About the text

This is a transcription of the War Diary of the 23rd Service Battalion, Manchester Regiment (104th Brigade, 35th Division).

From 1907 the War Office Field Service Regulations required that all units on active service must keep an up-to-date record of events. The War Diary was to be written up each day by an appointed junior officer and signed off, at the end of the month, by the battalion’s commanding officer.

I began transcribing this text whilst researching my great-grandfather’s war. I found it useful to have a searchable (and less eye-straining) version to refer to. Having spent a few weeks unravelling some slightly challenging handwriting, I figured that I might as well make this available on line, just in case it might assist anybody else’s research project.

All transcribing errors are my own – please do let me know if you spot one and I’ll put it right.

A scanned image of the original diary is available to download at the National Archives website (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk), catalogue reference:  WO 95/2484.


27 responses to “About the text

  1. Robert

    An excellent project – very well done.

  2. excellent work, I am very impressed

    have you visited the Manchester Regiment Site?

    you’d be very welcome

    • Thanks so much for the encouraging feedback, Chris. Yes, I registered as a member of the Manchester Regiment forum a few months ago. I’ve been cloistered away for a while, pushing on with this research, and so haven’t really been an active forum member yet. The more that I find out about the 23rd Manchesters, though, the more questions I have – so I do mean to tap the collective wisdom of the forum soon! It would be great to connect up with anyone else who is researching the 23rd.
      With best wishes,

  3. Caroline,
    I’m looking forward to reading through your (very hard) work. We’re following similar projects in different directions and you’ve already inspired me to take a trip to Kew to have a look at some War Diary extracts. The 17th Diary isn’t online – unlucky for me,

    Chris and the MRF are encyclopedic. They have amazing information to spread knowledge.

    Good Stuff

    ps I guess we must be wordpress cousins!! Hehehe

    • Well, thank yee kindly, cousin! I’ve just been having a peruse of your site. I’m wowed by your research and it’s so well presented. Serious respect to you, sir!

  4. Mutual Appreciation Society! Stay in touch.

  5. A really poignant film that, isn’t it? I do like that they’re still proudly calling themselves Bantams.

    Meant to say to you, Tim – have you seen that there’s lots of 17th Manchesters items for sale on EBay at the moment? Someone called ‘pgelliott’ seems to be selling a collection. There’s some really smashing photos. I’d love to own this one, but it’s beyond my paltry budget! http://www.ebay.fr/itm/1915-17th-Battalion-Manchester-Regiment-Kaiser-Impression-Unused-RP-Postcard-/200975379410?pt=UK_Collectables_Postcards_MJ&hash=item2ecb10ebd2

  6. Interesting, but I refuse to compete with other M/Chr aficionados.

  7. Sue Burden

    Amazing War diary transcription. I have transcribed two years of the 1/7th Warwickshire’s diary and knowing how hard it is and how long it takes I take my hat off to you.
    I have a portrait of what I believe to be a Manchester regiment man who looks very much like one of the men pictured on your first page in the selection of men from the in memoriam and missing notices of the Manchester E. News . He is the third person alongside H Hughes and J Johnson. I think the name is Gills. If possible I would be grateful if you could confirm that and also his initial.
    Many thanks

  8. Sue Burden

    Thank you for the prompt and detailed reply Caroline.
    I will be able to look into it further now that I have a name.
    Many thanks

    • Steve Carter

      Hi Sue
      Ernest Sills was/is my Great Grandfather, I never met him for obvious reasons but I remember my GG mother well. I was just googling his name as ive been looking for information on him for sometime. And lo and behold your comment on this post came up in my search.
      Yes he was in the KOSB I have no idea why as he wasnt Scottish and as yet I havent found any ancestors that were. The only pic I have of him is I assume the same as the one given to you in the links from the British News paper archive. Do you have any further information that you would be willing to share
      kind regards

  9. Toni Charlesworth

    I am going to show my husband’s great aunt this website. Her father Lewis crowther was in the 23rd Manchester regiment. Have you come across any photos? She is a very poorly lady now so anything that can help would be great

    • Hello Toni. Thanks for getting in touch. I hope that your husband’s great aunt finds some of this of interest. I’ve also written a book about the 23rd Battalion (‘The Manchester Bantams’), which has more photos and information, and would be happy to help with any questions, if I can. I’ve found a Sergeant L. Crowther who, among other things, was directing the 23rd Battalion’s bugle band. His roll number is 22644. Could that be Lewis? If so, I have a couple of group photos with him in there. If this is the same man, he was with the battalion from the start, training with them in Morecambe, was a cornet player and I’ve found references to him playing solos at battalion concerts. Fingers crossed this might be Lewis? Shall I send you the photos? With good wishes to you and your great aunt.

