Soldiers who died 75 or 80 years ago during World War Two

Date published: 12 November 2019

Volunteers at Littleborough History Centre have been researching the service personnel from the Pennine districts of Rochdale (Littleborough, Milnrow, Newhey, Smallbridge and Wardle) who died during World War Two.

This list is of men whose 75 or 80 years anniversary occurs in November 2019.

  • Littleborough

Private William Whitworth

William was born in 1917, the son of Arthur and Nancy Whitworth, of Littleborough. In 1939, his parents were living at 15 Salley Street, Calderbrook together with Robert, his elder brother.

William attended Redcross Street school and was a resident of Rochdale. Before enlistment in November 1942, he was employed at Fothergill and Harveys Sladenwood Mill, Summit.

Just 2 years after joining the army, Private Whitworth 14322409, 7/9th Royal Scots was killed on 6 November 1944 in Northern Europe, probably during the Battle for Walcheren (Operation Infatuate), a heavily defended island that dominated the entrance to the River Scheldt.

William is buried in Bergen-Op-Zoom War Cemetery, Netherlands, grave No 21 A 3 and is remembered on Littleborough Cenotaph. His elder brother, Robert, was also serving in the army and he survived the war.

Corporal Harold Low (Lowe)

Harold was born on 23 January 1917, the son of David and Eva Low (nee Crabtree - married in Littleborough in 1911).

Prior to enlisting, Harold was the manager of the painting and decorating department of the Littleborough Co-operative Society. It is believed that he married Marjorie Howarth in early 1940 in Littleborough, presumably before he enlisted in May the same year.

27-year-old Corporal Lowe 4460405, 204 Field Coy. Royal Engineers went to France four days after D-Day but ‘was killed in action in an explosion in a German minefield’ on 14 November 1944.

Harold is buried in Brunssum War Cemetery, Grave No II 61 and is remembered on Littleborough Cenotaph and the Holy Trinity War Memorial.

At the time of his death, his wife and child lived at 29 Mount Avenue, Littleborough and his parents at 79 Hare Hill Road. Harold’s widow, Marjorie Low, married Isaac Chirlin in Littleborough in 1945.

Fusilier Leonard Pickering

Leonard was born in Canada on 25 December, 1922, the son of John and Florence Louise Pickering of Fort William (later Port Arthur), Ontario.

Leonard met his wife, Nellie Calvert, whilst she was in the ATS and they married in Littleborough early 1943. At the time of his death, Nellie lived at 53 Calder Avenue, Littleborough but had already completed arrangements to go and live with Leonard’s parents in Canada. Leonard and Nellie had a daughter Valerie Ann, born in Birch Hill on 9 June 1943.

After 5 years in the Canadian Army, 22-year-old Fusilier Pickering H45746, Princess Louise Fusiliers, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, died on 15 November 1944 as the result of an accident in a jeep he was driving.

He is buried at Gradara War Cemetery, Italy, grave number I F 35 and is remembered on Littleborough Cenotaph.

  • Milnrow

Sergeant Derrick Keen

Derrick was born in Rochdale on 11 June 1925, the son of George and Ruth Keen (nee Sunderland), who in 1939 lived at 12 Highbank Road, Newhey together with daughter Nora.

Before joining the RAF in December 1943, Derrick was employed by United Cooperative Dairies and was a member of No1 Newhey Home Guard.

19-year-old Sergeant Keen 983506, 44 Sqdn. RAF was killed on 11 November 1944 when his Lancaster LM 648 returning from a bombing raid collided with another Lancaster over Spilsby Lincolnshire. All 14 crew members died.

The Rochdale Observer dated 22 November 1944 carried full details of the funeral at Newhey Parish Churchyard (North Plot. Row O. Grave 13) and a memorial service on the following Sunday.

Derrick is remembered on Milnrow and St Thomas War Memorials.

Sergeant Jack Crowther

Jack was born in Rochdale on 20 November 1918, the son of William and Emily Crowther (nee Smith) who together with his brother Alan, lived at 5 Highbank Road, Newhey in 1939.

Prior to joining the army in October 1939, Jack was a boudle woffer cotton worker employed by Newhey Spinning Co. and was associated with Newhey Methodist Church and school, as well as with Moorhouse Methodist Church school.

Jack married Edith Hallett at Moorhouse Methodist Church on 10 February 1940 and they later had a daughter, Sylvia J Crowther, born in 1943.

26-year-old Sergeant Crowther 3451678, 2nd Bn Lancashire Fusiliers, was killed on 24 November 1944 and is buried in Santerno Valley War Cemetery, Italy, grave No I A 14. He is remembered on Milnrow and St James War Memorials.

The Rochdale Observer for 9 December 1944 provides details of how his widow was notified of his death and other important details. His daughter, Sylvia, married Barrie Greenwood in 1967.

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