Sapper 112640 John Lane

Lane John 96 392x600 Lane John head 96 400x400
Photograph courtesy of great-grandson Chris Lane.
Lane John 96 450x600
John Lanes's name on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

Killed in Action on Sunday, 21st November 1915, age 47.
Commemorated on Pier and Face 8 A and 8 D of Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

Royal Engineers, 179th Tunnelling Company.

Son of Thomas Lane; husband of the late Emily Lane
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: London, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 7th September 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/799236/

Genealogical Data

1891 Census
11 Wood Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Thomas Lane (47, Coal Miner, born Tipton), his wife Martha (39, born Tipton), and their children: John (20, Coal Miner, born Tipton), Ellen (16, Domestic, born Tipton), Luke (14, born Tipton), William (12, born Tipton), Florence (10, born Tipton), and Joseph (8, born Tipton).

1901 Census
31 Coppice Street, Tipton, Staffs.
John Lane (30, Coal Miner, born Tipton), his wife Emily (27, born Tipton), and their daughter Dora (7 months, born Tipton).

1911 Census
31 Coppice Street, Tipton, Staffs.
John Lane (41, Coal Miner - Hewer, born Tipton), his wife Emily (38, born Tipton), and their children Dora (10, School, born Tipton), Alice Maud (9, School, born Tipton), and Edwin (5, born Tipton). By 1911 they had had 10 children, 6 of whom had died.

John's wife, Emily, did not live to see the end of the war, but died in September quarter 1918, aged 45.

Personal Data

Sappers Lane and Parkes, two Tipton miners who enlisted in 1915 to become Royal Engineers Tunnellers, have received much media attention since 2010. Their story is central to the La Boisselle project, details can be found at www.laboisselleproject.com (link checked January 2019).

John Lane was a married man with 4 surviving children, and worked as a miner at Bloomsmithies Colliery. In August 1915 he enlisted with the Royal Engineers at John Norton-Griffith's office in the Houses of Parliament, to join one of the Tunnelling Companies. The Tunnellers received very little military training, so after a week at the Royal Engineer's Depot at Chatham, John was sent to France and posted to 179th Tunnelling Company.

Action resulting in his death

On 21 November 1915, John Lane was among a party of Sappers working in a shaft under the "Glory Hole" at La Boisselle. The Tunnellers had detected the sound of German miners working on a tunnel heading towards the British positions, then held by the 10th Battalion, Essex Regiment. In order to destroy the enemy gallery, a camoflet charge packed with 6,000 lbs of gun cotton was placed at the end of the British gallery and was being tamped in preparation for it to be detonated. However, the German sappers had also detected the British counter-mining activity and had prepared a camoflet of their own, which they exploded at 1.30 a.m on 22 November. Captain Henry Hance, who was the officer in charge of the shaft, wrote a report which detailed what happened when the Germans blew their charge:

"I have to report that the enemy blew a very heavy mine at 1.30am from a point in sub-Sector E3 about 50 yards North of point 120, killing, I regret to say, a Cpl. And 5 sappers of this Company, and, I am informed, 7 men of the 10th Essex Regt.

I was informed that our W shaft and galleries had been wrecked. I arrived at the spot shortly after 2am by which time the men at the top of the shaft had got out of the adit by the underground communication with X into Quemart, the adit entrance into W being closed. The man employed working the air bellows was buried, but was extricated practically unhurt. A canary was lowered down the shaft to test the ventilation and was pulled up after one minute dead. In a very short time the first of our two rescue men arrived with his apparatus, and, as soon as he had put it on, another canary was lowered and after a minute was pulled up, also dead.

One of the rescue men was lowered on a life line, but at the bottom of the shaft found two of the men, both quite dead. In the meantime, several of the party at the top of the shaft had been more or less affected by gas and on examination I found that the third canary, which had not been put down the shaft, was also dead, which explained the symptoms of those affected; gas was rising up the shaft strongly. I tested the ventilation in the shaft but found it stationary, the gas was simply rising by reason of its light specific gravity and the pressure under which it had been forced into the galleries.

It was clear that the whole mine system was full of Carbon Monoxide a most poisonous gas, and, when the explorer returned with the news that two men at the bottom of the shaft were both dead, that there was no hope for the others; they were certainly poisoned if not killed by the explosion.

It was also clear that air must be introduced into the galleries before the bodies could be recovered as, even with Proto apparatus on, laborious work in confined spaces endangers the wearers.

I sent for armoured hose to connect on to the bellows, the iron airpipes being all disconnected and, underground, probably broken up also. This has now been coupled up and I await a report on the exploration."

Sapper Lane, together with another Tipton man, 112582 Sapper Ezekial Parkes, were both entombed inside the collapsed mine workings and their bodies could not be recovered.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald Sat 1st January 1916:
Official intimation has been received of the death in action of Sapper J. Lane of the 179th Company Royal Engineers which occurred on November 21st at a place not stated. The deceased's home was at 31 Coppice Street and he leaves a widow and four children. Before enlisting he was employed by the Bloom Smithies Colliery Company.

Tipton Herald Sat 8th January 1916:
When the great call was made a year ago for practical miners for immediate service at the front, quite a batch of men volunteered from the Bloom Smithies Collieries, and amongst them was Mr J Lane (45) of 31 Coppice Street.
His wife has now received an official communication that her husband was killed in action on November 21st somewhere in France. A Princes End man and other miners were killed by a German shell on the same day (Editor: this was underground explosion, not a shell). The deceased soldier, who leaves a widow and four children, was in the 179th Company Royal Engineers. After a week at Chatham he, with other Black Country miners, was sent to the front. The deceased was respected by all who knew him. He had been, when at home, most assiduous in cultivating the piece of garden opposite his house in Coppice Street.

Tipton Herald Saturday 25th November 1916:
In Memoriam.
In loving memory of my dear husband, Sapper J. Lane, late of Tipton, who was killed in action November 21st 1915. Fondly remembered by sorrowing wife and children. We miss him most who loved him best.