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Alma Illingworth

Private Alma Illingworth 48987, 17th (Service) 2nd City Pals Battalion, Manchester Regiment.

Alma Illingworth was born on the 2nd April 1881 at Low Common Road (now South Parade), Ossett, the second son of prison warder Philip Illingworth (1853 - 1912) and his first wife Harriet Childe (1854 - 1893), who had married in 1876 in the Dewsbury Registration District. Philip was born in Ossett and Harriet in Middlestown (Shitlington) and they went on to have five children, the others were: Vincent (1880 - 1937) b. Ossett; Oswald (1887 - 1953) b. West Gorton, Manchester; Philip Jr (1890 - 1958) b. Salford, Lancs and Ethel (1892 - 1965) b. Salford, Lancs.

From the dates of the birth of their children, Philip and Harriet Illingworth moved with their family eventually to live at Peter Street, Salford where Philip Illingworth was working now as a prison warder at Strangeways (now Manchester) Prison.

Alma's mother Harriet sadly died in late 1893 at the early age of 39 years. After the death of his first wife, widower Philip Illingworth now 41 years of age, of Broughton, Salford married 31-year-old putative widow Eliza Follows on the 2nd March 1895 at the Trinity Wesleyan Chapel, Stockport. There were no children to their marriage, but Shropshire born Eliza had an illegitimate son, William Briney, b. 1887 in Stockport, who by 1901 was the adopted son of Philip Illingworth.

Following his appointment as Chief Warder at H.M. Prison, Ruthin, by 1911 Philip Illingworth and Eliza had moved to live in North Wales where they lived at Mount Villa, Mount Street, Ruthin with stepson William Briney,aged 24 years (without occupation) and Eliza's widowed mother Sarah Follows, aged 75 years. Sadly, Philip Illingworth died on the 24th May 1912 at the age of 59 years.

Alma Illingworth had moved from Ossett to Manchester with his father and the rest of the Illingworth family by the mid 1880s and in the winter quarter of 1907, at the age of 25 years, he married 31 year year-old Lilian Jones in the Chorlton Registration District (Manchester South). By 1911, the couple were living at 18, Santiago Street, Rusholme, South Manchester and had two children: Eva born on the 29th May 1910 and Frank born on the 8th February 1914. Alma was working as a provisions warehouseman for a cheese and ham factor. Lilian died in South Manchester at the age of 56 years in 1931.

Four battalions of the Manchester Regiment were raised on the same day, 28 August 1914, by the Lord Mayor and City and designated 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th City of Manchester Battalions, 1st City Brigade: The Manchester Pals. In December 1914 all the locally raised battalions were numbered and the four battalions became 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th Battalions, The Manchester Regiment, forming the 90th Brigade of the 30th Division, an entirely Lancashire division with the crest of the Earl of Derby as its divisional sign.

Private Alma Illingworth being part of the 2nd City Pals, 17th Battalion.

On the 19th August 1914, Lord Derby had promoted the enlistment of an active service Battalion in Liverpool and on the 29th August 1914 an announcement in the local Manchester press appealing for men "Such as clerks and others engaged in commercial business who wish to serve their country and would be willing to enlist in a Battalion of Lord Kitchener's new army if they felt assured that they would be able to serve with their friends and not to be put in a Battalion with unknown men as their companions". The appeal proved enormously successful and The Manchester Evening Chronicle of the 2nd September 1914 carried an appeal for men to enlist, and by the following day, 3rd September the 17th Battalion was complete.

Arrangements were made for the Battalion to move to Heaton Park-a large public park on the outskirts of Manchester. On the 24th April 1915, it was time for the Battalion to leave the Familiar surroundings of Heaton Park and move to Belton Park in Grantham, Lincolnshire and form the 30th Division under Major General W. Fry. The training stepped up several paces at Grantham and on the 10th August 1915 the Battalion was formally taken over by the Military authorities.

On the 7th September 1915, the Division moved to Lark Hill on Salisbury Plain to complete its training. 15 months of hard training complete and fully equipped the men of the 17th were now ready to deploy to France and on the 8th November 1915 the 17th Battalion embarked on the troopships at Folkestone and endured a rather choppy crossing to France, arriving in Boulogne in the late afternoon. 1

Unfortunately, the WW1 army service record for Private Illingworth has not survived. However, with the service number 48987, Alma Illingworth joined the 17th (Service Battalion) of the Manchester Regiment relatively late in the Great War. For example Private 43132 Harold John Henry Ellis joined the Battalion in the field, on the 31st May 1917 and Private 43410 Frederick Charles Camfield French joined the Battalion in the field, on the 1st September 1916, suggesting from his later service number that Illingworth joined the Battalion in 1917 or early 1918, missing the privations of the Battles of the Somme and Ypres.

Opeartion Michael

Above: Wounded British soldier of the Machine Gun Corps having his wounds dressed by German captors during the German Spring Offensive of March 1918.

Unfortunately, Private Alma Illingworth was to lose his life in "Operation Michael", the German Spring Offensive of March 1918 during the Battle of St Quentin

On the 10th March 1918, the Battalion relieved the 2nd Yorkshires in the line in front of St Quentin. The tour lasted until the 18th when the Battalion were relieved by the 16th Manchester's and the Men were billeted Savy Dug-outs and Vaux.

"The long expected enemy attack opened at 4.50am on the 21st March and the Battalion took up its battle positions in the Etreillers defences. Until noon on the Morning of the 21st, observation was impossible, although the Battalion had a signalling station in a tree top near the Goodman redoubt.

The visibility improved in the afternoon when the Enemy's movements could be clearly seen. As night fell the enemy were massing in front of the defences but the position was still intact. As dawn approached on the 22nd March, a dense mist hampered observation and the enemy entered the quarry at Savy, but were repulsed by an attack led by 'B' Company and driven out leaving 31 prisoners behind.

In the afternoon the enemy gradually encroached on the flanks, assisted by low flying aeroplanes that constantly harassed the defenders. A desperate fight to the last man was expected by all the Battalion. About 4.00 pm, and preceded by a heavy artillery bombardment, the Enemy attacked again and after heavy fighting succeeded in surrounding 'B', 'C' and 'D' Companies positions, which, after the men had expended all their ammunition, fell into the Enemies hands.

'A' Company's position at Goodman redoubt was evacuated an hour after the Enemy had gained a foothold. The survivors of the Battalion managed to extricate themselves and were withdrawn." 2

Private Alma Illingworth sadly wasn't one of the survivors that managed to extricate themselves and he was killed in action on the 22nd March 1918. He was 36 years of age.

Private Alma Illingworth, husband of Mrs. L. Illingworth, 18, Santiago Street, Rusholme, Manchester is buried at Savy British Cemetery, France at position 1. H. 30. His headstone reads simply "Rest in Peace".

Savy Cemetery

Above: Savy British Cemetery.

Savy is a village 6.5 kilometres west of St Quentin. Savy British Cemetery is on the south-western outskirts of the village, on the west side of the road to Roupy.

There are now over 850, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, more than half are unidentified. Memorials are erected in the cemetery to 68 soldiers (chiefly of the 19th King's Liverpools and the 17th Manchesters), buried by the Germans in their cemetery on the St. Quentin-Roupy road, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.


1. and 2. The 17th (Service) Battalion Manchester Regiment 2nd City Pals Battalion

3. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site