Private John Douglas MARCHINGTON


Regiment/Service:
Canadian Infantry
(Quebec Regiment)
Unit:
24th Battalion
Service Number:
141967
Date of Death:
17 September 1916 - Killed in Action
Age:
32
Cemetery / Memorial:


Personal History:

John, later known as Douglas, was born on the 27th April 1884, the son of John Samuel (Draper) and Sarah Emily (née Kelly) of 75 Spring Gardens, Buxton. He had two older twin sisters, Mona Adeline Bagshaw and Lillian Ann, and four younger siblings, Reginald Corlett, Sarah Emily - see Sources below, George Samuel and Stanley.

The 1891 Census (RG 12/4683) shows John's parents and brother, Reginald, living with Sarah's father, Daniel, at Mona House, Kirkmichael, Isle of Man. At the same address is "John D Kelly" listed as the son of Sarah's brother, also John. The same John D Kelly is on the 1901 Census, living in Buxton, with his grandmother, Rachel Millward, at 4 South Cliff, Dale Road. In both of these cases, however, the place of birth is given as the Isle of Man. The whereabouts of any other John in either the 1891 or 1901 Census cannot be found, although other siblings were located at various places around the country, working or at school. 

On the 9th January 1896 John Douglas' mother, Sarah, died in Buxton of disease of the hip joint. A few months later, in the December quarter 1896, John Samuel re-married Violet Grace Christina Lort, in Colchester, Essex. The 1901 Census (RG 13/3270) shows the remaining family back in Buxton at 59 Spring Gardens.
On the 11th June 1906 John sailed from Liverpool for Montreal, Canada, on board the 'Lake Champlain'. He gave his occupation as "Agriculterer". (It is possible, from the passenger list, that his brother, Reginald, sailed with him, although if so Reginald was back by 1911, living in Bootle, Lancashire.)

John (now calling himself Douglas) married Elsie Mildred Hawe, aged 22, on the 2nd September 1911 at Wentworth, Ontario,and they lived at 6435 Eva Street, Ville Emard, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. At the time of his enlistment in 1915 John was 5 ft. 4 ins. (1.63 m.), had a fair complexion, blue eyes and brown hair. He gave his occupation as "Carpenter and Joiner". However, the notes on the reverse of the photo, above, in addition to stating that John had been: "Missing since 17 September 1916, Battle of the Somme", also give his home address as: "605 Main Street East, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada".

N.B. John's younger brothers, Reginald Corlett, George Samuel and Stanley, also served. (See: Footnote below)

Military History:
John enlisted into the 76th Battalion, Canadian Army on the 10th August 1915, at Niagara. On his Attestation Papers he stated that he had previously served for 3 years with the "91st Highlanders, the North Warwicks and the Notts and Derbys". He later transferred to the 24th Battalion.

The 24th Battalion (Victoria Rifles), C.E.F., was authorized on the 7th November 1914 and embarked for Great Britain on 11th May 1915, arriving in France on 16th September 1915, where it fought as part of the 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division until the end of the war.

His Battalion had already landed in France, on the 15th September 1915, and assigned to the 4th Brigade, 2nd Division, Canadian Corps and given a section of the front on the Ypres Salient, near Messines. It is not known at what time John joined his Battalion as a replacement or reinforcement.

On the 15th September the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade moved up to Munster Alley and at 5.30 p.m. the 22nd, 25th and 26th Battalions attacked the village of Courcelette. The 24th Battalion, under the orders of the 5th Brigade, worked all of that night and most of the following day (16th) carrying bombs, ammunition and stretchers. In the afternoon of the 16th the Battalion was ordered to carry rations to the front line for the 22nd and 25th Battalions, in addition to their own. The 24th then relieved the 25th in close support to allow the 25th to move up to the front line and complete the relief of the 4th Brigade. This was successfully accomplished and at 4.30 a.m. on the morning of the 17th the Battalion Headquarters was established in a dugout at the Sugar Refinery.

The 17th was the day John lost his life, and the Battalion War Diary for that day goes on: "At 12.30 p.m. orders were received that the BN, less 1 Coy, were to attack the German front line, with our right resting on the BAPAUME Road and our left connecting with the 22nd BN in the vicinity of the QUARRIES. The attack commenced at 5 p.m.  and was carried out with the BN, less 1 Coy, in extended order along the whole frontage, the lateral distance being approximately about 700 yards (640 m.). the signal for the advance being one long blast on the whistle, given by the 3 Coy. Commanders." (The 4th Company - 'B' Coy. - was the one held in reserve at the disposal of the 25th Battalion, who were attacking north of the village [Courcelette]. The 24th were attacking eastwards.)

The other three Companies had varying fortunes; 'C' Company, on the left, held and consolidated their objective, which was the German front live 200 yards (183 m.) in front of their own line and about 170 yards (155 m.) wide. 'A' Company, in the centre, reached their goal but were unable to hold due to superior German numbers, whilst 'D' Company, on the right, were unable to reach their objective, "… many of the men being killed before they got over the parapet, and the men who managed to advance were held up in the German wire and shot down".

The Battalion diarist had no doubt where the faults lay: ".. if the Artillery preparation had been in any way adequate, there is no doubt but that the objective would have been obtained along the whole line. As it was, a barrage was put up approximately 500 yards (457 m.) in rear of the German front lien, which merely served to ward the enemy that an attack would probably be launched, and they wee able when our men advanced, to stand up on their parapets and shoot them down."

At about 8.00 a.m. orders were received that the Battalion was to be relieved by the 5th Brigade, but they were unable to relieve 'C' Company, who with the C.O. and H.Q. staff, remained in the line for a further 24 hours. John was one of 119 of the Quebec Regiment who were killed in action on that same day, with exactly the same number falling the day before and 41 the following day.

John's Burial Register entry states: "Previously reported missing, now for official purposes presumed to have died." The official date of death, therefore, became 17 September 1916. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Vimy Memorial.


Footnotes:
John's brothers:
·   Pt. M/287659 Reginald Corlett Marchington served with the Army Service Corps;
·   Pt. 5444 George Samuel Marchington served with the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade and as Pt. ES/59172 Army Service Corps
  (He was reported wounded in the Buxton Advertiser, having been brought back from France "with gunshot wounds and a compound fracture of
  the left arm"). He had been a serving soldier (as Pt 5444 W. Marchington) with the 1st Rifle Brigade at the outbreak of the War and entered France
  with the B.E.F. on the 9th October 1914.
·   The fourth brother, Stanley Marchington, worked "on munitions".

Sources:
· The Buxton Advertiser 28 September 1918
· The Canadian Great War Project
· CEF Burial Registers, 649-M-9808
· I am grateful to James Bedford, the great grandson of Sarah Emily, John's younger sister, for the photo of John, above.

Link to CWGC Record
The Vimy Memorial
Pt. Marchington's name on the Vimy Memorial
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