I often visit the town of Marple in Stockport, Greater Manchester, once the bastion of the cotton industry and a beautifully quaint location for a languid afternoon stroll. The settlement is also the site of an impressive canal network, including the sixteen section Marple Lock Flight and the eighteenth-century civil engineer Benjamin Outram’s stone aqueduct. My usual routine is to seek out a takeaway coffee and wander these watery byways or, indeed, venture downwards into the Stygian depths of the Roman lakes where masses of prowling geese seethe and the waters flap and ripple.
On this occasion, I deviated from the norm, striking out along the towpath circling the town centre, passing the mooring basin festooned with the myriad colours of the gathered painted narrowboats and the imposing Top Lock residence, once home to the boat-building Jinks family. Crossing Junction Side Bridge, I stumbled down its cobbled way to join the Macclesfield Canal, bordered by the now-crumbling warehouses and offices of Marple Wharf. I left the route at the point where the shadow of Goyt Mill, constructed in 1905 for the Goyt Spinning Company Limited (now subdivided and rented to an array of local businesses), casts its imposing fingers over the water. Bearing left, I continued on through Hawk Green in the direction of High Lane, cutting up onto the serpentine curves of Church Lane.
As I progressed back towards the centre, I saw and admired from the heady heights of this particular area of Marple, All Saints Church, a masterful stone edifice with ruddy tiled roof and a striking rose window. This place of worship is especially notable for the tower of a previous church demolished in 1964, still standing in the churchyard, a space now dedicated to memorials. Inside, there is a ring of eight bells, six of which were originally cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1731, and which still toll on a Sunday morning, ringing out, doleful, their unhurried echo unfolding over the hillside.
I have passed this sacred place on hundreds of occasions, but, this time, something made me enter the graveyard through the Lychgate. Perhaps it was the mournful silence of the prematurely crisp autumnal day, perhaps it was the lazy hour of a drawn-out Saturday afternoon, but more likely it was the impressive First World War Hopton Wood stone memorial cross guarding the entrance to the church itself, a permanent monument to collaborative effort and dutiful loss. Revealed and dedicated by the Bishop of Warrington on the 15th of June 1920, the memorial cost around £600 (approximately £17,000 in today’s money), of which £55 was allocated for architect’s fees and £555 12s 5d for the structure proper. Messrs Earp, Hobbs and Miller, the highly successful architectural sculptors of Manchester, furnished the stonework, while Messrs Bainbridge and Reynolds of London produced the plaques.
As I walked towards the graveyard proper, a man was tending a chest tomb to my right, removing the weeds and gently cleaning the stone. At a time when so many cemeteries suffer from neglect, it is always an encouraging sight to witness plots benefitting from regular upkeep. The churchyard itself is beautifully organic and verdant, its lines of stones interspersed with fronded trees. Although it was something of a wet afternoon, intermittently spattered with showers, I was protected beneath this arboreal canopy with nothing but the muted thudding of captured droplets as my companions. Gravestones perching at various degrees and heights, their inscriptions in places eroded and, in others, vibrantly clear, powerfully attested to the history of the place. At times, dampened sunlight made its presence felt, seeming to almost push the rain aside in a bout of meteorological one-upmanship, spasmodically declaring itself the victor.
Following a meandering path constructed from damaged and misplaced grave slabs, I circumnavigated the churchyard, lingering at a number of memorials.
En route, I was struck by the distinctive rear gate, perfectly mirroring the lychgate through which I had entered. It contained a stone stile over which one can tarry a while on the moorlands, looking across at the village of Mellor, the rough and tumble of the undulating hills seeming to carry on endlessly in the distance.
Tearing myself away from this astonishing vista, I continued my exploration, halting in front of an obelisk memorial startlingly similar to that commemorative monument erected adjacent to the church’s front entrance. It appeared to be a family testament, its area blanketed by the golden hues and reddish tints of the bountiful autumnal leaves found throughout the churchyard.
The design was that of a stone Celtic cross surmounting a base column whose absolute apex was obscured by a pendulous branch. My attention was immediately seized by the white lettering, discoloured and disfigured, adorning one face of the foundational plinth:
IN LOVING MEMORY
EDMUND TURNER YOUNG
LIEUTENANT 1/6 BATT. MANCHESTER REGT.
ELDEST SON OF
THOMAS PILKINGTON & MARGARET ANN YOUNG
STAND HALL, WHITEFIELD.
KILLED IN ACTION IN GALLIPOLI
JUNE 5TH 1915, AGED 33 YEARS.
Despite not serving as a Commonwealth War Grave proper (All Saints churchyard maintains thirteen of these throughout, nine casualties from the First World War and four from the Second), this monument nevertheless bears witness to the great courage of a man gunned down during the Third Battle of Krithia on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915, a man whose body was never recovered.
