JOHN JOSEPH HOPE (1879 – 1917)

71150 Private John Joseph Hope 43rd Company Machine Gun Corps (Infantry) was killed in action 24 August 1917 and is buried at Hooge Crater Cemetery.[1]  He was 38 years old, married and had 3 children.  He is also commemorated on the Cockfield War Memorial.

Family Details

John Joseph was born 1879 at Ovingtpn, North Yorkshire the son of Ralph and Mary Hope. In 1901 the family lived at Staindrop where both Ralph and 21 year old John worked as coal miners (hewers).[2]   John married Jane Ann Batty on 2 January 1904.  He was appointed to Durham County Constabulary as Police Constable 650 3rd Class on 22 February 1904. In 1904 they lived at 26 Grasmere Street, West Hartlepool.  [3]

By 1911, John was married to Jane and they lived at 10 Grove Road, Tow Law with their 6 year old daughter, Mary Ann.   John and Jane had 3 children: [4]

  • Mary Ann born 10 September 1904 at Staindrop
  • Ivy born 3 December 1911 at Cockfield
  • Cecil 30 June 1914 at West Hartlepool

Service Record

John Joseph Hope attested 10 December 1915 aged 35 years 5 months [5] when employed as a policeman at West Hartlepool.  He was 6ft 1” tall.[6]  He was in the Reserve Army at home until 14 June 1916 then was posted to the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) and given the regimental number 32028.  He entered France 9 October 1916 and joined his battalion, 6/KOYLI on 29 October 1916.  He was transferred 4 December 1916 to the 43rd Company, Machine Gun Corps service number 71150.  Between 19 March and 28 March 1917 and between 27 May and 16 July 1917, he was in hospital suffering from “boils”. [7]

The 6th (Service) Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry was formed at Pontefract on 12 August 1914 as part of K1 and attached to 43rd Brigade in 14th (Light) Division.[8] It landed at Boulogne, France 21 May 1915.  The 43rd Brigade comprised the following units: [9]

  • 6th Bn., Somerset Light Infantry
  • 6th Bn., Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry
  • 6th Bn., King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
  • 10th Bn., Durham Light Infantry
  • 43rd Machine Gun Company formed 16 February 1916 and left to move into the 16th MG Battalion 1 March 1918.
  • 43rd Trench Mortar Battery joined April 1916

Machine Gun Companies and Battalions: some details. [10]

The 6th Machine Gun Battalion was formed 1 March 1918 and was with the Divisional Troops associated with the 6th Division.

Until the winter of 1917-18 British machine guns were deployed in companies with a company attached to each infantry brigade but from about the beginning of March 1918 machine guns were re-organised into battalions, one to each infantry division.  Prior to January 1918, the machine gun companies were attached to infantry brigades (or squadrons attached to cavalry brigades) and were armed with 16 Vickers guns (Cavalry MG Squadrons 12 guns).  They took the brigade number ie 19 MGC, the company of the 19th Brigade.  There were 288 Infantry MG Companies and 26 Cavalry MG Squadrons.

A Major became the Brigade MGO, a Captain commanded the Company of 16 guns.  A  MGC consisted of an HQ, 4 Sections of 4 guns and a Transport Section.  Sections were divided into 2 sub-sections each commanded by a subaltern, the senior being the Section Commander.  Sub-sections each had a Section Sergeant and a Section Corporal.  Transport Sections of mule drawn limbers for guns/ammunition were larger than an infantry battalion’s transport.  Cavalry MG Squadrons had 6 no. 2 gun sections.

Re-organisation in 1918 resulted in MG Companies in a Division forming a Battalion which took the Divisional Number ie 1st 2nd 3rd & 216th MG Coys. 1st Division became “A”, “B”, “C” &”D” Companies, 1st Battalion MGC.  The chain of command was as follows:

  • Commanding Officer – Lieutenant Colonel
  • Second in Command – Major
  • Adjutant – Captain (the CO’s Staff Officer, orderly room, legal/clerical matters)
  • Signal Officer – Subaltern (an officer below the rank of Captain) thus Lieutenant or Second Lieutenant responsible for communications between division, battalion company.  Signallers trained in the use of telephone, Morse code and semaphore.
  • Transport Officer – Subaltern Transport – horses/mules, limbers/carts drivers/grooms, shoe-smiths etc.
  • Quartermaster – Subaltern, battalion supply department, collect /deliver rations, fodder/water, clothing etc. store-man, armourer, cobbler, carpenter and cook.
  • Liaison Officer – French/Belgian bilingual officer or NCO
  • Medical Officer – Doctor with Regimental Aid Post with First Aid trained stretcher bearers
  • Regimental Sgt. Major – Regimental Police, discipline, ammo supply, POW, regimental tradition.

