John Thompson, husband of Martha and father figure to Thomas, John and Jonah, resided in Little Crakehall, Bedale, where he worked as a blacksmith – an occupation that in December 1914, aged 44 years, led him to be specially enlisted into the Army Service Corps to serve as a farrier.
Unbeknown to his family, John’s service records reveal that in January 1915, he embarked with the British Expeditionary Force to the Western Front, being transferred to Egypt in October, and later transferred to Salonica, Greece in November.
On one occasion in 1915, when on active service, John was found to be ‘drunk, out of bounds and improperly dressed’, offences for which he received a fine of five shillings on January 1st 1916- not a good way to start the new year!
In July 1916, John was admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital, Manchester, where he received treatment for myalgia, influenza and rheumatism in his feet and reported suffering from a ‘troublesome cough’. Following discharge from hospital in August, John was deemed ‘no longer physically fit for war services’ and subsequently returned home to Little Crakehall that September.
John soon discovered that he was not the only family member to suffer in July 1916 – aged only 20, his son, John Jr, had been killed in the Battle of the Somme.
On the 10th of July 1916, John Jr, serving with the 8th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, was ordered to attack and capture Contalmaison. Advancing from Horseshoe Trench, John came under shrapnel, heavy machine gun and rifle fire, being further hindered by fully intact barbed wire, until tragically, John became another casualty of the Somme. That day, the Yorkshire Regiment captured six machine guns, one of which stands in the Green Howard’s Museum today; potentially the very gun that took John Jr’s life over 100 years ago.
John’s stepson, Thomas, served with the Durham Light Infantry until his discharge in February 1918, and his youngest son, Jonah, joined the Notts and Derby Regiment in September 1916 and served the remaining duration of the war. Unfortunately, neither service records have survived.
Jonah’s family still reside locally today.