the blowing of the mine under the Hawthorn Redoubt
John Rees Butterworth was born in Royton in 1880 to parents Robert & Sarah. He was one of 7 children, his siblings being Josiah,William (also killed in action),Fred,Lizzie,Annie,Edwin & Lilly. John lived with his parents until their deaths in 1904(Robert) & 1907 (Sarah). As a 30 year old at the time of the 1911 census he was living at 3 Cambridge Street with sisters Lizzie(20)& Annie(16) and brother Edwin(13). John was a minder for the Royton Spinning Company.
John enlisted in Ashton-under-Lyne in August 1914 and although that was the HQ of the Manchester Regiment he found himself allocated to the Lancashire Fusiliers.
John arrived with the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers as part of a draft of reinforcements in January 1915, perhaps on the 26th at the same time as another Royton man who was destined later to die, Thomas Noone. The 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers had been on the Western Front , and oft in action, since August 1914. Royton man Harry Turner had already been killed whilst serving with them back in September.
From when Thomas joined them up until the end of April the lot of the unit was "the daily round,the common task", in wet and cold conditions. Incidents of note were a German attack on the night of 19th/20th February near Le Touquet which was succesfully fought off. In the same area in April a mine was put in position underneath the enemy lines opposite the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers which caused heavy casualties amongst the German troops there.
The battalion then suffered their first gas attack on May 2nd during the Second Battle of Ypres. The Germans had first used this deadly new weapon on April 22nd on nearby French troops. The attack of May 2nd resulted in many hundreds of casualties. 'Only' 14 men are listed as being killed that day but many hundreds more succumbed to the effects of the gas. John and his comrades did not have gas masks but had to try to breath through dampened material - be that a handkerchief, a cotton pad, a sock etc.
The start of the day had seen the battalion manned by 33 officers and 1070 other ranks. By the end of the day there were 8 officers and about 80 other ranks desperately trying to give the impression that the line was still held by moving up and down the front trenches firing off their rifles. They succeeded in that aim.
One of the men coming out of the line during the day wrote:
"We must have been pitiable objects, spitting, coughing and dripping wet; our faces blue with cold and the results of the gas; our clothes in a filthy condition; nearly everyone being helped along, and all shambling like old men, but still trying hard to hold our heads up, having faced the worst invention of German warfare and conquered it."
The battalion again faced a gas attack in late May but being better prepared they suffered far less casualties.
It was reported in the Oldham Chronicle after John's death that previously he had been wounded twice and also 'blown up' by a shell but not injured. The odds are quite good that one of the two incidents he was wounded in was the gas attack of May 2nd.
Between July 6th and 8th 1915 they were in action around Pilckem suffering casualties of 17 officers and 380 other ranks. The attack was planned as a distraction from other operations going on nearby but these latter plans were cancelled but the attack of the 12th Brigade (& others) wasn't. The local commanders then suggested that to carry on was futile and the attack would involve heavy casualties, they were overruled by Second Army Headquarters. The 12th Brigade's attack was launched by the 1st Rifle Brigade and the 1st Somerset Light Infantry with the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers held in reserve. The attack was succesful but they were then subject to artillery fire and three German counterattacks throughout the day. The night of the 6th/7th it was decided to withdraw the Rifle Brigade & Somerset men and replace them in the front line with the Lancashire Fusiliers and also men of the 1st Royal Warwickshire Regiment. John Rees Butterworth and his comrades had taken their places by 3am on the morning of the 7th. At midday heavy shelling began and a German counterattack which was fought off. There was another German attempt to dislodge the Lancastrians at 3pm which was again fought off. A sap - which was a small trench dug out into no mans land in the direction of the German trenches - was occupied by both British & German soldiers and a deadly fight went on with grenades. A further expected counterattack at 6pm did not materialise
and the day's battle petered out with intermittent shelling on the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers' positions. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has 63 men from the battalion being killed that day, one of them was fellow Royton man Thomas Noone.
