Thursday, 3 August 2017

What were the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Pals doing at Alex Park in the September of 1914? ........... stories behind the book nu 10

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War.*

The entrance to Alexandra Park, 1907
Now this is one of those stories that started off full of promise with just a chance that I would uncover a lost part of the Park’s history.

The 3rd Battalion were one of the eight Pals’ Battalions raised in the first few months of the Great War.

The authorities had not quite been prepared for the rush of recruits.

The first two battalions had been raised in a matter of days and by the time the 3rd and 4th were complete there were still no where to put them.

So while the first and second fairly quickly moved to a tent city at Heaton Park, the 3rd was accommodated at White City and the 4th were billeted at home.

And that brings me to the 3rd Battalion and Alexandra Park.

The definitive book on the Manchester Pals* describes how the battalion had been recruited in just three days between Saturday September 5 and Monday the 7th but “unlike the first two companion battalions [it was] initially trained at White City, a sports and racing stadium in the Old Trafford area, and accommodated  there in hastily  erected and draughty constructions.  Before those huts at the White City became available this battalion’s parades were undertaken in the City Hall with route marches to and from Alexandra Park.”**

Heaton Park, 1914
As late as September 26 the Manchester Guardian reported that “the recruiting authorities have in mind the undoubted convenience of being able to billet the men on themselves, in which case they would be in the same position as the men who were recently posted to reserve, though of course their full time would be required in training.”***

Which nicely brings us back to those route marches to Alexandra Park.

I have to confess I had misread the original newspaper entries and made the assumption that they had camped out in the park but no evidence has come forward to support this and so I can only assume that on arriving at the park gates and after a suitable rest they marched away to White City where they were still to be found two month later.

Pictures; entrance to Alexandra Park, circa 1907 courtesy of Ann Love, and Heaton Park, 1914 from the collection of David Harrop

*Manchester and the Great War, Andrew Simpson, was published in 2017,

**Manchester Pals A History of the two Manchester Brigades, Michael Stedman, 1994

***ibid, page 25

****City Battalion and Winter Quarters, Manchester Guardian, September 24 1914

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