John Richard KNOWLES
Rank: Private
Number: 50547
Unit: 1st Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Date of Death: 28 June 1917
Age: 24
Cemetery: Orchard Dump Cemetery, Arleux-en-Gohelle, Pas de Calais, France

Jack Knowles had been born in Runcorn, the son of Margaret and the late Eli Knowles. Locally, the family had lived at 41 Jennings Street, Edgeley. It is thought that Jack may have been a pre-war member of the local Territorial Battalion (the 1/6th Cheshires), as his original service number (1683) suggest service with the Territorials. At some point, he was transferred to the 1st Battalion.

The attack in which Jack was killed had been meticulously planned. Some 10,000 yards of new communication trenches had been dug, existing trenches improved, assembly trenches prepared and even dummy trenches made to disperse the enemy artillery fire. Troops had been given detailed instruction and they had practiced over a taped-out training course. Eight Battalions (all under normal strength) would carry out an attack to displace the Germans from part of their front line  where they had observation of the British trench system at Oppy Wood, near the village of Oppy, some 6 miles south of the French city of Lens.

Jack and his mates moved into the assembly trenches on the evening of 27 June. Zero hour had been fixed for 7pm the next evening and the men had a long a weary wait throughout the day. By the late afternoon of the 28th, the enemy may have realised an attack was planned as the crowded assembly trenches were heavily shelled, causing many casualties. At 7.10pm, British artillery opened up on the German trenches, destroying strong points and machine gun posts. The men were quickly out of their trenches and across No Mans Land, following closely behind a creeping barrage.

The German artillery responded quickly, shelling the British front line, but the Cheshires had moved so quickly the trench was all but empty. The objectives were rapidly secured and the work of consolidation had begun by 7.30, when a violent thunderstorm broke accompanied by torrential rain. The Regimental History records "This seriously interfered with the work and soaked everyone to the skin."

Jack was one of 23 Cheshires killed in the attack which had been, without question, a resounding success. Another local man was Thomas Gannon. Both were originally buried very near to where they fell, but after the Armistice, their bodies were moved to their final resting place

   
           
   
     
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