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John James Dunlop and his brother Frank Dunlop were from Chorley. During the first world war they served with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and were both killed in late 1917.
John and Frank were the sons of George James and Alice Dunlop.
Their father, George James, aged 23 of Birkacre Post-Office Coppull, had married Alice (nee Grime), aged 18, at St. George’s on 27th February 1892.
John James was born on 3rd March 1894 and was baptised at St. George’s on 1st April. At this time the family were living on Goring Street, Chorley.
On 12th February 1895, a daughter was born. By now the family had moved to Duke Street. Obviously unwell, young Alice was baptised at St. George’s the same day but didn’t survive.
Frank was born on 1st July 1897 and was baptised at St. George’s on 18th July. Still on Duke Street, their father George James was working as a railway porter.
George James Dunlop appears to have died shortly after Frank was born in mid-1897. The circumstances of his death are not known.
Alice Dunlop then married George Thomas Hoyle during the first quarter of 1900 at St Paul’s in Adlington. The couple went on to have three children together; Alice (b. c1901), Norman (b. c1903) and Doris (b. c1909), all of whom carried the Hoyle surname.
At the time of the 1911 census the Hoyle/Dunlop family were living at 21 Red Bank, Chorley, and the two Dunlop brothers were employed at a Rope and Twine Works. They still attended St. George’s Church and were both members of the Young Men’s Bible Class.
By the time John James and Frank enlisted in late-1915 the family had moved to 63 Anderton Street.
243256 PTE. J. J. DUNLOP. L.N.LAN.R.
John James Dunlop enlisted into the Territorial Force on 3rd December 1915, joining the 4/5th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 7801 (this changed to 243256 when the TF were renumbered in 1917). At the time of his enlistment he was 21 years 9 months old, single, was still employed as a rope maker and lived with his mother and step-father on Anderton Street.
John nominated his mother, Alice Hoyle, as his legal next of kin and the medical officer at Chorley, John W. Rigby described him as being 5tf 4in tall, weighing 116lbs with a 35in chest.
Private John Dunlop was mobilised on 28th January 1916 and started his training for service overseas. On 25th July 1916 he was admitted into the Cambridge Military Hospital at Aldershot with a septic toe that had become troublesome whilst he was on a general musketry course on Ash Ranges at Rushmoor Camp two days before.
The Cambridge Hospital was the first base hospital to receive casualties directly from the Western Front and one can only imagine what John made of the men being sent back from the fierce fighting on the Somme.
John Dunlop sailed from Folkstone as part of the initial deployment of the 4/5th Battalion on the night of 12th February 1917. They landed in Boulogne the following morning.
On 19th August 1917 John James was reported to be killed in action at Armentieres. In the war diary there is no specific reference to any casualties on this day and it shows that the Battalion had been relieved from their duty in the trenches at Houplines the evening before.
The Memorial Album compiled by Susannah Knight from April 1919 sheds a little more explanation about how John was killed. It states he was hit by a shell and was killed instantly. This information would have been provided by a relative so the accuracy may not be totally relied upon. For more information about the Chorley Memorial Album project, please CLICK HERE.
CWGC also records two other 4/5th Battalion men being killed on the same day as John, presumably also killed during the shelling.
– 243315 Lance Corporal John Lewis Ratcliffe, also of Chorley.
– 243292 Private Robert Turner.
The days preceding the deaths of LCpl Radcliffe & Privates Dunlop and Turner comprised of a relatively quiet ten days in the trenches at Houplines, Armentieres.
War Diary Entries 9th – 19th August 1917: HOUPLINES
9th August: Relieved 7th K.O.(R.L.) in the trenches.
10th August: 04:30 a.m: Enemy attempted small raid by about 10 men. One of the enemy (wounded) taken prisoner. Subsequently died. We had no casualties. During day enemy shelling normal. At night, enemy raid on Batt. on right. Enemy barrage from 8 p.m. – 9 p.m. on right half of our sector. Otherwise quiet night.
11th August: Normal activity of enemy artillery fire. During night patrol reconnoitering no-man’s land.
12th August: Normal activity of enemy artillery fire. At night 4 patrols reconnoitering.
13th August: Normal day. As usual heavy shelling of Armentieres. 3 patrols at night reconnoitering no-man’s land.
14th August: Enemy deserter found in our lines at 2:30 p.m. Enemy activity normal. During night 3 patrols out. Our patrol of 12 men reached the enemy (-) ditch and were seen by the enemy. In the retirement one man was wounded and had to be carried back to our lines by 2nd Lieutenant Bell and Corporal Forshaw; and two men were missing. One of the wounded men returned to our lines later.
15th August: Fairly quiet day. Enemy action during night with 10.5 cm and 7.7 cm. Three patrols reconnoitered no-man’s land.
16th August: Enemy artillery active on the left of sector. 2 patrols at night reconnoitered no-man’s land.
17th August: Quiet day. Two Companies relieved by two companies of the 2/5th K.O.(R.L.) Regiment.
18th August: Quiet day. Relief by 7th K.O.(R.L.) Regiment completed.
19th August: In billets at Armentieres.
John Dunlop, John Ratcliffe and Robert Turner were buried side by side in Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery. Alice Hoyle later took receipt of the British War Medal, Allied Victory Medal, Memorial Plaque and Scroll all bearing the name of her late-son. The following notices were placed in a local newspaper.
DUNLOP – August 19th, 1917. Private John J. Dunlop L.N.L. Regiment, killed in action in France, aged 23 years.
Gone is the one we loved so dear,
Silent is the voice we long to hear,
Far far away from sight and speech,
But not too far for our thoughts to reach.
No more will he answer his roll call,
Nor rush at the bugle’s sound.
But Lord when the roll is called in heave,
May his name on the book be found.
-From Father, Mother, Sisters and Brothers.
Fold him in Thine arms O Father,
And let him henceforth be,
A messenger of love between,
My aching heart and Thee
Worthy of everlasting love,
From those he left behind,
A better pal never breathed,
Nor one more true and kind.
-Deeply regretted by his dear Pal, Private W. Costello and Betsy Read, also Mr. and Mrs. Costello.
Service No: 243256
Date of Death: 19/08/1917
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 4th/5th Bn.
Cemetery: CITE BONJEAN MILITARY CEMETERY, ARMENTIERES
36886 PTE. F. DUNLOP. L.N.LAN.R.
Frank Dunlop enlisted into the Army shortly before his brother John, on 23rd November 1915.
When he enlisted in 1915 he was 18 years 146 days old and was employed as a dresser in a brass foundry. At his medical examination in the guildhall in Preston, the officer described Frank as being 5ft 3in tall with a 33.5in chest and commented that he would ‘develop quickly’. Frank had a fresh complexion with hazel coloured eyes and brown hair.
By the time Frank was mobilsed on 26th February 1917 he was now working at Horwich Loco works. On 23rd May 1917 he sailed to France to join the 1st Battalion in the field. Less than a month later, on 16th June, he was returned to Cambridge hospital in Aldershot with appendicitis and from there went to Cliff hospital in Felixstowe where he was fitted with an abdominal belt. He was then posted into the 1/12th Battalion, LNL (60th Division) and in December set sail for Egypt ready for operations in Palestine.
On 30th December 1917 the troopship HT ‘Aragon’ was torpedoed entering the port of Alexandria. A total of 380 officers and men of the Commonwealth forces were drowned as the ship sunk in less than 15 minutes. Among those killed was Frank Dunlop, and 18 other soldiers of the 12th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.
The Sinking of H.T Aragon.
The Aragon received orders in December 1918 to sail for Egypt. She took about 2,200 troops to reinforce the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in the Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire, plus about 150 military officers, 160 VADs and about 2,500 bags of Christmas mail. She and another transport, the Nile, then sailed in convoy with an escort of destroyers for Egypt.
On 23rd December they reached Windy Bay, Malta, where the two transports stayed at anchor for four or five days. There they celebrated Christmas, and according to one VAD those aboard Aragon had a “top hole” time.
Aragon and Nile then continued to Egypt with a fresh escort: the Acheron-class destroyer HMS Attack plus two Imperial Japanese Navy destroyers. The convoy weathered a gale, and off the Egyptian coast at daybreak on Sunday 30th December it divided.
The two Japanese destroyers escorted Nile to Port Said, while Attack escorted Aragon to Alexandria.
On approach to the port Attack zig-zagged ahead to search the channel for mines while Aragon waited in Alexandria Roads. The armed trawler HMT Points Castle approached Aragon flying the international flag signal “Follow me”. The troop ship did so, until Attack returned and signalled “You have no right to take orders from a trawler”.
The destroyer intercepted Points Castle and then ordered Aragon to return to sea. The troop ship obeyed and turned back to sea.
The most senior of Aragon ’s officers to survive what followed tried to make sense of the confusion:
“The only explanation that the writer can put forward is that the commander of the Attack had a warning of mines in the channel, causing him to order Aragon to disregard Points Castle ’s “Follow me”. Evidently the enemy laid mines at the appropriate time in the knowledge that the ship would be kept out and thus present a target for torpedo attack.”
Aragon and Attack were in Alexandria Roads about 8 mile or 10 miles outside the port, awaiting permission to enter, when at about 1100 hrs the German Type UC II submarine SM UC-34 torpedoed Aragon, hitting her port side aft and causing extensive damage in her almost empty number 4 hold.
H.M.S Attack Rescue Attempt
H.M.S. Attack and Points Castle came to the rescue. One account states that two trawlers were present. The VADs were ordered into the first lifeboats to be launched. Two or three of the VADs protested at being given priority and one pleaded “Let us take our chance with the Tommies” before they all obeyed orders. The VADs’ boats rescued some troops from the water and then transferred their survivors to one or two trawlers. Aragon released her life rafts but the explosion had smashed one of her lifeboats and her increasing list prevented her crew from launching some of the remainder.
Aragon ’s crew worked until they were waist deep in water to launch what boats they could.
Attack drew right alongside Aragon to take survivors aboard as quickly as possible, helped by lines cast between the two ships. The troop ship sank rapidly by the stern. More than one survivor stated that soldiers waiting on deck to be rescued started singing.
“ I have heard the chorus Keep the Home Fires Burning on many occasions but I don’t think that I have ever heard it given with so much power. ”
—A survivor, quoted in The Northern Star, 8 April 1918
About 15 minutes after the torpedo struck Aragon, her Master, Captain Bateman, gave the order from her bridge “Every man for himself”.
Those remaining aboard rushed to get over her side, and her bow rose out of the sea as soldiers swarmed down her side into the water.
One of the VADs who survived later recorded “We felt that all our friends were drowning before our eyes”. About 17 to 20 minutes after being hit Aragon went down, and she suffered a second explosion as the cold seawater reached her hot boilers. Some of her boats were left upturned in the water.
Attack was now crowded with 300 to 400 survivors: some naked, some wounded, many unconscious and dying.
Then a torpedo struck Attack amidships and blew her into two pieces, both of which sank with five to seven minutes. The explosion ruptured Attack ’s bunkers, spilling tons of thick, black bunker fuel oil into the sea as she sank. Hundreds of men were in the water, and many of them became covered in oil or overcome by its fumes. [Source: Wikipedia].
Frank Dunlop was just 20 years old when he drowned at sea and he is remembered on the Chatby Memorial in Alexandria. This memorial commemorates almost 1,000 Commonwealth servicemen who died during the First World War and have no other grave but the sea. Many of them were lost when hospital ships or transports were sunk in the Mediterranean, sailing to or from Alexandria. Others died of wounds or sickness while aboard such vessels and were buried at sea.
Alice Hoyle later took receipt of the British War Medal, Allied Victory Medal, Memorial Plaque and Scroll all bearing the name of her second son, Frank. The following notices were placed in a local newspaper.
DUNLOP – Private Frank Dunlop, L.N.L. Regiment, reported missing December 30th, 1917, now reported drowned at sea, aged 20 years.
We prayed that God would keep a watch,
And shield him from the fray,
But, alas, our hopes were blighted when,
The sad news came that day.
Oh God! how mysterious and strange Thy ways,
To take our dear loved one in the best of his days.
-From Father, Mother, Sisters and Brother.
Service No: 36886
Date of Death: 30/12/1917
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 12th Bn.
Memorial: CHATBY MEMORIAL
Horwich Loco Works Memorial
Of the 800 local locomotive workers that enlisted to fight during WW1, 120 were killed. The Horwich Loco Works Memorial was erected by their fellow workers and unveiled in August 1921 by George Hughes, chief mechanical engineer at the works.
Amongst the men remembered here is employee Private Frank Dunlop.
St George’s Church Memorial
The memorial panel in St. George’s Parish Church was erected in 1920. Both Dunlop brothers are remembered here, as is John Lewis Ratcliffe who died and rests alongside John James in France.
Paul McCormick is the creator and administrator for the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment website. Since 2010 he has been researching the soldiers that served during the First World War and sharing their stories on his website. You can contact Paul through the website 'Contact Me' page or on Twitter and Facebook.
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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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