Seventh Manchesters index
Aftermath and Home.
The division concentrated at Hautmont, and on November 14th the 7th marched into this town, and there occupied billets close to the Square. We now had an opportunity of realising the manner in which the Hun had delivered his last expiring kicks. Delay action mines had been placed under the railway at various points, and although one of the terms of the Armistice demanded that they should be indicated and removed, many were too near the time for explosion to allow of their being touched. As a result the railhead could not proceed beyond Caudry for some time, and it was necessary to convey supplies over a considerable distance by road. As arrangements had also to be made to feed the civilians, and repatriated prisoners of war, who now began to stream across the frontiers in an appallingly emaciated condition, some idea will be gained of the difficulty of keeping the troops sufficiently rationed. The men of the 7th, however, realised this and took a common sense view of the matter.
In the second week of December the 42nd division marched up into Belgium to Charleroi, the 127th brigade being quartered at Fleurus, a delightful village about six miles out of the town. Here the men of the 7th had a most happy time, for the villagers welcomed us right gladly and made us extremely comfortable in our billets. Turkeys, beer, extra vegetables and rum once more figured in the 'Xmas fare and it was with really rejoicing hearts that the Fleur de Lys spent their last Yuletide away from home. "C" company maintained the prowess of the battalion by securing the divisional prize for the best decorated dining hall. Later, chiefly through the efforts of C.S.M. Branchflower and Sgt. Aldred, M.M., we carried off the divisional cup for boxing.
On 'Xmas Eve the first of a series of events at once sad and joyful began to occur. Long-standing friendships and partnerships were rapidly broken up by the departure of drafts for demobilisation. Every few days parties went off, and one saw old faces gradually disappear from our ranks. The return, in the midst of glorious weather, of Capt. Barratt and Lt. Gresty, M.C. from Manchester, with the battalion colours was the occasion for a splendid ceremonial parade in which the Belgians took a lively interest. It was a proud moment when they were safely deposited in the officers' mess, and everyone took a share in their due honours.
The final stage in the long adventurous career of the 7th Manchesters during this great war was completed on March 31st when the cadre of the battalion, led by Brevet Lt.-Col. Manger, arrived at Exchange Station, Manchester, and amidst a tremendous and enthusiastic concourse of people proudly made their way through the city to Burlington Street, to deposit the colours in their home at the depot. The following Saturday evening a reception was held, when large numbers of men and officers with their friends united once more to do honours to the record of their battalion.