After the fighting at Pilckem the battalion were in and out of the line for the remainder of 1915 near Auchonvillers near to the River Ancre. They were again at the Ancre in th eline near Serre in February 1916 when they were attacked by the Germans. The trenches held by the Lancashire Fusiliers were in a bad condition and instead of a cotinuous front line they manned thirteen small posts. Some were linked up, others weren't. All attempts at digging communication trenches were thwarted by a combination of German artillery and by the wet weather. For some time casualties were abnormally high due to enemy shells and trench mortar bombs. On February 19th about a hundred of the enemy were observed cutting the wire in front of their positions and this was shortly followed by an artillery bombardment on the sheltering British.After about an hour the bombardment moved onto the rear positions and the Germans attacked. Three of the battalion's posts were taken for a while before a counterattack fought the Germans off. It was thought that the raid was an attempt to capture a Lewis Gun, a weapon that had just been introduced to the British frontline units. 11 Fusiliers were dead, 32 wounded and 18 missing.
The 2nd Battalion were to go on the offensive again themselves on July 1st 1916. The bloodiest day in the history of the British Army. The opening day of the Battle of the Somme saw them as one of the battalions tasked with the capture of the heavily fortified village of Beaumont Hamel. One of it's outposts was the Hawthorn Redoubt, under which a large mine had been prepared. It was blown at 07:20 on July 1st, 10 minutes before the British infantry were to attack. This unfortunately had the effect of giving the Germans 10 minutes notice of what was to come. The 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers were one of the four infantry battalions of 12th Brigade. The 12th was to follow up behind 11th Brigade and take the second line system of German trenches some 1500 yards behind the front line with the 2nd LF being one of the two supporting battalions bringing up the rear.They were to feed men up to the leading battalions, the 2nd Essex and 2nd KORL, when and if needed. Upon reaching the final objective the battalion was to make two strong points in the new front line.
The battalion advanced from their overnight positions at 08:00-08:30 on a frontage of 250 yards and didn't suffer any casualties until about 09:00 when they came under German barrage. Up ahead the sound of rifle and machine gun fire made it clear that the 11th Infantry Brigade were not having an easy time of it. At 09:15 in view of the lack of success across the front as a whole the 12th Brigade were ordered to stand fast but as all units were on the move by that point it was impossible for the runners to reach everyone in time. The majority of the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers ended up fighting in and around a German strongpoint, the Quadrilateral, that had been seized earlier by troops of the 11th Brigade. The fighting raged to and fro in this area throughout the day and far into the night. The battalion had earlier received orders to assemble in the old British front line to act as the supporting unit to the rest of the 12th Brigade still holding the old German front line but due to the ongoing fighting it took some time to extricate everyone.
The final casualties, while not immediately apparent due to the amount of men missing, eventually totalled 72 killed and 282 wounded. John Rees Butterworth was one of those who had lost their lives. Across the whole of the battlefront that day 12 of the men from the Royton War Memorial were killed and at least one other man originally from Royton was also killed.
