Lance Bombardier 79120 Jack Butler, MM

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Photographs of Jack Butler courtesy John Phillips. Photograph on right taken after November 1917 when Jack was promoted to Lance Bombadier.

Killed in Action on Friday, 29th March 1918, age 22.
Commemorated on Bay 1 of Arras Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.

Royal Field Artillery, 29th Brigade.

Son of Mrs Emily Butler, of The Cottage, New Cross Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Accrington, Enlisted: Wolverhampton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 28th June 1915.
Medal entitlement: Military Medal, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/743279/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
3 Court 6 House Church Lane, Tipton, Staffs.
William Frederick Butler (40, Coachman at Ironworks, born Birmingham), his wife Emily (39, born Sandhurst), and their 3 children: Nellie (7, born Halifax), Jack (5, born Accrington), and William (10 months, born Rawtenstall).

1911 Census
26 Waterloo Street, Tipton, Staffs.
William Butler (49, Coachman for Physician, born Birmingham), his wife Emily (48, born Sandhurst), and their 4 children: Dorothy Ellen (17, worked at Palethorpe's, born Halifax), Jack (15, Fitter at Lee Howls, born Accrington), William (10, born Rawtenstall), and Ernest (4, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Jack attested for the Royal Field Artillery on 12th August 1914 at Wolverhampton. He was 18½ years of age, 5 ft 6¼ inches tall, weighed 113lbs with a 35-inch chest; his occupation was given as Turner. He had a sallow complexion, grey eyes and dark brown hair, with good physical development. His religion was stated as Church of England.

Jack arrived in France on 28th June 1915, and was posted to 4th Division 'Divisional Ammunition Column'. On 12th July 1916 he was posted to 126th Battery of 29th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, still attached to 4th Division. He was granted leave to the UK from 9th August to 19th August 1917.

Jack was awarded the Military Medal in October 1917, this was reported in the London Gazette on 23rd February 1918. Possibly as a consequence of this award, he was promoted to Lance Bombardier on the 5th November 1917.

After Jack's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £15/9/11d (15 pounds, 9 shillings and 11 pence); this was paid to his father, William F., in June 1918. His War Gratuity was £17/0/0d (17 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in November 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Jack had enlisted in August 1914.

Action resulting in his death

The Germans launched their 'Spring Offensive' on 21st March 1918, and the 4th Division were in the Arras sector, a report is given below. On the 28th March, Jack was in charge of the Signallers maintaining the telephone cables to the guns and was killed by shellfire. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the on the Arras Memorial.

Jack's father was asked if he wanted the Military Medal to be delivered by post or presented publicly. He opted for the latter, and the Military Medal was presented to his father on 31st July 1918 at Leicester.

In June 1920, Jack's father asked Imperial War Graves Commission for location of Jack's grave, and was informed that this information was 'not to hand', it never was as his grave was never identified.

Battle record of the 4th Division during Jack Butler's service.
The Battle of Le Transloy, a phase of the Battle of the Somme

The First Battle of the Scarpe, part of the Battle of Arras
The Third Battle of the Scarpe, part of the Battle of Arras
The Battle of Polygon Wood, part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres
The Battle of Broodseinde, part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres
The Battle of Poelcapelle, part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres
The First Battle of Passchendaele, part of the 3rd Battle of Ypres

The German Spring Offensive, specifically the 1st Battle of Arras, 1918
The First Battle of Arras, 1918: 28 March - a British defensive victory

In the days following 21 March a great mass of German heavy artillery was transferred northwards to the Arras front. There, as part of the long-planned 'Mars' offensive, the task of the 'battering train' would be to blast a path through well-established British defences either side the river Scarpe and rekindle the forward momentum of the German 17th and 2nd Armies.

Twenty-nine German divisions were eventually assembled on a 33-mile front from the Somme to Arleux for a general attack on British Third Army positions; but with Arras as the principal objective, the major breakthrough assault was planned against British forces defending the city on a 10-mile front between Authuille and Oppy. Aware of an imminent attack all possible defensive preparations had made been made.

