Dowson J.G.

JOHN GEORGE DOWSON (1899 – 1918)

51598 Private John George Dowson, 1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment was killed in action 11 September 1918 and is buried in Honnechy British cemetery, France.[1]  He was 19 years old and is commemorated on the Cockfield War Memorial, the Memorial Plaque in Cockfield Methodist Church and the Roll of Honour for Cockfield Council School.

Family Details

John George was born 28 December 1898[2] in the Parish of Lynesack & Softley to Joseph and Henrietta (nee Tomes) Dowson.[3]  There were at least 4 children to this marriage, all born within the Lynesack & Softley Parish:

  • Lily bc.1897
  • John George b.1899
  • Joseph Henry bc.1904
  • Edwin bc.1906 [4]

Henrietta died in 1908 aged 30.[5]  Joseph remarried Kate (maiden name unknown) about 1908/09 and they may have had 1 child:

  • Kate bc.1908

Also Edward John Thompson aged 3 (step-son) born Dinsdale, Co. Durham was recorded on the 1911 census.[6]

In 1901, the family lived at Copley Bent and by 1911 they lived at Fell View, Cockfield.  Joseph worked as a coal miner (hewer).  John George was still at school.  [7] He attended Cockfield Church of England School then between 14 January 1907 and 20 December 1912 attended Cockfield Council School and left upon reaching 14 years old.[8]

Service Details

John George Dowson enlisted at Sunderland and joined the Northumberland Fusiliers being given the regimental number 78815 and at some time later was transferred to the 1/East Yorkshire regiment being given the regimental number 51598.[9]  He did not enter France until after 31 December 1915.[10]

At the outbreak of war, the 1/East Yorkshire Regiment came under the orders of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division and entered France 10 September 1914.  In November 1915, the battalion joined the 64th Brigade, 21st Division.[11]  Units within this division were:

  • 9th, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI)
  • 10th KOYLI disbanded February 1918
  • 1st, East Yorkshire Regiment (EYR) joined November 1915
  • 14th, Durham Light Infantry (DLI) left November 1915
  • 15th, DLI

The 21st Division saw action on the western front:

  • 1915: Loos
  • 1916: Somme (Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Le Transloy)
  • 1917: German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line, Arras (First & Third Scarpe, Bullecourt), Passchendaele (Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Passchendaele) Cambrai
  • 1918: First Battles of the Somme (St. Quentin, Bapaume) the Lys (Messines, Kemmel) Aisne, Second battles of the Somme (Albert, Second Battle of Bapaume)Battles of the Hindenburg Line (Epehy, St. Quentin Canal, Cambrai) and the Final Advance in Picardy (Selle)

Without researching Private J.G. Dowson’s service record it is impossible to know when he was transferred from the Northumberland Fusiliers to the 1/EYR and in which engagements he took part.  Private John G. Dowson died 10 September 1918 in action which followed the Second Battle of Bapaume, 31 August to 3 September 1918 and prior to the Battle of Epehy which commenced 18 September.  These were major battles in which the 21st Division was involved.  It is clear that the advance of the Allied forces was a bloody affair and stout resistance was experienced throughout the battlefields.  Fighting which took place 9 and 10 September 1918 appears not to have been given any official recognition as a battle but nevertheless was an engagement in which many lives were lost.

The movements of the 1/EYR [12] and 15/DLI [13]are recorded as follows:

7 September: 1/EYR arrived at Sorel le Grand.  15/DLI moved up east of Manancourt.

8 September: 1/EYR rested during the morning.  A message was received that 1/EYR may be placed at the disposal of 62nd Brigade.  15/DLI assembled for an attack on Chapel Hill and 9/KOYLI to attack Lowland Ridge.  1/EYR held in reserve.

9 September: attack made by 15/DLI and 9/KOYLI.  By noon, Chapel Hill was not taken.  At 2.45pm “B” and “C” Companies, 1/EYR were ordered to take up a position as “counter attack reserve.”  Chapel Hill was defended by a redoubt and 15/DLI came under heavy machine gun fire which made further progress impossible for a while.  In the evening the trench was taken but a German counter attack forced 15/DLI to withdraw. By 10.30pm 1/EYR assembled as follows – battalion HQ at position W.15.b.69, “A” and “B” Companies were in the sunken road at W.9.b & d, “C” Company was in trench W.9.b.83 to W.9.b.central and “D” Company was in the road about W.9.d.79.

10 September:  4am, barrage commenced.  “B” Company on the right, “C” Company in the centre and “D” Company on the left.

“At 9.00am – The companies owing to the darkness were unable to go into the exact positions…and had concentrated more to the left when forming up for the attack…unable to start at Zero (5.15am).  The right Coy started at 5.30am.  From verbal reports received it is evident that the attack went in a northerly direction rather than a N.E. one.  The enemy had apparently anticipated a further attack on his position and was fully prepared to meet it.  The right Coy met with very heavy M.G. fire from its right flank and as they had lost the barrage had to withdraw.  From further verbal reports it appears that the left Coy went too much to its left and the enemy counter attacked and apparently captured about 20 of them.”

Later dispositions: “C” Coy on the left; “D” Coy on “C” Coys right; then 9/KOYLI along Lowland trench; “B” Coy 1/EYR then 15/DLI to its right along Cavalry Support Trench with “A” Coy in reserve.

1/EYR casualties:

  • Killed: 1 officer and 5 other ranks
  • Wounded: 2 officers and 36 other ranks
  • Missing: 4 officers and 138 other ranks

At night 15/DLI was relieved.  Its casualties amounted to 7 officers and 250 men (dead, wounded and missing). [14]

11 September: 1/EYR rested and re-organised.

Later research records that:

  • 1/EYR lost 51 other ranks killed 10 September and 3 other ranks died 11 September including Private J.G. Dowson.
  • 15/DLI lost 1 officer and 19 other ranks on the 9 September and 21 other ranks on the 10 September.
  • 9/KOYLI lost 2 officers and 22 other ranks, killed in action or died of wounds. [15]

Private J.G. Dowson was awarded the British War and Victory medals. [16]

News of J.G. Dowson

24 October 1918: The Auckland & County Chronicle:

“Missing: Mr. Joseph Dowson, Cockfield has received official news

that his son Pte. J.G. Dowson, East Yorks. Regiment is posted as missing.”


Private J.G. Dowson is buried at grave reference I.A.22, Honnechy British Cemetery, Nord, France.  There are 450 burials here, many of which were re-interred following concentration of graves from smaller cemeteries or individual battlefield burials.  [17]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] Cockfield Council School Admissions Register& England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.109 Auckland Q1 1899

[3] 1901 census & England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.109 Auckland Q3 1896

[4] 1911 census – assumption

[5] England & Wales Death Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.58 Sedgefield Q2 1908

[6] 1911 census

[7] 1901 & 1911 census

[8] Cockfield Council School Admissions Register

[9] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[10] Medal Roll card index


[12] 1st Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment War Diary 1 – 13 September 1918

[13] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18” Capt. W. Miles 1920 p.324 – 325.

[14] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18” Capt. W. Miles 1920 p.324 – 325.

[15] Officers & Soldiers and Officers Died in the Great War

[16] Medal Roll card index

[17] CWGC


DOWSON J.G. Headstone


One thought on “Dowson J.G.

  1. Pingback: COCKFIELD | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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