Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Telling the story of Signaller Thomas Roberts of the 17th Manchester's and a postcard from Heaton Mersey

I never tire of those old picture postcards which ask “can you pick out our house?”

Didsbury Road, 1915
I just think that in one sentence they bring you a little closer to the people who sent and received the card, even if it is difficult to know which house is referred to.

All of which is fine but as Heaton Mersey is pretty much unknown territory to me I won’t even go to the census record and try to track Mr Henshall and match it with the picture.

Instead I shall ponder on “Signaller Thomas Roberts no 8818, 17 Batt Manchester Regiment” who in the December of 1915 was in France with the British Expeditionary Force.

"Best wishes .... and a victorious, safe  and speedy return" 1915
Now finding him in the historical records has been difficult and there are a number of possible candidates who fit the bill.

But I travel in hope because I know he will have enlisted in the September of 1914 when the 17th Battalion was raised from men working in the city’s offices and warehouses.

The 17th was the second of the City’s Pals Battalions and was recruited in just two days on September 2nd and 3rd 1914, spent time in training at Heaton Park and by early November of the following year were in France.


And that is where Signaller Roberts was when his postcard arrived from Heaton Mersey although at present there is not much more on him.

Men of  A & B Company, 17th Manchester's 1914
He  appears in the list of men serving in the Pals Battalions which records that he was in Company A, Platoon 1 of the regiment and there is a photograph of men who did not make it into their respective company pictures but I doubt we will ever be able to identify him from the group.

That said he does appear also in the Manchester Employers Roll of Honour for 1914-16.

There is a Thomas Roberts who had been employed by the Manchester Ship Canal Company and another at Charles Macintosh and Co Ltd.

But as there are a total of twenty-six men listed as either Thomas Roberts or T Roberts the Ship Canal and Charles Macintosh can only be a guess.

But it is a start

Location; Heaton Mersey, Manchester

Pictures postcard Heaton Mersey 1915 and details from Manchester City Battalions Book of Honour, 1914-16 courtesy of David Harrop

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