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John Taylor

 Private John Taylor

Birth

John Taylor was possibly born in Morton, Lincolnshire between October and December of 1896 to Joseph Parker Taylor, Farm Labourer of Morton and his wife Emma Downes.

Even though the dates do not match the 1911 census information, the only other John Taylor that was registered in the area around this time was John Thomas A Taylor born in Rippingale and lived in Morton and then Edenham before being killed in WW1. This leads us to believe that Private John Taylor remembered on the Theipval Memorial is the son of Joseph Parker Taylor and brother to Joseph Parker Taylor also killed in WW1 and is also listed on the Morton War Memorial.

Family History

Joseph Parker Taylor was born about 1871 in Morton Bourne to James Taylor and married Emma Downes in April-June 1896 in the Bourne district, believed Morton. The 1911 census disagrees with the above information as Joseph claims that he has been married 18 years and that his eldest son, Joseph, is also 18. All of the ages of his children on this census also disagree with registration records.

Joseph Parker Taylor and his wife Emma had, according to the 1911 census, 8 Children of which only 6 can be traced. Joseph b 1896, John (Jack) b c1898, Lilly b c1899, Annie Maria b c1900, Skeath b c1905 and Harriet b c1908.

Emma died before between July and September 1910 leaving Joseph to bring up the family.

John Taylor is listed with his widowed father and siblings in Morton aged 14 on the 1911 census.

Military History

We are unable to trace John Taylor’s war records, as with many from the Lincolnshire Regiment, these could be part of the burnt records that were destroyed in the blitz.

The medals roll shows Private John Taylor in the Lincolnshire Regiment. As John Taylor is not eligible for a 1914–15 star medal then this would indicate that he did not see active oversees service before 1915.

As the enlistment date is not known we can only really describe the actions of the 2nd Battalion of the lincolnshire regiment in the time immediately leading up to John Taylor’s death.

The following extract from the History of the Lincolnshire Regiment follows the 2nd Lincolnshire over the period of the late summer of 1916.

1st July 1916 – Battle of the Somme

North of La Boisselle lay Mash Valley, dominated both by the village and also by Ovillers : this was the right flank of the 8th Division, which attacked on the left of the 34th Division.

The 8th Division had all three brigades in the front line, 23rd on the right, 25th in the centre and 70th on the left.

The centre lay opposite Ovillers and of the 25th Brigade the 2nd Royal Berkshire were ordered to attack on the right and the and Lincolnshire (Lieut.-Colonel R. Bastard) on the left, with the 1st Royal Irish Rifles in support and the and Rifle Brigade in reserve. The northern half of Ovillers and three or four lines of powerfully-defended trenches formed the first objective of the 25th Brigade.

The battalion was in position by 3.30 a.m., two companies in the front line between Cartmael and Longridge, one company in Pendlehill and Cartmael and Battalion Headquarters with the remaining company in Waltney. Two patrols, one under and Lieutenant Eld and the other under Lieutenant Ross, reported that the enemy’s wire was well cut : the former officer and several men were wounded.

At 6.25 a.m., when the intense bombardment began, the enemy replied with high-explosive shrapnel on the front-line and assembly trenches. Five minutes before zero the assaulting companies advanced from their assembly positions preparatory to the attack, all three companies getting their first two waves into No Man’s Land and the third and fourth waves out at zero. This operation was carried out quickly and without a hitch, though they were observed and casualties were fairly heavy.

The story of the gallant efforts made by the and Lincolnshire to win through to their objective cannot be more fittingly told than in their own words :

“ As soon as the barrage lifted the whole assaulted. We were met with very severe rifle-fire and in most cases had to advance in rushes and return the fire. This fire seemed to come from the German second lines and the machine-gun fire from our left.

” On reaching the German front line we found it strongly held and were met with showers of bombs, but after a very hard fight about two hundred yards of German lines were taken about 7.50 a.m. Our support company by this time joined in. The few officers that were left gallantly led their men over the German trench to attack the second line, but owing to the rifle and machine-gun fire could not push on. Attempts were made to consolidate and make blocks, but the trench was so badly knocked about that very little cover was obtainable.

