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Pte John Crompton was one of the four L.N.L. soldiers who were brought back to the British lines after he was killed in action in the trench raid at Wieltje north east of Ypres on 10th January 1917. He now lies buried within the Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery Ypres in grave V.D. 12.

John Crompton was married 24th August 1912 to Ethel Peace at Christ Church, Deane Bolton. On their marriage certificate he was 21yrs old and lived at 15 Ebenezer Street, his occupation at Messrs Hardcastle’s Bradshaw bleachers industry was as a stenter room feeder, this particular job fed woven fabric on a stenter machine to stretch it and maintain a uniform width of the fabric. He was a regular worshipper at the Noble Street Independent Methodist School his father had also been named John Crompton.

Ethel Peace was a 21yr old comber/tenter in a cotton mill and she lived at 70 Commission Street with her parents Samuel and Elizabeth Peace she had one younger sister and two brothers. After their marriage they lived at 71 Mason Street Bolton, and later at 32 Commission Street with their two children Olive (b.1913) and John (b.1915).

He enlisted into the 5th bn L.N.L. Regiment on 24th November 1914 and in April 1915 whilst at Sevenoaks, Kent had signed his agreement to serve overseas. He embarked at Southampton on 27th June 1915 for France, and on 20th July he was attached to an entrenching battalion before joining ‘D’ company of his regiment on 5th October 1915.

He was admitted to the field ambulance on 21st March 1916 suffering with scabies a skin infestation caused by a tiny mite and can be caused by crowded living conditions which increases the risk he remained for treatment until he rejoined for duty on 30th March.

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 when 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 that had just been fought at that place.

With the change to the new army numbering system in 1917 his army number became 241417.

He was one of 140 men who on the 9th January 1917 marched to spare land near to Ypres prison and practiced their actions that would be put into effect the next day, watched by the Divisional Commander who afterwards expressed his approval of their display, the area today is close by the site of the CWGC Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.

On the 10th January 1917 the men, divided into two groups the left and right parties, both had Bangalore torpedoes to cut any obstructing enemy wire. The left party under the command of Lt Robert Keith Makant MC would assemble at 15.00hrs at Lone Farm and the right party under 2nd Lt John Cecil Frankland at Prowse Farm. They moved onto to their jump off point a ditch running S.E from Argyle Farm and at 17.15hrs they left their trenches and approached the enemy defences. The right party was immediately met by a heavy machine gun fire and artillery, a single shell accounted for both Bangalore parties of this group as they moved together, all became casualties.

2nd Lt Frankland had been killed and the reserve officer 2nd Lt Charles Warburton Whitaker who had also been wounded gave the order to retire as the wire they encountered had not been cut and they no longer had the means to destroy it. The left party had gained their objective and was successful in their attempts in the enemy trenches though the raid had been costly.

Of the officers 1 had been killed and 2 wounded and of the other ranks 7 had been killed and 49 wounded with 4 missing believed dead, of the wounded some would later die of their wounds. Pte Crompton was due a period of furlough which was to be taken the day prior to his death.

Personal items of Pte Crompton later returned to his wife were a wallet, photographs and a ring she was also awarded an army pension for her and their two children. She had remarried in 1918 to a Percy Heyes and now resided at 21 Lupton Street when she signed for the above items in January 1920.

For his war services Pte Crompton was awarded a 1914-15 star trio of medals.

For the Weiltje Trench Raid main index please CLICK HERE.

Garry Farmer
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