John Henry WALTON
Rank: Private
Number: 42872
Unit: “D” Company, 1/4th Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment
Date of Death: 24th August 1918
Age: 19
Cemetery: Houchin British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

John Henry Walton was one at the time of the 1901 Census. He had been born locally and his parents lived at 8 Vulcan Street, Stockport. Henry Walton, then aged 23, worked as a labourer and his wife, 22 year old Sarah, was a weaver.

John's service number is not an early one and he was, almost certainly, conscripted into the army when he reached 18.

On 8 August 1918, nine Divisions of British troops launched an assault against the German army which their commander would later describe as their "black day". It was the start of the 100 Days that would end the War. By the 16th, plans were already well developed for an advance in the sector held by the 55th Division, of which John's Battalion was part. In the middle of No Man's Land near the French village of Givenchy, was a series of craters created by the artillery shelling from both sides. The plan was to rush forward and capture the craters and, in doing so, advance the British front line.

Between 16 and 19 August, British artillery shelled No Man's Land to destroy the German barbed wire and, each night, patrols would sneak out to confirm the extent of the damage. They would also try to spot German patrols attempting to repair it. A large wiring party was discovered on the night of the 18th and this was dispersed by artillery shelling. On the 20th, the men of the King's Own were relieved from the front line and went into camp at Vaudricourt, where the officers and NCOs learned of the plan for the first time. They were able to study models of the craters and over the next 36 hours, all the men were told of the attack and their part in it.

On the 23rd, they were back in the front line and completed their final preparations. Zero hour was set for 7.20 the next morning and, exactly on schedule, the men of "C" and "D" Companies left their trenches with no supporting artillery barrage which might have warned the Germans. The Battalion's War Diary notes that "At 7.30am, our artillery put down an intense barrage, Operation was successful". Three hours later, the enemy could be seen preparing for a counter-attack and further artillery support was called in. "The enemy was completely cut up."

John was one of seven men to be killed in the advance. It is possible that John's name has been inscribed twice on the Stockport War Memorial. The identity of another inscription, H Walton, has not been discovered.

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