“ We were actually in the German trenches for two or three hours, and captured a lot more trench on our right by bombing as well as repulsing a German counter-attack from their second line. It was impossible to hang on longer owing to shortage of ammunition, and no more bombs, as we had used up all our own as well as all the German bombs we could find in the trenches and dug-outs, and were being gradually squeezed out by their bombing attacks. A company of the Royal Irish Rifles made a most gallant attempt to come to our support, but only ten or twelve men succeeded in getting through the zone of terrific machine-gun fire. We went into the attack with twenty-two officers, all of whom were killed or wounded, except Leslie and myself, and we had bullet holes through our clothing.

“ During the time I had the honour of commanding the 2nd Battalion I never saw the men fight better ; they were magnificent in the most trying and adverse conditions. The attack, though a failure, was a most glorious effort, and I was intensely proud of the battalion.

“ We first retired to shell-holes in No Man’s Land and kept up fire on the trench we had left with ammunition we collected from the wounded. As it was obvious we could do no good there, we retired to our own trench and reorganised to be ready for another attack if required.

“ Orders were received from the 25th Brigade to withdraw to Ribble and Melling Streets and occupy the assembly dug-outs, which was done.” (Lieut.-Colonel Reginald Bastard, D.S.O.)

At 12 midnight the battalion was relieved and proceeded to Long Valley.

The Berkshire, on the right of the 2nd Lincolnshire, similarly failed to take their portion of Ovillers, while the 23rd Brigade on the right of the 25th, had such terrible losses that the attacking battalions were almost wiped out. Indeed the 8th Division, as a whole, was relieved on the night 1st/2nd July by the 12th Division and taken completely out of the line.

Among the many operations in the Great War which have no official recognition in the form of a “ Battle Honour,” was an attack made on the enemy’s positions to the east of Les Boeufs and Gueudecourt, in conjunction with French operations against the Sailly-Saillisel heights and St. Pierre Vaast Wood. Bad weather put an end to the Battle of Le Transloy, on the 18th October, and while waiting for conditions to improve in order that further operations on the Ancre could be begun, the attack referred to above took place. operation, Two divisions took part in this i.e., the 4th and the 8th. The 8th Division, after the terrible losses sustained between the 1st and 4th of July had (as already mentioned) been withdrawn from the line and, by the end of that month, had settled downin the Loos area, the 2nd Lincolnshire (25th Brigade) spending from the 23rd of July to the and of August in the trenches east of Sailly la Bourse. This tour cost the battalion one officer (2nd Lieutenant H.J. de Cann) and two other ranks killed, and eleven wounded,

Normal trench warfare occupied the 2nd Battalion for over two months, but although the front-line trenches were frequently very unhealthy. spots, both sides being exceedingly active, there are few incidents of outstanding importance to record.

The Hohenzollern and Quarries sectors were both known to the Lincolnshire, who served several tours in each. During a tour in the latter, which began on the 15th August and ended on the 31st (a long tour), Major W.N. Pitt was wounded and died of his wounds on the 20th. On the 19th of September (the battalion being then in the Hohenzollern sector) a raid was attempted on the enemy’s trenches, which was only partially successful. In this affair and Lieutenant H. J. Dickinson, who was in charge of the left party, gallantly entered the enemy’s trenches, but was killed, while 2nd Lieutenant Wreford, commanding the right party, was wounded when helping to carry wounded men back to the trenches.

The 2nd Lincolnshire were relieved on the 10th of October and moved back to Houchin, thence on the 11th to Lozinghem, where three days were spent in training. But the 8th Division had been ordered back to the Somme, and on the 14th, after a march to Lillers, the Lincolnshire entrained and on reaching Pont Remy during the afternoon, marched to Airaines. They were back in familiar surroundings, and when on the 16th they made another move to the well-known Citadel Camp, near Meaulte, the battalion knew that very soon they would be in the front line again.

The move up took place on the 19th. They left the Somme at the height of the summer, in sweltering heat ; they returned to a scene of desolation impossible of description. Mud and water were everywhere and as they splashed their way through to Trones Wood, chilled to the bone by the keen wind of rapidly approaching winter, they had visions of what the front line trenches were likely to be. On reaching Trones Wood, a halt was made for dinner, after which, at 4.15 p.m., they pushed on and, during the night of the 19th/20th, took over a line of trenches near Les Boeufs from the 8th Bedfords.

The sub-sector taken over by the 25th Brigade (Gusty and Misty Trenches) lay opposite a salient in the German line formed by the two trenches, Zenith and Eclipse. The 23rd Brigade was on the right of the 25th Brigade and the 24th on its left.