Edmund Turner Young was born on the 26th of August 1884, the eldest son of Colonel Thomas Pilkington Young and Margaret Ann Young, and was baptised on the 25th of October in that same year. His family lived in Marple, at The Mount, before moving to Stand Hall in Whitefield, Manchester, a grand abode constructed around 1405 and which underwent several iterations prior to its demolition in the 1960s.
The Pilkingtons are an ancient family of impressive lineage – their genealogical roots can be firmly traced back to an Alexander de Pilkington (c. 1110 – 1180), recorded as possessing land in Pilkington, Lancashire in the Liber Feodorum (Book of Fees). They are widely believed, however, to have settled in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1003-1066), prior to the Norman Conquest. The first recorded reference to the family is a notation regarding Alexander’s possession of land in Pilkington in Lancashure in the Testa de Nevill, the volume comprising the Liber Feodorum or Book of Fees. Whilst their geographical origins were in the now defunct township and parish of Pilkington, the various branches of their family spread throughout the county, from Rivington to St. Helens. The motto ‘now thus, now thus’ of the family crest which depicts a mower with a scythe wearing pale argent and sable is said to express the motion of that working instrument, or to represent an onomatopoeic medieval scything song. As the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of the 2nd October 1912 asserts, this dictum is one ‘raising suggestions of a mind fixed whatever fate may bring,’ and strongly associates the family with the land even in heraldic terms.
As a boy, Edmund was first sent from Stand Hall to board at Bilton Grange Prepatory School, before being admitted to Rugby School in 1899. In the 1911 census, he is listed as a sixteen-year old schoolboy residing in a school boarding-house, under his housemaster the Reverend William Henry Payne-Smith (elected to this position in 1894), in a residence whose address is listed as 10 Hillmorton Road, Rugby. In 1902, he went up to Christ’s College, Cambridge to read Science. Upon his return, he took employment with T. P. Young, Cotton Weavers Manchester, the firm of his father. This clearly was, or had been, a sizeable enterprise as the latter is recorded on the 1881 census as a ‘Manufacturer of Fancy Cotton Goods employing 402 hands.’
In 1906-7, Edmund enrolled on a weaving course in the Department of Textiles at the Manchester Municipal College of Technology, where his death is commemorated on a memorial in the Sackville building, now part of the University of Manchester. Whilst studying in that institution, he also became a member of the Officer Training Corps. Indeed, Edmund’s interests were varied and diverse – he was an active supporter of the Boy Scout movement, serving as Assistant Commissioner of the latter from 1912 in Radcliffe, Whitefield and Prestwich. He spent a lengthy period as a member of the Peak Forest Beagles Hunt. In addition, he was an important member of the Manchester Football Club, the forerunner of Manchester City and he enjoyed racket sports as a member of the Manchester Tennis & Racquets Club, established in 1880.
In 1911, according to the biographical register of Christ’s College 1505-1905, he was employed by the firm of John Young, Ltd. in Radcliffe as ‘Director and Manager.’ Edmund’s father had had a younger brother, John Arnold Young, and it seems likely that this new firm was an offering of the latter. In that same year, his father passed away in Bournemouth on the 27th March, leaving this superintendent position in the company to his son, a role likely taken up by the Colonel after his own corporation T. P. Young, Cotton Weavers, was either shut down or bought out. Edmund remained living at Stand Hall in Whitefield with his fifty-four year old widowed mother and two younger brothers. This event also saw the family inherit a small fortune as the Colonel left an estate worth £50,000 (equivalent to around four million pounds). The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of the 13th June 1911 relays the details of the will:
COLONEL YOUNG’S FORTUNE
ESTATE OF £50,000
Colonel Thomas Pilkington Young, V.D., of Stand Hall, Whitefield, and of Manchester, formerly of Marple, Hon. Colonel 1stV.B. Lancashire Fusilliers, J.P. for Lancashire and Cheshire, managing director of John Young (of Radcliffe) Ltd., gingham manufacturers, who died at Bournemouth on the 27thof March last, aged 66 years, left an estate of the gross value of £50,196, of which the net personalty has been sworn at £39,101. The testator left 2,000 ordinary shares and 30 £100 Debentures of John Young (of Radcliffe) LTD., to each of his sons, Edmund Turner Young and Roger Pilkington Young, and a like bequest to his son Malcolm Henry Young, on attaining his majority. He left £4,000 on trust for his niece, Mary Kingsford Young, for life , with remainder to her issue, £200 and his household personal effects to his wife, Mrs. Margaret Anne Young, and the residue of his property to his wife during widowhood, with remainder to his children in equal shares.
Colonel Young was buried on the 1st April 1911 as an out-of-area non-resident in the churchyard of All Saints, Marple. The name of his eldest son would join that of his on the memorial no less than five years later.
