Corporal John BLACKWELL


Regiment/Service:
Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
Unit:
16th Battalion (Chatsworth Rifles)
Service Number:
266607
Date of Death:
Between 31 July 1917 and 3 August 1917
  - Killed in Action
Age:
20
Cemetery / Memorial:
Cemetery Reference:
Special Memorial 6.



Personal History:

John was born on 14th January 1897, the son of John (Cab Driver) and Mary Blackwell, later of 15 Fairfield Road, Buxton, Derbyshire. In 1911 (Census RG 13/3269) the family was living at 1 Dale View, Buxton and John had an older brother, George William, and two younger brothers, Alfred and Reginald. (George was killed in action on 16th July 1916) [See Footnotes below]
By 1911 (Census RG 14/21233) Mary had been widowed in the March quarter 1907 and John was working as an "Upholsterer", working for Messrs. Stott and Co. Ltd. The family had moved to 55 Fairfield Road, Buxton. At the time of his enlistement in May 1915 he was 5 ft 4½ ins (1.64 m.) tall and weighed 8 st. 6 lbs. (53.5 kgs.)

Military History:
John's surviving Service Papers show that he enlisted into the Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) on 31st May 1915, at Buxton, where he was living at 15 Fairfield Road, aged 19 years 4 months.  He was posted to  Redmires near Sheffield on 8th June, on 2nd September 1915 moved to Hursley near Winchester and attached to 117th Brigade in 39th Division, moved to Aldershot on 30th September 1915 but soon moved to Witley, all for training, before leaving Southampton for France on 6th March 1916, landing at Le Havre the same day.

Whilst in France he was docked one day's pay for not obeying standing orders (3rd June 1916) and treated for scabies on 1st August 1916. On 27th November he applied to be made up to Lance Corporal (unpaid) and on 24th March 1917 applied again - this time to be paid. John was finally promoted to Corporal on 6th May 1917.

Just over 2 months after his promotion John was killed in action, sometime between 31st July 1917 and 3rd August 1917. In all he had served 2 years 65 days with the Colours.

The 16th (Chatsworth Rifles) battalion played a prominent part in the Somme Battles, from August to the bitter end in November 1916. Their losses were heavy. Their finest hour, and certainly the period of their heaviest casualties, came in the 2nd Battle of Ypres and particularly the grim fighting leading to Passchendaele. It was for outstanding bravery during this battle that Corporal Ernest Albert Egerton (16th Battalion) was awarded the Victoria Cross.

John's Battalion's War Diary for the period covering his death read as follows:

"31st.  Lieut. P.U. Laws rejoined the Battalion after being wounded.

Copy of letter received by No. 25699 Sgt. A. Hildreth from Brigadier General R.D.F. OLDMAN, D.S.O. Commanding 117th Infantry Brigade. "I am very pleased to be able to congratulate you on getting your D.C.M. Every time the 16th Battalion Sherwood Foresters have tried conclusions with the enemy in his own trenches they have distinguished themselves. Your action was worthy of the highest praise and you very well deserved your decoration".

(Sd) R.D.F. OLDMAN,
Comdg. 117th Infantry Brigade.
C. HERBERT STEPNEY, Lieut.Col. Commanding 16th Service Bn. Sherwood Foresters.
AUGUST 1916.

GORRE.
1st. Battalion relieved the 17th Battalion KRRC in the Giventry left sub section with the Battalion Headquarters at South Moor Villa.

GIVENCHY.
2nd. OPERATIONS. The enemy fired three rounds from a Trench Mortar on the Northern Crater Front at 3am. Our retaliation was effective. A patrol under 2nd Lieut C.E. Garland went out from the left at 1am. and returned at 3.45am.  CASUALTIES. One man wounded (Shrapnel).

3rd. OPERATIONS. Between 3 and 6pm. 70 to 80 5.9 inch shells were fired on the right of the sector, falling near "D" Sap Regent Street and the houses. At 6pm 9 rum jars fell near French Farm and "F" Sap.
At 1:10am we exploded a small mine west of the craters already in existence S. of "F". SAP. Crater party of 20 men went out, but it found useless to consolidate. Enemy replied very promptly with rapid fire and a little rifle grenade and Trench Mortar fire. Three salvos of .77 were fired North of Kings Road. CASUALTIES. 4 men wounded (Rifle Grenades)."

Although no deaths are reported in the Diary, clearly it must have later been realised that John had been killed by one of these actions.

In reporting his death 'The Buxton Advertiser' published a letter to John's parents from his Platoon Commander, which in part said:

"..... I can tell you we have lost a good fellow and an excellent NCO. He was a very capable leader and promised well for the future, and his quiet, unassuming manner and good nature made him very popular with us all.

His Company Commander was wounded on the same day so that I am second-in-command, having had charge of the Company since then, and that is why Captain Askwith is not able to write to you as well.

Please accept my heartfelt sympathy and try to realise how proud we all are at the gallant way your son met his death. He died doing his duty for England."

The paper then went on to point out that his mother had already lost one son, George, and had another younger son in training, expecting to be posted abroad soon, and also that she was a widow.

                                



Footnote:
· John's older brother, Pt. George William BLACKWELL, Northamptonshire Regiment, was killed in action on 16th July 1916

· John's younger brother, Pt. 79279 Alfred BLACKWELL, enlisted on the 5th September 1916 and served with the Somerset Light Infantry

· John, George and Alfred's uncle, Dr. 224769 Joseph BLACKWELL, served with 'B' Battery, 189th Brigade, R.F.A.
   He died on the 22 November 1920 and is buried in Fairfield Cemetery.

Sources:
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' 18 August 1917 - which printed photos of George and John (see right)
· I am grateful to 'Bronno' of the GWF for providing the extract from the War Diary
· I am grateful to Martin McNeela for extracts from the official history.
· I am grateful to The War Graves Photographic Project for the photo of John's grave.

Link to CWGC Record
Cpl John Blackwell's grave
poppy
about the 16th Battalion on The Somme
Cpl John Blackwell