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16th Manchesters 1st/2nd July 1916


cooky
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Hi all,

A work collegue has a relative who is remembered on the Thiepval memorial.He was in charge of C-coy,16th Mcrs,kia 2nd July 1916 whilst defending Montauban Alley against enemy counter attacks.His name was Captain W.M.Johnson.

In a letter I have seen written by a fellow officer he states that Morten as he was known to his friends was killed by a snipers bullet to the head.He then goes on to tell of his subsequent burial close to where he fell with other casualties of the battalion during the two days fighting.

So here are my questions,

Where were the original burials of the 16th Manchesters kia during the 1st/2nd July 16 ?

Were these burials concentrated after the war and if so where to ?

In anticipation and wishing you all a happy and prosperous new year,

Cooky.

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Your best bet is to look up his details on the CWGC website which should give details by way of a map reference if he was reburried. You can also look for other soldiers in the battalion killed at the same time to build up a picture using the map refs given for each individual.

In my own relatives case, I was surprised to find that the location of his original burial did not match the description given in the officer's letter to his wife.

Alan.

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I believe that a goodly number of burials from the 16th & 17th battalions's attack were originally around, and probably in, the German front line trench. I think you'll now find most known graves in Dantzig Alley Cemetery.

The Battalion history records that he was killed "when gallantly commanding the firing line in the final counter-attack".

An earlier mention has him commanding the right hand half of the line, in Montauban Alley, where he linked up his troops with those of the 17th Battalion.

Lt Thomas Nash also mentions him in his wartime memoir "Diary of an Unprofesional Soldier". Nash had taken command of the left hand half. During the night of 1/2 July, he sent an note to Johnson asking him to come to Nash's position as he felt a further attack was imminent. "He wrote back on a grubby piece of paper "I am sure you will do all possible. I am remaining on the right because I judge it to be the most dangerous. good luck.""

Nash subsequently records that a counter attack was beaten off around 3am and , later, "A despatch runner reported that Morten Johnson had been killed while handing up ammunition to a machine gunner when the rest of the team had been knocked out."

Between 4/7 and 7/7, the 18th Battalion undertook much of the burial work but they were assisted by 150 men of the 16th on 5 July. Nash again - "I got permission to go up to Montauban to search for Johnson's body but could not find it although I had no difficulty in finding the place where he had been shot". That might suggest that Johnson's body was never recovered and identified.

He quotes from a Manchester newspaper account of the British attack which includes the fairly well known story of the 16th Battalion chalking their number on captured guns. The newspaper accounts says " Captain Morten Johnson (killed the following morning), went out into the open and ckalked the number of his battalion on the first guns captured". Nash comments "This statement is inaccurate. Johnson did not go out himself to do this; it was task of little importance and no danger. The gun crew had abandoned their guns at our first onslaught. Johnson sent Aldous and Price to mark the guns".

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Certainly our old boy Herbert Howarth of 17th Battalion (see separate thread) was found buried in the area of the German front line. He was reinterred in Peronne Road. Unfortunately there is no reburial documentation on the CWGC site for Captain Johnson as he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Geoff's search engine identifies 77 men of 16th Manchesters who died on 1st July 1916. In a random sample of over half of them I soberingly found only two with known graves:

Private J. C. Chaters whose body was found at 62c. A.9.a.2.8 and was reburied in Dantzig Alley Cemetery

Private E. Tattersall found at 57G.S.27.c.8.7 and reinterred in Quarry Cemetery, Montauban.

Of the five 16th battalion men listed for 2nd July three, including Captain Johnson are on Thiepval while the other two died of wounds behind the lines. The three 16th battalion men who died on 3rd July are also buried behind the lines having died of wounds in Casualty Clearing Stations etc.

The conclusion is that hardly any of the 16th Battalion fatalities from early July have known graves and most of these are men who died of wounds behind the lines. Those given hasty burials at the time had their graves lost in later fighting and only a handful were later discovered by Battlefield Clearance parties.

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I seem to recall a photo of Capt Johnson in Montauban Alley. Must be Nash's book or M Stedman's. Will check.

Nash was very particular about recovering dead men so it's strange they withdrew without him. Perhaps his body was buried in the German bombardment on the Alley?

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I have a family member who was killed in Montauban Alley on 3rd July 1916. He was buried in Carnoy Cemetery. A look at CWGC register shows a number of "Manchester Regiment" are also buried there but I have not looked too closely at the list.

