First World War: Hero Frank had reason to be thankful

The Arkholme First World War memorial.
The Arkholme First World War memorial.

Out of 54 ‘thankful’ villages from the First World War, Arkholme was most thankful of all.

Arkholme was one of the few villages in England and Wales where everyone who served came back alive – including a soldier whose tale was remarkable.

The story of Frank Booth was revealed as a memorial was unveiled at Arkholme Parish Church paying homage to 59 men who returned safely from the Great War.

This was the most of any of the thankful villages, none of which had traditional war memorials until last Sunday.

Guests of honour at the Arkholme ceremony included thankful villages researcher Gerry Lees.

Amongst the men who Gerry researched was Booth, who was born in Rochdale in 1882 and died in 1969.

At the outbreak of war in 1914, he was based, when home, at Arkholme, where his parents George and Mary were living as tenants on the Storrs estate.

“In late 1914, Turkey entered the war on the side of Germany and invaded Mesopotamia, now largely Iraq,” said Gerry.

“The nearest force that could evict them was in India. British and Indian troops, Captain Frank Booth amongst them, were sent from there in 1915 to accomplish this task.

“In a campaign that was a precursor of the American invasion 80 years later, they landed near Basra and made their way up towards Baghdad reaching a position south of there in November, 1915.

“By the end of the month they found themselves holed up and under siege at a town called Kut-al-Amara, situated on a bend in the River Tigris. Conditions became awful and by the following April all food had gone.

“They were marched to Turkish prisons at the point of guns and under whiplash and rifle butts.”

Nearly 2,000 British troops and 1,000 Indians perished on the march and subsequent incarceration. But Frank Booth, somehow, survived.

His name is inscribed with 58 others on the newly-laid stone.