When war broke out on the 4th August 1914, Edmund was not slow to enlist, attaching himself to the Manchester Regiment over which Colonel Heywood presided in August. He received commission as a Second Lieutenant in the 6th Battalion, rapidly progressing to the temporary rank of Lieutenant on the 26th of that same month. He was required to undertake ‘Imperial Service obligations’ – namely, the mandatory signing of a declaration permitting members of the territorial forces to serve abroad, marked by the wearing of an Imperial Service Badge. Edmund was then swiftly dispatched to Egypt with his battalion for the winter, leaving for Alexandria in September 1914. The group landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in May 1915.
This was to be a particularly bloody time for the allied forces. During the month of April, all hopes of a swift victory against the Turkish forces had been dashed as the latter held strong during the First Battle of Krithia and the allies were forced to halt their advance – demoralised, exhausted, and overwhelmed by the sheer brawn and resilience of the Ottoman troops, they lost 3000 men and it was readily apparent that holding the Gallipoli peninsula would be more arduous than initially anticipated. In May 1915, the 42nd East Lancashire Division, of which Edmund’s battalion formed a part, arrived from Egypt, little aware that their attempts to gain ground in this region would lead to enormous loss of life. The ensuing Second Battle of Krithia had a similar objective to its previous counterpart – pushing on from Cape Helles, the southernwestmost point of the peninsula, the allies would capture the village of Krithia, occupy the hill of Achi Baba, and press on towards the forts whose position overlooked and controlled movement through the straits of the Dardanelles. The result of this, however, was two days of widespread death and destruction for the price of the capture of a small amount of land.
And so we come to the Third Battle of Krithia, the assault in which Edmund was to lose his life. The aim of this revised attack was to fulfil the original objectives of the second, with especial emphasis on the seizure of the dominating peak of Achi Baba. Like the previous two attempts, this ended in devastating failure. The mood was one of abject demoralisation. As is noted in the history of The 42nd East Lancashire Division 1914-1918, authored by Frederick P. Gibbon:
‘After five weeks of toil and struggle, valour and self-sacrifice, unsurpassed in history, no more had been achieved than the securing of a mere foothold on the peninsula.’
It was the 4th of June. Battle orders had been issued on the previous day. Following a morning of artillery bombardment by heavy guns and howitzers, the attack began at noon. The 42nd were dug in, their position held in the trenches which they had been occupying since the 15th of May. In line with planned battle strategy, the guns paused and a feinted attack took place, luring the Ottomans back into their front trenches. The bombardment was then redoubled, subjecting the Turkish troops to considerable losses. At noon, the infantry began their assault. As the Second Gallipoli Despatch of Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, dated the 20th of September 1915, notes:
On the stroke of noon the artillery increased their range and along the whole line the infantry fixed bayonets and advanced.
Edmund was in the thick of this offensive, serving as an officer of A Company who were ordered to progress in the first line. The dust and stench of battle must have clouded his vision and burned his nostrils as he scrambled over the side of the trench and exposed himself to the Turkish guns. The howls of the dying and the harrowing groans of the wounded must have resounded, everywhere and all about, as, hunched and bent forwards, he rushed on, rifle poised. As John Hartley states in 6th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment in the Great War:’
‘The 6thManchester Battalion was over the parapet in one rush, three companies charging the Turkish trenches, the nearest being some 200 yards away. In 20 minutes the men were in possession of the three Turkish trenches.
The striking image below shows the first line of the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment moving forwards across No-Mans Land at noon of the 4th of June 1915. Edmund may well be in this photograph:
According to the account in the war diary of Lieutenant Colonel Claude S. Worthington DSO, commander of the 6th Battalion the Manchester Regiment, it was in this first onslaught that Edmund was killed, having taken the trenches alongside A, B and D Company. The relating of these events in the personal voice of the officer in charge, terse and matter of fact, expresses powerfully in its omissions the true toll of war on the living and the dead:
Confusion has long reigned over the dating of Edmund’s death, however. The British Army Bond of Sacrifice (Vol. 2), a record of officers who perished in the First World War between 1914-1916, has the following, situating the man’s fall on the 5th:
‘Lieutenant Young took part in the big advance on 4th June, 1915, and was killed in the early hours of the next morning while attending to a machine gun in a trench which had been taken from the Turks.’
John Hartley’s work, 6th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment in the Great War, as discussed above, accords with this dating:
‘In the new British front line, the situation was comparatively quiet throughout the morning of the 5th. Of course, shelling and sniping continued with deadly effect. Lieutenant Young was shot in the head and died instantly.’
Compounding such equivocation is the official death notice which appeared in The Manchester Guardian of the 15th June, 1916, assigning Edmund’s demise to the 10th of that month (and also mistakenly noting his age as 31):
LIEUT. E. T. YOUNG (killed).
