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2nd Lieutenant, “B” Company 6th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.

Killed in action Saturday 7th August 1915, age 19.

Remembered on the Helles Memorial, Turkey, pane; 58 to 72 or 218 to 219.

Student of politics and economics.

Gallipoli : collect of Eric Duckworth.


 

Eric was born on 19th September 1895 in Dunsterville House, Rochdale, the son of James and Mary Duckworth. They were one of the town’s wealthiest families who owned a grocery empire totalling over 140 stores. Educated at Rugby where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps he returned home to Rochdale in 1913 and enrolled as a student at Manchester University studying Politics and Economics to prepare him to take over the family business. On the day following the declaration of War in 1914 he volunteered for his local Territorial Army unit, the 6th (Rochdale Battalion) Lancashire Fusiliers. He was ideal material for this unit commanded by Lord Rochdale which prided itself on its local character. He was gazetted a 2nd Lieutenant in “B” Company on the 6th August 1914, the youngest officer in the unit.

Within days it was announced that Rochdale Battalion, as part of the 42nd East Lancashire Division, was to have the honour of being the first Territorial Army unit to go on active service. It left in early September 1914 for Egypt. In May 1915 the Rochdale battalion landed at Gallipoli first seeing action on May 6th where they distinguished themselves in a wild bayonet charge at Achi Baba. Eric was fearless and greatly respected by his platoon as a local lad and one of the boys. On the 5th August 1915 he wrote home to his mother: “Little enough did I think 12 months ago today on the anniversary of mobilisation I should be writing to you from a hole in the Gallipoli Peninsula, not having seen you for 10 1/2 months, and to the tune of 75mm guns. However, you never know your luck, and I may see you in time to celebrate my 20th birthday at home, but as things look at present, theres not much chance of that”. Eric’s luck ran out on 7th August when the 6th Lancashire Fusiliers, much reduced by casualties, attacked the Turkish lines at the Battle of Krithia Vineyard. Once again Eric led his platoon in a bayonet charge that took the first line of trenches. Rallying the 20 remaining men he led a further charge at the next line. But only 3 men, Eric, and Privates Howarth and Porter made it into the 2nd line of Trenches. Here in vicious hand to hand fighting Eric was shot through the chest and killed falling onto the parapet. His two comrades were seriously wounded by bayonet thrusts but survived.

Later Private Heywood reported that Eric’s last words to his platoon on seeing the odds stacked against them were typical of this fearless young officer, “Well lads, we are not going to a church parade today!”

After the War his father, who was Mayor of Rochdale, and his younger brother made a pilgrimage to Gallipoli taking with them an Oak Tree from the town that they planted as a memorial to Eric and the other Rochdale boys who didn`t return. They paid for it to be tended and cared for. It remains to this day in the Redoubt Cemetery at Helles, a unique memorial known as “The Gallipoli Oak”.