William (Bill) Ribchester was born on 20 April 1916 in Bamber Bridge. His father was John Robert (Jack) Ribchester (b. 1888 in Church, near Accrington), a bleacher and dyer. His mother was Martha Jane Forshaw (b. 1891 in Wigan). Jack and Martha were married in Bamber Bridge in 1912 and they had four children: Harold (b. 1913), Edna (b. 1914), then Jack and finally Leah (b. 1920).
Jack Ribchester fought in the First World War. He was 45739 Private J R Ribchester, of the Machine Gun Corps. Jack attested he was willing to serve on 8 December 1915 and he was mobilised on 20 April 1916 (the same day his son Bill was born). He was posted to the MGC and landed in France on 13 September 1916. He served first with 40th Company but in 1917 he was transferred to 110thCompany. They came under orders of 21st Division. Whilst serving with them, Jack was wounded at Passchendaele on 3 October 1917. After recovery, he was transferred to 53rd Company which became 18th Battalion after the reorganisation of early 1918. 18th Bn was the machine gun battalion of 18th (Eastern) Division and they were in the thick of all the major engagements of 1918: the first and second phases of the German Spring Offensive, then the Battle of the Hindenburg Line, and then the final advance in Flanders. Jack was wounded again on 21 October 1918, during the Battle of the Selle. He was lucky again to recover and just after the Armistice he was given three weeks’ leave. He returned to his unit and was finally demobilised on 30 November 1920 – two years after the end of the War. On demobilisation, Jack returned to Bamber Bridge, living at 24 Mounsey Road, and to work at F. A. Gatty, dyers. But later, the family moved to 370 Leyland Road and Jack worked as a shunter for the LMS railway, based at the Lostock Hall sheds. His son Harold had the same job in the loco sheds; Bill and sister Leah were both working at Leyland Rubber, making respirators.
Bill joined the Navy and was a Canteen Manager in the Royal Navy Catering Service. He was posted to HMS Manners. HMS Manners (K568) was a British Captain-class frigate, laid down in the United States in Boston in August 1943, launched six weeks later and completed in December 1943, when she was transferred to the Royal Navy. She served on antisubmarine patrol and convoy escort duty in the North Atlantic Ocean.
On 26 October 1944, Manners accidentally rammed the Royal Norwegian Navy corvette HNoMS Rose in the North Atlantic. As a result of damage suffered in the collision, Rose sank. On 26 January 1945, Manners joined the British frigates HMS Aylmer, HMS Bentinck, and HMS Calder of the 4th and 5th Escort Groups in a depth-charge attack on the German submarine U-1051 in the Irish Sea about 20 nautical miles (37 km) from The Skerries, Isle of Man. During the engagement, U-1051 fired an acoustic torpedo which exploded near Manners' propellers, breaking her in two; her stern section sank, and four officers and 39 ratings were killed and 15 ratings were wounded. Bill Ribchester was among the men killed. He was 28 years old.
Aylmer, Bentinck, and Calder counterattacked, forcing U-1015 to the surface with depth charges and sinking her by ramming at a position south-west of the Isle of Man. Manners' forward section remained afloat and was towed to Barrow-in-Furness, where it arrived on 27 January 1945. It was later sold for scrap.
Forward section of HMS Manners towed to Barrow
Rank: Canteen Manager
Service Number: C/NX 583288
Unit/Regiment: Royal Navy, HMS Manners
Date of death: 26/01/1945
Commemorated at: CHATHAM NAVAL MEMORIAL
Memorial Reference: Panel 82, Column 1.
Additional Information: Son of John Robert and Martha J. Ribchester, of Penwortham, Lancashire.
[Further information from Bill Martindale, ex-RN, now living in Shap: “The ship was torpedoed in the Irish Sea, 60 feet of her stern was blown away. She was bought by Greece and towed into Preston Dock to be made safe to be towed to Greece. My friend’s father and two older brothers were employed as watchmen over her (although the dock was closed to visitors). As young teenagers my friend and I knew how to evade the gatekeepers and get into the dock. We were then at liberty to fully explore HMS Manners by use of a box of matches and a candle”]