First World War Project

John Henry ABBOTT (of Luddenham)

bap. Q1, 1886
d. 17th September 1916. Aged 31

Private, Service Number G/9033
10th Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)

Thiepval Memorial
Panel Ref: Pier and Face 11 C.
Killed in Action

Thiepval Memorial, Somme Picardie

John Henry Abbott was one of nine children born to Henry Abbott and Sarah (née Andrews). He had five sister (Ellen M, Emma, Ada, Alice and Frances Annie) and three younger brothers (Frederick, William and Ernest Walter). This family was raised initially in Faversham, Selling and then Chilham, where John and six of his siblings were born. William and Ernest also served during the war and survived - although the records for William paint a chequered experience.

John Henry Abbott lived in Chilham at least until he was 15 years old (1901 Census). By the time of the 1911 Census, John was a farm labourer living in Yellow Cabbage Cottage, Luddenham, with his widowed mother, Sarah and his youngest brother Ernest Walter, who was also a field worker. This cottage was close to Luddenham Rectory and neighboured "Lilly Cottage" which was occupied by James Boorman, the Bailiff to Hawkswell and Beetle Farm.

Without surviving records, it does appear from his Regimental Number that John Abbott attested on or about 19th July 1915. He attested locally (either Maidstone or Chatham) and was approved at Maidstone to serve in the newly formed 10th (Service) Battalion, Queens Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment.

When he "died on or since" 17th September 1916, his mother was the legatee for his effects of £3-6-11 and War Gratuity of £4. [See Appendix 2]

Based on the known facts, it is likely je obtained the British War and Victory Medals [See Appendix 1]

Circumstances of the Death of John Henry Abbott - The Battle of Flers

Of the few records specific to John Henry Abbott, there are a couple of transcription errors (his Regimental Number is mistakenly indexed as P033 and as 9034).

To understand John's experience of military life after 19th July 1915, we have to refer to the 10th Battalion Diary which initially places his Battalion in training at Aldershot when, on 25th April 1916, the Service Battalion was warned to be "in readiness to go overseas". The Battalion was mobilised and arrived at Southampton on 3rd May, landing at L' Havre the next day (4th May). From there, the Battalion joined the formations at the Front as part of the 41st Division, 123rd Infantry Brigade.

It wasn't until 31st May that John had his first experience in the Front Line, at Despierre Farm, Le Bizet. A day recorded as "Situation normal" as they relieved the 4th Battalion of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade.

Two months later (31st July), still in Le Bizet, the 10th Battalion instructed to relieve the 11th Battalion, The Queens Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment in the Front Line, Left Sub Sector on the night of the 1st/2nd August.

The first recorded losses (other than through sickness) were recorded on 2nd August: "Situation normal. Artillery on both sides very quiet. Snipers normal. Our machine guns prevented a German working party progressing at 11.30p.m. At 8a.m. four Germans got over their parapet presumably to get in some wounded, our Machine Guns drove them back. Strength 36 - 875. Casualties 1 O.R. killed, 1 O.R. wounded."

This pattern of "situation normal" with occasional low-level casualties continued until the 10th Battalion was relieved by the 10th Northumberland Fusiliers (18th Brigade, 23rd Division).
At this point, a decision was made to move to LA CRECHE en route to BERTHEN billets.
On 23rd August, "Battalion proceeded by route march to BAILLEUL and entrained for LONG PRE", which they reached the next morning at 2.45a.m. for detrainment that was completed by 5.30 a.m. "Proceeded by route march to BUSSUS BUSSUEL. Billets. No casualties." There followed a period of training in Open Warfare until 5th September. BUSSUS BUSUEL H.Q. "Normal".

Preparation for Opening Action of "The Battle of Flers" on 15th September

On 6th September the "Battalion proceeded by Route March to LONGPRE and entrained for MERICOURT, thence by Route March to BECORDEL, Map Reference Sheet 62D 1/40,000 E.12.a.1.3. Two Officers joined: 2/Lieut C.E. Phipps, 2/Lieut N.W. Akhurst.
BECORDEL. A draft of 50 men joined the 10th Battalion from Leicester Territorial Regiment on 7th September.
On the 9th, the Battalion moved from BECORDEL to FRICOURT CAMP, by Route March.