An infantry battalion had 4 companies, divided into 4 platoons each commanded by a subaltern.  Platoons were divided into 4 Sections each under a Corporal.  There were 2 sub-sections and 2 gun teams consisting of 6 men to each team.  A Gun Team had a crew of 6 men and they had specific tasks.  No. 1 a Lance Corporal was in charge, fired the gun and carried the tripod.  No. 2 fed the 250 round belts into the gun and carried the gun.  No. 3 supplied ammo to the gun, another observed, there was a range finder.

The Vickers MG Mark 1 was used by the Army from 1912 and earned a reputation for reliability and effectiveness and remained the support machine gun of the British Army until 1968.  The gun is water cooled.  It is capable of firing 10,000 rounds per hour then the barrel has to be changed – a trained team could do this in 2 minutes.  Ammunition came in wooden boxes ready belted or in cardboard boxes of 100 rounds which then had to be hand fed into the canvas belts.  A mechanical loading devise was available.

From 1904 – 1914, the War Office ordered 10 guns per annum.  By 1918, Vickers produced 39,473.  Each weapon cost the tax-payer £80.

In November 1914, a machine gun training school opened in France and in England – at Belton Park and Harrowby Camps, Grantham, Lincolnshire.

The 43rd Company MGC into which Private J.J. Hope transferred was attached to the 43rd Brigade, 14 Division, II Corps, 5th Army and the company saw action as follows:

The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line: 14 March – 5 April 1917. 

Between 19 March and 28 March 1917, Private J.J. Hope was in hospital but it is probable upon his discharge from hospital, he saw action.

Ernst Junger, born in Heidelburg in 1895 and who served throughout the war with the German Army, the Rifle Regiment of Prince Albrecht of Prussia (73rd Hanoverian Regiment) wrote his autobiography, “In Stahlgewittern” (Storm of Steel) 1920 and included his account of the retreat to the Hindenburg Line – the Germans referred to this defensive line as the Siegfried Stellung.

“The villages we passed through on our way had the look of vast lunatic asylums.  Whole companies were set to knocking down walls or sitting on rooftops uprooting the tiles.  Trees were cut down, windows smashed; wherever you looked, clouds of smoke and dust rose from vast piles of debris.  We saw men dashing about wearing suits and dressers left behind by the inhabitants with top hats on their heads.  With destructive cunning they found the root-trees of houses, fixed ropes to them and with concerted shouts, pulled till they all come tumbling down.  Others were swinging pile-driving hammers and went around smashing everything that got in their way, from the flowerpots on the window sills to whole ornate conservatories.

As far back as the Siegfried Line, every village was reduced to rubble, every tree chopped down, every road undermined, every well poisoned, every basement blown up or booby trapped, every rail unscrewed, every telephone wire rolled up, everything burnable burnt; in a word, we were turning the country that our advancing opponents would occupy into a wasteland.

As I say, the scenes were reminiscent of a madhouse, and the effect of them was similar: half funny, half repellent. They were also, we could see right away, bad for the men’s morale and honour. Here, for the first time, I witnessed wanton destruction that I was later in life to see to excess; this is something that is unhealthily bound up with the economic thinking of our age, but it does more harm than good to the destroyer, and dishonours the soldier.

Among the surprises we’d prepared for our successors were some truly malicious inventions. Very fine wires, almost invisible, were stretched across the entrances of buildings and shelters, which set off explosive charges at the faintest touch. In some places, narrow ditches were dug across roads, and shells hidden in them. A nail had been driven into the plank, only just above the shell-fuse. The space was measured so that marching troops could pass over the spot safely, but the moment the first lorry or field gun rumbled up, the board would give, and the nail would touch off the shell. Or there were spiteful time bombs that were buried in basements of undamaged buildings. They consisted of two sections, with a metal partition going down the middle. In one part was explosive, in the other acid. After these devil’s eggs had been primed and hidden, the acid slowly, over weeks, eroded the metal partition, and the set off the bomb.

One such device blew up the town hall of Bapaume just as the authorities had assembled to celebrate victory.” [11]

The Arras Offensive.  The First Battle of the Scarpe: 9 – 14 April 1917 and the Third Battle of the Scarpe: 3- 4 May 1917. 

