The Story of the piece of plywood found in a barn 96 years after it was written by Soldiers of the 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (4th Salford Pals) in 1916

Whilst renovating a Hampshire building from the 1920's a couple of years ago, farmer's wife Sharlene Mears came across an old piece of plywood that had obviously come from a barracks or something similar
We think they were Stationed in Park House Camp Cholderton Salisbury Plain about to move to Southampton .

The photo was taken in black and white so we could read it better

The Fusiliers Museum in Bury is trying to find the Families of 3 Lancashire Fusiliers from the 20th Battalion (4th Salford Pals)
Whilst renovating a Hampshire building from the 1920's a couple of years ago, farmer's wife Sharlene Mears came across an old piece of plywood that had obviously come from a barracks or something similar

The 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (4th Salford Pals) had been at Park House Camp on Salisbury plain all the winter of 1915, from August until the date of their leaving on 29th January for Southampton when the 3 left their messages.

Within 12 days of writing their farewells they were inspected by Lord Kitchener in Racquinghem France, and then into the trenches on the 27th February.

What I find remarkable is that these 3 lads all made it through the next 3 years of the most horrible war imaginable, and they all came home!

There were messages written in pencil from 3 Lancashire Fusiliers who were just about to go over to France, dated 29/1/16.
The 20th Battalion of the Lancashire (4th Salford Pals) Fusiliers is given, and one of them mentions the Machine Gun Section.
Sharlene contacted the Web Site and told Editor Capt Joe Eastwood the story and asked if we would like the piece of plywood she sent it to us and we have passed it on the XXth Lancashire and Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Museum

The names on the Plywood board are

21681 Pte Frank Nuttall
Click here for the National Archives records
He was in 13 Platoon of D Company 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (4th Salford Pals)
His Platoon commander was 2nd Lt H C Pemberton and his Company was commanded by Captain W J Lias his platoon Sergeant was Sgt William Dean
He probably was injured in the war as he then went into the Labour Corps Number 480294 we also think he came from Middleton
He wrote on the plaque
One Middleton Lad going to do his bit for his country left this camp on the 29/1/16/for France
Frank Nuttall 1 Mills Hill Middleton
Frank's Service Record
Frank Nuttall, the son of Alice Anne Nuttall of Number 1 Mills Hill,Middleton, Lancashire was just 19 years old when he enlisted at Salford on the 15th June 1915 for the Pals.
He was a small lad, being just 5 feet 1 inch in height, and having a chest measurement of 34 inches, ideal for a Bantam battalion, which he duly signed on for.

By the 10th August, Frank had been promoted to unpaid Lance Corporal, and by the 15th of the same month he began being paid as a Lance corporal.

Such quick promotion was not too last long however, as on the 2nd October 1915 he lost the stripe he had so quickly earned.
We shall probably never know why he lost his single stripe.

His record then shows him as “Posted” on the same day he wrote his message to us on the plywood board.


28 Oct 1933, p. 10, column 1 Middleton Guardian
Abstract: Frank Nuttall Of Mills Hill Road Lost Control Of Motor Lorry In Manchester Old Road And Collided With Horse Drawn Lorry

The article on the Lorry crash from 1933 does not give any other details apart from "Frank Nutall of Mills Hill Road"

Frank Nuttall was born in 1899 in Middleton, the youngest son of Richard and Alice Ann. In 1901 the family was living at 2 Mills Hill and consisted of Richard (32), Alice Ann (29) and their 3 sons, Fred (9), Ina (6) and Frank (2).
In 1911 the family are shown at No5 Mills Hill with the addition of 2 daughters, Eva (6) and Bertha (1). Also living at the same address was a 76 year old widow Ann Hilton (76) who is possibly the mother of Alice.

Frank enlisted at Bury on June 15th 1915 where he joined the 20th (Service) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers (Also known as the 4th Salford Pals). His address at this time was stated as 1 Mills Hill, Middleton, Regimental records show that he was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal of "D" Company, XIII Platoon. His service number was 21681.

The formation of this particular battalion commenced in March 1915 and having already raised 3 Salford battalions, it was decided that the 4th should be a Bantam battalion, specifically for men with a minimum height of 5 feet 1 inch. Recruiting for this battalion was slow, due to the height restrictions, (Many men of this height were miners who were much needed as coal was a valuable asset to the country as a whole). The 3 previous Salford Pals Battalions had completed their basic training at Morfa Camp in North Wales and in late June departed from there to Catterick in Yorkshire. Around the end of July the camp became the temporary home of the 20th Battalion. They only stayed at Morfa until mid August, when they moved to Parkhouse Camp on Salisbury Plain where they were to remain until 29th January 1916.