On 10th September the Battalion "proceeded by Route March to MONTAUBAN relieving 5th Kings Own Lancashire Regiment taking up position in Forward Area as Reserve. [Map Reference: FRANCE. Sheet 57c S.W. 1/20,000. Headquarters S.27.b.5.0., "A" Company S.27.b.6.1., "B" Company S.27.b.7.5., "C" Company S.27.b.4.5., "D" Company S.27d.5.9. Reserve Specialists left behind with Transport. Officers Joined: 2/Lieut Gadban V.J.; 2/Lieut Richmond A.S.
11th September: "Normal. An Enterprise was carried out by "B" & "C" Companies, to construct six Strong Points 150 yards forward of Front Line (DELVILLE WOOD). This operation was successfully carried out, with one casualty.
12th September: "Normal. "C" Company were withdrawn, whilst "B" Company continued to occupy constructed work. At 7p.m. Battalion proceeded to DELVILLE WOOD and relieved 23rd Middlesex Regiment. Relief carried out successfully. Regiment on our Right 3rd/4th Battalion South Lancs, on our Left 11th Queens Regiment.
13th September: "Normal. Continued in occupation. Casualties: Killed 8 O.R.; Wounded 17 O.R. [Strength: 42 Officers; 851 O.R.; none sick]"
14th September: "Normal. During the early hours of the morning the Battalion was relieved by the 10th Queens Regiment (124th Brigade) the Relief taking some considerable time owing to very heavy shell fire, the Relief not being complete until about 9a.m. Casualties: 6 O.R.

Battle of Flers - Battalion marched to Pommieres Redoubt - York Trench - Switch Trench.
"Z-Day" - 15th September.

15th September: At 12.30a.m. Battalion proceeded to take up position in YORK TRENCH as a Reserve Battalion, 41st Division to support an attack by 122nd & 124th Brigades on FLERS and GUEDECOURT. At 11a.m. Battalion occupied CARLTON TRENCH, at 1p.m. moved across OPEN under Heavy Barrage, and finally reached its Objective in line, SWITCH TRENCH, South of FLERS, with very few casualties. This position was held in defence of FLERS in case of counter attack. Officer casualties during day: Killed Capt. H.H. Logan, Wounded Lieut-Colonel A. Wood Martyn, Major S.H. Beattie, and 2/Lieut A.W. Edmett. The position was consolidated during the night. Heavy shelling continued during the whole period. Regiment on our left Flank 3rd New Zealanders, on our Right for a period 23rd Durham Light Infantry.
[Note: "O.R." Casualties not mentioned]

16th September: Major W.F. Soames joined Battalion and took over Command.
"A" & "C" Companies under 2/Lieut V. Holden and 2/Lieut L.A.H. Gingell respectively were ordered to reinforce position East of FLERS, but on receipt of Brigade Orders were withdrawn to original position, viz. SWITCH TRENCH. Battalion was then reorganized. Burial of dead, Salvage work, and consolidation of position was continued. Position heavily shelled.

John Henry Abbott died - 17th September

17th September: Continuation of work as per 16th. Again heavily shelled.
Casualties, Officers, Killed: 2/Lieut. S. Laurence, 2/Lieut Stones, Wounded 2/Lieut A.S.F. Percival. 2 sick.
[Note: Still in Switch Trench, consolidating the position. "O.R." Casualties not mentioned - see below]
18th September: About 3a.m. relieving unit, 1/10th Liverpool Scottish, arrived. Battalion relief completed by 5a.m. Casualties during relief - NIL.
9a.m. Battalion arrived at Pommieres Redoubt - Breakfasted.
11a.m. Battalion withdrew to Rest Camp at BECORDEL M.R.

Total Casualties during operations from 11.9.16 to 18.9.16
Killed: 3 officers, 16 O.R.;
Wounded: 4 Officers, 71 O.R.;
Missing: 7 O.R.