At 3.00am on Thursday 28 March the early morning stillness was shattered by the chaotic din of a terrific German bombardment. Shortly after 7.00am German infantry attacked. Unaided by fog and, in places, going forward in mass formations, they met with devastating fire from British artillery and well-sited machine guns.

South of the Scarpe German infiltrations via communication trenches forced 3rd and 15th Divisions back from their front lines by 8.30am; gradual withdrawals were made to the rear of the Battle Zone; despite great pressure no effective breakthroughs were made. The greatest German efforts were made north of the Scarpe: attacking across difficult ground enemy infantry successfully progressed up the valley between 4th and 56th Division positions forcing British fighting withdrawals to the Battle Zone; despite repeated attacks the line held.

Note regarding 'valley' between 4th and 56th Division positions.
'The boundary between the 4th and 56th Divisions ran in a shallow valley, where the trenches were in swampy ground and badly overlooked. They had been filled in for a length of three hundred yards with loose barbed wire, the gap being flanked by strongpoints and guarded by support trenches. The bombardment had wrecked the posts, and so the attackers were able to force their way up this valley, thus turning the inner flanks of the two divisions. Only at two other points did the enemy make even a small entry into the defences beyond the front line.' ('Military Operations. France and Belgium, 1918').

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald December 22nd 1917
Young Tipton Soldier wins Military Medal.
Gunner Jack Butler, R.F.A., eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Butler, of The Cottage, New Cross Street, Tipton Green, has been awarded the Military Medal for gallant conduct in the field.
The ribbon attached to the medal has been bestowed upon the gallant young gunner in France, and he received the following, inscribed on the customary illuminated card: "The Major-General commanding the 4th Division has received a report of the gallant conduct of Gunner Jack Butler, 126th Battery, R.F.A., and he wishes to congratulate him on his fine behaviour, 22nd October 1917."
Gunner Butler, at the age of 18, tried to enlist on the day that war broke out, but had to wait until the next day, at Wolverhampton, and he has been in the firing line since May 1915. He has, so far, escaped any wounds, although he has been in all the principal engagements. He was only 21 in February last. Before joining the army he was employed by Messrs. Harper and Bean, at Dudley. His father is coachman to Dr. Harold Brown.

Tipton Herald April 6th 1918
Tipton Bombardier
Killed in Action in the great attack.
A well-known young Tipton man in Bombardier Jack Butler of the 126th Battery of the Royal Field Artillery was killed on Good Friday in the great attack.
The following letter has been received by the sister of the deceased young soldier from the Major in command of the Battery:-
"Dear Miss Butler, I have to inform you, with deep regret, that your brother, Bombardier Butler, was killed this afternoon. We have lost a very gallant man and a good soldier by his death, and the whole battery grieves at his loss. He was killed instantaneously by shellfire. Lately he has been in charge of the signallers of this battery, and won the Military Medal in France last October for very gallant conduct. If he had lived he would undoubtedly have got the bar for the fierce work of yesterday and today. When he was killed he was engaged in laying a telegraph wire to the forward trenches. Yesterday he did splendid work in maintaining the line under heavy shellfire. It was principally due to his work that we were able to kill large numbers of Germans attacking.
His personal effects have been sent off today. He will be buried tomorrow.
If I can send you any other information about your brother I will do my best.
Please accept my deepest sympathy.
Yours Truly,
R Staveley, Major
126 Battery, RFA."

Tipton Herald April 13th 1918
Roll of Honour
BUTLER. Killed in France, March 29th, Bombardier Jack Butler, M.M., eldest son of William & Emily Butler, "The Cottage," New Cross Street, Tipton; age 22. Dearly loved, deeply mourned.
BUTLER. To the memory of our dear brother, Bombardier Jack Butler, M.M., killed March 29th 1918, while serving in France. Never to be forgotten by his sister Nell, and brothers Bill & Ernie. Deeply mourned.

Tipton Herald July 6th 1918
The MM awarded to the late Gunner Jack Butler (New Cross St, Tipton) is to be sent to Tipton for presentation to his father.

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