My name is Chris Atkinson. I started my customer services apprenticeship at Manchester City Council in October 2012. Since then I have been working at Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives helping the public search our archive and local history collections. One way to do this is by indexing records so people can find their ancestors’ names more easily.
I’ve been working through some staff cards of The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Works at Horwich – better known as Horwich Loco Works. The building was started in 1885. By 1892 the locomotive factory was fully operational with an erecting shop accommodating 90 engines and 30 tenders. By 1901 the machine shop was extended and the works covered a total area of 116 acres of which 22 acres were covered by workshops. In 1922 the company amalgamated with the London & North West Railway; the following year saw a merger with the London Midland Scottish railway company. In 1948 the nationalisation of the railway system handed Horwich works to British Railways. The works finally closed in 1980.
The cards record the name of employees, their date of birth, their job title, industrial injuries, how old they were when they first started work and the reasons why they may have left. I recently came across an employee card which had a newspaper cutting stuck to the back of it – this is very unusual. The worker’s name was Fred Haughton.
Mr Haughton had been with the Railway service since joining as a 13 year old check boy in 1913. He stayed with the service until joining the Royal Navy in 1920. What’s particularly interesting about this man is that he served in the Second World War on board HMS Prince Of Wales.
Whilst on board he was given the position as Chief Ordnance Artificer, this position was one of the most dangerous jobs on board as he would have had to inspect, test, assemble and disassemble all types of weaponry on the board the ship.
He was part of crew which tackled the infamous Bismarck of the German Navy in May 1941. The battle dented and bruised the Prince of Wales but no lives were lost and the Bismarck was slowed down in her pursuit of the British Merchant Navy.
The newspaper cutting explains that when Mr Haughton received the Distinguished Service Medal for mastery, determination and skill in action during the battle, he told King George VI the dramatic story about the sinking of the Prince of Wales.
Fred Haughton was also part of the crew when the Prince of Wales was attacked by the Japanese Naval Air Force on 10th December 1941. She was attacked for over 13 hours and eventually was damaged too much and sunk. Mr Haughton was one of the few survivors to make it onto a life boat and survived this attack.
Using war medal records on Ancestry.co.uk I was able to find out that in 1944, 24 years after Mr Haughton joined the Royal Navy, he was again given another medal which was for Long Service and Good Conduct.
It is not known when Fred left the Navy but most personnel left the forces soon after the end of the Second World War. Using birth, marriage and death records online I found out that Fred Haughton was married in 1925 and he died in December 1978 in Bolton, where he grew up.
Fred Haughton is just one ordinary name among the thousands of loco workers at Horwich. His story, however, shows his involvement in two of the most famous battles of the Second World War. Using sources freely available at any Manchester City Council library we can bring Greater Manchester’s everyday archives to life.