Lieutenant Edmund Turner Young, also of the 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment, killed in action of June 10, was the eldest son of the late Colonel T. P. Young and Mrs. Young of Stand Hall, Whitefield, Lancashire, and of Marple, Cheshire. Mr Young, who was 31 years of age, joined Colonel Heywood’s battalion in August last. Up to that time he had been a great supporter of the Boy Scout movement, and was assistant commissioner of that organisation for the Radcliffe, Whitefield, and Prestwich area. Lieutenant Young’s father was an officer in the Volunteer Force.
Ultimately, this uncertainty as to the date of death more than likely arises from the sheer chaos of reporting in the midst of battle, where the pursuit of consummate accuracy was often futile, not to mention the time taken for messages to travel between Turkey and the United Kingdom. A further complicating factor was the loss of Edmund’s body, perhaps buried by the Turkish troops who later regained the trenches or even destroyed amidst the assault and bombardment. As a consequence of this, Edmund is without an individual Commonwealth War Grave, and is commemorated instead on the Helles memorial, located on the Gallipoli peninsula, a tapering obelisk surveying the Dardanelles:
Unfortunately, Edmund is commemorated on this monument under an incorrect name, recorded as Edmund Taylor Young. His grieving family later added him to their own family memorial in the graveyard of All Saints in Marple alongside his father – the two reunited at last in a Cheshire churchyard. In 1919, he was remembered for a second time in this location, his name engraved onto the church’s war memorial. Upon death, he had left the sum of £14985 7s. 6d. (amounting to around £884,000) to his mother and a solicitor, John Ledlie Marriot, operating on Norfolk Street in Manchester. According to the Rugby Advertiser of the 26th June 1915, he was included in a memorial service held at his former school, Rugby, listed amongst a great number of losses, a generation of young men whose schooldays were hardly over and whose lives had barely begun. Indeed, Edmund’s own younger brother, Malcolm Henry Young, died in France on the 29th of June 1916, on service as Lieutenant with the 5th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Both Edmund and Malcolm both later appeared on the carved cenotaph in Marple Memorial Park dedicated in 1922. Edmund’s name is also present on the Manchester Tennis & Racquets Club War Memorial in Salford, Manchester and on the Christ’s College War Memorial in Cambridge.
His service was marked by two decorations – he received the Victory Medal and the British War Medal on the 19th of October 1922. The former was awarded to those who had served in the armed forces between the 5th of August 1914 and the 11th of November 1918, whilst the latter was given for similar time spent on active duty.
In a Marple churchyard then, a chance encounter with a commemorative stone manifests the real face of sacrifice, revealing that beyond all the numbers and death tolls and military statistics lies a young man, destined to be young forever, whose patriotic duty and familial honour culminated in a bullet in the head in the muds of Gallipoli.
The initial military success in the Dardanelles Campaign for the Manchester Regiment swiftly dissipated. Beset by a Turkish counter-attack bolstered by reinforcements, holding the line soon became untenable. The men were ordered to withdraw, a command which was obeyed with great reluctance by those Manchester battalions who had fought with such courage and tenacity to acquire new ground (they had advanced 1000 yards, but were forced to fall back to the main Turkish trench at the 400 yard mark). As Hamilton’s Second Gallipoli Despatch avers:
‘…for now the enfilade fire of the Turks began to fall upon the Manchester Brigade of the 42nd Division, which was firmly consolidating the furthest distant line of trenches it had so brilliantly won. After 1.30 p.m. it became increasingly difficult for this gallant Brigade to hold its ground. Heavy casualties occurred; the Brigadier and many other officers were wounded or killed; yet it continued to hold out with the greatest tenacity and grit. Every effort was made to sustain the Brigade in its position.’
The number of casualties had been significant, with particularly high losses endured by Edmund’s 6th Battalion, as is detailed here in The 42nd East Lancashire Division 1914-1918, authored by Frederick P. Gibbon:
‘The cost had indeed been great. Of the 770 men of the 6th Manchesters only 160 answered to roll-call that night.’
Indeed, the four weeks of assaults and skirmishes since the 42nd had landed on the shores of Gallipoli, had severely depleted the numbers of officers and men:
Hamilton’s Second Gallipoli Despatch notes that the remainder of June was dominated by ‘incessant attacks and counter-attacks’ which ‘grievously swelled our lists of casualties,’ as the Turkish troops attempted to regain lost ground. The Manchester Brigade, however, held on until the 9th when they were relieved of their position and went into reserve, leaving behind not only the stretch of earth that they had won, but also the lives of their comrades and friends.
With especial thanks to Susan Essex, Local Studies and Archives Librarian, for additional military research.