Private John RAWLINSON


Regiment/Service:
Middlesex Regiment
Unit:
11th Battalion
Service Number:
G/5806
Date of Death:
18 October 1915 - Killed in Action
Age:
20
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 99 to 101.


Personal History:

John was born in Tyldesley, Lancashire in the June quarter 1895, the son of John (Railway Labourer) and Alice (née Ball) Rawlinson. He had an older brother, Ernest, and two younger brothers, Frank and Arthur. In 1901 the family were living at 116 Manchester Road, Tyldesley. (Census RG 13/3598)

Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/21235) they had moved to 86 Nunsfield Road, Fairfield, Buxton, and John was working as an "Errand Boy".
In reporting his death on the 23rd October 1915, 'The Buxton Advertiser' said of John that "... prior to answering the Great call (he) was a stoker at the locomotive shed, and had just passed as a fireman." It also called him "... one of the best known young men in Fairfield and was a general favourite at the Fairfield Men's Own. He will be greatly missed as he was regular attender at the Sunday afternoon meetings. Deceased was also a member of Fairfield Cricket Club and an enthusiastic devotee of the Summer pastime."

Military History:
According to the SDGW database John enlisted in Buxton. Unfortunately, none of his Service Papers has survived, however, 'The Buxton Advertiser' stated that he enlisted "... last November ...". [This would coincide with the enlistment date of another Buxton man, Private 5808 George William Blackwell, originally of the 7th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, who was killed in action on the 16th July 1916. In his case 'The Advertiser' gave his enlistment date as the 14th November 1914, so being only 2 Regimental Numbers apart it is safe to assume that John enlisted at the same time.]

The 11th Battalion was formed at Mill Hill in August 1914 and attached to 36th Brigade in 12th (Eastern) Division. It later moved to Colchester, going on to Shorncliffe in November and in February 1915 went into Ramillies Barracks at Aldershot. John's Medal Index Card, however, shows that he entered France with his Battalion on the 31st May 1915..

On 23rd June 1915 the Division had taken over a sector of the front line for the first time, at Ploegsteert Wood, relieving 46th (North Midland) Division. 6th Queen's, 6th Buffs and 11th Middlesex were the units that first entered the trenches. In July alone the Division suffered the loss of 7 officers and 64 men killed, 18 officers and 413 men wounded.

The Battle of Loos commenced on 25th September, continuing to the 18th October. On the 8th October, the Division repelled a heavy German infantry attack and during this action John was killed in action, although from the War Diary account it could have been from his own artillery falling short:

"Enemy shelled trenches, particularly 'A' & 'C' Coys, very heavily all day. Many men buried and suffering from concussion. Parapet again levelled and built up at night. Our own shells are bursting short and over our trenches during the day and night.
Casualties:- Capt. H.G. Money slightly wounded by own shrapnel bursting short. Fifteen other ranks killed, one other rank died of wounds. Thirty-five other ranks wounded including 6 slightly at duty."

'The Buxton Advertiser' also printed a poignant letter from Private Tom Elliott, a friend of John's, (see Footnote below) who described in unusual candid details about the horrors of the Battle. Tom wrote to John's father to say, in part: "…. It is with deepest sympathy that I write to inform of Jack's death. He was killed by an aerial bomb yesterday.

It may console you a little to know that he died instantly. I could not write this to his mother because I know what a terrible shock it will be to her. For your own sake, I know, you will break the sad news gently. Never before have I felt so sick at heart, his death has taken it out of me.

Perhaps you know where abouts we are. … Jack has been placed among scores of others, waiting to be buried, which I hope and trust will be soon.

It is not fighting here, but terrible massacre - hand to hand. … I will close now with deep and sincere sympathy to you and your family."

The numbers of deaths in the 11th Battalion on the18th October are confirmed by CWGC Records, but Private Elliott's sentiments about John's burial did not come to pass. John and 13 of his comrades now have no known grave and are commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

Footnote:
· Private (later Lance Corporal) Tom ELLIOTT joined up with John, having a Regimental Number of 5809. He was the son of Thomas and
   Beatrice Elliott and lived near to John at 117 Fairfield Road, Buxton. Tom survived the War and was awarded the Military Medal.

· Three other two Buxton boys of the 11th Battalion who served with John: L/Cpl Percy PORTER who Died of wounds on the 26 July 1915, and
   L/Cpl G4866 Harry SELLORS Killed in Action on the 3 March 1916, and L/Cpl G/17567 Arthur PHILLIPS who was Killed in Action on 31st
   May 1917

Sources:
· Buxton Advertiser 23 October 1915
· I am grateful to Michelle Young for the photo from the Loos memorial.
· ... and also to Colin Taylor for the War Diary extract.

Link to CWGC Record
The Loos Memorial
Pt. John Rawlinson
John Rawlinson's name on The Loos Memorial
The Military Medal
poppy