JOHN SAMUEL BOTTOMLEY
Date of Death:08/11/1916
Regiment:East Lancashire Regiment
Panel Reference:Pier and Face 6 C
John's name is one of those inscribed on the memorial within St.Anne's Church.Courtesy of Mike Berrell
John Bottomley was born in Royton and was the son of John and Hannah. He married his wife Mary in 1901 and they had five children but sadly only one survived, daughter Violet who would have been 12 or 13 at the time of her fathers' death. John worked at Platt Brothers in Oldham and was living in the town when he joined up in September 1914. The unit he was assigned to,the 2nd East Lancs,had been based in South Africa at the outbreak of war but they returned to England at the end of October and landed at Le Havre on November 6th along with John. The fact he was sent so quickly to the front with a regular battalion would indicate that he was a reservist and had already served time in the army.
John would have seen action at Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 as his battalion took part in heavy fighting,suffering 287 casualties,which captured the village.There was worse to come in May of that year as they took part in the assault on Aubers Ridge which failed against strong German defences and well sited machine guns.Many of the 2nd East Lancs were killed by the British bombardment. Another Royton man, Joseph Cope, who had been with the unit for a month was amongst the many killed.
The men of the 2nd East Lancs were faced with 300 yards of no mans land to get across before they got to the German trenches. C & B Companies were to lead the assault, with D Company in immediate support. A Company was held back in reserve. Going over the top at 05:20 the Lancastrians attack was shattered pretty much instantly. The lead platoons were hit by heavy machine gun fire as soon as they emerged above the parapet with many men getting no further. Regrouping, the 3 companies charged forward again at 05:40 but were mown down by incredibly heavy fire from 8 machine guns and also rifle fire before they had got even 25 yards. The survivors crawled back, if they could, to the front trench and sap (a trench leading out into no mans land towards the enemy positions). A further artillery bombardment was requested in preparation for another attempt by the 2nd East Lancs scheduled for 07:30. In the meantime the 1st Sherwood Foresters (who had been planned to follow up behind a successful East Lancs attack) were ordered to attack across the same ground at 06:10, elements of this battalion got as far as the unbroken enemy wire but there without shelter were wiped out. One of the Sherwood Foresters in the attack, James Upton, was to win the Victoria Cross for his actions.
When the British bombardment started up again the shells were falling well short of the German lines and were instead inflicting heavy casualties on the 2nd East Lancs, the battalion's war diary stating that they were being 'annihilated by our own artillery'. The men were forced to withdraw further to escape the shellfire & there was no third attempt. At 01:00 on May 10th the shattered remnants were withdrawn from the front lines to bivouac and reorganise. The bodies of 135 men of the 2nd East Lancs lay in no man's land and in and and around the front trench. At least 325 further men were wounded. An extremely heavy toll for an attack which got no further than 25 yards. Other battalions suffered much higher casualties than that.
John is likely to have gone over the top again on July 7th during the Battle of the Somme in an attack on Contalmaison.
He met his end on November 8th 1916, presumably killed by a shell.One other man died in the battalion that day,Private Andrew McNab(5181),a 25 year old from Burnley.
By the time his death was confirmed in 1917 two younger brothers of John had been seriously injured.Robert(25),of the Lancashire Fusiliers,was being treated in hospital at Prescot and Fred(20),of the Royal Field Artillery, had been wounded in the abdomen by a shell.