RESEARCHERS have uncovered the stories behind 300 local soldiers who fought in the First World War.

As part of the centenary, the team from The Barlow in Edgworth received lottery funding to find out more about the 144 known soldiers, whose pictures are displayed in a cabinet at the Bolton Road building.

As the researchers got to work, led by author Linda Spencer, they began to notice that many of the names on local war memorials were not among the 144.

They then discovered that many of these people had brothers who also fought in the war.

After two years of gathering information through censuses and military records, the team has collected biographies of 300 soldiers from around the Bolton area and published it in a book and on the new website.

Mrs Spencer, aged 66, said: “Our aim was to try and turn them back into people — not just numbers or names on a war memorial.

“It’s just about remembering what they sacrificed. It’s important because it’s reading between the lines about what these people went through.

“Some of the biographies have letters in them. There’s one that says ‘tell my brother not to sign up, it’s not what they say it is’.

“These are individuals and it’s about creating an individual and explaining what happened to him. It makes it more poignant and makes people think about whether war is really worth it.

“It made me feel so sad reading these stories. It moved me to tears at times. Sometimes I’d be typing away and there would be a little detail and I’d just think ‘God how awful’.”

The book, which consists of three volumes, is now kept at several libraries in the area including in Bolton and Bury.

But it was also taken to the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, with some of the researchers making the journey down to present the volumes to history librarian Isabel Holowaty.

Mrs Spencer’s great uncle, Robert Akid, fought in the First World War at The Battle of Passchendaele, where he was killed.

She believed it was this connection that motivated her through the two years of research.

She said: “I think we are all the product of what has happened to previous generations, both personally and for society as a whole.

“Therefore we need to understand what these people went through, how they felt about their lives and how the consequences may still be with us.”

The Ainsdale Avenue resident is now urging people in the Bolton area to check out the biographies on the website or the book as there may be people who are relations of the soldiers.

She added: “A lot of people in the Bolton area could be related to these people but possibly didn’t know we were carrying out this work.”

The biographies can be viewed at and contact details for people who might have more information are available on the website.


Harold Bentley, who lived at Darwen Road in Bromley Cross, was in the 12th (The Prince of Wales’s) Royal Regiment of Lancers.

Born in 1899 he married Eliza Kingsley in 1925, daughter of William Kingsley the Manager of The Barlow Institute.

There was no service record for Harold, but he received both the British and Victory Medals. The age for conscription was 18 from 25th May 1916.

Harold would have been 18 in January 1917. He should not have been sent overseas until he had undergone six months training.

He was involved in the Battle of Arras in 1917 - the planned spring offensive in 1917 to break German lines. It failed and the 9th and 12th Lancers suffered many casualties waiting in the snow.

To support the planned breakthrough at Arras, both the 9th and 12th Lancers were reunited with their horses.

They were to be used to support the infantry if they succeeded in breaking through the German lines.

Under shell-fire, in blizzard conditions, both regiments suffered some of the heaviest casualties of the war as they waited for several days in one place.

They also lost many horses to cold, exposure and lack of water. The night of 11th April 1917 is described as “the worst night of the war”.

They suffered losses without engaging in direct combat with, or seeing, the enemy.

Harold survived the war and died in 1958.

Crofton Footitt was born in 1898 and in 1901 and 1911 was living with his grandparents, William and Ellen Harrington in Edge Foot Fold, Entwistle. William Harrington was a domestic gardener.

Mr Footitt was enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery, regimental number 190843; his rank was Gunner, equivalent to that of private in the infantry.

There is no service record but he survived the war and received the British War and Victory Medals.

He then went on to set up a fish and chip shop in Edgworth after the war. It was called Footitt’s Fish and Chips and was based on Blackburn Road.

He died in 1950.

William Henry Miller was living with his family at Crown Point in Edgworth and he was in the King’s Liverpool Regiment.

No service record exists for William and his name has been missed off the list of UK Soldiers Died in the Great War. However, he was awarded both the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

He died on 11 January 1920, at home, when he was 21 and is buried in Edgworth Congregational Chapel yard.