PERCY REDDISH 

Rank: Private
Service Number: 18985.
Regiment: 21st Bn. Manchester Regiment Killed In Action Saturday 1st July 1916 Age 22County Memorial Congleton
Commemorated\Buried THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
Grave\Panel Ref: Pier and Face 13A and 14C
France

Son of Mr. William Page Reddish and Mrs. Mary Reddish of 14, Mill Street, Congleton, Cheshire and 6, Cross Street, Congleton, Cheshire, and husband of Mrs. I Violet Howell (nee Goodwin) (formerly Reddish) Of 13, New St, Congleton, Cheshire.They were married in a Civil Ceremony, at Congleton, Cheshire in 1915. He had two sisters, Lily and May Reddish, along with two brothers, Joseph and Frank Reddish. Prior to enlisting, he was employed as an Operator at the Electric Theatre, Cross Street, Congleton.

He joined the 21st Battalion, the Manchester Regiment and embarked for France on the 10th of November 1915. In 1916, he was a member of a Lewis gun team.
Percy was involved in the following operation when the 7th Division were preparing to capture Mametz using an assault force of three battalions from 20th Brigade on the left and two from the 91st Brigade on the right; 1st Battalion, South Staffordshire Regiment and the 22nd Battalion Manchester Regiment. Supporting the two attacking battalions were the 21st Battalion Manchester Regiment and 2nd Battalion The Queens. The battle plan was for Mametz, a heavily fortified village surrounded by deep trenches to be attacked on the flanks before a frontal assault was made later in the day. The leading Battalions attacked at 07:30 hours and got to the edge of the village but faced stiff resistance. At 08:30 hours, the Manchester Regiment were sent forward to support the advance but got held up in Cemetery Trench until about 13:00 hours when following a British artillery bombardment, the attacking troops fought their way into the village and took control. Immediately in front of the South Staffordshire Regiment (who were positioned to the right of the 2nd Battalion The Gordon Highlanders of the 20th Brigade) was a position called Bulgar Point which was the subject of a 2000lb mine with a smaller 200lb to its left. The detonation of these was certainly instrumental in the rapid progress made by the battalion as they managed to reach their section of Cemetery Trench within 15 minutes of the attack commencing at 07:30 hours from here on they were held up by severe machine gun fire from Danzig Alley in front of them and Bunny Alley to their left. The 22 nd Manchester Regiment were the right-hand unit of 7th Division and had reached their first objective of Bucket Trench to the east of the village by 07:55 hours They then moved up further forward into Danzig Alley Trench the left-hand section of their first objective. Now however they came up against stiff opposition from the Germans. At 08:55 hours, the Germans launched a series of counter attacks from the Fritz Trench which pushed them back out of Danzig Alley. At this stage D Company of the 21 st Manchester Regiment were sent up to assist their sister battalion to retake Danzig Alley. This in turn would allow the 2 nd Queens to come through and attack Fritz Trench, the Brigade's Second Objective. The attack by the Manchester Regiment was launched at 13:39 hours and succeeded in taking back Danzig Alley. This helped the 1st Battalion the South Staffordshire Regiment take the remainder of Danzig Alley and continue into Bunny Alley and the far side of the village. This attack was the outstanding success of the 1st of July, as all the objectives were taken, however there were over 3000 casualties. It was during the events of this day that Private Reddish was killed by a sniper.

Another number has been added to the long list of Immortals in the person of Private Percy Reddish, who was well known in Congleton and District. There is an adage, attributed to Napoleon, that the British do not know when they are beaten and you only have to read the cheery letters daily arriving from our lads who are taking their share of fighting in the Great Advance to be convinced of the truth of this. For instance, the last letter Private Percy Reddish was destined to write was full cheery optimism, notwithstanding the fact that only the God of Battles could tell what the next few hours would bring forth. He does not mention the exceptionally fierce character of the fighting, or that in the vast human flux now surging upon miles of French soil the deadly game of give and take alternates hourly, but simply says that, (l am all right - - so far). One can hardly imagine that while these words were being hastily written, the growl of the big guns on either side, the rattle of machine guns and the sharp ping of bullets were drumming in the writer's ears, or that his thoughts were not of the strife out there, but of the dear ones at home. No wonder that we at home are assured that the determination of our leaders and the spirit of our troops form the hostage to final triumph that will not be denied. The last letter home was referred to as cheery, but brief. Just a few lines to let you know that I am all right so far, he writes. I suppose you have heard of the death of Roy Jolley. I was very much surprised when I was told, for I was with him only about two weeks before it happened. I have not seen any Congleton fellows for quite a long time and have not the faintest idea where they are. He curtly concludes by remarking that the Huns make them very busy, which militates against long letter writing, but would write again at the earliest possible convenience. That promise to his brother (Mr. Joseph Reddish) was never fulfilled, for a sniper’s bullet found its billet, and another Congleton " Pal " was no more. Just how it occurred is best told in the words of the dead soldier’s lifelong comrade, who breaking the news to Mrs. Reddish writes,

It is with deepest regret I have to write these few lines to inform you of the death of your husband, Private Percy Reddish, No, 18985, who was killed in action on the morning of the 1st of July during the attack on a village held by the enemy. He had mounted the parapet with the rest of the gun team and was hit by a sniper while advancing on their trenches. I can assure you his death has been keenly felt by all his comrades and they all express their sympathy in your sad loss. I have felt it very much myself, especially as we were old school chums and have been lifelong friends. He was a member of my gun team and was always ready to do his bit and to help his mates whenever possible. It may be some little consolation to you to know that his death was instantaneous, so that he suffered no pain. He was buried later in the day by the Chaplain on the battlefield in front of the village which we succeeded in taking. I trust that God may comfort and sustain you in this terrible sorrow. Enclosed you will find two letters addressed to your husband, the one which I have marked on the back was opened when I received it, so I have taken out the cigarettes and given them to the lads of his own team and the paper I have also kept back as I thought it best, again I express my sorrow and remain, Yours, Respectfully.

Lance Corporal J. Green, Lewis Gun Section, 21st, Manchester Regiment.

An extract from the Congleton Chronicle 1916:

It was truly a noble death and the consciousness that he fell in the execution of his duty will be some solace to his relatives and in the present stress they, too, can be brave, bearing in mind that, " Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.


Cheshire County Memorial Project would like to thank John and Christopher Pullen for the information on Percy.