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John Thomas Scaife

Date of birth: 1894
Date of death: 19.03.1917
Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of Matthew and Margaret Scaife
Service number: 242600

War Service

On 9th November 1914 John Thomas Scaife enlisted in the Army at Wakefield, joining the 4th Reserve Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. At this time he stated his occupation was that of coal miner and that he was a member of the Wesleyan Church.
In February 1915 John Thomas Scaife was arrested for a civil offence and committed to trial at the West Riding Assizes at Leeds. He was found guilty and sentenced to 11 months hard labour and was consequently discharged from the Army. However John Thomas Scaife later re-enlisted in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and was drafted to the 1/5th Battalion.
In April 1915 the 1/5th KOYLI joined the British Expeditionary Force in France. During the spring of 1915 the battalion, attached to 187th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division was deployed in the Bois Grenier sector.
In July 1915 the 49th Division was deployed to the sector between Ypres and Boesinghe. Here the 49th Division encountered considerable activity, both in attack and defence. Shortly after the gas attack on 19th December 1915, which resulted in many casualties, particularly for the 1/4th KOYLI, the 49th Division was withdrawn into Reserve and moved to the Calais area.
In March 1916 the 49th Division moved south towards the Somme region, the 1/5th KOYLI moving to Puchevillers, where they were used by the 112 Railway Construction Company, Royal Engineers to build the railway between Candas and Acheux.
The first phase of the Battle of the Somme began at 07.30 hours on the 1st July 1916. The 1/5th KOYLI was not involved in the initial attack, but at 18.00 hours moved from their assembly positions at Aveluy Wood, towards Thiepval. Between the 3rd and 5th July the battalion was involved in fierce fighting in the German “A” Line trenches and when relieved, on the 6th July, had sustained 278 casualties. On the 7th July two companies of the 1/5th KOYLI returned to “A” Line trenches, to reinforce the 1/4th KOYLI, but after severe losses, the trench line had to be evacuated. The 1/5th KOYLI returned to the trenches on the 21st July when they were involved in assaults against the enemy trenches east of the Leipzig Salient. Towards the end of the month the 1/5th moved north to the Bailleulval sector.
The winter of 1916 was extremely cold, with heavy snow and driving rain. The extreme weather resulted in the men in the trenches developing serious health problems, with many suffering from rheumatism, stomach complaints and respiratory illnesses.
On the 24th February 1917 the 1/5th KOYLI in Brigade, started their long march to the Neuve Chapelle sector, where they were to remain until July 1917. During this period the 1/5th KOYLI suffered many casualties, as a result of raids on enemy trenches and through shell and rifle fire. During the night of 18th/19th March, when the 1/5th KOYLI was in the trenches, the enemy strafed the left Company with Vane Bombs, inflicting 10 casualties.
One of these casualties was Private John Thomas Scaife, killed in action on 19th March 1917. He was buried in Rue-du-Bacquerot No 1 Military Cemetery, Laventie, a village about 6 km south-west of Armentieres. The Rue-du-Bacquerot runs south-east of the village, towards Fleurbaix. The No 1 Military Cemetery now contains 637 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War, 61 being unidentified. John Thomas Scaife is also remembered on the Wrenthorpe Colliery Memorial in the grounds of St John’s Church, Wakefield.

Family Life

John Thomas Scaife was born in Jarrow, County Durham, during the summer of 1894, the son of Matthew and Margaret Scaife. In 1900, when his brother George was born, the family was living at Milk Street, Leeds. John Thomas Scaife had a troubled child-hood, spending some time at an Industrial School. Two years after the death of his mother in 1907, his father re-married and moved to Outwood. In the census of 1911 the extended family was living at No 4, Princess Street, Outwood and his father Matthew was employed as a coal miner. At this time John Thomas Scaife, aged 16 years and his two step-brothers, John and Albert Newton, were working as labourers at Wrenthorpe Colliery. Some months after this census his step-mother died and in 1912 his father again re-married.

Rue-du-Bacquerot No 1 Military Cemetery Rue-du-Bacquerot No 1 Military Cemetery

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