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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 27424
10th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment
Who died on Monday, 31st October 1916
Age 28

No Known Grave. Pier & Face 9A 9B & 10B
Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", France1

John Stevenson was born in Beeston in 18882, the third child, second son of John (b. 1858, Hickling, Notts) and Elizabeth Stevenson (b. c1857, Beccles, Suffolk). John and Elizabeth had moved to Beeston in about 1886 and, for a time, John followed his father's occupation as a blacksmith but, by 1901, he had begun to earn his living as a coal deliverer and was living with his wife and family of five at 101 Wollaton Road, Beeston3. In 1909, John junior married Florence Ethel Gilderthorpe and they set up home at 13 Cross Street, Beeston, close to where John worked as a lace threader4. Their son, Henry (or Harry) was born in the following year and a second son, Cyril, was born in 1912.

As John's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted, but we do know that it was at Nottingham and probably in October 1914, with the 1/7th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment5. This battalion had been mobilised within the first few days of War being declared on 4th August 1914, one of two Battalions formed at Nottingham with men from the Territorial Force. It seems likely that John was one of the many volunteers added to the initial strength of the battalion and, training being on-going, probably did not leave for France when the battalion left in March 1915. At some point, Private Stevenson was transferred to 10th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment and was probably part of reinforcements sent to France in 1916 as part of preparations for the Somme offensive which started on July 1st 19166.

In that summer and autumn of 1916, as part of 57th Brigade, 29th Division, the battalion took part a series of Somme battles, starting with attacks at Millencourt on 2nd and 3rd of July and, later in that month, attacks on High Wood during which the battalion took heavy casualties. Towards the end of that month, the battalion suffered further heavy casualties at the Battle of Pozieres Ridge. By the time the battalion took part in the Battle of Ancre Heights, which began on October 1st, with the intention of advancing beyond the Thiepval Ridge towards Bapaume, conditions were bad, with heavy rain, thick mud and flooding. The battalion was in front line trenches near one of several places in the Somme battlefields named Crucifix Corner, during the last week of October. Private Stevenson was killed on the 30th, the day the battalion was relieved and moved to reserve trenches - although no casualties are recorded in the battalion diary on that day7.

Private Stevenson's body was never identified and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing which now stands adjacent to the Leipzig Redoubt. The memorial was unveiled on the 1st August 1932 by the then Prince of Wales and is the largest British War Memorial in the world. Standing 150 feet high, it dominates the surrounding area. The memorial stands on a concrete raft 10ft thick, built 19ft below the ground, the solution to the problems of building over the warren of tunnels that formed the German second line. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens the memorial has sixteen masonry piers, where can be found, on the panel faces, the names of some 72,000 British and 830 South African soldiers who died and have no known grave, during the period starting in July 1915, when the British Third Army took over from the French, through the Somme battles of 1916, until 20th March 1918, the eve of the last great German offensive on the Somme. The focal point of the memorial is the Stone of Remembrance, which lies under the great arch and centrally between the piers, for which Rudyard Kipling chose a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, "There name liveth forevermore".

Private Stevenson was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal8. Under the terms of his 'Soldier's Will', John's widow was paid his financial effects of 2 15s on 12 March 1917 and his War Gratuity of 8 10s on 2 October 19199. Florence married John Dabell early in 1919 and appears to have died in 1965, aged 7210.

1The photograph of the Thiepval Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q2/1888 (Ref 7b 191)
3Beeston, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 32
John's siblings were William Harry (or Henry) (b. c1884), Mabel (b. c1886), Annie (b. c1893) and Ellen (b. 1896).
4Beeston, 1911 Census, Piece 20426 RD429 SD3 ED1 Schedule 298. It is likely that he worked at Pollard's Swiss Mill which was opposite their home.
5Details of John's enlistment are derived from his entry in 'Soldiers Died in the Great War' and Medal Roll. His probably month of enlistment has been calculated from the amount of his War Gratuity.
6As there is no record of John being awarded the 1914/15 Star, it seems likely that he did not go to France before 1916. Unfortunately, no embarkation date is noted on his Medal Card. There appears to have been frequent transfers of men between the Sherwood Foresters and other regiments, including the Royal Warwickshire Regiment. For instance, the war diary of the 10th Battalion of the Warwicks, records the arrival of a draft of 300 men from 2/7th & 2/8th Sherwoods on 21 September 1916.
7This account of the battalion's involvement in the Somme battles is derived from its war diary.
8Details from Joseph's Medal Card and the Medal Roll- available on ancestry.com.
9Details from "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com.
10Their marriage was recorded in Nottingham Registration District in Q2/1919 (Ref 7b 1042). It appears that she died in Yarmouth Registration District in Q3/1965 (Ref 4b 497) and buried in a Nottingham cemetery on 2 August 1965.

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