John C Kaye
Date of birth: 1886
Date of death: 01.07.1916
Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Regiment: King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Olive Isobel Kaye nee Bowden
Service number: 12/15
In answer to Lord Kitchener’s call for volunteers, John enlisted at Rothwell, joining the 12th (Service) Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. This was a pioneer battalion, formed on the 5th September 1914 by the West Riding Coal Owners Association.
A pioneer battalion’s role was similar to front line infantrymen, but they were also charged with other duties, such as trench digging, installation of barbed wire and moving supplies. The pioneers were equipped as assault troops, but in addition, also carried a pick, shovel and 50 rounds less ammunition.
The new battalion assembled at Farnley Park, Otley, before moving to Burton Leonard and then on to Salisbury Plain. In December 1915 the 12th KOYLI, attached to the 31st Division, sailed for Egypt, where they were to defend the Suez Canal. In March 1916 the 31st Division left Egypt and sailed for France, landing at Marseilles before moving north towards the Somme region.
On 1st July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, the 31st Division was on the extreme left of the British attack and charged with capturing the village of Serre. The British bombardment of the enemy trenches began a week before the assault and during this time 5 saps were dug at intervals along the divisional front, to within 40 yards of the enemy front line. These saps were to be opened up one hour before the planned attack.
The plan was for “B” and “C” Coys of 12th KOYLI to start constructing communication trenches from the saps to the captured German lines, as soon as the assault infantry was through the first objective. “A” and “D” Coys were allocated to 94th and 93rd Brigade and were to establish strong points, at selected positions, in the captured German trenches.
The 31st Division attack failed and the two platoons from “A” Coy, following the 94th Brigade assault troops into attack, suffered 80% casualties from enemy artillery and machine gun fire. One platoon from “D” Coy, following the 93rd Brigade, also suffered heavy casualties. In the hours that followed, the 12th KOYLI was engaged in rebuilding trenches destroyed by enemy artillery fire, supplying ammunition and later helping to recover the wounded.
The 12th KOYLI incurred 192 casualties on 1st July 1916, one of whom was Private John Charles Kaye, killed in action. His body was never identified and his name is inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. This Memorial, which lies to the north of the road from Albert to Bapaume, bears the names of over 72,000 men who died on the Somme sector and who have no known grave.
John Charles Kaye was born in 1886, the son of Edward and Ruth Kaye of Lingwell Gate, Outwood. After the death of his father his mother married James Berry, a colliery worker and in 1901 the family was living at Springfield View, Outwood. At this time John Charles and his older brother Edward were employed as horse drivers, working underground at the local colliery. In 1907 John Charles Kaye married Olive Isobel Bowden. At the time of the 1911 census John Charles Kaye was at the home of his mother and stepfather at Springfield Terrace, Waggon Road, Outwood, meanwhile his wife Olive and their son Clarence were at Ryhill.
On 4th August 1914, when war was declared, John Charles Kaye was employed as a miner at Messrs Charlesworth & Co’s colliery at Robin Hood.