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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 107507
C Coy. 10th Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment)
Who was Killed in Action on Friday, 19th April 1918
Age 18

No Known Grave. Panel 52 to 54
Pozieres British Cemetery & Memorial to the "Missing", Ovillers-La-Boiselle, Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Pozieres British Cemetery & Memorial

Pozieres British Cemetery & Memorial

John Robert Bruce was born in Grantham, Lincolnshire in October 18992, the eldest of three children - all sons - of Robert (b. 1871, Co. Cork, Ireland) and Sarah Jane Bruce (née Beck, 1877, Grantham, Lincolnshire). Robert had joined the Lincolnshire Regiment in 1890 and had served in India and the Straits Settlements before his transfer to the Reserve in 18973. Robert and Sarah Jane married at the church in Spittlegate in 2 April 1899. In 1901, John Robert was living with his mother and two of her unmarried sisters at 12 Seaman Court in the Spittlegate area of Grantham with Sarah Jane working as a willow peeler. His father was then serving in South Africa during the Second Boer War, having been recalled from the Reserve in December 18994. Robert was discharged from the Army in August 1902 and, by about 1908, he and his family moved to Beeston, Nottinghamshire to find work at Beeston Foundry. In 1911, the family, now including all three sons, was living at 41 Villa Street, Beeston with Robert working at his job as a foundry labourer5. By 1914, they had moved to 14 Albion Street, Beeston.

When war came in August 1914, Robert volunteered almost immediately, rejoining the Lincolnshire Regiment into its Special Reserve battalion on 9th September6. John Robert was then aged 14 and, of course, several years short of the minimum age for army service. In the mean time, he started a job at Beeston Foundry as a moulder's mate but, just prior to his 18th birthday, he left there to enlist, on 9 September 1917, with the 13th Training Reserve, part of the 3rd Reserve Brigade, one of 28 such brigades, created to train young men for army service7. The then expectation would have been that, after training, he would have joined a 'Graduated Battalion' to await his 19th birthday before being sent abroad.

However, on 21st March, the German Army had launched its Spring Offensive from the Hindenburg Line with the objective of ending the war before American troops and resources could tilt the balance towards the Allies. The objective was to smash through the Allied lines, push the British forces into the sea and to cut off their supply lines by seizing the ports. During the next few weeks the enemy attacks had made worrying progress and there had been heavy casualties. By April the army was facing a desperate shortage of manpower on the Western Front and there were grave concerns that the position was critical. In the face of the resulting serious political crisis, the Military Service Act was extended to allow soldiers aged 18½ who had received six months training, to be sent overseas. This meant that John Robert was one of thousands that left for France six months earlier than they would have done under the previous regulations. After just a few days in the 51st (Graduated) Battalion, he left to join the 10th Battalion Sherwood Foresters in France on 11 April 1918 - just one day after the legislation allowed it and a few days before he was aged 18½.

On 15th April, the battalion was in the front line at Mesnil with C. Coy, to which Private Bruce was attached, holding the 'Output Line'. There was very heavy shelling, both day and night, which was followed by a heavy barrage from enemy 5.9 inch guns and trench mortars directed mainly at the C. Coy position and communications were lost when its wire was cut by shell fire. Eventually, a message was received that the Company had suffered severe casualties and that the enemy had taken two sides of Output Line, although two platoons - about 78 men - remained. Private Bruce had been amongst the many killed in this, his first front line action.8.

Having no known grave, Private Bruce is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial which commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918. The Corps and Regiments most largely represented are The Rifle Brigade with over 600 names, The Durham Light Infantry with approximately 600 names, the Machine Gun Corps with over 500, The Manchester Regiment with approximately 500 and The Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery with over 400 names. The memorial encloses Pozieres British Cemetery Plot II of which contains original burials of 1916, 1917 and 1918, carried out by fighting units and field ambulances. The remaining plots were made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields immediately surrounding the cemetery, the majority of them of soldiers who died in the Autumn of 1916 during the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme, but a few represent the fighting in August 1918. There are now 2,755 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 1,375 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 23 casualties known or believed to be buried among them9.

Private Bruce was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal10. His Army financial effects amounting to 3 16s were paid to his mother, on 2 October 1918, as the sole legatee of his soldier's will. On 29 November 1918, she also received his War Gratuity of 311.

By the time he had enlisted, the family had moved to 14 City Road, Beeston. where they continued to live until the 1930s. Robert continued to work at Beeston Foundry (which became Beeston Boiler Company), apparently up to his death in 1933, aged 63. Sarah Jane appears to have died within days of Robert, aged 56. It appears that William Edward Bruce died in the Mansfield area of Nottinghamshire in 1936. aged 32. Reginald Oliver Bruce married in 1940 in Kettering, Northamptonshire, where he died in 1988, aged 80.12.

1The photograph of the Pozieres British Cemetery & Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birthday is recorded in his father's Army Pension Record as 16 October 1899. His birth was registered in Grantham Registration District in Q4/1899 (Ref 7a 478). He was baptised at the church in Spittlegate on 1 November 1899.
3Robert's Army Pension Record which includes detail of his service in the Regular Army and in World War 1 - available on ancestry.com.
4Spittlegate, Grantham, Lincs, 1901 Census, Piece 3055 Folio 108. Robert was recalled on 28 December 1899 and served in South Africa between 4 January 1900 and 17 August 1902, when he was discharged. He was awarded the South Africa medal.
5Beeston, Notts, 1911 Census, Piece 20426 RD429 SD3 ED1 Sched 235. John Robert's siblings were William Edward (b. 1903) and Reginald Oliver (b. 1902).
The family were recorded as living at 14 Albion Street, Beeston by August 1914 in Robert's Army Pension Record.
6In WW1, Robert served variously with the 3rd and 1st Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment and the 1st Garrison Battalion Sherwood Foresters, apparently on Home duties. It was demobilised on 20 April 1919 with a total of over 16 years pensionable service.
7The dates of his attestation, transfers, etc are from his Army Service Records which is available on ancestry.com.
8This account is based on 10th Battalion's war diary - available at ancestry.com. There are several places in France which include 'Mesnil' as part of their name. This one appears to have been just north of Albert.
9This description of the Pozieres British Cemetery & Memorial is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
10Private Bruce's medal awards are recorded in the Medal Rolls and on his Medal Card, available on ancestry.com.
11Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com.
12Robert and Sarah Jane are at 14 City Road, Beeston on the 1921 Electoral Roll and they and their two remaining sons are there on the 1930 Roll. Robert's death was recorded in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q4/1933 (Ref 7b 210) Sarah Jane's death is registered in the same District and quarter (Ref 7b 214).

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