It is probable that Private J.J. Hope saw action.  He was in hospital between 27 May and 16 July 1917 after this offensive.

The Third Battle of Ypres:

The Battle of Langemarck: 16 – 18 August 1917

Local Operations around St. Julian: 22 August 1917. 

 The Third Battle of Ypres: 31 July – 10 November 1917: an overview [12]

The offensive had 8 distinctive phases:

  • Battle of Pilckem, 31 July to 2 August
  • Battle of Langemarck, 16 to 18 August
  • Battle of the Menin Road, 20 to 25 September
  • Battle of Polygon Wood, 26 September to 3 October
  • Battle of Broodseinde, 4 October
  • Battle of Poelcapelle, 9 October
  • First Battle of Passchendaele, 12 October
  • Second Battle of Passchendaele, 26 October to 10 November

Many Divisions visited the Ypres Salient during the 3rd Ypres and on more than one occasion.  A total of 54 Divisions were thrown into battle.  For example, the 11th saw action at Langemarck, Polygon Wood, Broodseinds and Poelcapelle. The offensive cost the British nearly 310,000 casualties, the Germans slightly less and it consumed all of the available reserves.  On the 6th November, the village of Passchendaele was entered and the whole campaign ended a few days later when more of the ridge was taken.  It achieved none of its objectives although the Germans could no longer look down on the Ypres Salient which had been deepened by about 5 miles and they had been prevented from attacking the French when its army was in disarray following the failure of the Nivelle Offensive.

From the outset, it was obvious to the German Fourth Army that a new attack was being prepared and the previous year they had begun to strengthen their defences.  The British did not force home their initial advantage and it was not until 11 July that an air offensive began.

18 July, a massive artillery bombardment commenced.  The attack itself began 31 July when the British Fifth Army attacked north-east from the Ypres salient.  Initially, good progress was made but a strong counter-attack resulted in only a 2 mile advance.  Heavy rain fell on the first night flooding the swampy ground whose drainage system had been totally destroyed by the 10 day bombardment.  As a result the whole operation was held up.

Leon Wolff in his classic book, “In Flanders Fields” describes the action of August as follows:

“So desolate, so meaningless were these August struggles that the record of them in histories and memoirs fill one with a certain weariness. Listlessly the men assemble at the jumping-off tapes. Behind the same familiar barrage they advance through the same narrow porridge-like strip of ground. The same hidden machine-guns greet them; the same whiz-bangs open up at them. Here and there a strong-point is captured, a new outpost is reached, to which a few riflemen forlornly cling. Some of these are held, and occasionally the line is advanced a few hundred yards. Brownish masses of German troops slog forward and everywhere nasty hand-to-hand encounters take place. The men on both sides are lacerated and punctured, bleed and die, in numbers that baffle the imagination. Nameless new beings take their place, but nothing else changes.

Gaunt, blackened remnants of trees drip in the one-time forests. The shells of countless batteries burst deafeningly and without ceasing; the dank smell of gunpowder, wet clay, poison gas and polluted water spreads over the battleground and drifts eastward. The men hardly know what they are doing or how affairs in general are progressing. By mid-August they were told even less than soldiers are usually told: move up there; start walking that way; occupy those shell-holes; wait near the barn; surround that pill-box; relieve those chaps (you can’t see them from here) behind the canal and wait for further word. After two weeks such was the status of Haig’s grand offensive which was to have burst out of the Salient, bounded across the ridge, released the prancing cavalry steeds, and with flying banners capture the Channel ports.” [13]

9 & 13 August:

“General Gough decided to give II Corps another try on the 9th with the rest of his army joining in on the 13th and after a day’s delay (due to atrocious weather which had broken in the meantime) General Jacob’s brigades jumped off (crept off would be a better description) towards Ghelvelt…..So desolate, so meaningless were the August struggles that the record of them in histories and memoirs fills one with a certain weariness.  Listlessly the men assembled at the jumping-off tapes.  Behind the same familiar barrage they advanced through the same narrow porridge-like strip of ground.  The same hidden machine-guns greet them; the same whiz-bangs open up at them.  Here and there a strong point is captured, a new outpost is reached, to which a few riflemen forlornly cling.  Some of these are held and occasionally the line is advanced a few hundred yards.  Brownish masses of German troops slog forward and everywhere nasty hand-to-hand fighting encounters take place.  The men of both sides are lacerated and punctured, bleed and die, in numbers that baffle the imagination.  Nameless new beings take their place but nothing else changes.”    [14]

The BEF Times of 15 August 1917 included the following ad:

“WANTED. – To rent for the winter season, DRY WARM DUG OUT.  Must be commodious and in healthy locality; untroubled by hawkers and Huns…..

