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Looking for information on John Henry Fearnley


myasin82
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Hello, I am looking for information on my great-great grandfather John Henry Fearnley. I know that he died during the war, and it's been passed down that it was in the Somme, but I've nothing to validate that.

I have tried searching the GCWC lists, and have found some J (H) Fearnleys, potentially three could be him on there but it does not give enough information about each one to know for certain. There are Absent Voter Lists in the Manchester Library, but I don't think he would be there as he was already dead. (is it possible he wouldn't have been registered dead at that point?)

I don't know his regiment or number, but I do have some information which could help identify him.

He was born in Manchester around 1883.

Lived in Manchester, he was 31 when the first world war started, and was working as a lorry driver keeping his wife, two children, two younger siblings and his cousin - this bits important as I think it might mean he didn't volunteer but was drafted when conscription law was passed in 1915/6.

Died in the war for certain.

May have signed up with a George Ward (his brother-in law) and/or a Robert Fearnley (his younger brother).

I've searched the census and he appears to be the only J. Fearnley living in Manchester in 1911.

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Hi,

A quick check shows this man to be the most likely candidate:

John Henry Fearnley

Birth Place: Manchester

Enlisted: Manchester

Death Date: 21 May 1917

Rank: Private

Regiment: Prince of Wales's Own (West Yorkshire Regiment)

Battalion: 17th Battalion.

Number: 46493

Type of Casualty: Died of wounds

Theatre of War: France and Flanders

Comments: Formerly 161657, R.F.A

FEARNLEY

Initials: J

Nationality: United Kingdom

Rank: Private

Regiment/Service: West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own)

Unit Text: 17th Bn.

Date of Death: 21/08/1917

Service No: 46493

Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead

Grave/Memorial Reference: I. D. 11.

Cemetery: TINCOURT NEW BRITISH CEMETERY

Now, there is a discrepancy between the dates of death, but I'd be inclined to go with the CWGC date.

There is someone on the forum who may have a headstone photograph but I can't remember his name at the moment !!

Best wishes.

Andy.

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Thank you so much for that. That's him, pretty much no doubt about it. No other John Fearnleys born in Manchester nevermind John Henry Fearnleys.

Died of wounds, so his death was probably not quick. I hope he didn't suffer too much. :(

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Well, he received his wounds on the Somme battlefield, but not during the Battle of the Somme - that was 1916. Note that although prior service in the Royal Field Artillery is noted in one of the references I gave you, he never actually served abroad with them (the Medal Card only lists the regiments served with abroad).

To find out where his battalion was when he was wounded (probably 1 or 2 days before he died) you would need to consult the War Diary, which will be held at the National Archives (assuming someone on here does not have a copy).

post-754-1257248425.jpg

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Thanks again, even more so for this.

I've been planning on taking a trip down to the NA in Surrey for a while now for other research on my family, this is even more incentive to go.

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Looking at the Long Long Trail,

West Yorkshire Regiment:

17th (Service) Battalion (2nd Leeds)

Formed in Leeds in December 1914 by the Lord Mayor and City, as a bantam Bn.

June 1915 : attached to 106th Brigade, 35th Division.

1 February 1916 : landed at Le Havre.

16 November 1917 : left Division for XIX Corps on railway work.

Amalgamated with 15th Bn in December 1917.

The 35th Division in 1914-1918

The history of 35th Division

On 10 December the War Office authorised the formation of the Fifth New Army. Like the other Kitchener Armies, it comprised six Divisions, in this case numbered 37 to 42. What eventually became 35th Division was originally numbered 42nd. In April 1915, the original Fourth New Army was broken up and its units converted for training and draft-finding purposes. When this took place the Fifth New Army became Fourth New Army and its Divisions were renumbered to 30th - 35th: thus what we remember as 35th Division was born.

