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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 37123
2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
Who died on Tuesday, 11th October 1916
Age 32

No Known Grave. Pier & Face 3C & 3D
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 Moodie was born in Glasgow in c1884, the youngest child of eight children2 of Colin (b. 1837, Glasgow) and Jeanie Moodie (b. 1841, Glasgow, née Dempster). In the 1890s, probably in about 1895, the family had moved from Glasgow to Beeston, probably encouraged by the opening of Beeston Foundry which would have found Colin's foundry experience and that of his older sons, very useful in guiding and training its workforce. In 1901, the family was living at 6 Thyra Grove, Beeston with Colin senior employed as a foreman at Beeston Foundry, his son Colin was a pattern maker at the foundry and Robert, now a widower with a young son, was working as a moulder there. John however, now aged 17, had broken the tradition and was working as a lace draughtsman and designer - a prestige job in the lace trade3. In March 1905, Jeanie Moodie, John's mother died and it appears that John's sister, Lily Moodie, who was a self-employed dressmaker, took charge of the household. By 1911, Colin senior and junior, Lily and John remained at 6 Thyra Grove. Remarkably, Colin senior, then aged 74, was still working at the foundry. John continued to work as a lace draughtsman.4. Colin senior died in March 1912, aged 74.

John was aged about 30 when war came in August, 1914 and, at that age, there may have been less direct pressure for him to enlist. This began to change in 1915 with the 'Derby Scheme' which required men not in a reserved occupation, between the ages of 18 and 41, to make a public declaration when asked, as to the willingness to enlist. The situation changed completely in March 1916 when the Military Service Act became law. This introduced conscription and applied to all men between the ages of 19 and 41, unless in a reserved occupation. Married men and 18-year-olds were not included until May 1916. It would appear that John enlisted following, or immediately before, the passing of the Act. Although John's Army Service Record has not survived, it is known that he enlisted at Nottingham, originally with the North Staffordshire Regiment, but was soon afterwards transferred to the Lancashire Fusiliers with 2nd Battalion5.

After a period of training, John joining the battalion in France. Again, we do not have an exact date but is probably that he arrived in time to be part of the battalion's involvement, as part of 12th Brigade in 4th Division, in the Somme battle that began on July 1st 1916. It would have been a terrible introduction to trench warfare with very heavy casualties and, very soon, terrible weather and heavy mud adding to the misery. A breakthrough was finally achieved in late September but, by the time of the battalion's involvement in the Battle of Le Transloy in the first half of October, conditions on the battlefield were terrible with mud, cold and flooding combining to create conditions which tested human endurance to the limit. By 11th October, D Company, of which Private Moodie was part, was in trenches - described in a contemporary account as "a very narrow ditch dug in a hurry" - preparing to attack on the next day. In the event, Private Moodie was killed while preparing for the attack itself which, in turn, was to fail with the battalion as a whole taking heavy casualties6.

Private Moodie'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 Moodie was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal7 and his finance effects of 2 10s 8d, were shared between his four brothers and three sisters in February 1917 and his war gratuity of 3 was paid in December 1919 to the eldest, presumably on behalf of all of them8. In addition to his entry on the war memorial panels in Beeston Parish Church, he is remembered on his parent's memorial stone in Beeston Cemetery9.

1The photograph of the Thiepval Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2As he was born in Scotland, details of his birth registration are not easily available. His date of birth is therefore based on census ages and his age recorded in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records.
His siblings were Colin (b. c1863-1930), James (b. c1865) Robert (b. 1868), William (b. c1871), Lily (b. c1875), Jeanie (b. c1876) and Rebecca (b. c1880-1962)
3Beeston, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 137
4Beeston, 1911 Census, Piece 20432 RD429 SD3 ED7 Schedule 186
5The place but not the date of John's enlistment is given in "Soldiers Died in the Great War". His entry also mentions his initial attachment to the North Staffordshire Regiment, with a Service Number of 51396
6The account of 2nd Battalion's involvement on the Somme in July to October 1916 is derived from its war diary and from accounts of the individual battles at www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battles/battles-of-the-western-front-in-france-and-flanders/the-battles-of-the-somme-1916.
The "contemporary account" of the battalion's day-to-day activities, which is included with its war diary, was written, by Lieutenant Victor Francis Staples Hawkins who was about 20 in 1916. He went on to have a long military career, including both world wars. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1916 and the Distinguished Service Order in 1944. He retired with the rank of Brigadier and died in 1975.
7John's medal awards are recorded on his Medal Card, available on ancestry.com. The card has no recorded embarkation date.
8Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929, available on ancestry.com. Each sibling received 7s 3d (except one who received a penny less to balance to the total of his effects).
9The inscription on his parents' gravestone in Beeston Cemetery records their "son, killed in action in France, Oct 11th 1916, aged 32". Colin, their eldest son, and Rebecca (Frettingham), their youngest daughter, are buried with them. The gravestone can be seen here.

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