1st/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters
Killed in action on Saturday 1st July 1916 aged 28.
John was attached to the 139th Machine Gun Company on Thursday 2nd March 1916.. Service number 2420. He joined the Machine Gun Section Under the terms of an Army Order. Machine Gun Corps officers would visit the Regiments and identify suitable recruits fo the MGC. (Usually men of above average intelligence).
Saturday the 1st of July 1916 dawned beautifully. A bright, warm summer's day, 72 degrees Fahrenheit, with a clear, blue sky. Visibility was excellent, a fact that no doubt was of great concern to the British soldiers and added to the tension in the trenches. At 7.27 a.m. the Sherwood Foresters began discharging smoke into no-man's-land to give their advance an element of concealment.
The 1st/5th Battalion went over the top at Gommecourt and was cut to ribbons. They suffered particularly badly. 184 men and 11 Officers were killed.
The net gain that day was effectively zero. The 1st/5th Battalion Sherwood Foresters suffered 80% casualties on the opening day of the Somme.
As Sunday the 2nd of July dawned British soldiers who had moved into the front line trenches during the night were greeted to a horrific sight. Thousands of British dead lay scattered all around. Groans and shouts for help from the wounded or stranded could be heard from shell holes in no mans land, and every now and again a survivor of the previous days ordeal would reappear. Many hundreds of men were simply unaccounted for.
John has no known grave and is commemorated on The Thiepval Memorial France.
John lived with his sister Mrs H Spencer of Parkside Belper.
One of three brothers killed, Allan who was killed on the same day, and Arthur who was killed in October 1916. A fourth brother Percy survived the war, although he did spend some months in hospital with back injuries due to falling when an upper floor collapsed in a building in which he was sheltering.
John was the son of Thomas, a coal merchant, and Harriet Bembridge, of 1, Nottingham Road, Belper, Derbyshire. He was christened at St Peters church Belper and is also commemorated on the St Peters War Memorial.
He enlisted on Tuesday 4th September 1914 in Derby.
He was 5 foot 9 inches tall and aged 25 yrs 11 mths.
Before enlisting John was a surface labourer at the pit.
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