Featherstone J.R.

JONATHAN RALPH FEATHERSTONE (1881 – 1917)

14017 Private Jonathan Ralph Featherstone, 10th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry died of pneumonia 28 February 1917 and is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery, France.[1]  He was 35 years old and is commemorated on the Etherley War Memorial and the Roll of Honour in St. Cuthbert’s Church, Etherley.

Jonathan’s younger brother, Wallace died of wounds 1 March 1917 and is buried at Gommecourt British Cemetery No2 Hebuterne, France.[2]

Family Details:

Jonathan Ralph Featherstone was born 1881[3] the son of Wallace and Margaret Featherstone.  There were at least 8 children:

  • Jonathan bc.1881 at Morley
  • Wallace born.1882 at Morley
  • Jonah bc.1885 at Morley
  • Herbert bc.1887 at Morley
  • Grieveson bc.1891 at Morley
  • Florence bc.1893 at Morley
  • Bryan bc.1898 at Evenwood
  • Albert bc.1900 at Lands

In 1901, the family lived at Lands Bank.  41 year old Wallace and 20 year old Jonathan worked as coal miners.[4]

By 1911, the family lived at Rowntree, Morley.  Wallace and Margaret had been married for 30 years and he worked as a farmer/coal miner (a hewer).  His sons, Wallace, Jonah, Herbert and Grieveson were all coal miners (hewers).  Florence aged 18 had no occupation recorded so probably helped her mother at home.  Bryan aged 12 and Albert aged 11 would still be at school.

Jonathan is not mentioned in the 1911 family details so is assumed to live elsewhere.[5]  To date, he has not been traced.

Jonathan’s father died 19 May 1916, his sister Florence 29 May 1916 and his brother Albert died 21 June 1918.  Jonathan’s mother, Margaret died 23 May 1920.  At this time the family lived at Cox House Farm, Windmill near Morley.[6]

Military Details:

Jonathan Ralph Featherstone enlisted under the name Ralph Featherstone 31 August 1914 at Bishop Auckland.  He was posted to the 10th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry being given the regimental number 14017.  He was 34 years 1 month old and worked as a coal miner.[7]  He stood 5ft.7” tall, had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair.  His religion was Church of England.[8] He underwent a medical examination on that day and was considered fit for the Army.[9]

22 August 1914: The 10th (Service) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry was formed as part of K1, Kitchener’s New Army and came under the orders of the 43rd Brigade, 14th (Light) Division.  [10]   Other battalions in the brigade were:

  • 6th Somerset Light Infantry
  • 6th Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
  • 6th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

The Division landed in France 21 May 1915 and served on the Western Front throughout the war.  Until the death of Private R. Featherstone, the Division saw action at the following engagements:

  • 30 July 1915: Action at Hooge
  • 25 – 26 September: Second Attack on Bellewaarde
  • Then at the Battle of the Somme:
  • 15 July – 3 September 1916: Battle of Delville Wood
  • 15 – 22 September 1916: Battle of Flers-Courcelette. [11]

Private R. Featherstone embarked for France 6 July 1915.[12]

The 10/DLI served in Belgium from 25 May 1915 – March 1916.  The 14th Division held the line across the Menin Road to the east of Ypres.  [13]

16 June 1915: the 42nd Brigade 14th Division supported the 3rd Division attack towards the village of Hooge, south of Bellewaarde Lake.  The German 2nd line was reached but the attack fell away due to heavy casualties caused by heavy German shellfire.  Two further attacks were made in the area of Railway Wood but broke down under enemy fire.

30 July 1915:  41st Brigade, 14th Division held the front of the Hooge Crater which had been blown by the Germans.  At 3.15am on the night of the 29/30 the site of the stables and the Hooge Chateau were blown by a mine and the British were attacked with liquid fire (Flammenwerfer) and some trenches were lost.  The 41st and 42nd Brigades failed in their attempt to recapture lost ground.  Three battalions of the 43rd Brigade, including the 10/DLI relieved the 41st Brigade which had suffered many casualties.

By October 1915, casualties suffered by the 10/DLI amounted to 25 officers and 586 other ranks.  Drafts from England reinforced its strength to 1000.  The 10/DLI remained in Belgium over the winter and into 1916.

26 January 1916: Pte. R. Featherstone suffered a wound, injury or illness because he attended 50 Casualty Clearance Station. He was back on duty 4 February 1916.  It was probably illness because the battalion was stationed at St. Jan-ter-Biezen which was behind the lines.

12 February 1916: the 20th Division relieved the 14th Division in the Boesinghe sector of the Ypres Salient and a German attack broke into the British front line.  Units were always vulnerable during such a manoeuvre as the trenches were particularly crowded.  However the counter-attack ejected the Germans from the British trenches.

2 – 14 March 1916: The British Third Army relieved the French Tenth Army in the Vimy Ridge – Gommecourt sector.  Throughout the summer until August 1916, the 10/DLI occupied support positions at Agny and Achicourt, to the south of Arras.

