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War Memorials

In Memory of
Corporal 10186
1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment
Who died on Friday, 7th July 1916
Age 29

No Known Grave. Pier & Face 10C 10D & 11A
Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", France1

Robert Manley was born in Borrowash, Derbyshire in 1888 2, the seventh child, fifth son of Alfred (b. c1859, Ramsey, Huntingdonshire) and Elizabeth Jane Manley (b. c1857, Borrowash, née Wall). In 1901 the family, including six of their nine children, was living at 14 Chapel Street, Ockbrook, Derbyshire with Alfred working as a general labourer3. Elizabeth died later that year4 and the family dispersed over the next several years.

Robert enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters before 1911 and was posted to India with the 1st Battalion5. When war was declared in Europe on August 3rd 1914, the regiment was recalled to England, almost immediately. It landed at Plymouth on 2 October and moved to Hursley Park, Wiltshire. There it came under the orders of 24th Brigade in 8th Division and, on 5 November 1914, it landed at Le Havre as an early part of the British Expeditionary Force6. Private Manly, later to be promoted to Corporal, was part of that contingent.

We can only assume that it was during a short period of leave when, at the beginning of 1915, Robert married Hannah Mavis Adamson in Draycott, Ockbrook or one of the nearby towns7. Robert would have had to return to France almost immediately after the wedding and they probably never saw each other again. There were no children born to the couple.

The Battalion had seen a lot of action in the 20 months or so it had been in France and now, at the beginning of July 1916, it found itself part of the great Somme offensive. While the major Somme attacks were taking place on the 1st July 1916, 1st Battalion, as part of 24th Division was preparing for action that was planned to commence a few days later. On 1st July they started to move from Rainneville to Henencourt Wood and finally into billets at Dernancourt, on 4th July, ready for the attack scheduled for the next day.

On the 5th, the Battalion reached the barrier on the Albert-Pozieres road, near the Tara line, about 12.30am, and at once began to load up with stokes mortar and mills bombs, with orders to take and secure a line in advance of the existing front line. Progress up the communication trench proved very slow owing to the ration and working parties encountered, and confusion as the direction to be taken and the Battalion was heavily shelled in the long communication trench. The men arrived at last, and took up a position in a support line near the church in La Boiselle. Throughout the action with the enemy that followed, the fighting was very severe and mostly hand to hand with very heavy casualties. The battalion had fought bravely but the battalion was generally considered to have been placed in a difficult position. Shortly after the Battalion was relieved and marched back to its old billets in Dernancourt. Over the next few days there was heavy shelling but no major action comparable to that which had been faced on the 5th July.8.

Nevertheless, Corporal Manley is recorded as having been killed during this action on 7th July and his body never identified and therefore commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. This memorial to the Missing, which now stands adjacent to the Leipzig Redoubt, was unveiled on the 1st August 1932 by the then Prince of Wales and is the largest British War Memorial in the world. Standing 150 feet high, it dominates the surrounding area. The memorial stands on a concrete raft 10ft thick, built 19ft below the ground, the solution to the problems of building over the warren of tunnels that formed the German second line. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens the memorial has sixteen masonry piers, where can be found, on the panel faces, the names of some 72,000 British and 830 South African soldiers who died and have no known grave, during the period starting in July 1915, when the British Third Army took over from the French, through the Somme battles of 1916, until 20th March 1918, the eve of the last great German offensive on the Somme. The focal point of the memorial is the Stone of Remembrance, which lies under the great arch and centrally between the piers, for which Rudyard Kipling chose a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, "There name liveth forevermore".

Although he is recorded as a 'resident of Beeston' in 'Soldiers Died in the Great War', Corporal Manley's connection with Beeston is unclear. His widow did not stay in the Beeston area. Appropriately, she was paid his financial effects of 12 13s 11d on 31 October 1916 and his War Gratuity of 12 on 1 April 1920. By then, she had married Samuel B Vickers and moved to St. Helens in Lancashire where she lived out her life. She died in 1966, aged 739.

1The photograph of the Thiepval Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Shardlow Registration District (of which Borrowash was part) in Q3/1888 (Ref 7b 469)
3Ockbrook, Derbyshire, 1901 Census, Piece 3213 Folio 42
Robert's siblings were Joseph (b. c1875), George (b. c1876), Alfred (b. c1879), Edward (or Edwin) (b. c1880), Agnes (b. c1885), Lavinia (b. c1887), Walter (1890) and Violet (b. c1894)
4Elizabeth Jane Manley's death was registered in Shardlow Registration District in Q4/1901 (Ref 7b 301). She was 44.
5British Army in India, 1911 Census, Piece 34991 RD641.
6Details of the battalion movements are from www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/sherwood-foresters-nottinghamshire-derbyshire-regiment
7The marriage is recorded in Shardlow Registration District (which included these communities and extended to Chilwell, adjacent to Beeston) in Q1/1915 (Ref 7b 745).
8This account of the battalion's action between 1-7 July 1916 is based on the Battalion's war diary.
9Details of the payments are from the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.
Hannah Norah Manley married Samuel B. Vickers in Prescot Registration District, Lancashire in Q1/1919 (Ref 8b 847)
Norah Vickers is recorded as living at 9 Phythian Street, St Helens, Lancashire in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial records.
Her death was registered in Prescot Registration District in Q4/1966 (Ref 10f 229). She was 73.

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