Private John William PINDER

Sherwood Foresters
(Notts and Derby Regiment)
2nd Battalion
Service Number:
Date of Death:
20 October 1914 - Killed in Action
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 7

Personal History:
John was born in January 1881 at Drabbles Foot. Fairfield, Buxton, the son of Abraham (Carter) and Emma (née Ford) Pinder. In 1891 (Census RG 12/2779) the family were living at 3 Rock Villas, Fairfield. John had an older sister, Sarah Ann, a younger brother, Edward, and two younger sisters, Harriett and Dorothy.

In 1901 (Census RG 13/4368) John was working as a "General Labourer" and lodging with the Howes family at 167 Pond Street, Sheffield - probably relations of his mother. The rest of his family had moved to 1 Weston Villas, Fairfield Road, Buxton, and two more children, Mary and Robert Abraham, had been added. (Census RG 12/3269)
At the time of his enlistment in 1902, John was 5 ft. 8 ins. (1.73 m) tall and weighed 9 st. 4 lbs. (59.0 kgs.). He had blue eyes, brown hair and a 'dark' complexion, and gave his religion as "C. of E.".

In 1911 Abraham (surname PINTER) was lodging at 17 Fairfield Road, Buxton. (Census RG 14/21233) Neither John nor any of the rest of his family appear to be an obvious entry on the 1911 Census. John's mother, Emma, died in the September quarter 1917 and Abraham moved again to 6 Holmwood Terrace, Lightwood Road, Buxton.

Military History:
John enlisted into "The Derbyshire Regiment" at Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, on the 11th August 1902, on a 12 year Service - 3 years on Active Service, followed by 9 years Reserve. Prior to his enlistment he had a member of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters (Derbyshire Regiment). [In 1902 this unit became part of The Sherwood Foresters (Nottingham and Derbyshire) Regiment, and transferred to the Territorial Force on the 1st April 1908, becoming the 6th Battalion, The Sherwood Foresters, (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment).]

On the 7th December 1903 John received his first overseas posting, to Hong Kong, where he served exactly a year, before moving to the "Strait Settlements" - a group of British territories located in South-east Asia, which included Singapore, Malacca and Penang. John returned to England on the 4th September 1905.

On the 5th September 1905, having completed his three years Active Service, John was placed on the Auxiliary Reserve, Section B. [Section B reservists could only be called upon in the event of general mobilisation. Pay was 3/ 6 pence (17½p.) a week. He had to attend twelve training days per year.]

John must have been one of the unluckiest Reservists of the Great War - his 12 year enlistment would have been up on the 10th August 1914, but on the 11th August he became a Section D Reserve, for men who had completed their time in Section B Reserve. He was able to choose to extend for another four years and so was placed in Section D Reserve. The Army Reservists were mobilised in early August 1914. Many went to fill up the ranks of the regular army units to their war establishment. The 2nd Battalion was in Sheffield in August 1914, part of 18th Brigade in 6th Division. It moved on mobilisation to Cambridge and on the 11th September landed at St Nazaire.

John's Battalion, as part of 18th Brigade, were first engaged in the actions on the Aisne Heights on the 20th September 1914. 49 Officers and men of the 2nd Battalion were killed in action - most of whom (38) have no known grave and are commemorated on La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial.

On Friday, the 9th October 1914 John and his Battalion entrained at St. Remy for St. Omer. They moved into billets at Arques and then moved into the Vieux Berquin area on Monday 12th October 1914. The battalion then advanced until Sunday 18th October 1914 when they relieved the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry in positions at Ennetière.

On the day of John's death the Germans attacked the battalion who were ordered to fall back to the high ground at La Vallée. The retiring troops were surrounded during this procedure and forced to surrender. The survivors, 2 officers and 49 other ranks, held a ridge near the windmill at La Vallée and managed to fight off further German attacks at 7.30 p.m.

The War Diary reads:

20 October 1914 On night of 19th - 20th “A” Company relieved “D” Company, “C” Company relieved “B” Company taking “A” Company’s place in reserve. All night the companies were employed in improving their trenches and communications but the work was considerably interfered with by enemy fire.

At daybreak the enemy commenced a heavy shell fire on the village, the house occupied by Battalion HQ being destroyed.
At 7.10 a.m. it was reported that a considerable number of the enemy were massing round our right flank towards Escobecques. At 10 a.m.  “B” Company was sent to reinforce the trenches on the right. At 11.30 a.m. 1 company of Durham Light Infantry arrived to reinforce the BM.

About 1.00 p.m. a vigorous attack was made on our front trenches, but it was driven off with considerable loss. About 3.00 p.m. enemy commenced his advance against the right flank supported by artillery from north, east and south. All remaining reserves, 3 platoons of Durham Light Infantry and about 50 men were pushed to aid the 5 platoons who were holding that flank. The enemy’s advance was however very ?? and we were vastly outnumbered.