19th: Rest, Training & Reorganisation. 2 sick.
20th: Inspection of Brigade by Divisional General who in a short address complimented the Battalion on the work done during recent operations. Rest, Training & Reorganisation.
21st - 26th: Rest, Training & Reorganisation.
27th: At 6.30p.m. Battalion proceeded by Route March to MONTAUBAN en route to FLERS & bivouacked for the night at POMMIERES REDOUBT.
28th: At 1.30p.m. Battalion resumed march to FLERS via YORK TRENCH, halting at latter place until 8p.m. Battalion relieving Loyal North Lancs Regiment in FRON LINE (Headquarters N.E. of FLERS). This operation was carried out successfully.

N.E. of Flers
29th: Battalion continued in Occupation of FRONT LINE. At night an enterprise was carried out in conjunction with a working party from Pioneer Battalion, Middlesex Regiment, to reconstruct FRONT LINE Trench. This operation was carried out successfully. During day the trenches were heavily shelled. Casualties.
30th: Battalion were relieved from FRONT LINE by 23rd Middlesex Regiment and withdrew to Reserve Trenches. "A" & "C" Companies were relieved during daytime, "B" & "D" Corps at night. Operation carried out successfully. Trenches heavily shelled both day and night.

Total "O.R." Reinforcements during Month:-


Map of Trenches where John Abbott was killed in the "Battle of Flers"

Trench Map for the Battle of Flers September 1916

Secret: Quiet. Operation Order No.21

The Order for action on 15th September has been transcribed here for information and comparison with the Battalion Diary record of what actually happened (for John Abbott).

Reference Maps are:-
Special Map attached "A"
Trench Maps already issued.

