John Stanhope CRABTREE
Rank: Private
Number: 27132
Date of Death: 22 October 1916
Age: 34
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

John Crabtree had been born at Halstead, Essex. After the war, his parents had moved to Lincoln, where they lived at Witham Lodge, Bracebridge.

He had had a successful academic career, passing the London Matriculation and becoming assistant master in Bishops Stortford, later taking a BA. He played piano and organ and, for a time, was organist at Rampton Church, Nottinghamshire.

For the two years prior to his enlistment at Stockport, he had been headmaster at the Boys Preparatory School, Cheadle Hulme. He joined the Lincolnshire Regiment in April 1916 (service number 22912) and served overseas with the Regiment, but it is not known when he transferred to the Lancasters.

For John, October 1916 started with church parade whilst the Battalion was in reserve. Several days were spent in training for an attack and the Battalion War Diary notes that, for most of this time, it was raining heavily. On the 9th, they moved into reserve trenches in Bernafray Wood. This location had been the scene of heavy fighting in mid-July during the early part of the Battle of the Somme. On the 10th, their positions were shelled by the enemy and 10 soldiers were killed.

On the 14th, "B" Company attempted a raid on the German-held Spectrum trench. This was one of many small scale operations designed to harass the enemy and to gain intelligence. It was not a success and 6 were killed and another 24 wounded. The main attack on Spectrum Trench came on the 17th and was also not a success.

On 19th, John and his comrades were back in the Bernafray Wood area. On the day he was killed, they moved forward into assembly trenches ready for an attack the next day. The men spent the night digging to deepen the trenches. They were probably being regularly shelled by artillery fire. It is likely that John and the other two members of the Battalion killed that day, suffered a direct hit and this accounts for why he has no marked grave.

(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorial website)

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