Kevin

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Cooky,

Your colleague really must find a copy of http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Diary-Unprofessional-Soldier-Nash/dp/0948251484

There are three good photos including one in Montauban Alley where he was killed. Nash went to visit Morten's mother in Altrincham when he was recovering from wounds and I suspect it was him that wrote the letter. The two men had attended mass together prior to the assault and were close friends. It would be great if you could post a scan of the letter.

Michael Stedman's book also has pictures of Montauban Alley, but not Morten Johnson.

My Grandad (17th) was @ 100yds further east along Montauban Alley near a position known as Triangle Point and I believe there was communication between this outpost and Morten. Hence, the letter may help explain a few fresh factors on the defence of Montauban.

Tim

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I have a family member who was killed in Montauban Alley on 3rd July 1916. He was buried in Carnoy Cemetery. A look at CWGC register shows a number of "Manchester Regiment" are also buried there but I have not looked too closely at the list.

Kevin

The Carnoy Manchester Regiment casualties for July were not involved with the assault on Montauban. However there are 17 men buried from 19th Battalion who been casualties prior to the 1st Day in 1916. The 19th took Glatz Redoubt in the first wave of the assault on Montauban as part of 21st Brigade.

Tim

ps Was you relative RE or Queens Own? I'm interested to know what you know of Montauban Alley?

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The Carnoy Manchester Regiment casualties for July were not involved with the assault on Montauban. However there are 17 men buried from 19th Battalion who been casualties prior to the 1st Day in 1916. The 19th took Glatz Redoubt in the first wave of the assault on Montauban as part of 21st Brigade.

Tim

ps Was you relative RE or Queens Own? I'm interested to know what you know of Montauban Alley?

He was Frederick Russell of 92nd Field Company Royal Engineers at that time part of 18th Division.

I only know, what seems obvious, that the RE were making good the trench and came under fire.

Kevin

Some detail in the attachment. Unfortunately I cannot recall where I got this.

post-46134-0-75699000-1420067770_thumb.j

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I'm interested to know what you know of Montauban Alley?

The 92nd War Diary has a number of references to Montauban Alley for the period 1st-8th July. During July they had 1 Officer killed and 6 Other Ranks killed.

Entries are quite detailed in the Diary. Hourly entries appear on 1st July.

Descriptions of repair work and some reference to others ie 7th Buffs (1 platoon), 8th RS Pioneers (a platoon), 9th Division Pioneers are made. Apart from work undertaken there is mention of shells landing and the casualties incurred.

Should this type of detail be of interest let me know. I can transcribe the diary entries.

Kevin

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Hi Kevin,

The other units referred to in your post confirm the 92nd were positioned West of the section of Montauban Alley I am researching. You give me a strong indication I should look at the 200-202nd Fd. Co. War Diaries.

The photo of Montauban Alley is included in Michael Stedman's book and he provides a caption as men of 16th Manchesters. The photo also features in Graham Maddocks book http://www.amazon.co.uk/Montauban-Battleground-Europe-Graham-Maddocks/dp/0850525799 I don't know where the text comes from.

Thanks

Tim

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Kevin,

Just discovered this photo of 55th Bgde in Montauban Alley on IWM Site. Didn't realise they were adding to the digital records. Well done IWM Library. Crown Copyright so I can put it in my blog.

Tim

post-95694-0-89826200-1420272632_thumb.j

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  • 3 weeks later...

The local newspaper (on a microfilm in Sale library local studies unit) has two reports on William Morton Johnson's death, including a photograph of him. The gun story is covered and there's mention the family received letters from Nash, a Lt Hanscomb, another unnamed officer and a Private E J Higson.Some extracts are shown in the reports.

A story featuring an aunt in Torquay is quoted. She let her home out for the use of convalescing soldiers. One of the men said "We have a splendid captain and would die for him." She asked his name and was told "Captain W Morton Johnson."

Captain Johnson's brother Ronald was also killed in WW1. Reports on his death, and his photo, also appear in the local paper.

Regards.

John

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Captain Johnson's brother Ronald was also killed in WW1. Reports on his death, and his photo, also appear in the local paper.

A short article on Ronald Johnson can be found here...http://www.westernfrontassociation.com/great-war-people/brothers-arms/2354-who-was-ronald-johnson.html ( a slightly altered version of the article also appeared in FC United of Manchester's matchday programme on 26th December 2012)

The training pitches at FC United's new - and as yet unopened - ground (Broadhurst Park) will still carry his name in his memory.

Dave

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( a slightly altered version of the article also appeared in FC United of Manchester's matchday programme on 26th December 2012)

Here it is...

post-357-0-77928000-1421943345_thumb.jpg

post-357-0-70027600-1421943458_thumb.jpg

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