7 August 1916: 10/DLI moved by train to the Somme – Mericourt.  From there the battalion occupied positions at:

  • 8 August: Dernancourt,
  • 12 August: Pommiers Redoubt
  • 12 August: Delville Wood
  • 20 August: Fricourt
  • 25 August: Delville Wood
  • 27 August: Fricourt
  • 31 August: Hornoy

29 August: Pte. R. Featherstone suffered a gun shot wound to the right hand and right leg.  He was admitted to 9 General Hospital at Rouen. [14]

27 October: he was moved to 12 General Hospital, Etaples.[15]

A first-hand account of this first spell on the Somme is given below:

“It was on 8 August that our battalion had arrived at Happy Valley and our first spell in Delville Wood began 5 days later.  When after a brief rest the 10th Durhams returned there they found that Edge Trench, on the northern verge of the wood, was still partly in the hands of the enemy.  It was my own comrades in the bombers who bore the brunt of clearing them out, for they not only seized Edge Trench but pushed along the old German communication trenches.  It was in this action that we first came up against the German stick-grenades, a weapon which struck us as being more effective that our own Mills bombs.  We called them potato mashers which they resembled in appearance.  All this was at heavy cost of no less than 6 officers and 203 men, among them our much-beloved bombing officer, Captain Pumphrey, who lost a leg.”[16]

Private R. Featherstone was wounded whilst serving in this sector during this time.  It must have been a serious wound because it he was not discharged until almost 5 months later, 6 January 1917.  It is difficult to be precise due to the poor quality of the record sheet.

Whilst Private R. Featherstone was recovering in hospital, 10/DLI took part in a most severe offensive, 16 September 1916, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.

When Private R. Featherstone returned to his battalion, the 10/DLI was posted at Arras (Cavalry Barracks).

25 February 1917: Private R. Featherstone contracted a fever.  He was attending Machine Gun School when taken ill and admitted to 20 General Hospital, Camiers, being described as “dangerously ill”.  A message was sent to his next of kin 26 February indicating that he could be visited at public expense.  A telegram was sent from York to Mrs. W. Featherstone, Cox House Farm, Morley, Bishop Auckland, part of which reads:

“Report 14017 Pte. R. Featherstone 10th Durham Light Infantry dangerously ill.  Fever uncertain origin.  He may be visited in 20 General Hospital Camiers France”

The rest of the message is difficult to decipher. It was confirmed that the family would like 2 passes and they were sent 27 February.  A Post Office Telegraphs message then confirms that Pte. R. Featherstone died 28 February of pneumonia.  A note on the telegram indicates that:

“Next of Kin Embarking Folkestone 1/3/1917”

It is possible that the 2 members of the Featherstone family visited hospital in France to find that Ralph had died.

28 March 1917: Private R. Featherstone died from pneumonia at 20 General Hospital Etaples.[17]

Private R. Featherstone served a total of 2 years 182 days:[18]

  • Home: 31 August 1914 – 5 July 1915…………………….309 days
  • France: 6 July 1915 – 28 February 1917………..1 year238 days

Private R. Featherstone was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[19]

Burial

Private R. Featherstone is buried at grave reference XXI.J.1 Etaples Military Cemetery, France.  The area around Etaples was the site of many Commonwealth reinforcement camps and hospitals.  It was remote from attack, except from aircraft and accessible by railway from the northern and southern battlefields.  In 1917, 100,000 troops were camped among the sand dunes and the hospitals, 11 General and 1 Stationary, 4 Red Cross and a convalescent depot could deal with 22,000 wounded or sick.  The cemetery contains 10,771 Commonwealth burials, 35 are unidentified.

References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] CWGC

[3] England & Wales 1837-1915 Birth Index Vol.10a p.232 Auckland 1881 Q1

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] Headstone in St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard, Etherley

[7] Army Form B.2065

[8] Description on Enlistment

[9] Certificate of Medical Examination

[10] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[11] www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm & http://www.1914-1918.net/14div.ht,

[12] Medal Roll card index

[13] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-1918: the Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry” Capt. W. Miles 1920 varoius pages

[14] Medical History Sheet

[15] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form-Active Service

[16] “Into Battle – a 17 year old joins Kitchener’s Army” E. Parker 1964   an account of service with the 10/DLI is provided by Ernest Parker.  It is the only first-hand account of a serving DLI soldier in WW1.

[17] Army Form B.2090A

[18] Military History Sheet

[19] Medal Roll card index

Photographs:

ETAPLES CEMETERY

ETAPLES CEMETERY

FEATHERSTONE R. Headstone

FEATHERSTONE R.
Headstone

Featherstone Family Headstone Etherley cemetery

Featherstone Family
Headstone
Etherley cemetery

 

One thought on “Featherstone J.R.

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

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