John James ROWLEY
Rank: Guardsman
Number: 16978
Unit: 4th Battalion GRENADIER GUARDS
Date of Death: 25 September 1916
Age: 20 (based on 1901 Census information)
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

John was born in the Miles Green area of Newcastle under Lyne, where his father, James, worked as a coal miner. The 1901 Census records James, then aged 53, being married to Annie. They had a total of six children - David (11), Annie (10), Sarah (8), Caroline (6), John (5) and Martha (3).

It's not known when John moved to the Stockport area, but he enlisted into the army in the town and his service number suggests this was quite early the War.

In the middle of September 1916, John was involved in a major assault as part of the on-going Battle of the Somme, when the Grenadiers attacked towards the village of Lesboeufs on the 15th. A further attack, to capture the village, was planned for the 25th. They moved into position during the night of the 24/25th. Zero hour was set for 12.35pm and the Regimental History recounts "As zero hour approached, the men fixed bayonets and remained motionless waiting for the whistle which was the signal to advance."  Following a covering artillery barrage, they went "over the top" across No Man's Land. As the crossed the German front line they came under "terrific machine gun and rifle fire and terrible gaps were made in the ranks". They pressed on to their objectives in the German second and third lines of trenches and over 150 of the enemy were bayoneted. After re-grouping, they moved forward again, at 1.35pm, securing their final objective after stiff opposition.

They held this position until they were relieved at 10pm on the 26th. Since the 18th, the Battalion had suffered 458 casualities - dead, wounded or missing - more than half their number. As well as John , Harold Higgins and Joseph Burrell were amongst the dead. None of their bodies were ever recovered and identified and the names of all three are now inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

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