The Battalion entrained at Tidworth and then left Southampton for Le Harve arriving on 30th January and from there moved by rail to via Boulogne to Esquerdes where they remained until February 9th. The next few days were spent moving towards the front and training, and the division was inspected by Field Marshall Lord Kitchener at Racquinghem on the 11th.

On February 27th the Battalion moved into the front line trenches for the first time.

On 22 April 1916, the following article was published in the Middleton Guardian and the letter was likely to have been written on or around 27th February.


An interesting description of the Bantams first march to the trenches has been sent to his mother at Mills Hill by Private Frank Nuttall. He says:- We were going to the trenches for the first time, and everybody was excited in his own particular way. Here was our "idial" about to be realised. It was a splendid night for our move, and better still, it was a splendid night for our spirits. We had been billeted in a ruined village, not far behind the line, but even during our stay there we never realised our position. The guns could be heard; nothing else stirred. Now I want you to fall in with us. Can you imagine our feelings? Brand new soldiers. How quiet we were standing there in the village road, everything dead silence. Now our officer tells us what we are to do, "No talking, no smoking;" but orders were unnecessary, for we were all busy with our own thoughts, dreamers all! We start, slowly we move down the village road, how solemn it looks, standing out in the bold relief against the stars, such a mark for the German gunners; and they had made it a target, too. We are now past the barricades on the low road, which stretches out before us like a purple ribbon. On either side of us stretch the unploughed fields. But these fields have eyes, for every now and then a voice will shout, "Who are you?" "The----------- ---------" . It was the sentry who had halted us. Then on again. Will we never turn off the road? I stumbled into a shell hole, the first of many. We've passed the reserve trenches. Surely that was a man standing there, oh, so still. We speak no words of intelligence between us - just grunt. We pass on. Entering the communication trenches needs skill and a sure footing, we had neither of these gifts, and slipped, chuckled, and rolled into the trench. This was much different to the first part of our journey. We had all our time occupied in dragging through the trench. We elbowed our way for a considerable distance, soon developing the artistic roll from side to side of the trench. At last we arrived at the dug-out in the bowels of the earth - or so it seemed - down steps. As down we went we heard voices, which soon became clear; many voices speaking at once; a burst of light, many candles - we had arrived.

Frank is recorded as receiving a Gunshot wound to the right arm on 23rd July 1916. On this day the Battalion were in trenches in the Bernafey area. A further (unspecified) wound is recorded on 21st August 1916, the war diary for this day records the Battalion were in front line trenches and "Heavy counter bombardment by enemy inflicted considerable casualties". There is a note from his mother received by the Regiment on 12th September that states she had received a field card August 27th from him, informing her he was in hospital

Although born in 1899, Frank's enlistment papers give his age as 19 years 1 month, when he was in fact 16 years old. Within his surviving service records is a letter from his mother which was received by the Regiment on 14th September 1915, whist Frank was still undergoing training at Salisbury. The letter included a copy of his birth certificate and went on to explain that "he was only 17 last birthday and I do not wish him to go to the front" This letter is annotated with "She must say definitely whether she wishes the discharge, no promises can be given, concerning men not (illegible) until 19 years of age. An army memo dated 12th December forwarded this request to the Company records office in Preston. An undated memo states "The Officer Commanding 20th L/F informed that his request for the discharge on account of age cannot be acceded to. Mrs Nuttall informed accordingly"

His military records confirm the enlistment date above and then records
Appointed Unpaid Lance Corporal 10.08.15,
Appointed Paid Lance Corporal 20.8.15,
Reverted to Private for improper conduct on Parade 2.10.15.
Posted: (France) 29.1.16
Posted (Home) 24.10.16.
Transferred and Posted 2/1st Herefordshire Regiment 25.10.16 under Authority ACI (Army Council Instruction) 1905/16
Different record cards then record that he Transferred Mons Regt, 13.7.17. (Monmouthshire Regiment) but one set of records state this was under the authority of ACI 1499 of 1916 and another under the authority of WOI (War Office Instruction) No27 Gen No 6273 ACI of 12.6.17
Transferred to Labour Corps and posted 418th Agricultural Co. 22.11.17
Posted 541st Agricultural Co 22.2.18
A further record dated 2.12.18 records that he was transferred to the South Wales Borderers (1st Reserve Battalion) on 29.10.18 (This was possibly following his 19th birthday)
Discharged (to Class Z Reserve) 8.3.19

Franks Medals were acknowledged as being received by him on 16 June 1921. The medals were issued by the Labour Corps under regimental number 480294 but on the unit line Frank himself wrote "20th Lancs Fus.

