John Yeoman (J W on Memorial) KING
Rank: Corporal
Number: 40244
Unit: 1/5th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment
Date of Death: 11 April 1918
Cemetery: Beuvry Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France

Very little is known about John King. He had been born in Shrewsbury but was living in Stockport when he enlisted into the army. His wife, whose first name is =not known but her initial was "E", lived at 4 St Agnes Street, Reddish after the War, but it is not known if this was the home they shared.

For some reason, Johnn travelled to Chester to enlist. His service number suggest that this was in late 1916, which would mean he was a conscript rather than a volunteer. The number also suggest he originally joined one of the Regiment's "service battalions" - those formed only for the duration of the War. The 7th and 8th Battalions were disbanded in Februiary 1918, with the troops being dispersed to other units,, including the 1/5th Territorial Battalion.

On 8 April, 1918, John's Battalion was in reserve at Beuvry, to the south west of the town of Bethune. It was a quiet day and the unit's football team had lost the final of a Brigade competition. Early the next morning, the German army opened a massive artillery bombardment along the whole of this part of the Western Front. The offensive had been expected and the South Lancashires had been practicing their role should the attack materialise. At 5.30am, they were ordered to their designated defensive positions. By 9am, the enemy's infantry had used the cover of a thick mist to attack the trenches on either side of the Lancashires.  The official history reports that "our posts of determined infantry and machine gunners held on and, time after time, the attackers were driven back, leaving numerous prisoners in our hands and many dead on the ground." Severe fighting continued throughout the day and the next day.

By the evening of 10 April, the Germans broke off their infantry attacks and the night passed quietly. This allowed the British to work to re-strengthen the defences. The next day, there was no significant attack, but the Germans continued an artillery bombardment of the front line and John was probably killed by one of the shells. He was one of 23 killed in the three days of the offensive. Also killed on the same day was local man, Albert Harrison.

(Note: Original research into the April 1918 events by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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