John Edward MADDOCKS
Rank: Private
Number: 19166
Date of Death: 30 July 1916
Age: 27
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

In the late spring/early summer of 1880, James Maddocks married Mary Clayton at St Thomas' Church, Stockport. Nine years later, John was born. It's not known if he had brothers or sisters.

Although John was living in Stockport at the time of the Great War, he appears to have travelled to Warrington to enlist.

The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July and, in the south of the Battlefield, the troops of the British 30th Division had secured their objectives in what was a rare success for that day. The men of the Fusiliers had suffered many casualties but were in action again on the 23rd in an attempt to capture the nearby village of Guillemont. This attack was a failure.

The next attempt to capture the village was set for 30 September. The men were in position, in assembly trenches near Trones Wood, by 3.30am on the 29th. Zero hour was set for 4.45am and , as dawn broke, it became obvious that visibility had been reduced to about 40 yards due to a heavy mist. The Battalion attacked, on schedule, across a front of 260 yards width, in conjunction with a company of the 17th Manchesters. They advanced along the road running to the village, taking many prisoners and forced their way into the village itself. Here they were joined by troops from 18th Manchesters and some from 16th Manchesters. These four Battalions formed the British 90th Brigade.

By 10am, it became apparent that the attack on either side of 90th Brigade had stalled and the troops in the village were in a difficult position. The mist had now cleared which allowed the German artillery to accurately shell No Man's Land, preventing re-inforcing troops from moving up. Machine gun fire was also sweeping the area. By noon, the Battalion and the men from the Manchester battalions were completely isolated. They were unable to withdraw due to the enemy fire and, shortly afterwards, troops at Trones Wood could see large numbers start to surrender. About 100 men managed to make it back to the British lines.

The Fusiliers had gone into action with 20 officers and 750 other ranks. At the end of the day, there remained about 4 officers and 140 men. John was one of 190 who had been killed. It would be another month before the village was captured and the area made safe enough for bodies to be recovered and buried. In that time, many bodies had simply disappeared in the continuing artillery onslaught or all means of identification had been lost. John is now commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at nearby Thiepval.

Regimental records published after the war and now available on the CD-ROM "Soldiers Died in the Great War" record that John "died". This designation normally suggests a death through accident or natural causes. His death on the same day as the above action and his lack of a known grave suggests the record is an error.

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