Alan Davenport ADSHEAD
Rank: Private
Number: 11727
Unit: 19th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 23 July 1916
Age: 20
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

The 1901 Census finds the Adshead family living at 2 Preston Road, Levenshulme. William Adshead worked as foreman and was married to Ada. Five year old Alan was their only child but it's thought they may have had other children in the early 1900s. They had moved to the Heaton Chapel or Heaton Moor area when Alan was still a young boy and he had attended Mr Rashleigh's Wellington School in Heaton Moor. The family had worshipped at the Wesleyan Church and Alan had furthered his education by attemding the Church's Sunday School.

When War was declared in August 1914, he was serving an engineering apprenticeship at Armstrong, Whitworth & Co but , on 7 September, he went into Manchester and joined the fourth of the "Pals Battalions" being formed by the Manchester Regiment. He was assigned to No. 6 Platoon in "B" Company. Some details of the Battalion's recruitment and training can be found here. In November 1915, the Battalion was deemed ready for War and it left Britain to go on active service in France.

During the evening of 22 July 1916, Alan arrived in assembly positions in a German trench captured earlier in the month. In front of them was Trones Wood and, beyond that, the village of Guillemont. This move forward had been spotted by the enemy who kept up a regular artillery barrage on the Manchesters throughout the night. In the early hours of the 23rd, they moved through the wood and into their final positions.

At 3.40am, Alan left the relative safety of the trench and advanced across open ground towards the village. They were immediately subjected to heavy rifle, machine gun and artillery fire. However, casualties were not heavy until they reached unbroken German barbed wire. Leading elements of the Battalion managed to reach the village. On the left of the attack, "A" Company was suffering massive losses from concentrated machine gun fire and had to fall back. The Company had been reduced to about 30 fit men. In the centre, "C" company made progress into the village but was now attacked from three sides and cut off from the rest of the Battalion. On the right, "D" Company had been unable to penetrate the barbed wire and the men had to try to find cover in the open fields. They were so close to the Germans that they were in grenade-throwing range and came under heavy attack form these. "B" Company was in support of "D" and also lost many men.

By 6am, it was clear that the attack had failed and they would have to withdraw. This had to be undertaken over the open ground with minimal protection. Small groups of men managed to make it back to the assembly trenches, throughout the morning. Of these, only a handful were from "A" Company. No-one from "C" Company reported back. "B" and "D" Companies had fared slightly better.

By late afternoon, the remnants of the Battalion were relieved from the front line. Because it had not been possible to recover the bodies of the dead, some 493 Pals were reported as "missing". Alan's body was never found and identified and he is commemorated, along with some 73,000 Missing of the Somme, on the Thiepval Memorial. Other local men killed in the attack were Tom Pugh, Robert Russell and Ernest Spink. None has a known grave.

After the War, Mr & Mrs Adshead were known to be living at 25 Grange Avenue, Heaton Chapel.

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