By Harry Fecitt MBE TD
We were fortunate also in getting during April the 1/12th Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, which came to us as our Pioneer Battalion, under a most capable officer, Lieutenant Colonel Beckett. They were a hard-bitten, thirsty lot of Lancashire miners, but what they could do with a spade was a perfect revelation. The Division owed a great deal to this fine Battalion for the splendid work they did on the Vimy Ridge, and I attribute our comparatively low casualty returns to the rapidity with which these pioneers, assisted by the various battalions, managed to lower the depth of the trenches eighteen inches in record time.
Major General E.S. Bulfin CB, Commander 60th Division, France 1916.
Embarkation for Egypt
60th (London) Division was being deployed to another theatre of war and the emphasis now was on preparation for embarkation and on infantry training. The men received cholera injections and fired a short range course of ten rounds. On the 19th June 1917 the 1/12th Battalion (Pioneers) The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment marched out of its bivouac site at 0330 hours, arriving on the Salonika Quayside five hours later for embarkation on His Majesty’s Transport Huntspill. The Battalion was 35 officers and 1029 other ranks strong. Three days later the Huntspill docked in Alexandria, Egypt, and the Battalion disembarked to move with 60 Division into the Palestine theatre, where it was to remain until May 1918 when it returned to France.
During its short stay in Macedonia the 1/12th Battalion (Pioneers) The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment performed its specialist tasks in a professional and competent manner and proved itself to be a very useful addition to 60 (London) Division. A further sixteen months of operational duty in two different theatres lay ahead of the Battalion.
Casualties in Macedonia
The following four men of the Battalion are buried in Greece and Bulgaria:
1. No. 265683 Private Matthew Burrows, aged 21 years and born in Wigan, buried in Karasouli Military Cemetery, Greece.
2. No. 265297 Private John Mills Lomas, aged 21 years from Leigh, buried in Karasouli Military Cemetery, Greece.
3. No. 266456 Private John William Pilkington, aged 45 years from Preston, buried in Salonika (Lembet Road) War Cemetery.
4. No. 265716 Private Richard Robert Roberts, from St. Helens, buried in Plovdiv Central Cemetery, Bulgaria.
- Cyril Falls, Captain. History of The Great War. Military Operations Macedonia. Both Volumes. (Battery Press reprint 1996).
- H.C. Wylly, Colonel. The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 1914 – 1919. (Naval & Military Press softback reprint).
- War Diary. 12th Battalion Loyal North Lancs (Pioneers), January to June 1917. (National Archives reference WO 95/4927).