This article was researched by the Astley Lions Scout Troop and first appeared in Past Forward, the local history magazine of Wigan and Leigh Archives.
Thomas Pendlebury, his wife Sarah and their 8 children lived in a small terraced house a stones throw away from the Astley Colliery which still stands today. In February 1915, a few months after the outbreak of war, Thomas, who had worked as a miner at Astley New Pits, signed up to the army and joined the Manchester Regiment. By November of the same year his three eldest sons Ernest, Thomas Junior and Harry had also enlisted. Ernest, the eldest, became a driver with the Royal Field Artillery; their second son, Thomas junior, joined the South Lancashire Regiment; and the youngest of the three was Harry, who had been working at the Astley Green Colliery. He joined the Kings Liverpool Regiment when he was just 17 years of age.
Sadly Thomas Junior, was the first of the patriotic family to die, but not from battle wounds. He was serving in the Dardanelles a year after enlisting and there he contracted dysentery. He was brought back to England and was treated at the Netley Hospital near Southampton before being brought home to Astley. He seemed to be recovering well and even travelled to Manchester to see his brother before he set off for his Army headquarters at Pembroke. When Thomas returned home he seemed in good spirits and apparently enjoyed his tea, but later whilst he was at a neighbours house he reportedly felt unwell again and returned home. He was later discovered lying in an out-house and died a few minutes afterwards. The date was 28th December 1915. Thomas Pendlebury Junior was buried at Leigh Cemetery. He was 19 years old.
His mother must have been devastated at her loss, and yet she still had to cope with the fact that two more sons, as well as her husband, were still far from home and in danger every day.
Thomas Pendlebury senior was posted to France with his regiment in the early months of 1916. The date of the 1 July 1916 is remembered as the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the bloodiest battle in the history of the British Army. Thomas senior was on the Somme battle field that day and that is where he lost his life. More than 19,000 British soldiers died that day and because of that huge loss of life, coupled with the thousands who were wounded, it was difficult to know for certain what had happened to each soldier who did not return to the trenches. Back in England Mrs Pendlebury first received a telegram to say her husband was missing ‘after an engagement at the opening of the British offensive on 1 July’ . She later received the dreaded confirmation that he was one of the dead. He was 47 years old.
In August 1916, very soon after Thomas senior was reported missing, Ernest Pendlebury, the eldest son who was a driver with the RFA, was severely wounded during a battle in France. He was treated at a hospital there and, when he was able to be moved, he was brought back to England and was treated at the Stanley Hospital in Liverpool. Thankfully, Ernest recovered from his injuries and later returned to the front.
Harry Pendlebury, the youngest of the sons who enlisted, served in France for two years before he was fatally wounded during a fierce battle. He died of his wounds on 19th April 1918 in a casualty clearing station. He was 20 years old. The Leigh Journal reported his death under the banner ‘Family`s Heavy Sacrifice’ since he was the third member of the family to die.
* British offensive on the Somme Front. Some of the first wounded British troops, 1st July 1916. Imperial War Museum Image Q55 – http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205071233