1. The 41st Division, in cooperation with other Divisions of the XV Corps is to attack and capture the enemy system of defences on its front on the 15th September (Z Day).
Other troops of the 4th Army and French are co-operating.
The attack will be pushed home with the utmost vigour all along the line until the most distant objectives have been reached. For the last 2½ months we have been gradually wearing down the enemy. His moral is shaken, he has few, if any, fresh Reserves available, and there is every probability that a combined determined effort will result in a decisive victory.
The role of the 41st Division is to capture the enemy's defences (including FLERS) up to and including the line Pt.N.20.d.5.0. (exclusive) – N.20.c.3.6. – Road Junction N.25.b.0.6.
The 41st Division will be in the centre, with the 14th Division on its right and the New Zealand Division on its left.
Dispositions & Stages of Attack.
2. The 124th & 122nd Infantry Brigades will be in the front line (124th Infantry Brigade on the Right). The 123rd Infantry Brigade will be in Divisional Reserve.
Each Infantry Brigade will have 1 Section R.E. from their affiliated Field Companies R.E. attached.
The operations are divided into four (4) stages, and each line will be captured successively:-
1st Objective (Green Line)
The enemy's trenches 800 yards south of FLERS (SWITCH LINE), from junction with COCOA LANE (exclusive) to junction with COFFEE LANE.
Infantry must follow behind the tanks, and should ay Strong Point succeed in holding up the Infantry they will call for a tank to assist them. The Signal will be for "Enemy in sight," with the Rifle.
Each tank has an escort of 1 N.C.O. and 10 men, and should the tanks get in rear of the Infantry or for any reason be obliged to withdraw across ground over which infantry has passed, the escort will remove any wounded which happen to lie in the path of the tank. The escort will also protect the tank from close assault.
Should the tanks become out of action at any time and be unable to advance (especially on the advance from FLERS TRENCH to attack the village when the tanks are supposed to precede the Infantry by 15 minutes) the Infantry are on no account to wait for them, but will advance at the hour arranged for the S.6.c.2.7. (excl).
No halts will be made in TEA SUPPORT TRENCH.
2nd Objective (Brown Line)
Enemy's trenches running S.E. on the S.W. and S. sides of FLERS (FLERS LINE) from T.1.b.1.2. to M.36.d.3.4.
3rd Objective (Blue Line)
The village of FLERS and the line, Cross Roads N.31.b.4.0. – N. edge of FLERS to Road Junction N.31.a.2.5. (each).
4th Objective (Red Line)
Establish line, N.20.d.5.0. (excl) – N.20.c.3.6. – Road Junctions N.25.b.0.6. (Track excl).
The objectives in several cases consist of a double line of Trenches. Where this is the case the troops will be given the trench furthest away from us as their objective, steps being taken to deal adequately with the intermediate trench.
3. 15.9.16. QUIET, YORK TRENCH. From S.16.d.0.5. to S.16.d.8.1. Hour of arrival at trenches 1.30a.m. hour by which relief is to be completed is 2.30.
AVENUE of approach is FLARE LANE. Companies to march at 300 yards interval. Room is to be left on either side of Brigade Head Quarters in YORK TRENCH.
4. Allotted to 123rd Infantry Brigade:-
5. (a) Dividing Line between the Right of 124th Infantry Brigade and the Left Brigade 14th Division will be :-
The Line Pt. S.22.c.9.2. – S.17.d.9.6. – thence COCOA LANE to its junction with SWITCH LINE – T.1.d.0.2 (incl. to 14th Division) – Road junction T.1.b.1.2. (incl. to 14th Division) – Road Junction N.31.b.4.0. (incl. to 41st Division). Strong Point N.31.b.5.2. (incl. to 41st Division_ - Road junction N.26.a.4.4. (incl to 14th Division) – Road unction N.26.a.9.1. (incl to 14th Division) – Road Junction N.21c.0.6. (incl. to 14th Division).
(b) Dividing line between 124th Infantry Brigade and 122nd Infantry Brigade – S.22.c.8.6. to cross roads S.17.b.3.4. inclusive of FLARE LANE – thence via LONGUEVAL-FLERS ROAD to its junction at S.6.b.9.3. – T.1.a.4.8. – N.31.c.85.45. – N.31.b.15.15. – N.31.b.2.6. thence along track to N.20.c.4.4. (all incl. to 124th Inf. Brigade).
(c) Dividing Line between 122nd Infantry Brigade and the Right Brigade New Zealand Division – S.21.d.8.7. – Junction of Tracks at S.16.d.1.6. – thence to S.11.c.0.4. – S.11.d.0.8. – Junction of PEACH TRENCH and TEA TRENCH (incl. to 41st Div.) COFFEE LANE (incl. to N.Z. Division) – M.36.d.3.3. – Road junction at M.36.b.5.0. (incl. to N.Z. Div.) – Cross Roads at N.31.a.2.5. (incl. to N.Z. Div.) – N.25.b.0.6. (Track incl. to N.Z. Div.)
6. The Right of the 122nd Infantry Brigade will direct General direction of attack 280 TRUE Bearing.
7. The Divisional artillery will form creeping barrages as shown in APPENDIX C. The attacking troops will advance immediately behind these barrages, and not more than 50 yards distance between waves.
8. At "ZERO" hour which will be notified later the 122nd and 124th Infantry Brigades advance. The 123rd Infantry Brigade will not move from its position of assembly until orders are received from Brigade Headquarters.
When orders and received to advance, units will advance in artillery formations of Platoons. During the advance LONGUEVAL must be avoided as far as possible. Troops that have moved off their line of direction to pass LONGUEVAL must correct their direction as soon as they are clear of the village.
9. 1 Section 233rd Field Company R.E. will be attached to the 10th Royal West Kent Regiment and will move with them.
10. TEN tanks, Heavy Section M.G. Corps will co-operate in the attack.
The role of these tanks is to destroy the hostile Machine Guns and Strong Points, and clear the way for the Infantry. They will usually precede the Infantry tanks in order that they may derive the benefit of the Artillery barrage. This necessary action must be decided on by the officers in command of troops on the spot.
As soon as the final objective has been established the tanks will be withdrawn to a position South of LONGUEVAL to replenish.
The following signals will be used from tanks to Infantry and aircraft:-
Flag signals:-
Other flags are inter-tank signals.
Lamp Signals.
Series of "T"s = Out of Action.
Series of "H"s = AM On Objective.
Infantry must not wait for tanks that get behind time table.
11. The successive objectives are given in para 2. The advance will be carried out in accordance with the attached time table.
12. (1). The Battalion will parade at 12 midnight 14/15th and march to YORK TRENCH. Companies to march with 300 yards interval in the following order:- A. B. C. D. Battalion Bombers, 4 Lewis Guns under Lieut. Tennyson Smith, Battalion Headquarters.
(2) Fighting Order, 2 Sandbags, 2 Bombs, Mills, Every 3rd man to carry pick or shovel, each man to carry 170 rounds S.A.A. In addition to the 170 rounds carried above, each Company Commanders detail 40 men to carry an extra bandolier.
(3) O.C. "C" Company will detail a carrying party of 25 men to carry two full Petrol tins of water. Men are to be warned that water will be very scarce. Above men to follow the rear Company
13. O.C. "C" Company will detail 6 men to report to Lt. Dixon 20th D.L.I. at Brigade Head Quarters at 6pm the 14th inst. Who will take them to GREEN LANE Dump where they will be used as a carrying party when the Brigade advances.
14. Each Company will detail a "Mopping Up" Party of 1 Officer and 20 men. Each man of this party will carry 1 "P" Grenade.
15. Each objective will be consolidated as soon as possible after its capture, and made secure against counter attack.
16. O.C. "D" Company will tell of a special party of 1 officer and 50 O.R. to dig communication between our front line and the German Lives if required.
17. 2 Vickers guns will be attached to the Battalion. O.C. "A" Company will detail 4 men to each Vickers Gun to carry ammunition.
18. 1 with each Company, 4 in Battalion Reserve.
19. The 2 Mills Bombs carried by each man are to be looked upon as a reserve for the use of Bombing Squads, and are to be dumped and collected in each line gained. Each Company will detail 2 Bombing Squads. Each Bombing Squad will carry 2 buckets or sandbags full of Bombs.
20. 6 Blue Rockets for S.O.S. will be with Battalion Head Quarters.
21. Every officer and N.C.O. and 50 men per Company will carry 2 Red flares. These are to be lighted in the front line only, at intervals of 20 yards on gaining the line of each objective, as soon as the contact aeroplane appears (or calls for flares on the KLAXON horn) and again at 2p.m. and 5p.m. on Z DAY. (15th September) and at 7a.m. on the day following Z Day 16th September. Panels and lamps will also be frequently used to report the situation.
22. Full use is to be made of Visual Signallers and runners, which may become the only available means of communication.
(a) Visual Signalling. Messages may be handed in for despatch at the under mentioned Visual Stations:-
(b) Runners relay posts have been constructed at intervals of 300 yards in FLARE and MILK LANES.
Note: If other means fail runners must be employed at whatever cost.
23. ADVANCED Dressing Station – THE QUARRY S.22.c.2.6. Divisional Collecting Station – F.6.a.2.0.
24. Will be brought back to the nearest stragglers Post. Escort 10% sufficient Corps Cage at F.6.e (Map 62d).
25. 1st Line Transport will be located F.2.c. and d.
26. Synchronised at 5a.m. on the 15th inst.
27. Reports to be sent to Battalion Head Quarters as frequently as possible. Brigade require reports from Battalion every hour.

