John Thomas Taylor
Date of birth: 1894
Regiment: King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Nephew of Thomas and Annie Travis
Service number: 1840
Thomas appears to have had early ambitions to join the army as it seems he made at least one unsuccessful attempt, being refused because he was under age, However, he was successful on 6/02/1912 at the age of 17 years 10 months when he was enrolled in the 5th Battalion KOYLI and given service number 1840.
At the time of joining he was described as being 5’ 51/2” tall, having a 36” chest, good vision and physical development. His army record shows that he attended the following ‘annual camps’ -
28/2/1912 - Bridlington
27/7/1913 - Aberystwyth
02/8/1914 - Whitby.
According to various records prior to WW1 there was no 5th KOYLI - only 1st, 2nd and these had postings in Singapore and Dublin - places not mentioned in John Thomas’s records.
What is clearly shown is that he embarked from Folkestone on 14/4/1915 and this is re-stated on his medal index card.
The battalion that landed in Boulogne on that date was the 1/5th Battalion which had been formed in
August 1914 in Wakefield as part of the 3rd West Riding Brigade, West Riding Division. On the 15 May 1915 this formation became 148th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division. The 1/5th later amalgamated with other battalions due to depletion of personnel and became the 5th Battalion.
By 19 April the Division had concentrated in the area of Estaires - Merville - Neuf Berquin. The Division then remained in France and Flanders and took part in the following engagements:
The Battle of Aubers Ridge (9 May)
The battle was the initial British component of the combined Anglo-French offensive known as the Second Battle of Artois. French Commander-in-Chief Joffre had enquired of Sir John French, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force if British units could support a French offensive into the Douai Plain around late April or early May 1915. The immediate French objectives were to capture the heights at Notre Dame de Lorette and the Vimy Ridge.
The British First Army was further north, between La Bassée and Ypres (Belgium). It was decided that the British forces would attack in the southern half of their front line, near the village of Laventie. Their objective in the flat and poorly drained terrain was the "Aubers Ridge", an area of slightly higher ground 2–3 kilometres south of Allied lines marked by the villages of Aubers, Fromelles and Le Maisnil. This same area had been targeted in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle two months earlier.
Intelligence about the newly-strengthened German positions was not available or given sufficient attention. No surprise was achieved. The duration and weight of the British bombardment was wholly insufficient to break the German wire and breastwork defences, or to destroy or suppress the front-line machine-guns. German artillery and free movement of reserves were also insufficiently suppressed. Trench layout, traffic flows and organisation behind the British front line did not allow for easy movement of reinforcements and casualties. British artillery equipment and ammunition were in poor condition: the first through over-use, the second through faulty manufacture. It soon became impossible to tell precisely where British troops were; accurate close-support artillery fire was impossible.
This battle was an unmitigated disaster for the British army. No ground was won and no tactical advantage gained. It is very doubtful if it had the slightest positive effect on assisting the main French attack fifteen miles to the south.
The battle was renewed, the epicentre shifted just a little way south, from 15 May and is known as the Battle of Festubert.
John’s medical record sheet shows that he spent several spells in hospital during November and
December, suffering with Pyresxia (fever) and recurrent appendicitis.
On 11/12/1915 he was sent back to England to Clipstome Camp near Mansfield and on 14/1/1916 was transferred to the 3/5th KOYLI. This was a ‘reserve’ battalion that never served overseas.
On 25/4/1916 John was discharged from the Army as ‘no longer physically fit for service’. He had served a total of 5 years 5 days.
His army records contain the following statements:
“Suffered from flat feet for some years and this condition has gradually been getting worse”.
“Arches of both feet slightly impaired – complains of pain if he does much marching”.
“Constitutional – not caused by service”.
“Capacity for earning a living in general labour market lessened by ¼ permanently”.
Very little is known about John Thomas Taylor as there appears to be no record of him in Brotherton other than the fact that he stated that it was the place of his birth on his Army attestation form. Apart from his army record, the only trace of him to date is in the 1911 Census. 7 year old Thomas was then living at 16 Wesley Street, Cutsyke, with his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Annie Travis. He was working as a ‘Pit Pony Driver’ at Wheldale Colliery. Thomas Travis was a ‘Canal Boat Worker’ and in 1901 he and Annie had been logged in the census at Selby whilst on a canal boat. Thomas Travis was then described as ‘Captain’. It was not unusual at the time for canal boat workers and spouses to live on the barges but as families came along a land based home was probably more favourable. It may well have been that Thomas Taylor was born on a boat whilst moored at Brotherton. This is speculative and the only mention of parents is in the Army records. His next of kin was listed as his father, Joseph Taylor, who was resident at 47 Huntingdon Road, York but this was crossed out and another illegible name (possibly Travis) entered with an address at John’s Terrace, South Court Lane, Holderness Road Hull. His aunt Annie was apparently born in Hull.
After he was discharged in 1916 there are no indications, as yet, as to where John Thomas Taylor went.