Volunteer Infantry of Ashton-under-Lyne 1859-1971

Author: Robert Bonner
Publisher: Fleur de Lys Publishers (November 2005)
ISBN-10: 1873907141

ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE was a cotton-spinning town, sometimes prosperous and sometimes depressed, six miles east of Manchester. From 1959 to 1967 it had its own auxiliary force unit, Volunteers and later Territorials, variously named and numbered but from 1908 the 9th battalion, the Manchester Regiment. Its story is told in Robert Bonner's Volunteer Infantry of Ashton-under-Lyne 1859-1971: including the biography of William Thomas Forshaw VC, published by and available from Fleur de Lys Publishers, 22 Tatton Lodge, Swinton Square, Knutsford, Cheshire WA16 6JD (email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ). Mr Bonner is a former regular army officer and the author or editor of nine books on military history.

Volunteer Infantry of Ashton-under-Lyneis an attractively-produced book with 57 monochrome illustrations, six maps, biographical notes, nine appendices including roll of Volunteers who served in SouthAfrica and rolls of honour of both world wars, and a short bibliography. Researched largely from the Manchester Regiment Archives at the Ashton Local Studies Library, the book covers the 1859 foundation and subsequent history of the Volunteers, the Volunteer Service Companies in the Boer War, Great War service in Egypt and at Gallipoli and on the Western Front, the interwar years, the Second World War, and post-war vicissitudes. The first appendix is an eighteen-page biography of W.T. Forshaw(1890-1943), a former teacher who, serving as a lieutenant with the l/9th Manchesters at Gallipoli, won the Victoria Cross. There is much data on the Volunteers, including on fundraising, social events, concerts, reviews and summer camps, for example at Blackpool.

The Boer War companies served in blockhouses and on drives, and lost more men to enteric than from enemy action. The popularity of the Volunteers during that war supports the John Mackenzie view of the popularity of imperialism, rather than the contrary Pelling-Price-Porter interpretation.

However, there are some disappointing omissions. Too many of the illustrations are undated, and none are attributed. Volunteer and Territorial units, like the Pals battalions, were products of their locality, and can be fully understood only in that context. Yet the book has little on Ashton and on the socio-economic and occupational composition of the unit.

There is very little on uniforms, weapons and accoutrements. The book mentions that in 1861 the uniform was dark grey with green facings and in 1878 scarlet with green facings, but not when the change occurred. Also there is a report of the commanding officer and a detachment of volunteers in October 1861 disturbing an election meeting, but no mention of the meeting's political allegiance. There are also some questionable statements, for example, on the causes of the Boer War and the 'monotony' of pre-1914 Ashton life. In fact northern industrial towns then enjoyed a rich and varied religious, cultural, social and sporting life, as can be glimpsed, for example, in the films of Mitchell and Kenyon. Nevertheless, Volunteer Infantry of Ashton-under-Lynecontains much of interest, and will be welcomed by both Lancashire and auxiliary force enthusiasts.

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