John W Sanderson
Date of birth: 1889
Date of death: 27.04.1918
Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Elizabeth Sanderson nee Howarth
Service number: 235155
On 24th August 1914 John William enlisted in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, at Doncaster.
In the absence of his service record, it is not certain to which battalion he was initially posted. However, the fact that he enlisted so early and went to France on 13th April 1915, would suggest that he was a member of the 5th Territorial Force, whose headquarters was in Doncaster. This battalion later became the 1/5th KOYLI, part of the 148th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division, which went to France on that date.
At some time during the war, Private John William Sanderson was transferred to the 9th (Service) Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, serving with the 64th Brigade, 21st Division. During the war, as casualty figures rose, it was often the case that when a soldier was injured, or sick and away from his battalion for a length of time, he would be posted to another battalion, or regiment, on his return to fitness.
The 9th KOYLI had sailed for France on 12th September 1915 and two weeks later was in action on the western front at the Battle of Loos.
On 1st July 1916 the 21st Division was in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, with the 9th KOYLI engaged at Fricourt, where the battalion incurred 495 casualties. After some re-organisation, the 21st Division returned to the Somme battlefield in September 1916. The 9th KOYLI was in action during operations at Gueudecourt on both the 16th and 25th September, when a further 389 casualties were incurred.
In April 1917 the 9th KOYLI, in Brigade, was involved in an attack on the Hindenburg Line at the Henin-Heninel road, near Arras. The attack, made through deep snow, was stopped at the first trench line, the 9th KOYLI having incurred 182 casualties. Later, on 4th October 1917, the 9th KOYLI, in Division, was deployed against German lines near Reutel, during the Third Battle of Ypres. With the first objective taken and defended against counter-attacks, the 9th KOYLI was relieved the following morning, having incurred 381 casualties.
On 21st March 1918, shortly after the re-organisation of the British Army, the enemy launched its first major offensive of the year, towards Amiens. The 9th KOYLI, in Division, was forced to make a series of withdrawals before the German onslaught. Such was the casualty rate that all battalions in the 21st Division were incorporated into one composite battalion. On 28th March the Division was withdrawn and after some re-organisation moved to the Ypres Salient.
On the night of 25th April, the 9th KOYLI, in Brigade, went into the front line in the Wytschaete sector. The following morning the enemy bombarded the line with gas shells, forcing the 64th Brigade to withdraw to higher ground.
At 04.45 hrs on the next day, the 27th April, a counter-attack was launched with the view of re-taking the Vierstraat line. However the assault had to be stopped with the 9th KOYLI already advancing towards the enemy lines. The 39th French Division, on the battalion’s right, had not received orders to attack and the British line, on the battalion’s left, was held up by concentrated machine-gun fire. In addition, the promised artillery barrage had not materialised. The 9th KOYLI, to the front of the 64th Brigade line, soon found their flanks were unsupported. Nevertheless, with two companies acting as defensive flanks on both right and left, the centre companies were able to withdraw from their advanced positions. All the companies suffered heavy casualties, but established a defensive line in an old trench line. This new line was heavily shelled during the afternoon, but the 9th KOYLI held these positions until relieved the following day.
The 9th KOYLI had incurred 455 casualties, one of whom was Private John W Sanderson, killed in action on the 27th April 1918. His body was not identified and his name is included on the Tyne Cot Memorial near Ypres. The Memorial bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men who died on the Ypres Salient after 16th August and have no known grave.
At the time of his death, the wife and family of John William Sanderson were living at 3, Princess Street, Outwood.
John William Sanderson was born in 1889, the eldest son of George Sanderson, a miner and his wife Emma. His father was a native of Loftus, in North Yorkshire. At the time of the 1901 census the Sanderson family was living at West View, Hemsworth, but later moved to Kirkby Road, Hemsworth. In late 1909 John William Sanderson, a coal miner, married Elizabeth Howarth, the daughter of John and Mary Howarth of Wakefield. Shortly after their marriage John and Elizabeth lived at West Street, Hemsworth, where their son William and daughter Elsie were born. When war was declared on 4th August 1914, John William was employed as a coal miner at South Kirkby Colliery.