Captain & Adjutant.

William Abbott - Reg. No. 592678 [Served and Survived]

The military records for William Abbott have been mixed up with records for William Charles Abbott. We have summarised the relevant records below for completeness of the record.

[Army Form B. 265] William first attested 28th October 1910. Short Service (7 years with the Colours, and 5 Years in the Reserve, or, if the man completes his 7 years with the Colours while beyond the seas, then for a further period not exceeding one year, with the Colours, and the remainder of the 12 years in the Reserve.)

William's early records show his regimental number as 2/9386 The Buffs, then 592678 (Labour Corps). Prior to signing up, he was a farm labourer; Aged 18 years, 8 months. Living at home.

The physical description of William Abbott describes him as:-
Aged 18 years 8 months. Height: 5' 9¼". Weight: 140 lbs. Chest: 36" – Expansion 4".
Distinctive Mark: Scar on back of neck. Eyes Grey; Hair Brown. CofE.
He was Passed Fit for Service with the Buffs at Canterbury. Approved on 31st October 1910.

William's Statement of the Services reveal a promising start, let down by indiscipline:-

Depot: Attested Private on 28th October 1910
1st Battalion: Posted Private 18-2-11
2nd Battalion: Posted Private 11-1-13
3rd Battalion: Posted Private 19-1-15
2nd Battalion: Posted Private 23-2-15
2nd Battalion: Appointed Lance Corporal 20-3-15
2nd Battalion: Promoted Corporal 3-5-15
Depot Posted: 13-5-15
3rd Battalion: Posted 15-7-15
3rd Battalion: Tried by D.C.M. sentenced to be Reduced to the Ranks for Absence Without Leave. In arrest awaiting trial from 10-8-15 to 24-8-15.