Divisional symbolsThe Division was largely comprised of locally raised units known as "Bantams", manned by troops who were under the normal regulation minimum height of 5 feet 3 inches. Bantams

After early training near home, the units concentrated in June 1915 in North Yorkshire. Divisional HQ was at Masham and units were at Roomer Common, Marfield, Fearby and Masham. In August 1915 the Division moved to Salisbury Plain, HQ being set up at Marlborough. Over the next few weeks moves were made to Chiseldon and Cholderton. In late 1915 orders were received to kit for a move to Egypt but this was soon rescinded.

On 28 January 1916 the Division began to cross the English Channel and by early on 6 February all units were concentrated east of St Omer. (Note: it follows that no man who was with the original contingent of this Division was awarded the 1914-1915 Star).

The Division then remained on the Western Front for the remainder of the war and took part in the following engagements:

1916

The Battle of Bazentin Ridge*

The fighting for Arrow Head Copse and Maltz Horn Farm*

The fighting for Falfemont Farm*

* the battles marked * are phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916

On 8 December the Divisional commanding officer (Major General H. J. S. Landon) submitted a report complaining that replacement drafts he had received were not of the same tough physical standard as the original bantams but were undeveloped, unfit men from the towns. A medical inspection was duly carried out and 1439 men rejected from the ranks. A second inspection removed another batch, bringing the total to 2784. These men were in the main transferred to the Labour Corps. Their places were filled with men transferred from disbanded yeomanry regiments; they had to be quickly trained in infantry methods and a Divisional depot was formed for the purpose. Brigades were then ordered that no more bantams were to be accepted. Original bantams who passed the medical inspection remained in place.

1917

The pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line

The fighting in Houthulst Forest**

The Second Battle of Passchendaele**

** the battles marked ** are phases of the Third Battles of Ypres 1917

The Great War cost 35th Division 23915 men killed, wounded or missing.

The order of battle of the 35th Division

106th Brigade

17th Bn, the Royal Scots (Rosebery)

17th Bn, the West Yorkshire Regiment (2nd Leeds) left November 1917

I am guessing my great-great grandfather was not below regulation height as the original bantams that made up the division (and his battalion), or he wouldn't have been in the RFA (even if he didn't serve abroad with them). He wasn't rejected from the ranks for being "undeveloped or unfit" either.

Is there a way of uncovering his enlistment date?

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I am guessing my great-great grandfather was not below regulation height as the original bantams that made up the division (and his battalion), or he wouldn't have been in the RFA (even if he didn't serve abroad with them). He wasn't rejected from the ranks for being "undeveloped or unfit" either.

Is there a way of uncovering his enlistment date?

No, he was probably quite "normal," if that's the correct description. A lot of men were trawled out of the depots and units serving in the Uk and sent to France to make up for battle losses - and they went where they were most needed.

As regarding his enlistment/transfer dates, I'll see what I can do, but it may take 24 hours or so, because Paul Nixon (the forum expert in these matters) is in a different time zone, so look back tomorrow or the day after.

I'm in the procees of identifying someone with a similar service to him that you can use as an indication as to hius service (since his records do not seem to have survived). I'll post my findings in an hour or so.

Do you have a subscription to Ancestry?

Best wishes.

Andy.

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I really can't thank you enough. I have some peace of mind now too, though he suffered as he died of his wounds, he atleast did not die out in No Man's Land and his body desecrated, which I had always believed had happened.

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You seem to be in luck to-day. :D

I've managed to find the Service Records of some of the men who were transferred to the W.Y.R. with him, and two of them were also in the R.F.A. previously - with numbers close to his. With a bit of manipulation I may be able to reconstruct his service for you.

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OK, here goes:

First I identifed part of the block of men who were transferred to the P.W.O. (West Yorks) at the same time - their numbers are sequential:

46487 – Percy Baker

46488 – Arthur Bannister

46489 – Arthur J Browne

46490 – Cecil Coles

46491 – Charles Cookson

46492 – Richard H Edwards

46493 – John Henry Fearnley

46494 – William Goodwin

46495 – John Hughes

46496 – Andrew Gilligan

46497 – Leonard C. King (EDITED)

46498 – Richard Kendall

46499 – Ebeneezer Leech

This is NOT the full block - there will be a lot more, but I have only gone 6 either side of John Fearnley. There may be a couple before Baker but there will be a lot after Leech (as usual, they seemed to have been first arranged alphabetically and then renumbered). These are the men he would have known and possibly been friends with back in the UK.

Out of this block I have managed to find surviving Service Records for Coles, Gilligan and Kendall: Coles and Kendall had previously served in the RFA, but Gilligan came from another unit. There may be more, but I have not had time to search the other names. You would need to complete the block sequence and do a search for other records, but to be honest it isn't necessary because their service seems pretty clear.

Taking Coles first.

He attests for service under the Derby Scheme on 8.12.15 and is transferred to the Army Reserve the next day (sent home to await formal call up).

He is mobilised on 13.10.16 into the RFA and numbered 161859. He is posted to No. 2. Depot RFA and then to 7th (Reserve) Battery, arriving there on 15.10.16.

He is transferred to the 3rd Training Reserve Battalion on 25.11.16.

He is posted to the BEF in France on 11.1.17, embarks on 12.1.17 and lands in France on 13.1.17, being initially posted to the 33rd Infantry Base Depot at Etaples. From there he moves to join the 17th Bn. "in the field" on 16.1.17.

Now Kendall;

He attests for service under the Derby Scheme on 11.12.15 and is transferred to the Army Reserve the next day (sent home to await formal call up).

He is mobilised on 11.10.16 into the RFA and numbered 161722. He is posted to No. 2. Depot RFA and then to 7th (Reserve) Battery, arriving there on 12.10.16.

He is transferred to the 3rd Training Reserve Battalion on 25.11.16.

He is posted to the BEF in France on 12.1.17 (same date as Coles - just different interpretations).

The form that gives his subsequent movements is missing but it will have the same information as that of Coles.

Finally Gilligan:

He has a slightly different history but the key elements of his route to France are the same:

Joined up in 1914.

Transferred to the 3rd Training Reserve Battalion on 1.9.16.

Embarked for France 12.1.17 and joined the battalion "in the field" on 16.1.17.

So, from this, John Fearnley's service was almost certainly as follows:

He would have attested for service under the Derby Scheme in mid-November, 1915 (probably round about the 10th).

Formally transferred to the Army Reserve the next day (in reality the same day) and sent home to await being called up along with the rest of the "Group" he was classified with.

He would have been mobilised in mid-October, 1916 (probably round about the 11th), and told to report to No. 2 Depot, Royal Field Artillery, at Preston. He would have recieved a travel warrant for the journey. At the Depot he would have received his RFA Service Number.

He was then posted to the 7th (Reserve) Battery, RFA, probably within a day or two of arriving at No. 2 Depot. This was one of the three batteries (7, 8 & 9) in 2A Reserve Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, and was based at Preston too.

On 25.11.16 he was transferred to the 3rd Training Reserve Battalion, part of the 1st Reserve Brigade, based at Rugeley, Staffordshire (which, up to 31.8.16, had been the 10th (Reserve) Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment). This transfer was compulsory and was done under the authority of War Office Telegram 8559 (AG6) dated 21.11.16 (which probably exists in the NA although someone of the forum may have the details of it). I think he would have been renumbered on joining the 3rd TRB and this would have been of the form 5/59xx judging by other numbers I can find.

On 11.1.17 he would have been posted from the 3rd T.R.B depot to join the BEF in France. He and the men with him would have embarked on a transport on the 12th (possibly Folkestone) and were disembarked on the 13th (probably Boulogne).

They then moved to the 33rd Infantry Base Depot at Etaples for a couple of days, being transferred to the 17th Battalion, Prince of Wales's (West Yorkshire Regiment), joining them "in the field" on 16.1.17. It is probable that he was renumbered to 46493 at Etaples.

He then served with the battalion until he was wounded. It is unlikley that he would have received home leave during his time with them and so the war diary will give a full description of his movements and activities (as part of the battalion).

The Derby Scheme is well described on the Long, Long Trail:

Derby Scheme

The Training Reserve is also well described:

Training Reserve

Best wishes.

Andy.

post-754-1257257628.jpg

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Absolutely outstanding. Unbelievably outstanding. This is so much more than I ever dreamed I would find out about. Thank you Andy, your researching capability is more than commendable.

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As I said in my PM, here's a bit more for you.

I've identified all of the draft that he went to the P.W.O. with. Half a dozen of them never came home:

46480 John Atherton Later 301765, Tank Corps

46481 Clifford H. Arnold Discharged 30.1.19 as a result of wounds and awarded the SWB

46482 George Bullock Later T/390486, Army Service Corps

46483 Samuel Bundy Killed in action 24.9.17 Buried St. Patrick's Cemetery, Loos

46484 Albert E. Bamber Later 589624, Labour Corps. Discharged and awarded the SWB

46485 Herbert W. V. Bamber Discharged and awarded the SWB

46486 Thomas Bowcock Later 310417, Royal Engineers, and then WR/277578, Royal Engineers

46487 Percy Baker Later 301697, Tank Corps

46488 Arthur Bannister Later T/420947, Army Service Corps

46489 Arthur J. Browne Killed in action 20.8.17 Buried Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery

46490 Cecil A. Coles Discharged to Class Z Reserve

46491 Charles Cookson Later 036376, Army Ordnance Corps

46492 Richard H. Edwards Killed in action 26.3.18 Commemorated on the Arras Memorial

46493 John Henry Fearnley Died of wounds 21.8.17 Buried Tincourt New British Cemetery

46494 William Goodwin Later 55685, York and Lancaster Regiment

46495 John Hughes Discharged and awarded the SWB

46496 Andrew Gilligan Discharged to Class Z Reserve

46497 Leonard C. King Later 680572, 33rd Battalion, London Regiment

46498 Richard Kendall Later 301769, Tank Corps

46499 Ebeneezer Leech Later 603540, Labour Corps

46500 George S. Lewins Died of wounds 25.8.17 Buried Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery

46501 Thomas T. Price Discharged and awarded the SWB

46502 Albert Riman Later 301768, Tank Corps

46503 James S. Saunders Killed in action 20.8.17 Buried Villers-Faucon Communal Cemetery

46504 Thomas Smith Discharged to Class Z Reserve

46505 Thomas A. Trow Later 613328, Labour Corps

46506 Cecil Whatmore Discharged 4.10.18 as a result of wounds and awarded the SWB

Note: I have edited Post #14 as I had one of the names wrong. They are correct in this list.

(Fortunately) someone has filled in Bowcock's Medal Card incorrectly and listed his previous (pre-France) service as well. He also came from the RFA initially so this confirms the link even more. I have no idea why the 3rd T.R.B Number (like Gilligan's) has a "5" prefix - perhaps someone else on the forum may be able to shed light on this (but you might need to start a fresh thread - I've edited Post #14 about this as well as I originally thought it should have been a TR/3/ prefix).

20.8.17 seems to be a day when the Bn. took a few casualties and also 19.8.17 (the battalion was somewhere near L'Empire/Epehy). Thus I would concur that John Fearnley was wounded on either the 19th or 20th - death at Tincourt on the 21st will correct for one of those dates (any earlier and he would have probably been moved further back down the Casualty Clearing chain).

Can't find a copy of the War Diary anywhere so it looks a visit to the NA is the only option (not available through Documents Online either). It's reference is WO 95/2490.

It appears that one of his battalion won the VC for an action a few days previously.

William Butler VC

Best wishes.

Andy.

post-754-1257270056.jpg

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Once again many thanks Andy. I picked up on the 20th too and figured that's where he must have obtained his injury. Maybe the war diary might tell of the type of attack they sustained to give a clue. Nice to know that my great great grandfather could be one of the people saved by Butler VC's actions, if only for another two weeks. :) Cheers for the WD reference too.

IPT, thanks I have, John Henry's wife (my great-great grandmother Rosa)'s parents were from Genoa Italy.

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