Born in Denby, Huddersfield, Fred Firth had been an employee of the Skelmanthorpe Society in Kirklees, West Yorkshire. He had a job as a teamster which meant working with draft animals to haul carts of supplies. These were used in areas where lorries could not access or were unavailable.
Upon the declaration of war in 1914, he enlisted in the army and became a private in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 7th Battalion. This battalion was formed in Pontefract as part of Kitchener’s New Army in 1914, and they landed in Boulogne in July 1915 to fight on the Western Front.
At this time, the armies of the Allied and Central powers were becoming entrenched in northern France and Belgium, with both sides unable to outflank the other or breach their defences easily. The attempts to outflank the enemies were referred to as ‘The Race to the Sea,’ as the French and Germans raced to the Belgian coast. However, as neither side could pass the other, the two armies became stuck in their positions. This led to the start of trench warfare, which across the course of the war prompted the development of new weapons in an attempt to break the stalemate, such as gas canisters and tanks. Firth was unfortunately killed in action in Flanders on 8 October 1915.
Co-operative News, 23 October 1915, page 1406.
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
Follow us on Twitter and search #CoopWWI
We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.