1st Battalion, The Cheshire Regiment
Officers, N.C.O.s and Men of the 1st Battalion, Buried in Chester (Overleigh) Cemetery

©: G E Conway, 2009
Their name liveth for evermore
Private E J Conway (circa. 1905)
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Overleigh Cemetery contains 127 First World War burials, about half of them made from local hospitals including the Chester War Hospital which was housed in the old Infirmary building.

The Cemetery contains 2 soldiers of the original 1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment, who died of wounds received in action.

Company Sergeant Major 7724 John William Thomas FRANCIS

Date of Death:
25 May 1915 (Died of wounds)
Grave No:
'B' Company
No 3 Depot
Mention in Despatches (8 Oct 1914)
Medaille Militaire
Personal History:
John was born in the December quarter 1887 in St Oswald's, Chester, the son of William (a Miller) and Ellen Francis. He had three older sisters, Jane E., Margaret Ellen and Catherine Winifred, and two younger sisters, Grace M. and Mary Grace The family lived in St James Street, Chester. (1891 Census RG 12/2866, 1901 Census RG 13/3374 and 1911 Census RG 14/21878)

He married Florence of Boughton Heath, Chester, but details of when and where are not available.

Military History:
John enlisted at Chester. Currently his Service Records are not available and may have been destroyed in Second World War bombing. However, from his service number it would appear he enlisted into the 1st Battalion about June 1908. In regimental athletics he had a fine record. He was a good footballer and the champion middleweight boxer of the regiment.

He was a Regular Soldier serving with the 1st Battalion and at the outbreak of War was stationed in Londonderry. He sailed on the SS Massilia on 14th August and his Medal Card confirms that he entered France on 16 August. He fought under Captain Shore on the left flank of the Battalion's action at Audregnies on 24th August.

The survivors of Audregnies were put into what remained of B Company, under Captain Shore, and the now very depleted but still nominally 1st Battalion joined the remainder of 5 Division in retreat. As a result of this 'reorganisation' of the Battalion, the still determined strong spirits of the men, and the presence of the hard-working and much respected Shore, the retreat was an orderly one as far as the Battalion was concerned. It was far too decimated a unit to take part in Smith-Dorrien's stand at Le Cateau, and the 200 or so men were put in reserve near Troisvilles.  ('Ever Glorious' - Bernard Rigby, Chapter 35)

For this action he was Mentioned, along with Captain Shore, in Field Marshall French's Despatch of 8th October 1914. Not only was he mentioned in despatches, but he was also awarded for gallantry at Le Cateau the French Médaille Militaire.
The Médaille Militaire (Military Medal) was created to reward warrant officers, corporals, sergeants, soldiers and sailors for military service, especially for acts of courage in combat. The Médaille Militaire is one of rarest French decorations to be bestowed upon foreigners.

Sergeant Major Francis died at Nottingham on 25th May 1915, probably of wounds received at Le Cateau, and was buried with full military honours in his native city of Chester.

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Medal ribbon bar
Chester (Overleigh) Cemetery
Pt Dowling's grave
CSM Francis's Medal Index Card
Use the links on the left to read a little more about each man and see where he is buried.
Medaille Militaire
Private 8610 Charles Charlton NUTTALL

Date of Death:
4 November 1918 (Died of wounds)
Grave No:
'C' Company
No 3 Depot
Personal History:
Charles was born in the August/September 1889 in Hadfield, Derbyshire, the son of Christopher (a Cotton Spinner) and Elizabeth R. Nuttall of Station Road, Hadfield.

At the time of his enlistment he was employed as a Labourer. He was 5' 5" tall (1.65 m.), weighed 114 lbs. (8 stone 2lbs) had a 'fresh' complexion, brown eyes and brown hair. His stated religion was Church of England.

On the 8th November 1915 he married Margaret Smith in the parish Church, Chester. They had one son, John Thomas, born 14th March 1915. After Charles' death, in the June quarter 1919, Margaret re-married Frederick Powell and lived at 1 Folliot's Court, Lower Bridge St., Chester.
Military History:
Charles enlisted into the 1st Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment, at Glossop, Derbyshire, on 9 September 1907 at the age of 18yrs. 0 mths. His terms of service were 7 + 5 (i.e. 7 years active service + 5 years reserve).

On the 15th November he was posted to the 1st Battalion and seems to spend all of his service in Ireland until 24 February 1914 when he was posted back to 'H' Company, Depot, presumably to prepare for his discharge. On 9th September 1909 he received his first Good Conduct badge and received his second badge 3 years later. During his regular service he ended up as a Military Policeman.
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Pt Dowling's grave
Awaiting Photograph
Pt Nuttall's Medal Index Card
He was still a Regular Soldier serving with the 1st Battalion and at the outbreak of War was on pre-discharge leave and was recalled. He sailed on the SS Massilia on 14th August and his Medal Card confirms that he entered France on 16 August. He fought under Captain Dugmore on the right flank of the Battalion's action at Audregnies on 24th August. His record shows that in September 1914 he was serving as a 'Pioneer'. He returned to England and was transferred to the 3rd Battalion on 18th January 1915, remaining until 29th March 1916.

On 30th March 1916 he returned to France, and 2 months later to the 13th Battalion, before returning to the 1st on 7th August, promoted to Acting Corporal a fortnight later. After some misconduct he was demoted back to Private on 6 November 1916. On 7th July 1916 he suffered shell shock and again on 30th September. (From mid July onwards until the beginning of September  5 Division was engaged in operations attacking the German line between Delville Wood and High Wood in order to capture Longueval. The 1st Battalion was in these engagements and upon eventual withdrawal from Longueval, was down to 300 all ranks.)

Charles remained in France until he was admitted to the Military Hospital in Chatham, Kent, on 21 May 1917 suffering from Gas Poisoning and transferred for convalescence on the 25th to the Hayle Place VAD Hospital, Maidstone, where he stayed until 22nd June 1917.

He was admitted to Hospital in Manchester for two months (November 1917 to January 1918) to be treated for gonorrhoea. However, shortly before his intended discharge Captain Mahoney had signed his 'Certificate of Sobriety and Trustworthiness' (8 September 1914). Near the end of his 7 years active service he had record no cases of drunkenness or any of insolence. 

Charles' major departure from over 9 years of good conduct was in February 1915. On the 20th he was charged with desertion and received 28 days detention. Even here his conduct was excellent and he received his full 4 days remission. Perhaps this aberration was caused by the impending birth of his son - born on 14th March!  His Medal Card suggests that he forfeited his medals for this although they may have been re-awarded later.

On 29 March 1918 Charles again was posted to the Expeditionary Force in France and was wounded probably on the night of 16/17 October, during the Battle of Selle River. On that night the 1st Battalion, commanded by Lt. Col. M.F. Clarke DSO reached their assembly position in the early evening of the 16th and lay out in the open all night suffering casualties from shelling, on top of a hill overlooking the village of Beaurain which they attacked and captured on the morning of the 17th.

The enemy had by this time lost so many of his field and heavy guns that he began to place what guns he had so far back that they could only reach the most advanced of the Allied infantry posts. Only German long range high velocity guns could reach Allied battery lines.
A general British advance began at 3.20 a.m. on the 23rd October 1918. The 1st Battalion of the 22nd took the left of their brigade, the 1st Bedfords took the right and the 1st Norfolks were in reserve. There were immediate casualties. They got in touch with 42 Div. and held on until the reserves, 1 Norfolk came up. The enemy retired and the 1st Battalion of the regiment, after a magnificent display of fighting courage and efficiency, were relieved by fresh troops. The losses were one officer and 34 men killed and 177 all ranks wounded.

Charles arrived back in England for the last time on the 28th October, where he subsequently died in the Second Western General Hospital, Manchester on 4 November 1918.
The French Médaille Militaire awarded for gallantry at Le Cateau