Extract from the 'Leigh Journal' reporting the death of local volunteer Private Fred Brisco.
It was a different sort of pilgrimage that took us to the town of Leigh on a Saturday morning last December. Leigh forms part of the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan and was the birthplace of the musician who went by the name of Pete Shelley. His band, Buzzcocks, were a major player in the UK punk scene of the late 1970s. Following Pete's premature passing four years ago, family and friends funded a mural of him on the gable end of a property close to the Town Hall. We came, we saw, we took pictures. Since the bus journey to Leigh from central Manchester is quite a trek we decided also to take the time to also view the small museum located within the Town Hall.
Now if you find yourself in Leigh, to say 'Hi' to Pete or whatever, I would recommend you to spend 20 minutes within the museum. It has such a warm sense of civic pride and it was a pleasure to view the panels and exhibits that describe the proud industrial past upon which Wigan and Leigh grew.
Not far from an area dedicated to Pete and his band I spied a cross.... that's always going to turn my head. It was clear that this corner of the museum was intended, by way of one individual, to commemorate the huge sacrifices that the men and boys of the many Lancashire Regiments made during The Great War.
The exhibit consisted of a reproduction of the piece that appeared in the local newspaper that reported the fact that Private 29387 Fred Brisco had been killed in action on 1st July 1916, a date seared into the minds of the British for more than a century... truly the 'blackest day in British military history'. It was the opening day of what became known as The Battle of the Somme, a British offensive that together with the efforts of the French fighting to the south would finally break the German lines and bring the war to a swift conclusion, or so it was believed. Only it wasn't decisive at all and the fighting ground on until November with very little achieved. But of 1st July 1916, it was a day that goes down in infamy as British losses were close to 60,000, killed, wounded or missing. Amongst the casualties were thousands of young men that formed Kitchener's Army, volunteers that in most cases had not been in France for more than a few weeks. Fred arrived in France just a month before the battle. The second exhibit was the makeshift cross made to mark his grave. When a permanent headstone to his memory was erected in Auchonvillers Military Cemetery, at the families request, the wooden cross was sent back to Leigh.
The cross is simply carved, bearing the words: