Lance Corporal 17655 Joseph Thornes

Thornes Joseph 96 401x600

Died of Wounds on Friday, 17th November 1916, age 18.
Buried in Grave V. B. 7. at Couin British Cemetery, Pas De Calais, France.

2nd Bn., South Staffordshire Regiment. 6th Brigade of 2nd Division.

Son of Mrs A. Thornes, of 93, Holloway Rd., Wednesbury Bridge, Wednesbury.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Unknown.

First landed France & Flanders, 10th October 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/175262/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Joseph Thornes registered March quarter 1898 in Dudley.

1901 Census
3 back of 166 Great Bridge Street, Greets Green, West Bromwich, Staffs.
William Thornes (31, Iron Puddler, born West Bromwich), his wife Ann (30, born Smethwick), and their 5 children: Virginia C. (9, born West Bromwich), Elizabeth (7, born West Bromwich), Annie (5, born West Bromwich), Joseph (3, born Tipton), and Emily (10 months, born Tipton).

1911 Census
4 Court 4 House, Providence Street, Tipton, Staffs.
William Thornes (40, Puddler, born West Bromwich), his wife Annie (39, born Tipton), and 4 of their 7 surviving children of 9: Joseph (13, born Tipton), William (8, born Tipton), Samuel (6, born Tipton), and Louisa (1, born Tipton).

Personal Data

None Available.

Action resulting in his death

It is probable that Joseph Thornes was wounded during the attack on Serre on 13th to 15th November 1915, which claimed the lives of 4 other Tipton men (Day, Fellows, Perry, and Tibbs). Joseph is buried in Couin British Cemetery, about 8 miles north west of Serre. Couin was used by Field Ambulances during the Battle of the Somme.

Between the 13th and 15th November, 56 men of the 2nd South Staffs were killed, of these 4 were from Tipton: Joseph Fellows and Joseph Perry on the 13th, and William Day and William Tibbs on the 15th. Day and Tibbs are buried in Serre Road No. 2 Cemetery, whilst Fellows and Perry have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

For anyone wanting more detail, the actions of the day are well covered by an extract from the 2nd South Staffs War Diary, and then a quote from Andrew Riddoch and John Kemp's superb book "When the Whistle Blows" about the Footballer's Battalions.

2nd South Staffs War Diary: 12th - 15th November 1916
12th. The Battalion moved into assembly trenches South of SERRE and during the night formed up for attack. There was practically no hostile shelling and no casualties occurred during the process of forming up.

13th. The Battalion successfully crossed the German front line and assaulted the second line wire, which was practically uncut. The battalions from the left divisions came across our front breaking up our formations. Reorganisation was rendered difficult by the bluey mist. Casualties among officers and other ranks were very heavy. Among others two company commanders are missing - one known to be wounded, two subalterns are missing and believed killed, several other subalterns were wounded; the four Company Sergeant Majors were wounded, C.S.M. Cox remained on duty till the battalion was relieved. The Chaplain joined Battalion H.Q. and acted as dresser. The old defensive lines in MONK and LEGEND were reoccupied.

14th November.
A shell burst in a small dugout close to Battalion H.Q. killing 2/Lt. Brooks and wounding two other officers.
Several casualties occurred in the trenches. On the night 13th/14th many casualties were evacuated from the dugouts in MONK and DELAUNAY. On the night of the 14th the Medical Officer was withdrawn from his aid-post in WOLF to Battalion H.Q.

15th November.
4th Royal Fusiliers relieved the Battalion. The bulk of the Battalion went back to ELLIS SQUARE at 9.30 a.m. but the detachments in MONK were not relieved until 10 p.m. owing to a heavy barrage of that trench.
The Battalion was taken back to MAILLY MAILLET during the afternoon by Major Wilson. Battalion H.Q. reached MAILLY at 11.30 p.m.

From Andrew Riddoch and John Kemp's superb book "When the Whistle Blows".
In October and November 1916 an attack was to take place south of Gommecourt by Gough's Reserve Army (which became the 5th Army) to which the 2nd Division had been transferred; the 2nd Division's role was to take the Redan Ridge. In October training took place in Puchevillers, with a small-scale model of the Redan Ridge being constructed to help assimilate the ground conditions.
From the middle of October weather conditions deteriorated and mud made even basic survival a trial. The attack was postponed a number of times due to the weather.
The Germans, aware of the impending attack, bombarded the front line, destroying whole sections. Much of the remaining trench was knee-deep in mud and water. The attack was set for 5.45am on the 13th November, thick fog settled round Serre on the night preceding the attack. No man's land was also in a terrible state.
Advancing through thick fog, by 6.15am the first waves of the 2nd South Staffs had taken the German front line. A few casualties were taken, largely as the left hand company had advanced too close to the British barrage. Advancing on, the 2nd South Staffs found the wire virtually uncut in front of the German support line. Confusion over direction and mixed-up battalions, plus of course the mud, caused the 2nd South Staffs to lose the barrage. Once the barrage had passed, the Germans emerged from the safety of their dugouts. Machine Gun fire from Serre and the Quadrilateral now started to give many casualties, and the German artillery was now putting down a heavy barrage.
The fog began to lift giving the German machine gunners the visibility to do their worst, taking many men in enfilade, others were captured by German troops. Others began to fall back to the British front line, numbers were such that a composite battalion of 2nd South Staffs and 17th Middlesex was formed. The objective for the rest of 13th November was to be to repel German counter attacks - these did not arise but the German artillery was busy for the remainder of the day. Ultimately the day was a costly failure for the 2nd South Staffs. Further south, at Beaumont Hamel, Beaucourt and south of the Ancre, the objectives had been won.
The morning of the 14th November was misty, but enemy artillery was still active, this was the dominant feature of the day. On the 15th, the 2nd South Staffs was relieved and "marched" back to Mailly Maillet.

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