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norcross1John Norcross was born at 25 Tulketh Road, Ashton on Ribble, Preston on 21 October, 1895. His parents were Richard W and Jane Norcross (nee Cole).

Richard Wright Norcross and Jane Cole were married in St. Andrew`s Church, Ashton on Ribble on 8 January, 1885. They had eight children altogether including John, the others being; Richard (1885-1885), Annie (1886-1886), Alice (1889), William Cole (1891-1893), Ellen (1893-1901), James (1898) and Jessie (1902).

In 1911 the family were still in Ashton on Ribble but had moved from Tulketh Road to 10 Hull Street. John was employed in a mill as a weaver`s tenter and his father was working for the Borough Council as a school caretaker.

On the 31 May, 1915 John enlisted at Preston for the duration of the war. The Medical Officer describes him as being 5`6” tall with a 32 inch chest. John was allocated the service number 4036 which would later be changed to 201493 and he was posted into the 3/4th (Reserve) Battalion.

After a period of training John was sent to France, he embarked at Southampton with a 2nd draft of reinforcements on the 12 October, 1915. Unfortunately some of the writing in his papers is quite badly faded making it difficult to ascertain where he was posted to.

His papers do record that on the 9 September, 1916 he received a gunshot wound to his left thigh and a week later he was sent back to England via the Hospital Ship “Dieppe” and then on to hospital for treatment. He was eventually transferred to the Kings Lancashire Military Convalescent Hospital, Clifton Park, Blackpool and stayed there for 119 days undergoing physical training and massage. The Doctors finally concluded that his wound was quite healed but there was a degree of rheumatism. He left the hospital in Blackpool on the 10 February, 1917 and went home on leave.

By the 11 June, 1917 he was embarking at Folkestone bound for France for the second time. A month after landing he was posted to “D” Coy 2/4th Battalion joining them in the field on the 13 July, 1917.

In September, 1917 he was sent to a field ambulance suffering with inflammation in his right knee. First of all he was sent back to No. 59 General Hospital in St. Omer and from there transferred on to Convalescent Hospitals, firstly in Boulogne and then Trouville. He finally re-joined his Battalion on the 2 November, 1917.

In mid-November he got into a spot of bother for “Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline” i.e. “failing to stand to attention and salute his superior Officer” – for this he was awarded 7 days Field Punishment No. 2.

On the 25th September, 1918 the Battalion moved by road and rail by way of Saulty to bivouacs at Noreuil. The 2/4th Battalion was to take part in the Battle of Cambrai-St. Quentin which opened on the 27th September, 1918

The Battalion History – 27th September 1918, 0430 hrs

Moved forward through Pronville to Tadpole Copse and crossed the Canal du Nord at noon, then halting for three hours to allow the artillery to cross and take up positions. By 9 p.m. we were in position in the Sunken Road near Graincourt where the night was spent.

28th September 1918, 0600 hrs

Moved forward under harassing fire from the enemy in support of the 2/5th King`s Own Royal Lancaster. On reaching Marcoing Trench `A`, `B` and `C` Companies formed up for attack with `D` Company in reserve, our left flank on the Bapaume-Cambrai road and our right on La Folie Wood. The advance was carried out by short rushes under heavy machine-gun fire until 11.30 when we were held up by a very severe bombardment in front of the enemy wire.

On the 29th September the Battalion were withdrawn to refit and reorganise in a position to the south of Anneux having suffered many casualties.

At 5 a.m. on the morning of the 30th September they moved forward again to a position at La Folie Wood and in the evening relieved the 8th King`s Liverpool in the line.

The Battalion history continues –

1st October, 1918 – Spent morning consolidating and at 3 p.m. `A` Company was ordered to carry out a minor attack in co-operation with the 2/5th Battalion The Loyal North Lancashire, its objective being Z Trench. The Trench was taken by `A` Company with a few casualties, but owing to the non-success of the right attack a gap of some 1,000 yards in depth was left exposed. `A` Company spent the night consolidating the position, but the other Companies were out of touch with `A`.

2nd October, 1918 – At 10 p.m. a man of `A` Company swam the St. Quentin Canal, landing at `C` Company`s right post with a verbal report from his platoon commander to the effect that the enemy was in rear of Z Trench. During the night every effort was made to re-establish touch with `A` but they failed.

3rd October, 1918 – The Battalion scouts were sent forward at 5 a.m. to try and get in communication with `A` Company but all the roads were covered by the fire of machine guns and snipers and one of the scouts was killed. At 7 a.m. aeroplane report stated that `A` was still holding on. At 3 p.m. a counter attack on Z Trench was organised and attempted by platoons `B` and `D` Companies, assisted by the Trench Mortars of the 170th Brigade, but the platoons were unable to get further forward than 300 yards and suffered very considerable loss.

4th October, 1918 – What remained of `A` Company fell back, and that Company and the others occupied a line in touch with the Canadians on the left. At midnight the Battalion was relieved and went back for a brief rest.

During the actions on the 2 October, 1918 John Norcross was shot through the head by a sniper and died instantly. According to the newspaper article below he had only been back at the front for about three weeks after being home on leave.


Private John Norcross was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and is buried with honour in Proville British Cemetery.

Author`s note – There are one or two anomalies between the newspaper report and John`s service papers. His papers confirm he enlisted in May 1915. Both the CWGC and his papers confirm his date of death as 2/10/18 and that he was a Private and not a Lance Corporal.

His family also recorded details on an official Roll of Honour Form that can be viewed at the Harris Library in Preston. On that form the family also confirm his date of death was 2/10/18 and that his rank was Private. They also added an additional note confirming that he died as a result of a sniper`s bullet through the head.

Rank: Private
Service No: 201493
Date of Death: 02/10/1918
Age: 22
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 2nd/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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