John Thomas DOYLE
Rank: Private
Number: 292264
Unit: 14th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 22 April 1918
Age: 20
Cemetery: Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery, Albert, Somme, France

The Doyles originated from the Hulme area of Manchester and John had been born there, the son of Christopher, a railway labourer, and Hannah. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Romiley and lived at first 14 Hole House Fold and, later, at 25 Green Lane.

John's service number is one issued after the beginning of 1917 and he will have been conscripted when he became 18. It is a number associated with the Regiment's 7th Battalion but it is not known if he served abroad with this unit and just trained in the UK with its reserve troops.

On 21 March 1918, the Germans launched a massive offensive. Within a week, they had won back all of the ground lost in the previous 18 months of fighting and the British were in full retreat. By the end of the month, the impetus had been lost and the Germans were again slowly losing ground.

At the beginning of April, John was in billets at Toutencourt, some miles to the west of Amiens. Several days were spent on training exercises. On the 9th, the Battalion practiced advancing, taking an enemy trench and preparing for a counter attack. On the 11th, they were in the front line near Vadencourt, a few miles away, for a couple of days, before going back into reserve. On the 20th and 21st, two companies practiced the planned attack on a replica of the enemy positions. The afternoon of the 21st was designated as a time for compulsory rest. During the night, "C" and "D" companies moved into the front line.

This was not going to be a major battle, but one of many small scale actions that took place all the time. The purpose was to collect intelligence about which German units were opposite or, simply, to harass the enemy.  Zero hour was set for 7.30 pm. The Battalion's War Diary notes that "Our own barrage was somewhat ragged". The German artillery barrage quickly commenced with shells falling just in front of the British front line. Machine gun fire was also very accurate and accounted for many casualties. Both companies had only been able to advance about 150 yards and could not reach their objective. Both companies had to withdraw, with the loss of 26 men killed and another 90, or so, wounded. Another local man, Reginald Carr, was also amongst the dead.

(Original research into the Battalion's activities by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)

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