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John Plant

Private John Plant, 32004, Northumberland Fusiliers, 21st (Tyneside Scottish) Battalion

John Bartle Plant was born in Wakefield on the 28th October 1881 and baptised on the 22nd January 1882 at Wakefield All Saints Church. He was the only child of coal miner Frederick Plant and his wife, Sarah (nee Patterson), who were married at Darton All Saints Church, Barnsley on the 22nd September 1873.

In 1891 and 1901 Frederick Plant, Sarah and their son John were living in Wakefield and latterly John, aged 19, was working in the local bottling factory. In 1905 John Plant married Edith Florence Cooper and they had three daughters: Winifred, Eliza Annie and Edith, all born between 1905 and 1910.

By 1911, the Plant family were living at Spurrs Hill, Wakefield and John was working as a labourer on a bottle machine. His wife Edith was born in Northumberland and living with the family is 6 year-old girl called Elizabeth Ann Cooper, possibly from an earlier relationship.

John Plant’s army service record has not survived but it is known that he enlisted at Leeds and joined the Army Service Corps with the service number T/20866, and he was later transferred to 21st Battalion (Tyneside Scottish) Northumberland Fusiliers with service number 32004.

Private John Plant was killed in action on 12th September 1917 and posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals, but not the 1914/15 Star indicating that he did not serve overseas before 31st December 1915.

A Joseph and a William Patterson were living in Ossett in the period up to 1915 but whilst Patterson was his mother's maiden name, no connection can be found with a John Plant or his wife Sarah in Ossett. It remains unclear why his name was included on the Ossett War Memorial listing and the Holy Trinity Church Roll of Honour.

The 21st (2nd Tyneside Scottish) Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers was raised on the 26th of October 1914 in Newcastle mainly from men of Scottish decent from the North East. Initially training in Newcastle City centre the 2nd Tyneside Scottish moved to Alnwick camp, in the grounds of Alnwick castle on the 29th of January 1915. They joined 102nd Brigade, 34th Division at Ripon in June 1915. In late August they moved to Salisbury Plain to begin final training. They proceeded to France in January 1916 and concentrated at La Crosse, east of St Omer. They were in action during the Battles of the Somme, including the capture of Scots and Sausage Redoubts, attacking just north of the village of La Boisselle, not far from Albert. At 7.28 am on 1st July 1916 two great mines were detonated beneath the German positions, one to the north of the village and one to the south. At 7.30 am the whistles sounded and the attack began. The 2nd Tyneside Scottish had 500 yards to cover, under heavy machine gun fire, before reaching the German lines, and many men of the battalion lost their lives. In 1917 they fought in the The First and Second Battles of the Scarpe and the The Battle of Arleux during the Arras Offensive. In August they were involved in the fighting at Hargicourt and in October they took part in The Third Battles of Ypres at the Broenbeek.

In 1918 they were in action in The Battle of St Quentin and then moved to Flanders seeing action in The Battle of Estaires, The Battle of Bailleul and The First Battle for Kemmel Ridge during the Battles of the Lys, suffering heavy losses. The 34th Division was then withdrawn from fighting and on the 21st of April they moved to the area west of Poperinge for reorganisation and was engaged in digging a new defensive line between Abeele and Watou. On the 13th of May the infantry units moved to the area around Lumbres and reduced to a cadre which was then employed in the training of newly arrived American troops. By the 1st of July 1918 34th Division had been reconstituted and returned to action, at The Battles of the Soissonais, the Ourcq and the capture of Baigneux Ridge.

They took part in the Final Advance in Flanders and at the Armistice was at rest in the area east of Courtrai. 34th Division was selected to join the Army of Occupation and began to move towards Germany on the 14th of November. On the 22nd of December a large number men with industrial and mining skills were demobilised. By the end of January 1919 the Division was occupying the Cologne bridgehead.

Private John Plant, aged 35 years, died on the 12th September 1917. He is remembered on Pier and Face 10B, 11B and 12B at the Thiepval Memorial, 1 Somme, France. The Thiepval Memorial will be found on the D73, next to the village of Thiepval, off the main Bapaume to Albert road (D929).

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.

References:

1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site