JOHN THOMAS CANT 1882 – 1915

4/9455 Private John Thomas Cant, 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 11 June, 1915 and is buried at Potijze Burial Ground Cemetery, Belgium.[1]  He was 32 years old and is commemorated on the Kirk Merrington War Memorial.

Family Details

John Thomas was born c.1882 at Evenwood to John and Hannah Cant.  There were at least 6 children:[2]

  • Thomas bc.1882
  • William bc.1887 at Evenwood
  • Herbert bc.1889
  • Hilda bc.1893 at West Auckland
  • Lily bc.1898 at West Auckland
  • Beatrice Maude bc.18 at West Auckland

In 1891 the family lived at Darlington Road, West Auckland where John worked as a coal miner.[3]  By 1901, they lived at the 16 Oaks, Evenwood and 42 year old John worked as a coal miner (hewer), 18 year old Thomas was a coal miner (putter) and 14 year old William was a coal miner (pony driver).[4]

By 1911, the Cant family lived at 74 Dene Bridge Row, Chilton.  [5]

Thomas married Jane (nee Lowery) in 1912 [6] and had 3 children:

  • Rose Ellen born 7 April 1911
  • Lily born 14 April 1913
  • John Thomas born 12 August 1914

They lived at 15 Front Street then 21 Front Street, Kirk Merrington. [7]

Service Details

24 February 1902:  aged 19, Thomas enlisted into the Durham Light Infantry [regimental number 7782].  At that time, he was single, 5’8” tall and weighed 9st. 4lbs.  His faith was Roman Catholic.  He worked as a miner.

1 September 1914: he enlisted as a Special Reservist. [8]

His regimental number was 4/9455 which infers that he joined the 4th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry.  He was later posted to the 2/DLI (C Company).[9] 4/DLI was a Reserve Battalion, formed in Barnard Castle in August 1914, and remained in Britain throughout the war.  [10]

2/DLI came under the orders of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division and in mid-1915, it comprised the following units: [11]

  • 1st Bn, the West Yorkshire Regiment
  • 1st Bn, the East Yorkshire Regiment
  • 2nd Bn, the Sherwood Foresters
  • 2nd Bn, the DLI
  • 14th (Service) Bn, the DLI

10 September 1914:  The 6th Division landed at St. Nazaire and proceeded to the Western Front where it remained throughout the war.  It arrived in time to reinforce the BEF on the Aisne before the whole army was moved north to Flanders.

4 January 1915:  Private Thomas Cant entered France.  He was probably in the line on the night of the 31 May/1 June 1915 when the Division took over its new front in the Ypres Salient.  The Division stayed in this sector until the end of July 1916.  Even though no active operations took place, trench casualties doubled immediately.  Battle casualties during the whole period amounted to 10,938.[12]  At this time the 6th Division formed part of the 5th Corps of the Second Army and the First and Second Armies were bearing the brunt of the fighting along the British front but the coming of June 1915 brought a comparative lull along the southern British front until the middle of the month.  However a new German weapon – incendiary rifle ammunition was introduced.

“These bullets were said to be filled with sulphur which ignited on discharge and continued to burn during flight.  The clothes of soldiers lying between the lines had thus been set alight, the severity of any wound caused thereby being inevitably increased.” [13]

The 2/DLI was involved in operations at Hooge 2 June, 19 July, 30th July and 9th August.

11 June 1915: Private John Thomas Cant was killed in action together with 3/9519 Private G. Munro and 20005 Private J.R. Wilson. [14]

The Battalion War Diary provides the following detail:

“TRENCHES near POTIJZE 9.30pm 9 June to midnight 17 June

This section extended on our right fro a point 200 yds. North of the VERLORENHOEK ROAD to a point 250 yds. South of WIELTJE on our left.  Extent of front 700yds: two coys in fire trench and two in support.

Fire trench marked A7.A8. Support trench S7 S8

Held by CAPT. CODDINGTON’S Coy: CAPT. TURNER’S Coy and Lt. BEANS, CAPT. BOWERS Coy respectively.

Casualties – mostly from shell fire.  Lt. W.B. MORTIMER and 6 OR killed 45 OR wounded.”


 Potijze Burial Ground Cemetery: The cemetery is located to the north east of Ieper and the village was in Allied hands for practically the whole of the war but was subject to incessant shelling.  Potijze Chateau contained an advanced dressing station and the burial ground was used from April 1915 to October 1918. Private Thomas Cant is buried at grave reference AI.12 [15]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1891, 1901 & 1911 census

[3] 1891 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Auckland 1912 Q4

[7] Army Form

[8] Army Form B.217

[9] Soldiers Died in the Great War & CWGC



[12] A Short History of the Sixth Division – T.O. Marden p13 and 81

[13] “The Great World War – vol. III” p259 F. A. Mumby

[14] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[15] CWGC


CANT J.T. photo

CANT J.T. photo

CANT J.T. Headstone


CANT J.T. Headstone detail

Headstone detail

Kirk Merrington War Memorial

Kirk Merrington
War Memorial

Kirk Merrington War Memorial Detail

Kirk Merrington
War Memorial