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Pte John Lane was awarded the Military Medal for his part in the trench raid of 10th January 1917 at Wieltje north east of Ypres.
His MM card carries the Schedule No: 68646 a unique number for this medal issue, which is included on the Army Medal Recommendation Form W 3121 (if finally approved) it also records the bar to his MM.
John Lane was part of a large coal mining family, born on 4th June 1895 and baptized a few weeks later on 21st July he lived in St John’s parish at 221 Manchester Road East, Little Hulton near Bolton. In 1901 the family consisted of his father William 44yrs a coal hewer, mother Betsy Ellen aged 43yrs, and their children Fanny 23, Robert 22, Martha Ellen 19, William 17, Stephen 15, Doctor 9, Harry 7 and John aged 5. All the older boys were working in the local pit with the father whilst the girls worked in the cotton mills. When he was old enough John too became a coal miner working at the Earl of Ellesmere’s colliery.
There are 37 pages to his existing service file which shows that he enlisted aged 19 years and 5’7” tall on 3rd July 1913 for 4 years’ service into the Territorial Force of the 1/5th L.N.L. Regiment becoming Pte 1737, in actual fact on the date of enlistment he had just turned 18. He attended the annual camp of 1913 and had completed 2 days of the 1914 camp when the regiment was recalled due to the outbreak of hostilities he was embodied on 5th August 1914.
After 19 months of service he embarked at Southampton for France on 12th February 1915 and was granted a second class certificate of proficiency whilst at Armentieres on 18th April 1915 this was closely followed on 23rd November that same year by a first class proficiency certificate, Lane was to become a highly decorated soldier.
On the 1st July 1916 at the opening of the battle of the Somme the battalion had not been engaged, they were in the trenches at Bellacourt and had mainly been employed on working parties. They were however to take part in the action at Guillemont 8th – 9th August 1916 where they had 131 killed, wounded and missing. They had also suffered many casualties throughout September from enemy fire whilst being used for salvage work and as burial parties on the edges of Delville Wood after the major battle at that place.
Lane took part in a final rehearsal on the 9th January 1917 on spare ground near to Ypres prison with the other soldiers to practice their part for the trench raid at Wieltje the next day, during which his actions would earn the bravery award of the Military Medal the announcement of which appeared in the London Gazette of 12th March 1917.
His photograph is included in the Bolton Journal & Guardian of 9th February 1917 with details about the raid:
In a raid on the German trenches recently a section of the L.N.L. acquitted themselves with distinction according to reports from men who were present and who are now enjoying a brief respite from their arduous labours at the front. When the order was given 120 men (sic) sprang over the parapets and made straight for the German trenches. They were met by machine gun fire but nothing daunted they went forward, using their hand bombs with great effectiveness. They penetrated to the third line of German trenches and created much havoc and slaughter amongst the enemy, one of the Loyal Norths accounted for 10 Boches himself. It was a fine piece of work and carried out with spirit and bravery. Two Little Hulton soldiers Sergt GH Howarth and Pte John Lane secured Military Medals for gallantry in the action. The Germans informed some of the Loyal Norths that they had been sent up specially from the Somme to meet the English in the sector when the raid was made and the Loyals gave them a very warm reception.
Reported a month after the raid but apparently taken from personal accounts, it is accompanied by the photographs of 2 of the 3 trench raid L.N.L. MM winners Lane and Howarth. No reference is made as to which soldier accounted for the amount of enemy referred to in the text but the inclusion of their photographs within the piece can only be speculated upon.
During his time in France on several occasions he had been admitted into the Field Ambulance for minor illness or injuries but always rejoining the battalion after a week or so, amongst the injuries was a slight wound to the nose suffered on 8th May 1917 which according to the War Diary on that day 3 unidentified O.R’s were wounded whilst in the Wieltje sector.
His previous actions having been noted, on 28th August 1917 he was promoted to paid L/Cpl and within the week on 1st September to A/Cpl, although this lasted only a couple of months as he reverted back to Pte at his own request on 29th October 1917.
He was to go on and win a bar to his MM in July 1917 which appeared in the London Gazette of 2nd November 1917. The battalion War Diary gives mention to a similar trench raid on the same part of the Wieltje trench system on the 28th July involving 36 officers and men when they did good work. However the battalion was also heavily engaged on 31st July 1917 when they advanced and attacked the Gheluvelt – Langemark trench system, these being the only two actions of July.
Lane was also recommended for a 2nd bar to the MM by Captain R.W.B. Sparkes on 6th December 1917 in connection with the regiments actions east of the town of Epehy on 1st December. During a counter attack on enemy forces the battalion suffered casualties from machine gun fire and several were lying in exposed positions in the open. 2nd Lt E.A. Hollinrake asked for volunteers and Lane assisted him going forward under fire and bringing in the wounded.
An Army form W3121 recommendation is extant in the Jeudwine collection of papers at the Liverpool Archives Collection which states the following:
On 1/12/17 after our counter attack on KILDARE POST east of Epehy this man displayed conspicuous bravery under very heavy enemy rifle and machine gun fire. He repeatedly went out and brought in wounded comrades, this saving many lives. By his gallantry and devotion to duty under very trying circumstances he set a fine example. (For immediate award) Previously awarded Military Medal and Bar.
This recommendation was sent to divisional command but was not forwarded further and Lane received no accolade in relation to it.