The few remaining men were collected and fell back, some covered the retirement of a battery of our guns and others assisted to man handle the guns onto the road. For some time the remnants of the battalion held on to some high ground overlooking the sandpits west of Ennetières, but at 7.00 p.m, fell back to the road running through T of Fetus. Here we joined up with the Durham Light Infantry and West Yorkshire Regiments and remained in position until ordered to fall back to Bois Grenier.

Casualties 710 NCOs and men missing.

The Official History (see below) added the following summary of the outcome of the Battle:

"... "The Battalion," wrote Brigadier-General Congreve two days later to the Colonel of the Regiment, "had done exceedingly well all day; it was just worn out and overwhelmed by superior numbers." How overwhelmingly superior those numbers actually were did not appear at the time, but they were such as few single battalions were asked to oppose in any of the other actions of the Great War. In a German book ['Die Schlacten und Gefechte des Grossen Krieges', p.52] published by the German General Staff it is stated that in the attacks on Ennetières and La Vallée on October 20th, 1914, the 25th German Reserve Division and the 52nd Infantry Brigade were engaged - that is three-quarters of the German XlXth Corps were opposed to a single British battalion! This battalion, moreover, was one which had suffered heavily in action only some four weeks previously, and on October 20th not a single Company was commanded by the officer who had led it a month previously, while only two of the original platoon commanders were left with their platoons. Further, owing to casualties and promotions, very few of the former platoon sergeants were left, 270 Reservists had joined since September 20th, while of the junior commissioned officers six had just been promoted from the ranks and six more had been attached from the Special Reserve.    In spite of all these disadvantages, not one of the trenches held by the 2nd Foresters was taken by direct attack, except some of those on the extreme right which were occupied by platoons out of sight of one another - five of these covering some 1,500 [1370 m.] yards of front.

It is very difficult, indeed, practically impossible - accurately to determine the casualties in the Battalion during these forty-eight hours of very hard and continuous fighting, for in the destruction of Battalion headquarters many documents and all the rolls were lost, and reliable casualty returns could not therefore be made up, but the following may be taken as approximately correct:  there were 3 officers killed, 3 wounded and 10 captured, while the number of non-commissioned officers and men killed, wounded and missing totalled 710, and of the latter over 100 were brought in wounded, and Captain Wilkin estimated the number of other ranks captured at 484, many of whom were wounded, leaving others killed and wounded. The officers killed were: Captain G. L. Anson, Second-Lieutenants H. L. C. Smith and A. G. Browne; Second-Lieutenants J. D'A. Whicher, E. E. S. Taylor and G. N. Royce were wounded; while the names of those taken prisoner are Captains W. H. Wilkin and E. N. Drury-Lowe, Lieutenants G. D. Edwards, C. C. Schneider, T. H. Hudson and R. G. S. May, Second-Lieutenants A. Troops, T. E. Davey, G. C. R. Martin and H. Rees."

After the Battle John was reported "Missing" and later his Service papers were endorsed: "Regarded for Official Purposes as died on or since 20-10-14." 'The Buxton Advertiser' finally reported John's death on the 15th April 1916, stating: "He had been missing for 18 months." The CWGC Records show that John was one of 76 Officers and men of the 2nd Battalion to be killed in action on the 20th October 1914. All but 6 have no known grave and are commemorated with him on the Ploegsteert Memorial.

One of John's comrades in the 2nd Battalion, Private 9463 Alfred Bignell, who came from Matlock, Derbyshire, wrote to the "Retford Times" with a story of the taking of trenches at the Battle of the Aisne, where John lost his life.

Under the heading: "Germans Fly at the Sight of Cold Steel", the story was reprinted in "The Buxton Advertiser" on Saturday, 14th November 1914. While in the trenches Pt. Bignell "… had two toes taken off, and he has been invalided home." [Nevertheless, Alfred Bignell returned to France later in the War re-numbered as Pt. 106819 in the Machine Gun Corps.]

His story read:

"It was on September 20th that the Sherwood Foresters left the Scots Guards in the trenches and retired for a much needed rest. About 10 o'clock a superior number of Germans broke through and the order was given for the Foresters to retake them. Pte. Bignell said they crept along the ground fifty yards at a time.

At last came the bayonet charge, and when the Germans saw the Foresters coming they screamed like children and ran. Three machine guns were captured by the Sherwoods, who had to pull the German dead out of the trenches before they could use them themselves. His description of the charge was: 'The men were yelling like a lot of hooligans as they charged amid a hail of bullets. You do not think of anything but simply go forward.' Pte. Bignell added that when shells are whistling over the trenches the favourite remark of the Sherwoods is 'Duck your nut!'"

· The Buxton Advertiser, 14 November 1914 and 15 April 1916
· I am grateful to Chris Pratt for the photo of John's name on the Memorial
· ... and to Graeme Clarke for the War Diary extract
· "1st and 2nd Battalions the Sherwood Foresters (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment) in the Great War" by H. C. Wylly (ISBN-10: 1845744241)

Link to CWGC Record
The Ploegstert Memorial
Pt John Pinder's name on the Memorial
Pt John Pinder