The next available records are the Middleton Voters lists of 1922. Copies of these (and subsequent years) are available in Middleton Library. Unfortunately these are indexed by street and not by name. From the earlier records available it is known that the family were at No 5 Mills Hill in 1901, No 2 in 1911 and No 1 in 1915 and 1919, however Mills Hill is an area of Middleton, rather than a road!

The 1909 OS map show that there was a Mills Hill Lane (Now Mills Hill Road) so the 1911 census was checked to determine where the family lived. Scrolling backwards through the census revealed that the previous entry before Mills Hill was 566 Oldham Road, and a later large scale town plan shows that behind this address were 1 to 5 "Old Mills Hill". The voters list confirm this is where the family lived.

Available voters lists were examined, the earliest being 1910, this shows Richard (Franks father) as head of the household at No5 (where he was living in the 1911 census) and a Frederick Nuttall at No2 (where Franks family had previously lived). In the 1922 voters list Frank is listed as living with his mother at No 1 and this remains the same in 1925 and 1926. The next available records are 1929, which show Alice Ann and Eva. From this it can be deduced that Frank left the home between 1926 and 1929.

Various sets of Marriage records were then examined (as it is possible he left the family home on marriage) but no positive match could be found.

Returning to the voters lists, in 1932, Alice Ann was still living at No1 with her two daughters, However Bertha had by this time become Mrs Percy Harridine. This marriage is recorded and it was discovered that both passed away in Northampton. They are listed on a single family tree on Ancestry, but the tree creator has not been active for some considerable time. Ancestry has a message system between members and I have sent a message to the tree owner, in the hope that they will receive an email notification of the message.

Thank you
Glen Hopkins (Middleton In The Great War Facebook page)

21798 L/Cpl John Higham
Click here for the National Archives records

He was in 15 Platoon 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (4th Salford Pals)
His Platoon commander was Lt C F Buckley and his Company was commanded by Captain W J Lias
his platoon Sergeant was Sgt J Meehan and we think he was from Salford he was a Lance Corporal at the end of the war
He wrote on the Board
Thank god that you are here in spring, for it is Hell in winter here.
John's Service Record
John Higham ,the son of John Higham senior, of number 31 Chapel Street Ashton Under Lyne was also 5 feet 1 inch in height, with an even smaller chest than his mate, just 33 and a ½ inches round the chest, another Bantam.

He enlisted at Salford on the 23rd June 1915 and was appointed Lance Corporal on the 5th October 1915, could he have been given the stripe so quickly lost by Nuttall just 3 days earler ?
This too was not to last and he is shown to be a Private soldier again by 11th January 1916, just a few days before he left his message for us on the plywood.

More research done by Glen Hopkins (Middleton In The Great War Facebook page)
John Higham was born in Ashton Under Lyne on December 22nd 1896, the only son of John and Charlotte. In 1901 he was living with his father, step mother (Francis), 5 sisters and 1 step sister, at 57 Jermyn St. Ashton. John's father had remarried early in 1901 following the death of Charlotte in 1900.

In 1911 the family were living at 31 Chapel St. This was the address John enlisted from.

John enlisted in the 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers at Ashton Under Lyne on June 23rd 1915, giving his age as 19Y 6M (he was in fact 18Y 6M) From the recruiting centre he was sent directly to Salford.

Military records
Posted 23.6.15
Appointed Lance Corporal 12.10.15
Deprived Lance Stripe 11.01.16
Posted France 29.01.16
Posted Home 15.06.16
Admitted Wharncliffe War Hospital Sheffield 15.06.16
Granted Leave 13.07.16 - 22.07.16
Posted 4th Lancashire Fusiliers 12.12.16
Posted (Illegible) 25.07.17 (it is known that he arrived in France on this day)
Posted (Illegible) 21.08.17
Wounded (Gun Shot Wound - Shoulder) 23.03.18
Posted (Illegible) 29.03.18 (He arrived back in the UK on this date)
Posted Knowsley Park 3.08.18
Posted 3 17.10.18
Posted BEF France 18.11.18
Arrived back in UK 24.03.19
Discharged (Class Z Reserve) 26.03.19 (on his discharge document he is shown as being in 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers)

