FORMATION OF TRAINING CORPS.
Immediately after the outbreak of the war, a Training Corps was started at Messrs. Ashton Bro's. Mills, Flowery Field, every facility being given by the firm to the male section of the operatives to enter the Corps and begin preliminary training with a view to active service for their country, if required. It was very fitting that this firm, the largest in the town, employing some 2,500 operatives, should take the lead it did in the direction of practical patriotism. From the the time Ashton Bros’ Training Corps was formed, the general manager of the mills, Councillor A. M. Fletcher, J.P., representing the firm, gave it all possible encouragement. Of course, as in the cases of all manufacturing concerns, a very large proportion of the operatives were female. When war broke out, there were in the firms', employ about 800 males, of thirteen years of age and upwards. Ashton Bros. Training Corps, made up of men and youths from the firms several factories, in the first few months of the war did an immerse amount of good. It reached a numerical strength of several hundreds, and attained a high state of efficiency. Up to the time of his joining the Army, Mr. (now Captain) G. B. Sayce was in command of the Corps. The firm's cashier Mr. James Dunkerley, besides acting as secretary of the Corps, was a platoon commander, his colleagues in latter capacity being Messrs. N. F Cook, George H. Stafford and Allen Barker. Some of the officers were ex-Volunteers, and previous experience in drill, marching, etc., served then in good stead, besides proving of benefit to the men. Instruction classes were held, and a rifle range was set up at the Wharf Shed. Route marches were frequent, and on one occasion the men, after journeying by train to Hayfield, walked from that village by the Kinder Scout path to the "Snake" thence to Glossop, and on through Mottram to Hyde, a total distance of over twenty miles, the first seven mile, being along a very rough and difficult track.
ASHTON BROS. TRAINING CORPS.
Photo No. 1.......... A. E. Searle
The Corps. held several manoeuvre’s on Werneth Low and in the neighbourhood of Woodhead. At Ashton Bro‘s. factories, about sixty dummy rifles, with bayonets, very made, for the use of the men in drilling. These rifles were afterwards lent to the Hyde detachment of the Cheshire Volunteer Regiment, whose members were allowed the use of the Wharf Shed rifle range. So efficient did Ashton Bros' Trailing Corps become, that some men on joining Kitchener’s Army gained promotion with remarkable rapidity. In the early months of the war there were many stirring events at the Flowery Field Mills. One of these took place on Thursday, November 19th, 1914, when 39 members the Mates' Platoon, composed of employees of Messrs. Ashton Bro’s and Co., Lid,, left for their first drill at Belle Vue. These men had useful training in the Corps, organised at the mill. Before the men left they were addressed by the general manager, Councillor A. M. Fletcher. J.P., in the presence of about 2,000 operatives.
From the early weeks of the war to the present time, the patriotic weavers at Bayley Field Mill have subscribed each week, and sent numberless comforts and other gifts to the soldiers. For this movement they had two splendid workers in Miss Esther Shaw, secretary, and Miss Martha Edwards, treasurer.
Up to the beginning of April, 1916, two hundred and eighty men from Ashton Bro’s. had joined the colours, and nine had been killed.
ASHTON BROS. TRAINING CORPS
Photo No. 2..........A. E. Searle
During September, 1914, there was also formed a Training Corps in connection with St. George’s Church. The Corps numbered 50 strong. Many of those who became members subsequently joined the colours, and some have fallen on the Field Of Honour.
After the local Reservists and Territorials had left the town, recruiting for Kitchener's Army proceeded with considerable briskness. There also arose several local Citizen Training Corps. 0n the 11th. January, 1915. the new Mayor (Councillor Welch) initiated a movement which led to the formation of the Hyde Volunteer Training Corps at a public meeting held in the Town Hall, about three weeks later - On the 2nd February. Not long afterwards this Corps became a detachment of the Cheshire Volunteer Regiment. Its primary object was home defence. Up to April, 1916, there had been 320 men entered on the membership roll, and about 50 had enlisted, which was a large proportion, considering that the great majority of the men were above military age, the eldest being nearly sixty. The uniform of the men was paid for out of a Battalion fund, subscribed by members and friends. Up to the time named, Hyde had subscribed to the fund £268. The Battalion was made up of five detachments - A. Detachment, Stalybridge; B. Dukinfield; C, Hyde; D, Glossop; E. Bredbury, Romily, and Marple. The full numerical strength of the Battalion was over a thousand. A remarkably high state of efficiency was obtained all round. Mr. T. Victor commanded the Hyde Detachment for a few months, until he obtained a Lieutenant's commission, and the duties of commander were then undertaken by Mr. H, L. Plant, of Romily, with Mr. Daniel Pennington, the well known Hyde Solicitor, as sub-Commander. The following were the officials of the Corps:- President, Lord Ashton of Hyde; acting President, the Mayor (Councillor Welch); secretary and treasurer, Mr. D. Pennington. Committee: Messrs. C. H. Brogden, Robt. Gregory, Joseph Heginbotham. Ed.Ogden, John Torkington. H. E. Poole, C. E. Moore. Albert Slater, (Councillor) Percy Hibbert, (Councillor) W. Pope and Mr. J. W, Danby (the Chief Constable), the three last-named elected by the Corporation. There were four platoon commanders:- viz, No.1 Platoon, Frank Shenton; No 2. Wm. A. Aspland; No.3, William ---ton, junr: No. 4, J. W, Sutcliffe. The Corps had frequent drills and marches, the longest march in one day being fully twenty miles. One of the results of these exercises was a remarkable improvement in the physique of the men. They also learnt the Maze Dance, which was an effective test of physical endurance for men between forty and fifty-five In April, 1916, the working strength of the Hyde Corps was about 200.
ASHTON BROS. TRAING CORPS.
Photo No. 3..........A. E. Searle
Mr. H. L. Plant, of Bredbury, joined the Hyde Volunteer Training Corps on its formation. He was at once appointed a platoon commander, and succeeded Mr. T. Victor as commander of the Corps when the latter gentleman received a Lieutenant’s commission, about October. 1915. A native of Staffordshire, Commander Plant had previously been in the Wolverhampton Yeomanry for about twelve months, and had spent ten years in the Leicestershire Volunteers, the latter half of the period as Sergeant; so that on taking charge of the Volunteer detachment at Hyde he was fortified with much useful military experience. His skill in shooting was another valuable asset to the Corps, whose efficiency is in no small measure due to his capable instruction and commend.