.

First Killed Overseas

Two Boltonians were killed on the same day, 24th August 1914, Both Private Edward McKay of the South Lancashire Regiment and Private James Unsworth of the Cheshire Regiment were killed in action in France on that day.

Last Killed in Action

Captain Richard Burton D.S.O of the 8th Battalion Royal Marine Light Infantry was killed during the Russian Intervention on 8th September 1919.

 

Why do the dates on the Cenotaph in Victoria Square cover 1914-1919 and not 1914-1918?

The War Memorial Committee made the decision have 1919 as the end date for the cenotaph as 28th June 1919 was declared as the official end of the war.  This was the date of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, which ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers.

Although the armistice, signed on 11 November 1918, ended the actual fighting, it took six months of negotiations at the Paris Peace Conference to conclude the peace treaty.

This is why the Peace Celebrations in Bolton took place in 1919 not 1918, and why some war memorials say 1919.

 

Which Army regiment would my Bolton ancestor have served with?

Soldiers who served in the Army during the First World War were often transferred between units for a variety of reasons. However a number of regiments principally recruited from Bolton and outlying districts:

The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

The Loyals, as they were known, constitute the largest number of Boltonian soldiers who served during the First World War. They fought in almost every major action of the war, including Mons, the Marne, the Somme, Paschendaele, Gallipoli and Ypres. The Regiment raised a total of 21 battalions and was awarded 68 battle honours, 3 Victoria Crosses and lost approximately 7,590 men during the course of the war.

The Lancashire Fusiliers

The Lancashire Fusiliers recruited the second largest contingent of men from Bolton. They raised over 30 battalions of infantry for war service. It was awarded 63 battle honours and 6 Victoria Crosses, and lost 13,640 men.

The Manchester Regiment

The Manchester Regiment recruited soldiers from across the region, not just Manchester. During the war the regiment formed an extra 38 battalions in addition to the two Regular, two Militia and six Territorial Battalions. It was awarded 72 battle honours and 11 Victoria Crosses. 1,3770 men were lost during the course of the war.

The Royal Field Artillery

Serving as one half of the British Army's artillery, the Royal Field Artillery recruited a number of men from the Bolton area (and the Royal Artillery still has a presence in the town). The Bolton Artillery, as it was known was composed of 18, 19 and 20 Batteries of 1/3 East Lancashire Brigade, RFA.

 

Which was the most popular Army regiment for Boltonians to join?

The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, by quite some margin. According to our Bolton War Dead and War Memorials project, over 2,800 men were killed while serving with the Loyals and nearly 600 men died serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers.

 

Where are Bolton's Civic War Memorials?

The official Bolton County Borough War Memorial is the Cenotaph on Victoria Square. There are no names inscribed on the cenotaph, rather they are entered in the Borough's Roll of Honour in the Town Hall's Hall of Remembrance. The cenotaph was designed by Arthur John Hope (of the local archects Bradshaw, Gass and Hope) and the sculptor was Walter Marsden.

There are also Civic War Memorials in the following locations:

Nelson Square

Queen's Park

Heaton Cemetery

Farnworth Park

Horwich Memorial Gardens (Lever Park Avenue)

Blackrod Cemetery

Kearsley Town Hall

Dunscar War Memorial

Westhoughton Health Centre

Little Lever Library

Horwich Locomotive Works

Of course there are many more memorials in the Borough, all of which we are hoping to record as part of our War Memorials Project.

 

How many hospitals were there in Bolton who treated military casualties?

Six. Bolton Infirmary, Townleys (Bolton General Hospital), Watermillock, Blair Hospital, Green Bank House and Crompton Fold.

 

Where there any Conscientious Objectors in Bolton and what happened to them?

Research is ongoing but currently 91 First World War Conscientious Objectors (COs) have been identified from Bolton and district, with 59 from Bolton, 13 from Westhoughton, 12 from Farnworth, 5 from Turton and 1 each from Kearsley and Little Lever. Almost all are in the comprehensive database of more than 17,000 British conscientious objectors compiled by Cyril Pearce. The Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors, has been incorporated in the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War digital platform.

The Westhoughton Urban District Tribunal Register brings more complete information for that district. The local newspapers record tribunal decisions and arrests, with names and addresses only given for the latter. Family information can be found in local Directories and in the Census Returns for 1901 and 1911. There are a significant number of unidentified COs in newspaper reports, especially for Bolton and Kearsley.

42 of the local COs are known to have been arrested or court martialled and in most cases sent to prison, which often damaged their health and their career prospects. Motivations are not known for 31 COs, but 52 cited religious beliefs with 24 Quakers, 9 Methodists, 7 Church of England and 5 Congregationalists recorded. 10 also had political convictions. This stance led the Quakers to refuse to fight but many were prepared to undertake alternative work with the Friends Ambulance Unit in France or its General Service section at home.

The 10 socialists refused to fight in what they considered an Imperialist War, which pitted worker against worker with no benefit for them. A minority of COs had no strong religious or political views but decided for themselves that killing under any circumstances was wrong.

The most famous local CO was George Tomlinson, later Labour MP for Farnworth and Minister for Education, who had to work in a market garden.

Under Conscription from March 1916, all who objected to military service for family, business or conscientious reasons were called before their local military tribunal, composed mainly of Councillors and with an influential Military Representative.  Tribunal members were generally hostile to COs, especially socialists and the unattached. They were usually more sympathetic to Quakers and other religious groups strongly opposed to war.

