John FITZPATRICK
Rank: Private
Number: 41150
Unit: 1st Battalion SOUTH WALES BORDERERS
Date of Death: 18 April 1918
Age: 22
Cemetery: Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

William Fitzpatrick and Mary Meakin had married in the late 1870s. It was a civil ceremony registered in Stockport  and possibly suggests that the couple were Roman Catholics (Catholic churches not then being licensed for weddings). When the Census was taken in 1901, the family was living in a "two up, two down" house at 35 Hyde Street, Portwood. There were five children - ranging from 22 year old Elizabeth to 5 year old John.

Nothing is known of John's life in the years between 1901 and when he enlisted into the army at Stockport, probably towards the middle of 1915.   He was assigned to the Shropshire Light Infantry (service number 23940) and went overseas on active service with the Regiment. It is not known when he transferred to the Borderers or under what circumstances.

On 9 April, the German Army launched the second phase of its spring offensive. As with the attacks the month before, this was delivered with overwhelming force, again driving the British back. The Borderers had been fortunate not to have been in the sectors north or south where the attacks had been.

On the 15th, they took over the front line defences near the French hamlet of Loisne. The next couple of days were very quiet and the Battalion's War Diary entry for the 17th reads "Nothing happened during the day". This was all to change at 4am on the 18th.

The Germans opened an intense artillery bombardment on the British front line trench. There was also shelling of the rear areas (to prevent reinforcements coming forward to help those in the front line). Gas shells were frequently used. . This lasted until about 9am, when it lifted from the front and moved to the rear areas, effectively cutting off the front line troops. At this point, the German infantry stormed forward. They captured one of the strongpoints on the right (known as Route "A" Keep) having reduced the garrison from 70 to 20 and destroying their two heavy Vickers machine guns and two light Lewis guns.

The War Diary recounts "On the left, a force estimated at 300 attacked Loisne Keep. They were immediately engaged with rifle and machine gun fire and attack did not get close to Keep. A certain number, however, got close up by means of an old trench; they were dealt with at close range and the attack collapsed. It is estimated that at this point of the attack about 25% of the attacking force were rendered casualties."

This was the end of the determined German attack. However, throughout the morning and for most of the afternoon, there were isolated incidents of continued fighting, including at least one attempt by the enemy to regroup and mount another large scale attack. The Germans had, however, managed to dig in about 300 - 500 yards from the British front line and were able to start to garrison this with machine guns.

It had been a stalwart defence along the whole Divisional front, not least by the men of the South Wales Borderers. It had, however, left John and another local man, Harry Goddard, amongst the dead.

   
           
   
     
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