6th Battalion: Posted 24-9-15
Depot: Posted 20-10-15
CO: Posted 18-2-16
3rd Battalion: Posted 11-7-16
1st H.S. Gn – The Buffs: Private: Posted 5-9-16
The Buffs, Depot: Posted Private 9-1-16
The Buffs 1 (KS) Posted: Private 16.3.17
The Buffs 3rd Battalion Posted Private 2-4-17
The Buffs 38, 2nd Brigade: Posted 16-5-17
The Buffs, 7th Battalion: Posted 16-5-17
The Buffs, Depot: Posted Private 22-3-18
The Buffs, Posted Private 22-10-17
The Buffs, E.Ch., Posted 27-12-17
The Buffs, 3rd Battalion: Posted 22-3-18
Royal Engineers, R. Troops. Transferred compulsory as Private: 11-4-18

Military History Sheet
Home: 28-10-10 to 10-1-13 – 2 years 73 days
India: 11-1-13 to 15-11-14 – 1 year 309 days
Home: 16-11-14 – 125 days
BEF France: 21-3-15 to 18-5-15 – 54 days
Home: 14-5-15 to 24-9-15 – 134 days
BEF France: 25(?)-9-15 to 20-10-15 – 26 days
Home: 21-10-15 to 15-5-17 – 1 year 207 days
B.B.{?Sorea?}: 16-5-17 to 21-10-17 – 150 days
Home: 22-10-17 to 13-8-18 – 296 days
TOTAL – 7 years, 290 days

Awarded 3rd Class 22-12-10
2nd Class 17-5-13
Qualified in Field Telephones – 8-9-13

Home 16-11-16 to 20-3-15; 14-8-15 to 24-9-15; 21-10-15 to 15-5-7; 22-10-17
BEFrance: 21-8-15 to 13-5-15; 25-9-15 to 20-10-15; 16-5-17 to 21-10-17

Wounded: Gun Shot Wound (GSW) Arm – 12-10-17
Name and Address of next of kin:
Mother: Sarah at Malters House, Ospringe, [struck through] then 1 Garden Place, Tanner Street, Faversham.
Brother: John; Frederick; and Ernest.

Army Form B.200
Labour Corps. Transferred Compulsory, Private, 8-6-18
H.S. Works Company No.336, Posted Private 12-6-18
336 HS Works Company: Discharged No Longer Physically Fit for War Service, Private 13-8-18
Gone to Chelsea – 24-7-18
Character: Good
Address: 1 Garden Place, Tanners Street, Faversham Kent
Disability: GSW both Arms due to A.S. (Active Service)
Entitled to "Silver Badge" 1915
Pension calculation – 7 years 275 days.

Conduct Sheet
William Abbott. Regimental Number: P/18507
Joined Depot – 28-10-10
Joined 2nd Battalion – 11-1-13
Age: 18 years 8 months
Farm Labourer
Good Conduct Badges: 6th 1st, 28.10.12. Third Class
Dublin – 14 October 1911 – Private –Neglect of orders – 4 days Confined to Camp (C.C.)
Dublin – 1 February 1912 – Private – Absent from Tattoo until 8.30 am 2-2-12 – 3 days Confined to Barracks (C.B.)
Dublin – 3 February 1912 – Private – Dirty on Guard Mounting parade – 5 days C.B.
Dublin – April 8th 1912 – Private – Dirty on Guard Mounting parade – 6 days C.B.
Dublin – April 15th 1912 – Private – Dirty on Guard Mounting parade – 7 days C.B.
Dublin – 11 September 1912 - Private – Dirty on Guard Mounting parade – 5 days C.B.
Dublin – October 5th 1912 – Private – Dirty overcoat collar on C.O.'s inspection – 3 days C.B.

RIMS Hardinge – 28th January 1913 – Absent from physical training at 8.45 a.m. – 3 days (?FOB) punishment

Family Tree for the Abbott Family

Abbott family Tree

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