Tribunals very rarely gave absolute exemptions and initially demanded non-combatant service, but most COs were prepared to go to prison to avoid it. Later on COs would be called for work of national importance, e.g. agriculture or forestry, although some kind of sacrifice or hardship was required. This could mean working 25 miles away from home or at a lower pay rate. Many occupations in munitions, war supplies, mining and transport were exempted from military service.

If you would like learn more about Conscientious Objectors in Bolton or if you can contribute any information to the ongoing research project, please contact Barry Mills on millsbcp@googlemail.com.

 

How can I research a First World War ancestor with Bolton Archives and Local Studies?

The first question to ask is “Are they from Bolton?” If the answer is “No”, then the only research that can be done is using online resources, such as Ancestry.com, FindMyPast.co.uk and the National Archives.

Step 1; Check the Bolton Journal Indexes

If the individual person was from Bolton the first place to look should be the Bolton Journal.  There are name indexes for 1915 to 1918.  If the individual was killed, died of wounds (or any other cause whilst on active service), was wounded, posted as missing or taken prisoner then it is likely that they will appear here.  Recipients of awards for bravery may also be listed.  It is important to remember that a few individuals appear in the Journal but have not been indexed.  It is also important to note that not all those who were killed or wounded etc. have an entry in the Journal. The journal indexes are freely available and easily accessed: the newspapers themselves are on microfilm. The entry in the index will tell you the date and page number to look for and whether there is a photograph available.

Step 2; Look them up on Ancestry and Find My Past

Although the Bolton Journal can provide some useful information, not all Bolton servicemen are included. Many will have gone through the war without anything “newsworthy” happening to them.  To try to find information about these men the Ancestry website offers a number of avenues of enquiry.  There is a section covering British World War One service records, although should be noted that only about 40% of these records have survived.  These records do not include officers, men who also served in World War Two or Navy and R.A.F. personnel. Ancestry.com is available free of charge in the History Centre.

The Ancestry website also has access to the British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards. This can be a useful resource as it will list the regiment or regiments the individual served in it will also give the regimental number/s used by the individual.  This information can be vital when searching for service records as it helps.

Find My Past also contains some military records and there is some overlap with Ancestry.co.uk. However, it does also hold some Naval and R.A.F records. Find My Past is also available free of charge, however only one person at a time can use this resource and the person will have to be logged onto the site by a member of staff, there may also be time limits according to demand.

Step 3; Check the Common Wealth War Grave Commission website

This search strategy is only applicable if the ancestor you are looking for died as a result of the conflict. The CWGC website can be used to locate graves or memorials, but it also includes a great deal of useful information as well.  The index includes date of death, regiment/unit/ship and service number, all of which can be useful as it helps narrow down searches when using the other resources. 

Summary of major sources of information

The Bolton Journal

Contains information on men wounded, killed, missing, died of wounds or other causes, captured, promotions and awards.

An entry may contain some or all of the following:

  • Photograph.
  • Home address.
  • Family details such as name of parents or wife, number of children, number of siblings, are any brothers also serving in the armed forces.
  • The name of regiment in which serving.
  • Date of enlistment.
  • School attended.
  • Church attended.
  • Membership of any clubs.
  • Sports teams played for.
  • Previous service including wounds, awards and promotions.

To find out whether or not there is an entry in the journal look at the back of the green Journal Index books.  Note 1914 entries are not indexed.

General Reports on the war and how Bolton was affected are also covered in this paper on a weekly basis.

Bolton Evening News

This may contain death notices and In Memoriam notices.  However the date of death would have to be gleaned first from other sources.

General Reports on the war and how Bolton was affected are also covered in this paper on a daily basis.

Printed Resources

The History Centre has a copy of the Bolton Roll of Honour  (355/BOL). This is a list of all the men and women of Bolton who died during the war and they are listed by regiment or service. Each entry has the name, any decorations, rank and number.

Online Resources

The Commonwealth War Grave Commission

The Commonwealth War Grave Commission website has the names of those killed, died of wounds, or those whose bodies have never been found.

Information will include the name of the cemetery where buried or which memorial the individual is commemorated on.  There may be a photograph of the cemetery.  If the individual has a grave there will be a transcript of the inscription.  Basic inscriptions will include regiment and number and age. There may also information about the deceased's home address and next of kin.

Ancestry and Find My Past


There is some overlap in coverage with these two websites but between them, there is a wide range of resources available. The records included are being added to all the time, but the main collections of interest are:

The collections specifically useful for World War One research are:

  •     British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920 (A)
  •     British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920 (A)
  •     British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920 (A)
  •     British Officers Taken Prisoner Of War 1914-1918 (FMP)
  •     De Ruvigny's Roll Of Honour 1914-1918 (A/FMP)
  •     Harold Gillies Plastic Surgery Archives From WW1 (FMP)
  •     Manchester Employers' Roll Of Honour 1914-1916 (FMP)
  •     Manchester Regiment City Battalions 1914-1916(FMP)
  •     National Roll Of The Great War 1914-1918 (A/FMP)
  •     Silver War Badge Roll 1914-1920 (FMP)
  •     UK, Commonwealth War Graves, 1914-1921 and 1939-1947 (A)
  •     UK, Military Campaign Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1949 (A)
  •     UK, Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972 (A)
  •     UK, Navy Lists, 1888-1970 (A)
  •     UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 (A/FMP)
  •     WW1 Distinguished Conduct Medal Citations (A/FMP)
  •     WW1 Naval Casualties (FMP)
  •     WW1 Ships Lost At Sea, 1914-1919 (FMP)