  10. Hi Caroline,
    Hope you’re well.
    I’m researching Lt James Watson from Londonderry. He was originally OC XII Pln of the Bantams and posted as 27th Bttn in most records, even though he was killed at Guillemont on 23rd July 1916 with the 17th Bttn.
    There’s a good link below. Do you know anything more?
    Happy New Year

    • Hi Tim,
      Good to hear from you. I can tell you a little about James Watson, but not very much more than you already have (sorry the link didn’t transfer, so I apologise if I’m repeating info that you already know!). He joined the 23/Battalion on 13 March 1915 (https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29134/supplement/3809) and is photographed with C Company, Platoon XII, in the City Battalions Book of Honour. He must have been with the Bantams while they were training in Morecambe, Masham and Salisbury Plain and is on a photograph of the battalion’s officers that was taken in October 1915 (I can let you have a copy, if you’d like). Thereafter, though, I find no mention of him. I don’t know if he had transferred out before the 23rd sailed to France (Jan 1916)? Yes, all records that I’ve found suggest that he moved to the 27/Battalion and was killed in July 1916. It looks like there was some coverage of his death in the Irish press (his father was evidently a prominent JP). I don’t have a BNA subscription at the moment, but if you do, the links below might be fruitful. I hope so!
      Good luck with your research. I look forward to reading the full account when you get there.
      Best wishes to you and yours this Christmas.

      • Thanks Caroline, I actually found my photos of James’ Service File I did at Kew. He had Appendicitis and that’s why he didn’t go to France with 23rd and was posted to 27th Bttn. He was from Londonderry NI, formerly in UVF, enlisted in R Inniskiling Reg in 1914 and commissioned (above) in March 1915. I can’t see why he chose the Manchesters.
        I originally noted James as being buried at Vernon Street, with numerous 90th Bgd men killed on 1st July. He is now at Dantzig Alley.
        I have the Platoon photo and that’s fine for now thanks. I’m trying (and failing) to focus on the connection between the 17th Bttn Officers. There was a group of replacement Officers arrived France 15/7/1916. Many had been commissioned from the Ranks or come from Reserve Bttns. It’s interesting that 23rd Bttn were carrying parties at Guillemont. In the context that very few 17th Bttn casualties have known graves, I wonder if James’ former men picked him up and gave him a proper burial. I may be romanticising…
        Ho Ho Ho
        How the blinking heck do I post links now??

      • Ah, was it appendicitis? That solves a mystery. Wonder if there was some family business connection btwn Londonderry and Manchester – thinking textiles and trade – or perhaps it was simply that the 23rd were struggling to recruit officers at that time and the opportunity was just there. Coincidentally enough, there was another 2/Lt Watson in the 23rd at the same time. Frank Watson (KIA in 1917) formerly worked for Mersey Docks & Harbour Board. Could there have been a family link, or am I wishfully supposing… probably the latter! It’s not that unusual a name, is it?
        I love your theory that his body might have been recovered by some of the men of the 23rd. I do hope that’s right. What a nice Perhaps to ponder at the end of the year…
        (And, no, I haven’t the foggiest how we attach links now. Progress, eh?)

  11. Hi Caroline,
    Do you know anything more about this chap? He may have served in the 17th Bttn, but I’m not sure.
    2nd Lt James Charles Guillet Born Kensington Q2 1883. Surveying draftsman 1911.. Farmer returned from S Africa 7/10/1914. Address Kensington. Comm 22nd Bttn 8/2/1915. Trained in A Coy 23rd Bttn. France 25/3/1916. Later address in Bradford.

    • Hi Tim,
      I can’t tell you much more that you already know. He transfers from the 22/Battalion to the 23rd in April 1915 as acting 2nd Lt (https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29147/supplement/4163), and is with the 23rd at the time of the publication of the City Battalions’ Book of Honour (‘A’ Coy, Platoon 4). He’s also on a picture that I’ve got of the battalion’s officers, which was published in the Manchester Courier on 1 October 1915 – though the photo caption lists him as ‘J. C. Guiller’. He’s been made up to Lieutenant by that time. Thereafter I my trail goes cold. Given the date that he went to France, I’m guessing that he transferred out of the 23rd (to 17th?) at the end 1915/early 1916 (the 23rd leave in Feb)? Will see if I can find anything else tomorrow. Night!

      • Thanks Caroline,
        I think I may have been confused with Fred Gilliat – but can’t work out how I thought Guillet was in 17th…
        Have a good Easter

      • Ah… Yeah, I’ve been digging around this morning and getting stumped. If you have any breakthroughs give me a nod.
        And happy Easter Monday!

  12. Andrew Spratt

    Hey Caroline,
    Sorry I’m only just finding this thread but I’m looking for some more information on Private Peter Spratt (28597) 23rd Battalion Manchester Regiment. I wonder if there is any informaiton on what Company or Platoon he was part of?
    He was killed on 25th July 1916.
    Thanks in advance

    • Hi Andrew,
      Thanks for getting in touch. I’ve found Peter in the Manchester Regt volume of the ‘Soldiers Died in the Great War’ and hoped he might be listed in the ‘City Battalions Book of Honour’, but, alas, no – three soldiers with the surname Spratt, but not Peter. Have you tried contacting the Manchester Regiment Archives in Tameside Local Studies? That’s where I’d try myself. I sincerely wish I could be more helpful!
      Have you seen the obituary notice that was placed in the Manchester Evening News for him? A lovely dedication from his workmates. If you’ve not seen it, I can send you a copy.
      With good wishes,

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