Martin tells us more about ‘our lads’ at Gallipoli

An audience packed Todmorden’s United Services Club to hear a talk by Martin Purdy on the Todmorden Territorial Army volunteers who were pitched into battle at Gallipoli in the First World War.

Martin, co-author with Ian Dawson of The Gallipoli Oak, which tells the story of the 1/6th Battalion Lancashire Fusliers - 1,000 men who, after time acclimatising in Egypt to the heat conditions they would later experience in battle, found themselves thrown into the Gallipoli campaign in which many of them lost their lives.

Co-author of The Gallipoli Oak, Martin Purdy, left, with Todmorden Royal British Legion branch president Bill Birch

Co-author of The Gallipoli Oak, Martin Purdy, left, with Todmorden Royal British Legion branch president Bill Birch

Part of the aim was to muster potential marchers to recreate, next August, the seven-mile march Todmorden Territorials made to the mustering point at Rochdale just two days after war had been declared. This is being organised by Darren Widdup of the Todmorden branch of the Royal British Legion.

Martin largely spoke without notes and his aim was not to retell the book, extracts of which were featured in this newspaper earlier in the summer, but add extra detail and give more flavour as to what he called “our lads” were like.

He said it was inevitable that the First World War, or Great War, would receive a great deal of media attention over the next few years with focus on elements such as the famous “Pals” battalions and boy soldiers who had lied about their age to fight. Martin said it was his view that although they were not called as such, Territorial Army Units like the 1/6th Lancashire Fusiliers were the first real Pals batallions, consisting as it did of around 500 men from Rochdale, around 250 each from Todmorden and Middleton.

And perhaps one of the most suprising aspects of the war that a study of the 1st/6th threw up was not the number of boy soldiers - who did exist, including Todmorden Distinguished Conduct Medal (DSM) winner Pte John Willie Child, who was killed in action at the age of 17 - but the number of men, including some of the four Todmorden DCM winners (Company Sgt Major Bradshaw Allister, Sgt Alfred Hamer, Pte Richard Allen and Pte Harold Butterworth) who were in fact too old to fight. These four were in their 40s or 50s, he estimated.

Some of these were “old sweats”, including Allister who had been told he was too old to fight when he tried to join the army to serve in the Boer War a decade earlier!

The full story is inThe Gallipoli Oak . You can contactMartin and Ian via Moonraker Publishing, 45 Eliza Street, Ramsbottom, Lancs, BL0 0AT, or by emailing martinpurdy@talktalk.net for details.

Darren said he hoped more people would sign up to recreate the march next year, possibly even descendants of those who did march. A list of them is on display at the United Services Club, White Hart Fold, Todmorden if you want to see if your ancestor was on the march. Darren can be contacted on 07729 563643 .