Molyneux brothers

 

Several members of the Molyneux family served in various branches of the Army during the War.  Their father was John Molyneux (b. 1845 in Penwortham), an engine driver with the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway.  Their mother was Alice Ann Baybutt (b. 1864 in Croston).   The Census records are difficult to disentangle but it seems that Alice Ann was John’s second wife and he had two children from a previous marriage.  John and Alice Ann were married in 1884 and their children were: Thomas (b. 1885), John (b. 1887), Richard (b. 1890), William (b. 1892), Eleanor (b. 1895), and Henry (b. 1897).  All the siblings were born in Ormskirk between 1885 and 1898.  The family moved to Lostock Hall in about 1900, and it seems that both John and Alice Ann died around 1905.  So, in 1911, the five Molyneux brothers and one sister were all living together at 5 Black Lane, Lostock Hall.  Black Lane is the former name of what is now Brownedge Road.  They all worked in the cotton mill, the three older men as spinners, the younger brothers (even Henry at the age of 13) as weavers, and Eleanor was a doffer in the cardroom.

680818 PTE. W. MOLYNEUX was a driver in C Battery, 286 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.  William Molyneux enlisted like so many other men from Lostock Hall and Bamber Bridge in 286 (2nd West Lancashire) Brigade in May 1915.  After training in 1916, they left for France in February 1917 and fought at Armentières and Passchendaele in 1917.  William was killed during the German Spring Offensive on 9 April 1918.

 

From the War Diary:

9 April 1918

At 4.15am an intense bombardment of hostile gas shells commenced on the whole of the Corps front. Our batteries, which were standing to, to support a raid by the 121st Infantry, were immediately ordered to open counter-preparation fire.  The gas shell bombardment lasted until about 9.00am when the enemy placed an intense barrage on the front line system.  The enemy broke through the British line on the Right at the 40th Devonshires at front and turning to his Right outflanked our Batteries.  The guns of B and C Batteries and two howitzers of D/286 were captured.  A/286 were able to withdraw their six guns and D/286 four howitzers, after engaging the enemy up to within 300 yards of the position.  The Brigade withdrew and took up position on the north side of the river LYS near to POINT MORTIER where batteries engaged the enemy with harassing fire.  When a battalion of enemy infantry were reported in CROIX DU BAC a further withdrawal was made to positions near LE VERRIER.  7 Other Ranks killed.  2 Officers and 26 O.R.s wounded.  3 Officers and 22 O.R.s missing.

 

William was among the dead.  He was 25 years old.  His body was not recovered.

 

Rank:  Driver

Service No:  680818

Date of Death:  09/04/1918

Age:  25

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, “C” Bty, 286th Bde.

Cemetery/memorial reference: Panel 1.

Cemetery/Memorial:  PLOEGSTEERT MEMORIAL

M2/175294 LCPL. R. MOLYNEUX. A.S.C.

 

Richard Molyneux was born in 1890 in Ormskirk.   In 1913, Richard married Elizabeth Nickson (b. 1890 in Cuerden).  Richard served in the Army Service Corps, 695th Mechanical Transport Company serving in Mesopotamia.

 

Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) was of strategic importance to the British because of the supply of oil, principally for British ships.  In 1914 the British sent a military force to protect the oil refinery at Abadan and shortly afterwards they occupied Basra, meeting little opposition from the Ottoman Empire.   In 1915, the British attempted to advance to Baghdad but their force was too small and supply lines too long so they were repulsed.  Basra then became the key location in the zone as the base from which any future attack could be launched.  However, at the start, the infrastructure of the port was totally inadequate and forces had to be sent from Britain to build the port, warehouses and workshops which would support the war effort.

 

The 695th Mechanical Transport Company arrived at Basra by sea on 10 June 1916, to be told they had come to the wrong camp! Over the next few days they settled into the right camp but they had no goggles, spine pads or mosquito nets but they do have quinine. Mosquitoes are clearly a problem and 43 men have already reported sick, but nets do arrive by 22nd. They are setting up a camp and much equipment and supplies are coming from India. The camp is being set up as a repair base for medium to heavy mechanical transport, with a maximum capacity of 100 vehicles under repair at the same time, though due to limited personnel capacity at the moment is limited to 40. By mid July they still haven't agreed a site for the workshops, but by August there is a steady stream of work after they agree a compromise solution of a depot and store at Khandag Creek while personnel are accommodated at Ashar barracks. The men are working hard but aggrieved that rates of pay are higher for men in France. They are also being inoculated against typhoid, after which they are off duty for three days, "which interferes with work".  Even in October, the company is still only half its establishment but 4 officers and 184 other ranks, mostly drivers, arrived on November 8th. The situation is chaotic nevertheless and it's clear that insufficient attention is being paid to the health of the men. Things get better in early 1917, the depot is now being built, accommodation is getting there and rations are improving, health is reported 'good and normal'. Vaccination and inoculation have been completed. Later in the year though as the heat rises, sickness rises too. For the week of 15-21 July, the War diarist records: “still intense heat with no wind. Latter part of week has been just below that causing so many heat stroke cases. Nights as a rule are hot and stuffy”. Re. health he says “rather more admissions and men are being sent in greater numbers to India. 105 to hospital past week and 55 back (to India) as compared to 97 admitted and 55 back the week previously. A fair number of men discharged only last for 5 to 10 days before being re-admitted. Deaths for past week were seven which includes 3 men of 962 Company. All caused by heat stroke”.  He also says that providing huts for the men should take priority over permanent buildings for an officers' club! These health problems persist, including infections from sand flies, outbreaks of typhus and scarlet fever, until the weather turns cooler in the autumn. 

 

Richard died, aged 27, on 17 July 1917 during this period of intense heat and sickness and is buried at Basra War Cemetery in Iraq.

 

Rank:  Lance Corporal

Service No:  M2/175294

Date of Death:  17/07/1917

Regiment/Service:  Army Service Corps, 695th Mechanical Transport Coy.

Grave Reference:  IV. C. 3.

Cemetery:  BASRA WAR CEMETERY

 

It is possible that Richard’s older brothers Thomas and John may also have served in the War, but it’s not proved possible so far to identify any specific records of their service.  Records do exist, however, for younger brother Henry.  242197 PTE. H. MOLYNEUX served with 2/5 Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment and survived the War.

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