John CONNOR
Rank: Corporal
Number: 265822
Unit: 1/6th Battalion CHESHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 21 March 1918
Age: 25
Cemetery: Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, Somme, France

There must be some doubt about the date John was killed in action as, on 21 March, the 6th Cheshires were some 35 kilometres to the north east of where he is buried.

At 4am on that day, the German's launched a massive and overwhelming offensive against the British positions, along a 40 mile front. The Cheshires were in training billets at Moislains, about 6 kilometres north of the French town of Peronne.

The enemy opened a heavy bombardment at 4am and the Cheshires were sent into action to dig and occupy a trench nearby, at Longavesnes. Along the front, the German infantry attack was unstoppable and the British were forced into retreat. This continued for several days and, by the 27th, the Battalion was at Proyart, near Harbonnieres, were John is buried.

The Official History of the Battalion describes the next two days:-

"March 27th, 1918.

About 9 a.m. the enemy commenced his attack with heavy machine-gun fire and shelling. He made a strong push North of Proyart and very soon his lights were being sent up all over the village as a signal to his aeroplanes of the exact position of his troops. By this time the enemy was also close to Morecourt and we were forced to retire after a strong resistance to a position on each side of the main Amiens road, between Morecourt and Harbonnieres, again suffering many casualties with machine-gun fire. At 5-30 p.m. the enemy opened a very heavy two hours area shoot, most of the shells being of 5.9 calibre. During the early part of the night an attempt was made to collect the Battalion together-all Divisions being mixed up together -and the number of our men actually found was three officers and thirty-five other ranks. The enemy continued his advance during the night on each flank and by morning occupied Lamotte and was close outside Harbonmeres.

 

March 28th, 1918.

At dawn the 61st Division made a counter-attack on Lamotte, but the position was not much changed and we were being gradually surrounded. About 9 a.m. orders came to evacuate the line at once in small parties by route Harbonnieres, Caix, Cauex, Ignaucourt. The enemy soon observed what was happening and opened a big area shoot round Harbonnieres on our course of retreat.

 

During the retirement from Lamotte, and as the result of their experiences during the week following the German offensive, which opened on March 21st, 1918, the 118th Brigade, of which the 6th Cheshires was one of the component battalions, was so reduced in numbers that it was formed into a Composite Battalion from the men of the Brigade. The 6th Cheshires could only provide three officers and 30 other ranks."

John had been born locally, the son of Martin and Bridget Connor, 25 High Bankside, Stockport. Nothing is known of his early life until he enlisted into the army at Stockport. His original service number, 2682, suggests he enlisted around mid-1916. The above number was allocated to him in January 1917 when all Territorial Army soldiers were given six-digit numbers

   
           
   
     
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