The others from the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers to die that day were:
HOLDEN GEORGE 22 Private 4260 from Dingle,Liverpool
METCALFE JOSEPH 19 Private 9066 from Blackrod
TIPPER ARTHUR 22 Lance Corporal 24248 from Derby
FORREST THOMAS 44 Lance Corporal 12691 from Summerseat
SAYRES HUGH WINGFIELD 27 Captain from London
ARMSTRONG CHRISTOPHER GEORGE Corporal 3996
BANKS JAMES 30 Private 24084 from Wirksworth,Derbyshire
BIBBY JOHN Private 113 from Wigan
BLACKBURN OLIVER 40 Private 14139 from Chorley
BRAY CHARLES THOMAS Corporal 4224 from London
BROWN ARTHUR GEORGE HENRY Lance Corporal 3465 from Prescot
BROWN VICTOR Corporal 23410 born Dover,lived Sheffield
CAINE PETER 22 Private 4497 from Blackburn
CAMPBELL JAMES Private 4131 born Ormskirk,enlisted Barrow-in-Furness
DAISLEY HUGH 30 Private 596 from Warrington
DICKINSON ALFRED 32 Private 95 from Wigan
DYER JOSEPH Private 3280 born Whitehaven,enlisted Preston
EDWARDS THOMAS 24 Private 2337 from Manchester
EVANS GEORGE MM Serjeant 4504 from Liverpool
FELL ROBERT 38 Private 24204 from Mansfield
FRANKLAND WILLIE 18 Private 7846 from Colne
GAMON MAURICE PARTRIDGE Captain
GASBY THOMAS Private 9069 from Liverpool
GAYGAN RICHARD Private 3564 from Salford
GOOCH FRANK 20 Private 4426 born Manchester,lived Gloucestershire
GOULDING JAMES Private 13028 from Bacup
GRIFFIN EDWARD Private 5658 born Louth,enlisted Oldham
GRUNDY JAMES FRANKLIN 26 Private 29463 from Leigh
HANDS GEORGE BERTRAM 31 Private 8438 from Birmingham
HEALEY HENRY Private 504 born Manchester,enlisted Rochdale
HELLIWELL JONAS 42 Private 5629 from Rochdale
HILL WALTER 34 Lance Corporal 8986 from Birmingham
HINE FRED Lance Corporal 3558 from Shropshire
JONES JOHN HENRY Lance Corporal 5175 born Birmingham,enlisted Pendleton
KENION HUGH CYRIL Second Lieutenant
KENNEDY EDWARD Private 6330 from Bury
KING FREDERICK ARTHUR WILLIAM 19 from Rusholme,Manchester
LEADBEATER WILLIAM 37 Corporal 4531 from Gorton,Manchester
LOVETT THOMAS Private 23018 born Devizes,lived Chelsea
MAHON JOHN 28 Private 23167 from Ashton-under-Lyne
METTAM ROBERT 42 Private 18340 from Manchester.Veteran of Sudan Campaign&Boer War
MOSS JOHN Corporal 1006 from Widnes
MURPHY WILLIAM 32 Private 9989 from Salford
MUSSON ERNEST 18 Private 24234 from Nottingham
MUTCH ERNEST Private 5282 born USA,enlisted Manchester
MacIVER REGINALD SQUAREY 24 Lieutenant from Ambleside
OGDEN ALBERT 32 Lance Corporal 13626 from Congleton
OLDHAM THOMAS 34 Private 4549 from Oldham
PAWSEY HARRY Lance Corporal 2832 born Hightown,Lancs.Enlisted Manchester
PRESTON JOHN HENRY 22 Lance Serjeant 4469 from Old Trafford
RIDING LEONARD Private 4257 enlisted Clitheroe
ROBB LUKE Private 1320 born Bolton,enlisted Bury
ROYLE ENOCH 20 Private 18073 from Hulme,Manchester
RUSSELL THOMAS HUBERT Private 3561 born Bury,lived Summerseat
SHERIDAN PETER Private 4559 from Bolton
SHERIFF THOMAS 24 Private 24245 from Chesterfield
SHUTTLEWORTH ALVIN Private 142 born Halifax,enlisted Bolton
STAUNTON THOMAS 20 Private 4447 from Liverpool
STORER GEORGE HOWARD Private 13436 born Chadderton,lived Oldham
THOMPSON GEORGE 31 Corporal 3134 born Rochdale,enlisted Bury
THORNTON ERNEST Private 17192 from Heywood
TOMKINS JAMES Private 7428 born Southport,lived Bolton
TUCKER ARTHUR 25 Lance Serjeant 3130 from Rochdale
WALKER WILLIAM Private 1876 from Bury
WATERHOUSE WILLIAM Private 13208 born Ashton-under-Lyne,lived Stalybridge
WEBSTER WILLIAM HENRY Lance Corporal 1628 from Manchester
WILLETTS JOSEPH Private 4964
WOODHOUSE ROBERT WILLIAM Private 3634 from Stacksteads,Lancs
WORTHINGTON OLIVER Private 154 from Manchester
WRIGHT ALBERT Private 18391 from Oldham
FARROW BRIAN 24 Second Lieutenant born Cleckheaton,lived Manchester
JOHN REES BUTTERWORTH
Date of Death:01/07/1916
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 3C&3D