The Feature page
William (Billy) Talbot
17th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
Bantum Battalion

sent in By

John Murdoch

14544 Private William Talbot, 17th (Service) Battn, Lancashire Fusiliers
[1st South-East Lancashire (Bantams)]

Billy Talbot (1896-1966) as a young man.

William Talbot, known as Billy, was born in Leigh on 2 June1896, the eighth of ten children. Three of his sisters died in infancy; his eldest brother James, at 5'5", had no difficulty enlisting in the 13th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers on 12 December 1915 and eventually saw service in France with both the York & Lancaster Regiment and the Durham Light Infantry;his elder brother Thomas (1894-1918) at 5'4" was able to enlist in the Lancashire Fusiliers on 2 September 1914 but was discharged 47 days later on medical grounds because he had flat feet - but that did not deter him from subsequently enlisting in the Manchester Regiment with whom he was posted missing, presumed dead on 25 March 1918 and subsequently recorded as killed in action;his younger brother, Herbert (1899-1918), was also killed in action, with the 4th Bn King's (Liverpool Regiment) on 11 October 1918. Before the war, Billy worked for the Ena Spinning Company in Atherton, where he was a warehouse boy and then a cop packer.
At 5'1", he attested with the 17th Bn Lancashire Fusiliers (Bantams) on 2 January 1915 when he was 19years old. He spent the next 12 months in England and the address in his Service New Testament in 1915 was B Coy, No 9 Tent, 17th Lanc Fus, 104th Infantry Brigade, Marfield Camp, Masham, Yorkshire. He went with the Battalion to join the BEF in France at the end of January 1916 and they were soon involved in trench warfare. The Battalion moved regularly and arrived in Arras at the beginning of September 1916. The Calendar of Moves records a hostile raid on the trenches by German troops on 26th November 1916 andthe Regimental History records that 2 men were killed, 6 wounded and 25 taken prisoner. Billy Talbot was one of those taken prisoner during the raid.
Unfortunately, Billy's attestation papers have not survived, but his Discharge Folder and Red Cross Prisoner of War records provide a picture of his time in captivity. A Detention Camp record sheet stamped 16 Dec 1916 records that he arrived at Camp Dülmen from Douai and a second record sheet stamped 8 May 1917 records his arrival at Camp Münster II from Dülmen. These two camps were quite close to each other and his transfer may have been associated with an accident in March 1917 when a tree fell on him in the camp at Dülmen, crushing his left shoulder, after which he was unable to work for a month. Billy was repatriated to England on 2 December 1918 and his Disability Statement of 9 February 1919 assessed his disability as 30%. A subsequent medical examination on 18 December 1919 described his injury as "pain in left shoulder, some slight creaking in left shoulder joint, movement slightly stiff, slight wasting of deltoid", and the 'Opinion of the Medical Board', used as the basis for assessing his pension, was that this was attributable to service during the war, but the level of disability was reduced to "less than 20%".
Billy's service of just over four years and his treatment as a prisoner of war, left him unable to eat properly for the rest of his life. After the war, he returned to Leigh at the age of 23 and married a young war widow, Sarah Alice Jones (22) in Tyldesley on 15 November 1919. He was not expected to live long at the time of his repatriation and he spent some time in the Men's Home, Plas Mariandir, Deganwy, which was a magnificent convalescent home built by the Manchester and Salford Hospital Saturday and Convalescent Homes Fund and officially opened on 20 September 1919. In its report of the opening of the Home, the Manchester Guardian reported that "the majority of the inmates …are older men … of the Manchester district, who are temporarily broken down in health and require quiet rest".In 1921,Billy's occupation was given as mill hand, cotton spinning, having returned to employment with the Ena Cotton Spinning Company. However, on the night of the census, he was convalescing at The Cunningham (tented) Young Men's Holiday Camp at Douglas in the Isle of Man, while his wife and baby daughter were at home in Leigh. He later worked as a newsagent and then moved to Morecambe where his wife opened a boarding house with the prospect of sea air being beneficial for his health. However, this venture eventually proved too much to manage and they moved to Bolton where Billy became bedridden and his wife worked in the cotton mills. He was confined to a bed at one end of the downstairs living room of a small, terraced house where he died in 1966 at the age of 70.
1 .At the start of the First World War, the minimum height for soldiers was 5'3". The Bantam Battalions began to be formed towards the end of 1914, specifically recruiting men below this height.
2 The History of the Lancashire Fusiliers 1914 - 1918: Volume 1, Major-General JC Latter CBE MC, Gale & Polden (1949)

John Murdoch, July 2022

Men's Home, PlasMariandir, Deganwy, Manchester and Salford Hospital Saturday and Convalescent Homes Fund Photo: H Foyn,Penmaenmawr

Dining Room and Tented Accommodation, Cunningham's Young Men's Holiday Camp, Douglas, Isle of Man.