Rank: Private
Number: 125471
Unit: 24th Battalion MACHINE GUN CORPS
Date of Death: 21 March 1918
Age: 19
Cemetery: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France

Henry Singleton and Emma Neal had married in the closing months of 1882, at St Mary's Church, Reddish. Over the coming years they had a number of children. The gap in their ages, recorded on the 1901 census, suggests they may have lost more than one. Four children are recorded on the census - James (then 15), Ernest (11), John (2) and George (4 months). They were living at 17 Belmont Street, Stockport, later moving to 11 Haslam Road, Adswood.

Nothing is known of John's early life. He was conscripted into the army when he became 18 and was assigned to the Monmouthshire Regiment for training purposes (service number 316148). He never served with the Regiment and was transferred to the machine gunners before goimng overseas. Almost certainly, John had not been at the front for many weeks before he was killed.

A German attack in the spring had been anticipated but, of course, it was not known where or when it would be delivered. The British troops were as prepared for it as they could be. When holding defensive positions, the Machine Gun Corps had a specific role in trying to break up any attack. The 64 heavy Vickers guns would be spread out along the frontage held by the Division with their fields of fire inter-locked so as to be able to inflict the maximum number of casualties on infantry trying to cross No Man's Land..

The 24th Battalion was duly in place along the line of French villages - Jeancourt - Le Verguier - Vadencourt - Maissemy. The strength of the German attack and the ensuing chaos in the British lines is evidenced by the terse entries in the unit's War Diary. It is clear that communication between Battalion Headquarters and the gun teams was broken at an early stage and there is no clear picture of the day.

They came under enemy artillery bombardment from about 4.20am on the 21st. This lasted for a couple of hours before the German infantry delivered its attack. Several of the machine gun teams were entrenched some way behind the front line and there are no records of them being engaged with the enemy until the afternoon. It seems apparent that others were forward of these positions giving closer support to the troops in the front line trench. At 2.09pm, reports were received at Battalion HQ that the guns at Maissemy and Spring Hill were still holding out. A little later, HQ sent an urgent wire to the reserve areas asking for four replacement guns, no doubt to replace ones damaged by German shellfire.

By 6.20pm, "C" Company at Maissemy reported that they were now having to fall back as the bridges crossing the river were destroyed. Ten minutes later, "A" Company reported that 14 of  its16 guns were still holding on. The other two at a position known as Appletree Road had been forced to retreat to Peumal Copse.

At 7pm, Corporal Jackman of "C" Company arrived back at HQ with his gun. He had been at Gaubriers Wood and was the only member of his team to survive. He reported the enemy was in complete possession of the Wood.

Over the evening, further withdrawals were made and, by midnight, the Battalion only had 6 or 7 guns, out of 64, still in use. Many of its soldiers, including John, were dead, wounded, missing or prisoner. John has no known grave.

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