Hardly had the Lincolnshire settled down in the line when it became evident that the battalion was in for a bad time. The trenches were in a poor condition, for that portion of the line was of recent capture and the troops who had held it, in the midst of rain and mud, expecting counter-attacks and subjected to heavy shell-fire, were unable to do a great deal of work.

The 20th, 21st and 22nd were days of great artillery activity : the opposing guns shelled one another’s trenches (forward and back areas) and generally made existence in the front line uncomfortable.

One officer of the Lincolnshire (2nd Lieutenant W.J. Rawson) was wounded during this period. On the 21st the battalion lost one other rank killed, seventeen wounded and  eight missing. That night assembly trenches for the attack were begun.

The assault was originally timed to begin at 9.30 a.m., on the 23rd, but owing to fog was postponed until 2.30 p.m. At daybreak on the 23rd the 2nd Lincolnshire moved to their assembly trenches, which were just behind Gusty Trench. The battalion formed up with A (right) and D (left) Companies (under 2nd Lieutenant J.B. Drysdale and Captain A.H.W. Burton respectively) in the front line, and C (2nd Lieutenant C.W. Spicer) and B (2nd Lieutenant H.W. Coneybeare) in close support in the second line.

At 2.30 p.m. a creeping barrage fell and, keeping close up to the screen of fire, the 2nd Lincolnshire, flanked on right and left by the 2nd Middlesex and 2nd Rifle Brigade respectively, advanced to the attack. The battalion went forward in fine style : the first waves kept so close to the barrage that an officer and several men were wounded by our shrapnel.

Three-quarters of an hour before zero the enemy was observed working down Zenith Trench from the right, with the evident intention of getting back via Eclipse Trench, but our guns had so damaged this trench and blocked it with debris that he was unable to carry out his intention. The consequence was that the trenches in front of the Lincolnshire at zero hour were packed with German troops.

The battalion had advanced about ten yards, when there occurred a deed of great gallantry on the part of a German officer. All the records speak of this man’s actions in glowing terms. The Diary of the 2nd Lincolnshire records that “ as soon as the battalion started to assault a very gallant German officer ran down his own parapet and got his men up and stopped us by rifle-fire,”

The two front companies (A and D) were brought to a standstill. “ The enemy,” states the report of the Brigadier commanding the 25th Brigade, “ got up very quickly and stood shoulder high on the parapet, firing ‘ rapid ’ at our men. . . . All this took place in the midst of our standing and creeping barrages.”

The first wave of the Lincolnshire was shot down almost to a man, only one section on the extreme right, where the 2nd Middlesex had reached their objective, entered the German trench, which at that particular point was empty. This party bombed some little way down the trench and maintained its position during the night. The second wave, coming under violent machine-gun fire as well as the rapid rifle-fire already mentioned, also failed to reach Zenith Trench.

“ By about 5 p.m.,” reports the Brigadier, “ the information available was to the effect that the and Lincolnshire appeared to have been wiped out, that the Officer Commanding, Rifle Brigade, could find very few of his men – it (Zenith Trench) was also strongly held and had been reinforced over the open during the afternoon.”

The Lincolnshire were not quite wiped out, but had lost very heavily, and just after 5 p.m. were ordered back to Rose Trench in Brigade Support : all but the small party in Zenith Trench on the extreme right of the 25th Brigade front, in touch with the Middlesex of the 23rd Brigade. It is impossible to state when these gallant fellows were withdrawn. A second attack on Zenith by other troops also failed.

The strength of the 2nd Lincolnshire on going into action was sixteen officers and four hundred and seventy other ranks ; they came out of action having lost thirteen officer and two hundred and seventy-two other ranks.

Until the 27th the remnants of the battalion remained in Rose Trench, and after they had reorganized provided carrying parties for bringing in the wounded ; they were then relieved by the 1st Royal Irish Rifles and marched back to bivouacs near Trones Wood. The end of October found them once more in camp at the Citadel, near Meaulte, reorganizing and training.

John Taylor was killed in this action on 23rd October 1916.

John is listed on a face of the Theipval Memorial and this would indicate that his body was never recovered and identified.

John Taylor, 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, Regimental Number 1943, was eligible for the following medals:-

Victory Medal
British Medal

 

Memorial

Private John Taylor, 1943, Lincolnshire Regiment who died on 23rd October 1916 is remembered with honour on the Thiepval Memorial on Pier 1 face C.

John Taylor

John Taylor gate

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