John Herbert Lees BROWN
Rank: Sergeant
Number: 4405
Date of Death: 12 October 1916
Age: 34
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

John was born in Ashton under Lyne and married there in 1902. His wedding to Esther Mary Ratliffe was at St John's Church in the Hurst district of the town. In about 1908, they moved to the Stockport area and lived at 3 Luton Road, South Reddish. Over the years, they would have three children together. Until he enlisted in the army in September 1914, John worked locally for the Broadstone Spinning Company on Broadstone Road.

The action in which John would be killed was called the Battle of the Transloy Ridges and was part of the Battle of the Somme which had started on 1 July 1916.

On 9 October, John and his mates moved into trenches between the villages of Guedecourt and Les Boeufs. The Regimental History notes that they were shelled heavily over the following two days. Their objective for the 12th was part of the Ridge about 1500 yards away. Four waves of troops would assault the ridge, capturing the German trench. Another four would follow behind and would quickly dig a support trench about 200 yards behind the new front line.

Zero hour was fixed for 2.35pm. There had been several hours of bombardment to "soften up" the German positions. At about 12.30, 12 Germans ran across No Man's Land and surrendered. Shortly before 2pm, another 20 ran over with their hands up. 10 of them reached the British trenches, but the other 10 were killed (the History does not record if they were killed by the British or Germans).

Just before zero, "A" and "B" Companies, on the right, left their trenches and took cover in shell holes in No Mans Land. The History records " "C" and "D" stayed in their trenches until 2.35 by which time the enemy machine guns were firing furiously. They were caught in this fire the moment they advanced." 

As the Fusiliers advanced they came under fire from a small party of Germans manning a small trench in No Man's Land and armed with two machine guns "This party inflicted very heavy casualties and held up the advance as it could pour enfilade fire along the right Companies and cause considerable damage to the left."

Small parties from "B" and "C" managed to get about 200 yards past this trench and dug in at 3pm. They were later cut off and all were killed or captured. Around the same time, Company commanders were reporting 50% casualties. By late afternoon, the commander of "C" reported he had only 15 men with him where they had dug in. At about 5.25, "D" Company had been reduced to about 40 men and was being commanded by Sergeant W Russell - all the officers having become casualties.

As evening fell, steps were taken to consolidate the small gains and to collect survivors. Eventually only about 130 men were brought together for a roll call. The Battalion recorded casualties of 66 known to have been killed, 168 wounded and a further 101 were missing. John was one of the missing - his body was never recovered and identified.

The Stockport Advertiser, in its edition of 17 November, reported that there had been a Memorial service at St Elizabeth's Church for John, Robert Haworth and Robert S Mason.

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