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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private G84232
2nd Battalion The Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
Who Died of Wounds on Tuesday, 27th August 1918
Age 18

Plot VIII Row A Grave 42
Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Daours Communal Cemetery Extension

Daours Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France1

John Edgar Spencer was born in Beeston, Nottinghamshire in 19002, the youngest of two surviving children of John (b. 1861, Cropwell Bishop, Notts) and Elizabeth Spencer (b. 1864, Hucknall Torkard, Notts née Truman)3. John senior was a butcher and he and his wife had lived in the Manchester area early in their marriage but, by 1897, they had moved to Beeston where John Edgar and his sister Emily were born, In 1901, the family was living at 62 City Road, Beeston from where John senior was trading as a self-employed butcher4. By 1911, the family had moved to 41 Dovecote Lane, Beeston5 although John senior was absent on the night of the census. John Edgar, aged 11, was still at school but, a few years later he is known to have started work at Ericsson Telephones6.

From 1916 onwards, conscription into the armed forces had become compulsory for all single men when reaching the age of 18, and they would then be eligible to be sent abroad on reaching age 19. Accordingly, John Edgar would have enlisted in the first few months of 1918. 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, by April, 1918 the army was facing a desperate shortage of manpower on the Western Front and there were grave concerns that, following the German Spring Offensive, the position was critical. In the face of the resulting serious political crisis, the Military Service Act was extended to allow soldiers aged 18 who had received six months training, to be sent overseas. It therefore seems likely that, after his six months training and having reached the age of 18, Private Spencer was posted to 2nd Battalion London Regiment and joined it in France in July or August 19187.

On 26th August 1918 the battalion relieved 1st Battalion London Regiment to take over front line positions near Boiry, north of Bapaume, as part of the Second Battle of Bapaume which had began on 21st August. This was a further phase of the Battle of Amiens, the British and Commonwealth attack that was to become the turning point of the First World War on the Western Front and the beginning of the Allies' Hundred Days Offensive. But this was the early stages and there was still much fighting to be faced starting with a big offensive which was scheduled for the 27th. During the advance on the 27th, the raiding parties came under intense enemy machine-gun fire resulting in 43 casualties. It seems likely that Private Spencer was one of that number and was amongst a group who remained wounded in No Mans Land before being collected by a party led by 2nd Lieutenant Merrikin - who was unfortunately killed while carrying out this humane task8. As a wounded man, Private would have been passed through the medical evacuation chain to a Casualty Clearing Station behind the line - probably, in this case, by light railway, to a CCS at or near Daours, in the Department of the Somme, about 10 kilometres east of Amiens and north-west of Villers-Bretonneux. There, despite every effort, he died and was buried in the nearby Daours Communal Cemetery Extension.

The preparations for the Somme offensive of July 1916 had first brought a group of casualty clearing stations (the 1st/1st South Midland, 21st, 34th, 45th and Lucknow, section "B") to Daours. The extension to the communal cemetery was opened and the first burials made in Plots I, II, Row A of Plot III and the Indian plot, between June and November 1916. The Allied advance in the spring of 1917 took the hospitals with it, and no further burials were made in the cemetery until April 1918, when the Germans recovered the ground they had lost. From April to the middle of August 1918, the extension was almost a front line cemetery. In August and September 1918, the casualty clearing stations came forward again (the 5th, 37th, 41st, 53rd, 55th and 61st) but in September, the cemetery was closed. There are now 1,231 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Daours Communal Cemetery Extension.9.

Private Spencer was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal10. His financial effects of 4 18s 4d together with his War Gratuity of 3 were paid to his mother, Elizabeth Spencer, on 15 November 192011. By this time, she had moved to live at 11 Queens Road, Beeston and was still living there, without her husband, in 1921. In 1925, her daughter Emily Mary, married Richard James Owen in London but died in 1932, aged 35. In 1939, Elizabeth was living alone at 11 Fellows Road, Beeston but had moved to 22 Clifton Street, Beeston by the time of her death in April 1943. All of her three children had pre-deceased her12.

John Edgar and his brother John Harry Spencer are remembered on their sister's memorial stone in Beeston Cemetery13.

1The photograph of Daours Communal Cemetery Extension is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q1/1900 (Ref 7b 235). His mother's maiden name was declared as 'Wilkinson'. her mother's later married name.
3John Spencer and Elizabeth Truman were married at St Saviour Church, Nottingham on 30 November 1885. Elizabeth was born in Hucknall Torkard, Notts on 28 October 1862, the daughter of Emily Truman who later married George Wilkinson, the brother of Francis Wilkinson, the lace manufacturer.
4Beeston, Notts: 1901 Census, Piece 3152 Folio 115. John Edgar is then recorded as 'Harry'.
5Beeston, Notts: 1911 Census, Piece 20432 RD429 SD3 ED7 Schedule 319. John Edgar's only surviving sibling was Emily Mary (1897-1932). A younger brother had died, aged 15 months, in 1887.
6An account of a trial in November 1917, regarding the theft of magnetos from Mitchell's Boat Yard at Beeston, described him as a 'telephone hand' (Nottingham Evening Post - 7 November 1917).
7His Army Service Record has not survived. Notes in his Medal Roll entry indicate that he first joined 19th Battalion Middlesex Regiment (Service Number 97292)
8Details of the battalion's deployment on 26-27th August are from the battalion war diary.
9This description of the Daours Communal Cemetery Extension is based on that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
10Details from John Edgar's Medal Roll entry - available on ancestry.com.
11Details from his entry in the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929 - available on ancestry.com.
12Details of the family in the post-war period are derived from standard genealogical sources, including Probate Calendars, Electoral Rolls and the 1939 Registration.
13The memorial stone may be viewed here.

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