On 3rd March 1920 he applied for a character reference from the Chapel St. Address
John acknowledged receipt if his medals on 1.09.21 (Postmarked Ashton Under Lyne)


21800 Pte John W Flynn
Click here for the Natioal archives records
in the same Company and Platoon as Pte Higham above. 15 Platoon 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (4th Salford Pals)
His Platoon commander was Lt C F Buckley and his Company was commanded by Captain W J Lias his platoon Sergeant was Sgt J Meehan
From Rochdale he was a Corporal
John's message is the easiest to read it say's
20th Batt Lancs Fus
Rochdale Lancashire
Pte John N Flynn 21800
Machine Gun Section
going to do his bit
left this camp
on the 29/1/1916
for France
John's Service record
John Walker Flynn was the son of William and Jane Flynn of 74 Ashworth Street Rochdale. He also had a brother called William
He enlisted at Salford on the 24th June 1915 and due to his height of just 5 feet 1 and a half inches he became a bantam in the 4th Salford Pals, along with the 2 above mentioned.

John Flynn is recorded as being wounded in action,

More research done by Glen Hopkins (Middleton In The Great War Facebook page)
His "Statement of Services" show that he was posted on 21.01.16 and it is known from other records, the Battalion sailed to France on that date. The left hand side of the page contains a number of signatures for further postings, but unfortunately the right hand side which would have contained the detail is missing.

Military records
Enlisted (Bacup) 24.06.15 stated age 19Y 1M
Posted (Salford) 24.06.15
Posted (France) 21.01.16
Letter from father stating underage (17) 30.03.16
Reply to above asking for Birth Certificate (Undated)
Response to above which gives name as "Private John Flynn, Nee Walker"
Application refused - DOB 7/7/98 dated 20.05.16
Promoted to Corporal (Date unknown)
Moved to 18th BN (Date unknown)
Wounded 26.03.18 - Gunshot wound to right thigh, which led to amputation of his right leg. The amputation appears to have been carried out at Rouen
(France) on 17.07.18
Transferred from hospital at Brighton to Roehampton (London) 30.04.19
Discharge 21.06.19 (Corporal, 18th LF)
Silver War Badge No B241,691 issued to Ashworth Street address 06.08.19

Medal roll confirms service with 20th then 18th Battalion.

The following article appeared in the Rochdale Observer on April 6th 1918

The battalion War Diary shows that the 18th were at Buire-sur-Ancre on March 26th 1918 and states -
"Batt formed rearguard for withdrawal from Maricourt positions vacated at 2.30am marched to Bray, taking up position along Bray - Albert road.
Attacked by Boche at 1pm. Batt fought succession of rearguard actions to line Sailly Laurette - Morlancour, eventually retiring via Morlancourt. To Buire-sur-Ancre. 2/Lieuts Short and Kennedy killed, Capt Rigby, 2/Lieuts Lewis & Ellis wounded, 2/Lieut Wilson missing. 28 OR killed, 1 died of wounds, 128 wounded, 84 missing. X & Y Coys hold line of river Ancre on Batt front. Z Coy owing to casualties amalgamated with W Coy - the two latter held in support. GOC returns from leave!"

Various searches have been conducted and I have so far been unable to trace the family in either the 1911 or 1901 census. The given address was checked in 1911 and a different family were in residence in that year.

Birth records have been examined and I am not able to find either a John Walker or a John Flynn born locally around that time.

The double name gives a number of possibilities; the two most likely are that John was the illegitimate son of William and Jane, who married after his birth, or John was the son of Jane from a previous marriage and adopted his Step-fathers surname when his mother remarried.

But all three of these intrepid men were to survive WW1 and they all came home.

On this photo are two of the people who wrote on the plywood plaque sorry we are not sure who is who on it

Click here for The BBC recording for their North West Tonight programme broadcast 25/05/2012

This is what Mrs Sharlene Mears ( she found the plywood with the messages) had to say today 20th May 2012:-

“Dear Joe,

Thanks for your email. The radio article sounded great. Graham said it
brought a lump to his throat hearing the messages being spoken by the
soldiers 'themselves'. I can't believe the amount of work you are putting in.
Well done to you all “

Joe Eastwood Editor The XX The Lancashire Fusiliers.