He had a period of leave in the New Year of January 1918 until the 25th of the month and collected his MM and bar on 21st January 1918 the medal receipt with his signature is included in his service file and is signed for at Little Hulton, his home town, no details of the presentation have been found.
After his period of leave, on return to the continent he was admitted to the General Hospital at Boulogne for a month with a problem to his right knee and is put on the strength of the 4/5th Bn L.N.L. On 7th March 1918 he was discharged to the No. 5 Rest Company and the medical base depot at Etaples until the 23rd March when he found himself transferred to the Labour Corps and given a new service number of 516140. Whether he wanted this move or not isn’t known but he managed to obtain a move from the 57 Pioneer Wing and on 26th April 1918 was posted back to his old battalion and resumed his old army number.
He had a month’s attachment with 252 Tunneling Company from 20th May – 20th June 1918 when he rejoined 1/5th bn.
Besides all the prior bravery shown by Lane, now in ‘D’ company, there was occasion when his behavior fell a little short. One occasion in camp at 10.45pm on 27th June 1918 he was found drunk whilst on active service by the RSM and appeared before the O.C. for this he was awarded 7 days Field Punishment No 2. Although it is not known what sort of punishment he received, given the circumstances it is most probable that he had to march around with full kit for a period of time over the week supervised by a NCO.
An injury well documented in his file including several reports and statements referring to Lane being injured on 8th September 1918. The circumstances are that whilst in camp at Pende, Lane and a Pte Johnson went for a walk at 6.45pm that day, they visited an establishment for refreshment and left the establishment at 8.45pm with the intention of returning to camp. On the way they were met by a French woman who suggested they visit her home, Lane went in and Johnson remained by the door. After a short length of time Lane heard a gunshot and a scuffle, he went outside and was struck about the head by a heavy object wielded by another man causing 4 wounds to his scalp. He overpowered the man, a deserter who was later arrested, both Lane and Johnson returned to camp where their injuries were dressed. Reports were then submitted by the Adjutant to GHQ and replies received as to whether Lane should be included in the daily casualty returns in relation to the incident and it was resolved from HQ that no such inclusion should be made.
Distinguished Conduct Medal.
The award of his DCM appeared in the London Gazette of 15th November 1918 and his citation reads very much as in the below description but in edited form.
The battalion was on the Blangy Line south of the River Scarpe on 18th 19th & 20th August 1918. B and D companies had attacked and captured enemy trenches named Iceland and Ionian, numerous enemy counter attacks on the 19th were repulsed which is when his DCM was won, after immense artillery barrages on their new positions the battalion eventually withdrew after suffering 5 killed and 26 wounded.
Pte John Lane DCM MM* was killed in action on 1st October 1918, on this day the enemy attacked the L.N.L. from the village of Proville, as a result the casualties suffered by the regiment were: 30 killed, 110 wounded with 118 men missing and 3 wounded and missing. He is commemorated on panel 7 at Vis-En-Artois cemetery which is situated midway between Arras and Cambrai.
After his death a column appeared on page 6 of the Bolton Journal & Guardian Friday 25th October 1918 entitled:
Corporal Lane’s Heroism.
“Official information has been received this week by the relatives at 221 Manchester Road East Little Hulton that Corporal Jack Lane was killed in action on October 1st. His platoon Sgt who called last week informed them that he lost his life in trying to save a pal. Their company had been in a charge and their flanks having failed to come up they were ordered to retire. On their return Cpl Lane asked where his pal was, and being told he was lying in No Man’s Land, at once set off to bring him in. Placing him on his shoulders he had almost succeeded in getting back, when a shell hit them both. Cpl Lane won the Military Medal in January 1917, the bar to it in July 1917 and in August this year he secured the D.C.M. but was recommended for the V.C. In a letter dated September 17th from the Commanding Officer relating to the hero’s winning the DCM is the following official note of his bravery. East of ——- on the 18th – 20th August 1918 this man when his commanding officer and second in command had become casualties immediately took command of the section and took up an advanced position at a critical moment during the enemy counter attack. Cpl Lane ordered his section to remain out of range of the enemy’s bombs and single handed engaged the enemy for 1 ½ hours till his share of bombs were exhausted and the enemy had to retire in confusion. Although injured he refused to leave his section and remained in command until the order to withdraw was given, which he carried out with the greatest skill and without casualties.”
Whether he was recommended for the higher award mentioned can only be surmised as no surviving Army Form W3121 for it has been located.
Although he never took receipt for the DCM himself, there is the acknowledgment form within his service papers for its receipt dated April 1919 signed for by his father, there was also a gratuity of £20 for the award credited to Lane’s account.
His father had notified the army authorities of his change of address to Miles Platting in Manchester where he later acknowledged receipt of his sons 1914-15 star on 15th February 1920.
For the Weiltje Trench Raid main index please CLICK HERE.
Garry's grandfather and great uncles served in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment during WWI, 2 Gt uncles were KIA at Ypres and Mesopotamia. A regular worldwide battlefield visitor and exhibitor at the OMRS Convention he spent 36 years as a civil and RAF policeman and served on operations in Bosnia, Cyprus, Kenya, North, Central and South America.
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Communication with Battalion headquarters was almost impossible as runners were shot down in attempting to get back reports of progress…..
Extract from 4/5th Battalion War Diary
- 26th October 1917
- Communication with Battalion headquarters was almost impossible as runners were shot down in attempting to get back reports of progress….. Extract from 4/5th Battalion War Diary
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