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John Henry Green was born in early 1879 to Harry Henry Green, a carter, and Alice Green, a cotton weaver, of School Street, Rishton. By 1891 the young Roman Catholic family were living at 101 Spring Street, Rishton and John had a baby sister, Beatrice, 10 years his junior.

John enlisted in the Army at Blackburn on 18th April 1898 for a term of 3 years in the Colours and 9 in the Reserve, indicating he would like to join the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He was posted into the R.W.F. but deserted immediately. When he returned the following month was then transferred to Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 5790.

john henry green signature

At the time of his joining the Loyal North Lancs he was 19 years 3 months old and had been working as a labourer. He gave his next of kin details as his father, Henry Green now living at 2, Clifton Street, Rishton (sometime later his N.O.K details were amended to 5 Pot House Lane, Darwen).

At his medical assessment at Preston on 5th May 1898 the surgeon described John as being 5ft 4in, weighing 126lbs with a 34in chest. He had brown eyes, dark brown hair and was of fresh complexion, fair physical development and had no distinctive marks.

During the pre-war days John saw service in Malta, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Ireland, Mauritius and in the East Indies. He was originally with the 1st Battalion (1898 – October 1902) where he earned his first good conduct badge. He was posted into the 2nd Battalion for two months (October – December 1902) then he spent 3 years in the Army Reserve before deciding to re-join the Colours again. It was now April 1905 and John was posted back into the 1st Battalion and appears to have been doing well, earning a second good conduct badge that September.

Like many young soldiers those days, drink often got the better of John. On 4th May 1905 at 9.40 p.m, he was found drunk whilst in hospital (charge later admonished).   In August 1906 John was tried by the Civil Power for being found drunk and disorderly on the streets of County Cork where he was fined 5/- and 6d costs and the Army took away one of his good conduct badges. Then the following November he saw his second badge being forfeited too, this time being found drunk in barracks at 9.20 p.m.

John married Hannah Strechan on 30th September 1906 in Kinsale, County Cork and they went on to have four children together;

  • Harry, born 18 August 1907 in Kinsale
  • John Richard, born 25th October 1909 in Mauritius
  • Alice Anna, born 7th October 1911 in Darwen, Lancashire
  • Norah, born 5th March 1914 in Darwen.

In January 1907 he was posted into the 2nd Battalion and soon after had one of his badges restored, and by November 1908 he was back up to two.

At Mauritius in May 1909 he re-engaged again with the Army, signing his papers agreeing to complete a total of 21 years service. He was appointed Lance Corporal (unpaid) that August and substantive Lance Corporal in September 1910. He was awarded his 3rd, and final, good conduct badge in November 1910.

John was again discharged to the Army Reserve on 22nd April 1911 having served for over 12 years. His conduct during his service was noted as ‘very good’ despite the incidents already mentioned.

At the time of his discharge in 1911 he was living with his wife and children at 26 Britten Street, Darwen. In the intervening years, 1898 – 1911, he had grown to 5ft 7in and now had a 34-36in chest. He took a size 21.5 helmet and size 8/4 boots.

The day after War was declared in August 1914 he was mobilised for active service. Having been called-up into the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, based on his past experience was promoted to Corporal on 31st August 1914 and then appointed acting Serjeant on 5th September.

On 29th November 1914 he was posted into the 1st Battalion and sailed to France to join his Battalion and the rest of the British Expeditionary Force in the field.

Serjeant John Henry Green was killed in action just 24 days after his arrival overseas, 22nd December 1914 during the action at La Basse.

21st – 22nd December 1914 – Givenchy.
On 21st December at 07:00 hrs the battalion, with 2nd Brigade moved by motorbuses to Zelobes (1/2 mile west of Vieille Chapelle). From Zelobes they marched to Le Touret, arriving about 12:45 hrs.

Orders were received that the battalion, along with the Northamptons, should make a night attack in order to regain some trenches that had been taken by the Germans on the night of 19th – 20th December near an orchard by LA QUINQUE RUE. It was noted in the War Diary that the information of the enemy’s disposition was somewhat vague.

The battalion left Le Touret at 15:30 hrs followed by the Northamptons and were led by a guide (an officer of 2nd Gurkhas) to a spot from which it was decided the attack should commence. The men carried 170 rounds of ammunition each.

By 18:45 hrs the two battalions were deployed ready to advance. A and D Coys in the front line, supported by C and B Coys at 100 yards distance. The Loyal North Lancashires took the right of the line and the Northamptons the left. The whole frontage covered about 300 yards.

At 19:00 hrs the order to advance was given by Major Powell and the whole line moved forward with fixed bayonets, the companies now being closed up and in two ranks.

After crossing two lines of trenches occupied by the 58th Infantry, with heavy rifle fire they charged and occupied the front line of the enemy’s trenches. After a short halt the attack was continued and another trench about 100 yards further on was captured. The battalion advanced further and was reorganised on a road by the orchard. During the advance 2nd Lieut Ellis was seriously wounded and about 20 men killed and wounded.

A line was occupied, and a reconnaissance conducted about 20 yards to the rear of the orchard. Tools were sent up to the newly held trench an hour or so later. It is written that the night was very wet and cold and the men only had minimum rations.

The line was held throughout the night, but they did suffer some casualties from bombs that were thrown from a German trench running obliquely to their right flank. At 07:00 hrs on the 22nd December a Company was withdrawn from the Northamptons line due to the trenches being over-crowded.

Shortly after day break a very strong German attack developed from the direction of LA QUINQUE RUE and by 10:00 hrs the line became untenable chiefly owing to the enfilade fire (flanking fire) from the right flank which was very exposed.

After suffering very heavy losses and putting up a very stubborn defence, the retirement of the line commenced from the left and about 300 men succeeded in reaching the Rue de Bois.

The Battalion was collected and reformed on Rue de L’Epinette, the Machine Gun detachment cooperating with the Northamptons went up in support and a line was held by them roughly on the line when the attack had started on the night before. At about 15:00 hrs the battalion was withdrawn and went into billets at La Couture.

The battalion loses from this action were heavy. Captains Smart and Graham killed. Captains (De Cantect), Lieutenant Batty-Smith, 2nd Lieutenant Gilliland were all missing. Captain Hay was slightly wounded. There were 408 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.

Hannah was informed initially that John had been taken prisoner and was being held in Germany. This horrible error came didn’t come to light until September 1915 when it was discovered that the man in Germany had the same name, but was from a different Regiment. John’s death on 22nd December had been witnessed and was later confirmed by fellow Darwen man Lance Corporal Thomas Cocking who had been taken prisoner and was being held in Germany.

Serjeant John Henry Green’s body was not recovered from the battlefield and as such he is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial. War widows pension records show that by September 1915 his wife had moved to 49, Quaker Lane, Darwen , and by July 1916 had moved on to 63 Exchange Street, Darwen.

Rank: Serjeant
Service No: 5790
Date of Death: 22/12/1914
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.

Paul McCormick
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