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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 19159
9th Battalion York & Lancaster Regiment
Who died on Saturday, 1st July 1916
Age 30

No Known Grave. Pier & Face 14A & 14B
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 Bywater was born in Beeston in February 1886 2 and baptised at Beeston Parish Church on 13 June of that year, the son of Edward William (b. 1860, Nottingham) and Elizabeth Bywater (b. c1859, Beeston, née Lees). John was their fourth child, third son, part of a family that eventually included fifteen children, all but two surviving beyond childhood. In 1901, the family was living at 18 William Street, Beeston with both Edward William and John working as foundry workers3 - a trade that they still continued to pursue when, in 1911, the family were living at 84 Lower Regent Street, Beeston4 and, a few years later, at 18 Dagmar Grove, Beeston5. The family was well known in Beeston for many years and descendants remain in the area.

When war came in August, 1914, John was amongst the first to enlist, signing up on 12 September 1914 with the York & Lancaster Regiment and joining its 9th Battalion, formed at Pontefract in September 1914, one of nine New Army Service battalions, 22 battalions in total, raised by the Regiment at that time. After early training, he embarked with the regiment as reinforcements to the Expeditionary Force in France, arriving in Boulogne on 27 August 1915 as part of 70th Brigade 23rd Division6.

In the last days of June 1916, the Battalion was part of the preparations for what was to be the great Somme offensive against the German held Leipzig Salient. During this time, the German lines were pounded by artillery fire which was so intense at times that it was thought that the enemy defences would be so destroyed as to make the intended major attack possible. Bad weather delayed the attack intended for 28th June and the Battalion was held in an area known as Tylers Redoubt awaiting orders to move forward for the attack. On 1st July, the Battalion, consisting of 25 officers and 737 other ranks, went into action, alongside 8th Battalion and the 11th Battalion Sherwood Foresters. As they went over the top they had been told to expect little resistance and the wire destroyed. Instead, they were caught in withering fire from the enemy machine guns and much of the wire still in place, largely untouched by the bombardment. Casualties were very heavy - only 180 men had returned by the end of the first day with a further 3 officers and 180 men rejoining the next morning 7. Many, including Private Bywater were missing and were eventually declared dead.

Private Bywater's body was never found and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, which now stands adjacent to the Leipzig Redoubt. The Thiepval War Memorial to the Missing 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 Bywater was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. His mother was awarded a pension of 5s 8d ('Separation') and 3s 6d ('Allotment of Pay'). His cousin, William Henry Bywater, who was serving with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was also killed on this first day of the Somme battle. John's younger brother, Enoch, was killed in the Battle of Cambrai on 30 November 1917

1The photograph of the Thiepval Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His age was recorded as 28 yrs 210 days on 12 Sep 1914 when he enlisted (Army Service Record). This points to a birth date of about 15 February 1886.
Siblings include George Henry (b. 1881), Edward William (1883-1940), Frances Elizabeth (1884-1967), Abby (b. 1887), Clara Emma (1889-1951), Enoch (1891-1917), Hannah (1893-1900, Sarah Ellen (1894-1944), Cyril (1896-1957), Harold (b. 1896), Lucy May (1900-1911), Lois (1901-1972) and Evelyn (b. 1903)
3Beeston, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 95
4Beeston, 1911 Census, Piece 20432 RD429 SD3 ED7 Schedule 110
5This address was given as the family address in 1916 (Army Service Record). His parents continued to live here after the war.
6Details of his enlistment are included in his Army Service Record. Details of the York & Lancaster Regiment battalions are from www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/york-lancaster-regiment. They included four "Pals' Battalions", formed from groups of men from the same community which, when casualties occurred, led to the loss of large numbers from a single community.
7This account is based on the Battalion's war diary.

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