John BRADBURN
Rank: Private
Number: 20330
Unit: 1st Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Date of Death: 24 March 1918
Age:
Cemetery: Special Memorial at H.A.C. Cemetery, Ecoust-St Mein, Pas de Calais, France

Nothing is known about John, except that Regimental records published after the War note he was born in Stockport and enlisted into the army in the town.

On 21 March 1918, John and his comrades were near the French village of Queant (approximately 25 kilometres south east of the town of Arras). A German attack had been expected for several days, but it is doubtful that the British High Command had anticipated the strength and ferocity with which it would come.

In the early morning, the German artillery pounded the British front line and rear areas, following up with an infantry attack along a 50 mile front. In common with the other units along the front line, the Shropshires had two companies in the front line and the men were disposed along their sector in posts (little more than shellholes), manned by 8 -10 soldiers, each some seventy yards apart. Their intended role was to slow up any attack, allowing the units to the rear more time to come to prepare. However, the Regimental History records that these posts were all but annihilated in the shelling and, by 7am, the Germans were through. Few of the Shropshires had been able to retreat and most were now either dead or captured.

At about 8am, news came that the Germans had advanced towards the Shropshires' reserve areas (perhaps a mile behind the front line) and were breaking through on the right. The Commanding Officer, Colonel Smith went forward from his Headquarters to "D" Company to lead a counter attack. There had been no news of the other three companies and, when he arrived, he found "D" Company heavily engaged in fighting with the enemy.

Col. Smith now ordered those who could do so to retire, whilst he maintained a small garrison to cover the retreat. Very shortly afterwards, his party was overrun and he was taken prisoner.

The Regimental History recounts the events of the remainder of the day and the next day - "when "D" Company commenced to retire they found the enemy already in their rear. Those of the battalion who had not already been killed at their posts were thus caught in a trap and surrounded. Without bombs or machine guns, the remnants of the 1st KSLI endeavoured to break out through the open with the bayonet, few being successful. When darkness fell the remnants of the Battalion, less than 100 strong, were in the Corps line to which the whole Divisional front had been forced back. At 7.30am, the survivors of the 16th Brigade, in the Haig line, were again heavily attacked and fighting desperately the seventy off survivors of the Battalion under Lieut. A B Rogers, wedged between 1st Buffs and 2nd Yorks and Lancs, were forced back on Vaulx."

John is believed to have been badly wounded, most probably on the 21st , and captured by the Germans. He died three days later as a prisoner of war. The Germans buried him, along with their own dead, at what is now known as Queant German Cemetery, situated at the north end of the village. After the Armistice, the War Graves Commission decided to move all the bodies buried there to their own cemetery at Ecoust-St Mein. 22 remains were indeed moved but John's body (and several others) could not be found. The grave markers, if there were any, had, presumably become lost during the remaining months of fighting. He still lies somewhere in the German cemetery but is commemorated on a special Memorial at HAC Cemetery.

   
           
   
     
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