John William HODKINSON
Rank: Driver
Number: 745473
Unit: A Battery, 223rd Brigade ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY
Date of Death: 5 April 1918
Age: 28
Cemetery: Acheux British Cemetery, Somme, France

Little is known of John’s early life, other than he was born in the Rochdale area. His mother was Mary Hodkinson but there is no record of his father’s name and he had probably died by the early 1920s when the War Graves Commission collated its casualty information. John is believed to have got married in 1913, in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport, to Bridget Gaffy.

He enlisted at Stockport and his service number confirms he was not an early volunteer for the army as it was issued sometime after the beginning of 1917. After a period in reserve, 223rd Brigade moved into its gun positions a little way behind the front line, near the village of Englebemer, some 8 kilometres north west of the town of Albert. Once ready, they opened a harassing fire on the approach roads to the German front line. The next day, the German artillery started a bombardment which was the prelude to an infantry attack on the sector to the right of the Brigade’s.

John’s officer wrote to his wife telling her what had happened. “He was acting as a “mounted orderly” at the gun positions and had done particularly good service in that capacity. He had been sent with an important dispatch to a forward section of guns and returned safely through some hostile shelling of the roads and lines of communication. For this piece of conspicuous good work, I had sent in his name for immediate award and had he lived he would, I have no doubt, be the proud possessor of the Military Medal. During the afternoon, a shell stampeded his horse and that of another orderly; your husband went out in chase and eventually caught it. Just as he was preparing to mount, another shell dropped within a few feet and killed your husband. Please accept my sincere condolences in your great loss. He was a most capable driver and has served the battery and his country always to the best of his ability. Hard-working and fearless, he met his fate he would most probably have chosen for himself, had the choice been his.”

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