Born in 1899 in Biddulph, Reginald was the son of George Reginald and Mary Ann Whalley (née Pointon). His parents had married at St. Lawrence on May 10th 1899. His grandfather, George Whalley, was a tobacconist in the village.
In 1901 the family lived at Gillow Heath. In that year’s census George was described as a coal miner. By 1911 though, the family had moved to 77, Tunstall Road where George carried out the business of fruiterer. A 1912 directory records George as a fruiterer and tobacconist. By this time the family had increased in size and Reginald had a one year old sister named Mary Hannah.
Reginald enlisted at Burslem although the date is uncertain. Local sources mention September 1914 however his medal card is without a 1915 Star which would indicate an early entry. He joined the 1st battalion Leicestershire Regiment, a battalion attached to the 16th Brigade, 6th Division, who sailed to France in the early weeks of the war being a first line unit already fully trained. So Reginald may have joined his battalion later in the field, though as already said, records are inconclusive.
The 6th Division first saw action in September 1914 at the First Battle of the Aisne followed in 1915 with actions at Hooge in the First Battle of Ypres. By 1916 the Battle of the Somme was to open on July 1st. By this time, assuming Reginald did enter the theatre of war later, and again no date of entry is shown on his medal card to give guidance, he may well have been drafted for this battle. Flers and Courcelette were the first major actions for the 6th Division. Here tanks made an appearance on the battlefield. Later the Leicesters found more action at Morval and Le Transloy. By November, with the enemy retreating to new positions on the Hindenburg Line, the 1st Leicesters spent the winter holding their lines.
In spring 1917, after spending an inevitable cold and wet winter in their trenches and without respite from the shelling or snipers, the next objective came in the Arras Offensive. The division were ordered to attack Hill 70 which was successfully taken under a barrage of shells and many brave men fell in this action. The Battle of Cambrai in October took the division south and to a new battlefield, seeing action through to November and the start of another miserable winter. Without service records or local sources it is always difficult to follow the personal life of an individual soldier. Following the story of the battalion we can only assume Reginald’s story is the same.
The German Spring Offensive started on March 21st 1918 and saw the enemy moving forward along the whole of the front. The 6th Division were in the St. Quentin area at this time, and soon lost ground and men in these attacks. They fell back and took up new positions at Bailleul and Kemmel Ridge for their next offensive, “The Advance in Flanders”. In early August the “Turn of the tide”, the Allied counter offensive began to push the enemy back. Reginald and his mates in the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment were now in bitter fighting. On August 24th 1918 Private Reginald Whalley sadly fell on the battlefield at the age of 19. Without a known grave he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial. His name also appears on the Biddulph memorials.
Michael Turnock and Elaine Heathcote.