Facebook page launched to remember Wigan's Territorials

Royal British Legion member Dave Myers
Royal British Legion member Dave Myers
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A veteran from the borough is calling on Wiganers to help share online the stories of local soldiers who fought in First World War a century ago.

Royal British Legion member Dave Myers, from Billinge, has set up a new Facebook page dedicated to the Wigan Territorials, the 5th Battalion Manchester Regiment, which contained borough recruits who signed up.

They sustained horrendous losses in the disastrous campaign at Gallipoli before being evacuated from there and sent to the horrendous trench warfare of the Western Front.

However, Dave is concerned that their stories are rapidly being forgotten, so wants to put his own historical knowledge online in the hope others will also contribute information.

He said he was particularly moved to act by the poor state of the battalion’s flag at Wigan Parish Church, and hopes that forming a social media community of veterans and history buffs might be able to do something about that.

Dave said: “There are lots of things being done in Wigan this year for the centenary of the end of the First World War.

“And I just thought no one was doing much with regard to the Wigan

Territorials.

“We then had the VJ Day commemoration at Wigan Parish Church and I noticed the colours of the regiment were in tatters. It was quite upsetting, it was as though they were forgotten about.

“There’s very little information about them on the internet, so I thought if I set a page up Wiganers themselves can get involved and share some personal accounts and stories, perhaps with some family photographs of their relations who fought.

“If I can get some interest , what I would like to do is get a fund-raiser going to preserve the colours that are falling to bits in the parish church.”

The Wigan recruits first went to join the campaign against the Turkish forces, where those killed in action included one of Dave’s

relatives.

After serving in Gallipoli, in what Dave described as “a bloodbath”, they were evacuated and spent the rest of the war in France.

The names listed on a Manchester memorial from the city’s regiment shows the scale of the losses suffered.

Dave said the Wigan Territorials were known as the Pitman Battalion, suggesting many of them were linked to the mining industry. The regiments were already popular as they offered social opportunities for young men.

Dave said: “A lot of people in Wigan would have joined the Territorials before for the football and boxing. It was kind of a bigger version of the Boys Brigade or Scouts.

“Many Wiganers at the time would have led pretty boring lives. They were down the pit all the time and they didn’t have cars and couldn’t get about much. It was something to do.”

View the Wigan Territorials facebook page here