Casualties of the Second World War – April

Date published: 01 April 2019

In April we remember the casualties of the Second World War who were residents of the Pennine Townships who died 75 or 80 years ago this month.

Gunner Jesse Smith

Jesse was born in Rochdale 1 October 1921 being the son of Arthur and Eliza Smith, of Littleborough, Lancashire. In 1939 his mother, sister Beatrice, born 11 April 1912, Ring Spinner Cotton and brother Eric 22 July 1916, were living in the Sun Hotel in Littleborough.

25-year-old Gunner Jesse Smith, 1803401. Royal Artillery, 267 Battery, 69 Lt AA Regiment, served in Burma and was killed in action on 11 April 1944 being remembered on the Rangoon Memorial, Myanmar (Burma).

Jesse is also remembered on Littleborough Cenotaph.

The Rochdale Observer for 14 April 1945 carried sentiments from his mother Alice, Beatrice, Eric and Jack of 114 Stubley Brow and also brother Alex (Marines) and Florence and brother-in-law Jess (BLA), Lizzie and Norma.

The report includes ‘Believed killed 12 April 1944’. Later, the 25 September 1945 edition included ‘Birthday Memories of a dear son and brother, Gunner Jesse Smith on his 24 Birthday, 1 October who was killed in India on 11 April 1944, also of a dear husband and dad, died 11 October 1923...’ from his mother, brothers and sisters and sisters-in-law.


Sun Hotel in Littleborough
The former Sun Hotel in Littleborough


Gunner Arthur Stansfield

Arthur was born on 21 November 1912 in Todmorden, the son of John Ashworth and Sarah Emma Stansfield (nee Bickerdike) who were married in 1904 in Todmorden.

His sister Edna was born in March 1915 but unfortunately, his mother passed away just some short time later, in June 1915. With having a young family to look after, his father later that year married Marian Earnshaw in September 1915. They lived at 12 Maitland Street.

In During Autumn 1936 Arthur married Nellie Mallinson in Rochdale and in 1939 they lived at 154 Whitelees Road, Littleborough. Arthur was an artificial silk spinner working for Breda Visada.

The 1939 register shows his wife as Nellie Edmondson but with the birth date of Nellie Mallinson. They had three children, Jeffrey born 1937, Eileen born 1939 and Keith born in 1943. His wife later lived in Shore, Lancashire.

Arthur joined the Royal Artillery and whilst with the 14 Anti-Tank Regiment, 31-year-old Gunner Arthur Stansfield '3391762', he was killed in action on 14 April 1944 and is remembered on the Cassino Memorial, Panel 2 in Italy.

Cassino saw some of the fiercest fighting of the Italian campaign, the town itself and the dominating Monastery Hill proving the most stubborn obstacles encountered in the allied advance towards Rome. He is also remembered on the Breda Visada War Memorial kept in Littleborough Library.


Breda Visada War Memorial kept in Littleborough Library
Breda Visada War Memorial kept in Littleborough Library


Fusilier Gilbert Danton

Gilbert was born 2 April 1919, the son of Matthew Constable Danton and Mary Walton Danton, of Bellshill Crescent, Belfield, Rochdale.

Prior to enlisting in the army Gilbert worked for Breda Visada.

Fusilier Gilbert Danton joined the 1st Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers which was based in British India. During the Burma Campaign the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers became a Chindits formation.

The Chindits, Long Range Penetration Groups, were special operations units for raiding operations against the Imperial Japanese Army. Their operations were marked by prolonged marches through extremely difficult terrain, by underfed troops often weakened by diseases such as malaria and dysentery. There is controversy over the Chindits and the extremely high casualty rate.

25-year-old Fusilier Gilbert Danton 3451700 was one of those casualties who died 11 April 1944 and is remembered on the Rangoon Memorial, Myanmar (Burma) and the Breda Visada War Memorial (now in Littleborough Library) and on St Anne’s, Belfield War Memorial.


Breda Visada, Littleborough
Breda Visada, Littleborough


Private Richard Willis Barnes

Richard was born in Rochdale on 4 December 1916, the son of Septimus Willis Barnes and Ann Barnes (nee Cushen). He had a younger brother Septimus born in 1919 and a sister Margaret born in 1923.

When the 1939 Register was compiled, Richard lived with his parents at 15 Field Road, Milnrow and was employed as an Assistant Colour Maker in a paper mill, whilst his father was the Works Manager and his younger brother a Paper Carrier (presumably all employed at the same mill).

Richard married Violet Mary Bootan at St Ann’s church in Belfield on 25 May 1940.

Prior to enlisting in May 1943, Richard was employed at J and J Makin Wallhead Mill and was a Sergeant in the Milnrow Home Guard, He was associated with St Ann’s Church and a former player of their Sunday School Football Club. Richard had also played for St Chad’s.

Private Richard W Barnes joined 1st Battalion, Green Howards (Yorkshire Regiment) and went overseas in December 1943 where he fought in Italy.

Unfortunately, 27-year-old Private Barnes, 14613232, was killed in action on 25 April 1944 on the Anzio Beachhead and is buried in Anzio War Cemetery, grave X H 9. Rochdale Observer of 17 May 1944 when advising Richard’s details, reported that his widow, Violet, lived at 82 Willows Lane, Firgrove with their two children. Richard is remembered on the Milnrow War Memorial.

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