Apply: Reggie, c/o of this paper.

FOR SALE. –  TWO TANKS. Slightly soiled.  Price moderate.  Or would exchange for a pair of rabbits.

Apply: 41 Dammstrasse

FOR SALE – PLEASANT COUNTRY ESTATE, situated in one of the nicest parts of Belgium.  Heavily wooded.  Has been shot over. Owner desirous of leaving.

Apply: Feddup, Glencorse Wood.”  [15]

Haig instructed Gough to attack again and he did so 22 August but in an extremely limited fashion.  There was fighting every day.  The rain continued and August was the wettest for 30 years.  Some gains were made but the II Corps (of which the 14th Division was part) was as stationary as ever at the base of the Gheluvelt Plateau.

24 August:  there was another attack towards Inverness Copse – it failed.  Private John Joseph Hope was killed in action 24 August 1917

27 August: another effort – it failed.  Again and again during August there were attacks followed by German counter-attacks.  Inverness Copse changed hands 18 times.

Between 31 July and the end of August, the British and French lost some 74,000 men and the Germans about 50,000.

H.G. Wells in the Daily News asked:

“Why …does the waste and killing go on?”

Pope Benedict XV sent a note 16 August to all the belligerent governments, suggesting a broad means of ending the conflict:

“Shall then the civilised world be naught but a field of death?”

The Times denounced the note as “pro-German and anti-Ally”.  Every major power rejected the note. [16]

Private J.J. Hope was awarded the British War and Victory medals.

Burial [17]

Private J.J. Hope is buried at grave reference VI.K.16 Hooge Crater Cemetery, Belgium.  Originally, he was buried in the vicinity of Veldhoek but 31 May 1926, his wife was informed that it was necessary to re-inter his remains at Hooge Crater Cemetery.

The following inscription is on the headstone:

“Loving thoughts, from aching hearts”

The Machine Gun Corps Memorial

It was unveiled by the Duke of Connaught in 1925 at Hyde Park Corner, London has as its main feature a bronze figure of David by Derwent Wood.  The naked David is holding the slain Goliath’s huge sword and an inscription on the stone base of the memorial is a brutally frank quotation from 1 Samuel, chapter 18, verse 7:



To either side of the figure and at a slightly lower level is a bronze machine gun covered by 2 laurel wreaths and on the back of the central pedestal is inscribed a short history of the Corps.

The total number who served was some 11,500 officers and 159,000 other ranks of whom 1,120 officers and 12,671 other ranks were killed and 2,881 officers and 45,377 other ranks were wounded, missing or prisoners of war.

Officers and men of the Corps earned 7 VC’s, 292 Military Crosses, 779 Distinguished Conduct Medals, 3653 Military Medals and 156 Bars, 276 Meritorious Service Medals and many foreign decorations.  170,500 officers and men served in the MGC.  62,049 were casualties; killed, wounded or missing.  The unofficial nickname of the MGC was “The Suicide Club (or Squad).”   [18]

Memorial to the 14th (Light) Division

The memorial is located at Hill 60 overlooking the town of Ypres, Belgium known as Ieper in the native Flemish tongue and Wipers to the British Tommy.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1901 census

[3] John Grainger Durham Constabulary Archivist

[4] 1911 census, Army Form W.5080 & family information

[5] Army Form B.2512

[6] Army Form B.178 Medical History

[7] Army Form B.103

[8] http://www.1914-1918.net/koyli.htm

[9] http://www.1914-1918.net/14div.htm

[10] http://www.machinegun.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk

[11] Storm of Steel, 1920 Ernst Junger p127&128

[12] “The First World War” 1998 J, Keegan, CWGC

[13] “In Flanders Fields” 1959 Leon Wolff p.142-143

[14] Wolff p.142-143

[15] Wolff p.150

[16] Wolff p.164-150

[17] CWGC

[18] “A Century of Remembrance” 2005 D. Boorman p.158-159




HOPE J.J. Scroll


HOPE J.J. Headstone


HOPE J.J. Headstone


HOPE J.J. Commemorative Plaque

Commemorative Plaque