Researched and written by Anne Wright
L/Cpl J J Green
1st Battalion, the Royal Fusiliers
Died of wounds, 27.3.1918
John Joshua Green almost survived the First World War. He arrived in France, at St. Nazaire, on 7 September 1914 and perished in the German Spring Offensive of March 1918; their last throw of the dice. He started life at Hayling Island, Hampshire, where his birth was registered in the second quarter of 1882. His father, Robert, a bricklayer, hailed from Norfolk and his mother, Julia Catherine Jane Percy Newsome from Horsleydown, Surrey (now in the London Borough of Southwark). They married on Christmas Eve, 1865 at St. Mary’s Church, Lambeth. John was the seventh of eight children: preceded by Joseph, Julia, Ann, Robert, Rose, and Joshua and followed by Lily. The family home was in Battersea and remained so until at least 1911 when they lived at 105, Grayshott Road. John followed in his father’s footsteps and by 1901 was a bricklayer. However, ten years later he was a serving soldier with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in Mauritius.
At the outbreak of war in 1914 John was with the 1st Battalion, Royal Fusiliers in Kinsale, Ireland. His battalion served in the 17th Brigade in the 6th Division until 14 October 1915 when the 17th Brigade moved to the 24th Division. In his time on the Western Front John experienced much of the worst fighting of the war: the actions at Hooge in June 1915 where the Germans used flamethrowers, the vicious fighting at the Battle of Delville Wood in the Battle of the Somme, July to September, 1916, the Battle of Messines, June 1917, where a million pounds of Allied explosives laid in tunnels caused 10,000 enemy deaths on explosion, the opening actions of the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), July to August 1917 which was fought in appalling conditions and finally the German Spring Offensive in 1918.
The first twelve days of March 1918 was a training period for John’s battalion whilst in camp at Montecourt. They then moved to Vendelles where they went into the line. The next four to five days were quiet; they were sent out patrols including to Ascension Wood which they found to be unoccupied by the Germans. On 17 March they observed more activity in the enemy lines. The next day they were relieved and returned to Vendelles. Their respite was brief. On 21 March the German Offensive began with a furious bombardment opening at 4.30am; John and his comrades went straight back into the front line east of Vendelles. Now began a tumultuous period for the battalion; they immediately donned gas helmets as the Germans sustained their attack with gas shells but were then forced to move back to a small quarry at Vendelles. This pattern of events that was to be repeated over the following week; they took up positions but were soon forced to retire as the enemy penetrated deep into their lines between St. Quentin and Peronne.
John’s battalion went back into the line at Vendelles, then they fell back to Montecourt and subsequently they took up positions in front of Monchy- Lagauche, but had to fight a rearguard action before moving to Licourt. This (23 March) was recorded as a ‘hard day’ for the battalion. By 26 March they were in position for the defence of Chaulnes but had to retreat when their left flank became exposed. They were the last to leave Chaulnes. The next day they were in support trenches to the east of Vrely where they were shelled heavily. They were, of course, taking casualties throughout this time, one of whom was most likely to have been John who died of wounds on 27 March.
He was buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery (VIII.1.169). John’s connection to Weybridge, apart from being named on the War Memorial and on the wooden ‘shrine’ which was erected at St. James’ Church has not materialised. Several of his family emigrated to Toronto; his brother Joshua died there in 1919 as did his mother Julia in 1931. She had been residing with one of her married daughters and had been in Canada for almost nineteen years.
London, England, Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921, https://www.ancestry.co.uk/
Canada, Ocean Arrivals (Form 30A), 1919-1924, https://www.ancestry.co.uk/
Regiments and Corps – the 6th and 24th Divisions, http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/