Private John Hicks BLACKBURN


Regiment/Service:
Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment))
Unit:
11th Battalion
(Formerly: 6th Battalion)
Service Number:
240387
(Formerly: 2045, 6th Battalion)
Date of Death:
6 October 1918 - Died of wounds
Age:
21
Cemetery / Memorial:
Cemetery Reference:
Div. 62. V. H. 8.

Personal History:
John was born in the March quarter 1897 at Derwent, Derbyshire, the son of the late John and Sarah Ann (née Charles) Blackburn. Not long after John's birth, his father died, on the 9th January 1901 and the 1901 Census (RG 13/3273) shows him living with his widowed mother at 10 Jubilee Cottages, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire.
His CWGC citation also, strangely, names him the "nephew of Alice Farrow, of Upper End, Peak Dale, Derbyshire." - probably because after his mother, Sarah, died in the September quarter 1905, John went to live with Alice, her husband William and son, John Richard, at Upper End, Peak Dale, where he worked as a 'Lime Picker'. (1911 Census RG 14/21264) William Farrow was "Stationmaster" at Peak  Forest Railway Station. At the time of his enlistment in 1913 he was 5 ft. 5½ ins. (1.66 m.) tall.

[N.B. In all the Farrows had five sons, George Robert, Alwin Lewis, William H., Sidney and John Richard - see Footnotes below.]

Military History:
John attested into the 6th (Territorial) Battalion Notts and Derby Regiment at Chapel-en-le-Frith on the 17th September 1913, giving his age as 17 years 0 months (exaggerated by at least 6 months!). On Sunday, 26th July 1914 the Battalion went into camp at Hunmanby on the Yorkshire coast, for its annual training, War was already imminent, with Austria having declared War on Serbia just the day before.

A week later on Sunday, 2nd August, the History (see below) records that it "... was naturally a day of very real suspense and uncertainty." The following day orders were received from the War Office that training was suspended and all units were to return to their local bases. At 7.00 p.m. on the day the German Army crossed into Belgium - 4th August 1914 - the order was received to "Mobilise".

On the second day of mobilisation the men of the 6th Battalion from Bakewell, Staveley, Clay Cross and Wirksworth, plus the Buxton half of "C" company, including Robert, marched into Chesterfield, to be billeted at the Drill Hall and Chesterfield Central Schools. The Battalion Colours were lodged in St Mary's Church (The Crooked Spire) prior to its departure from Chesterfield.

On the outbreak of War John, in keeping with all Territorial Force soldiers, was given the option of volunteering for service overseas. The 6th Battalion's percentage of volunteers was 98%. On the 10th August 1914 they marched out of Chesterfield with Lt. Col. J M Clayton at the head, and proceeded via Ripley, Derby and Luton, to Harpenden, where training began in earnest. John was posted to France with the Battalion on the 27th February 1915, becoming part of the 139th Brigade in 46th (North Midland) Division.

In 1915 the Division then took part in the German liquid fire attack at Hooge (30th - 31st July 1915) and the attack at the Hohenzollern Redoubt (13th October 1915). On the 23rd December 1915 the Division was ordered to proceed to Egypt. After just a few days in Egypt, the orders were countermanded and they were returned to France, taking part later in the year in the diversionary attack at Gommecourt on the first day of The Battle of the Somme (1st July 1916), where he was wounded, serving in 'B' Company.

On the 16th January 1917 John returned from France and was admitted to the 1st Southern General Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham suffering from a "septic hand", being discharged on 24th February. However, the problem re-occurred and he was back in Hospital at Ripon on the 19th March, being discharged on 11th May 1917. At that date he was posted to the 10th Battalion, then on the 9th June to the 1st/5th on being posted back to the front, arriving on the 10th June. He was posted again, to the 11th Battalion, on the 2nd July 1917.

The 11th Battalion moved to Italy in November 1917 as part of the 23rd Division. The battalion left this Division and moved to France, arriving at St Riquier on 18th September 1918 and there joined 74th Brigade in 25th Division. The Battalion War Diary shows that later that month John's 11th Battalion moved from their positions at Maricourt and by the 3rd October were in trenches at Moislaines -St. Martin.

During that night the Battalion's positions were heavily shelled resulting in two Officers being wounded, two Other Ranks killed, five wounded and seven missing. On the 8th October 1918 John's family learned that he was one of the injured, receiving wounds to his chest and thigh. They were told he was dangerously ill and in Hospital at Le Havre. By the time they received the news, however, John had already died of his wounds two days earlier on the 6th October

John is buried in Le Havre, which, except for a short interval during the German advance in 1914, remained the No.1 Base throughout the war and by the end of May 1917 it contained three general and two stationary hospitals, and four convalescent depots. It is certain that John died in one of these and is buried nearby.

Footnotes:
· Pt. 405260 John Richard Farrow enlisted in the Canadian Army, in Toronto, on the 18th August 1915.
  Regimental Quarter Master Sergeant S/4012 Sidney Farrow served with the 9th Gordon Highlanders in France from 9 July 1915.

Sources:
· I am grateful to Martin McNeela for extracts from War Diary the 11th battalion history "The Men from the Greenwood"
· I am grateful also to Francois Valour for the photo of John's grave.
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 12 October 1918

                                                                                    
Link to CWGC Record
Pt John Blackburn's grave
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