HOWLETT J.W.

JOHN WILFRED HOWLETT 1897 – 1918

 39146 Private John Wilfred Howlett, 12/13th Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers was killed in action 18 September 1918 and is buried at Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery, France.[1]  He was 20 years old and is commemorated on Evenwood War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood.

Family Details

 John Wilfred was born 1897 [2] at Pulham Market, Norfolk, the son of Edward and Mary Ann Howlett.  There were 2 children:

  • John born 1898 at Shildon
  • Eva bc.1900 at Pulham Market, Norfolk

Edward was born in Norfolk and the family moved north c.1878.  His father Dan worked as a coal miner at Eldon Lane and South Church.  Edward married Mary Ann Baker in 1896.[3]  Mary Ann died 1899.[4]  In 1901 the family lived at 24 Cooperative Street, Shildon.  Edward was a widower and worked as a grocers’ assistant.[5]  Later in the year (1901) Edward married Bertha Iley.[6]  Eva died in infancy (1901). [7] By 1911, Edward (aged 39) and Bertha lived at East View, Evenwood [8] with:

  • John Wilfred aged 13 years
  • Charles Edward bc.1907 at Shildon
  • Doris bc.1909 at Evenwood
  • Harry bc.1900 at Evenwood

It is assumed that the family did not come to Evenwood until 1908/09.  The school mistress Miss Edith Croll from Forfar, Scotland was a boarder.  By 1915, John Wilfred lived at Oaks House.[9]

At this time John would have been about 18 years old.  Perhaps his father took up a position at Evenwood Co-operative Store and perhaps John Wilfred also worked there.

Military Details

In April 1915, William Gray of Evenwood Gate, the Hon. Secretary of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Fund provided Rev. G. J. Collis, vicar of St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood with a complete list of those who had enlisted in His Majesty’s Forces which was published in the Parish Magazine.  The following entry is contained within the list:

Wilfred Howlett, Oaks House, A.S.C. Remounts.” [10]

John Wilfred Howlett enlisted at Bishop Auckland and initially joined the Army Service Corps being given the regimental number RTS/6546.  Later he was transferred to 12/13th Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers, being given the regimental number 39146.[11]

The Army Service Corps

 Considered by many to be the unsung heroes of the British Army – they were the men who operated the transport.  Soldiers cannot fight without food, equipment and ammunition.  The vast majority of goods and equipment was brought from England to the Front using waterways, rail, motor vehicles and horses/mules.  The ASC performed prodigious feats of logistics and were one of the great strengths of organisation throughout the war which contributed to victory.  At its peak, the ASC numbered 10,547 officers and 315,334 men.  In addition, there were tens of thousands of Indian, Egyptian, Chinese and other nationalities working as labourers, carriers and store-men under the control of the ASC.

The regimental number of those serving with the Remounts was prefixed with the letter R.  Private J.W. Howlett served with the Remounts.

Remounts Service ASC was responsible for the supply of horses and mules to all army units.  It was not a large part of the ASC amounting to only 4 Remount Squadrons in 1914 that ran 4 Remount Depots in the UK.  A squadron consisted of approx. 200 soldiers who obtained and trained 500 horses.  A Base Remount depot with 2,600 animals and 2 Advanced Remount depots (300 men each) went to France with the original BEF then 2 other depots opened at the base ports.  At the peak in December 1917, these facilities were training a total of 93,847 horses and 36,613 mules.[12]

Private W.W. Howlett entered France 1 April 1915. [13]

In the October 1915 edition, the vicar reported,

“I have received a very charming card from Wilfred Howlett, with a silk Union Jack worked upon it and the word, “Remember”.  If he should read this letter of mine, he may take this message from me that I have not forgotten him and am not likely to do so.  Wilfred has lately been stationed in Marseilles but is now in Calais.” [14]

In July 1916, it was reported that:

“Since last writing to you, I have had a visit from Wilfred Howlett who looked very hale and well.  Certainly France seems to suit him for he has certainly grown very much.  He is doing good work and is quite happy in it.” [15]

Then:

“Wilfred Howlett has also been to see us and attended service in church on a recent Sunday.” [16]

And:

“I am afraid I have not left myself much room for military items this time but we have had among us lately at church……..Wilfred Howlett Tyneside Scottish.” [17]

Without knowledge of specific details of his service record, it remains unknown when John Wilfred Howlett was transferred from the ASC Remounts to the 12/13th Northumberland Fusiliers.  Possibly, it was as a result of the manpower shortage following heavy losses during the 1917 Arras Offensive or in August 1917 when the 12th and 13th battalions merged.  The Parish Magazine states that he was attached to the Tyneside Scottish but neither the 12th nor the 13th battalions were Tyneside Scottish.  The 12th and 13th Battalions were Service Battalions formed in Newcastle in September 1914 as part of Kitchener’s New Army (K3).  They were attached to the 62nd Brigade of the 21st Division. By September 1918, the 62nd Brigade comprised:

  • 12/13 Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers merged August 1917
  • 1st Bn., the Lincolnshire Regiment joined November 1915
  • 2nd Bn., the Lincolnshire Regiment joined February 1918
  • 62nd Trench Mortar Battery joined June 1916

8th Bn., East Yorkshire Regiment left November 1915, 10th Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment was disbanded February 1918, 3/4th Bn., the Queen’s was disbanded February 1918 and 62nd MGC left to move into 21st MG Bn., February 1918.[18]

The 21st Division had been heavily engaged with German forces during the Spring Offensive particularly involved with: [19]

  • The Battle of St. Quentin
  • The First Battle of Bapaume
  • The Battle of Messines
  • The Second Battle of Kemmel
  • The Battle of the Aisne
  • The Battle of Albert
  • The Second Battle of Bapaume
  • The Battle of Epehy

The Battle of Epehy: 18 September 1918

Fought in the wake of successful encounters at St. Mihiel and Havrincourt, the Battle of Epehy was directed against forward outposts of the Hindenburg Line, (the Germans referred to their defences as the Siegfried Line).

13 September 1918:  Sir Douglas Haig authorised an attack by all 3 Corps of General Rawlinson’s Fourth Army, aided by one from Sir Julian Byng’s Third Army (who had successfully taken Havrincourt village 12 September).  It was the IV & V Corps of the Third Army that took part and the 21st Division along with the 17th and 38th Divisions.

The British assault was greatly assisted by a creeping barrage involving some 1,500 guns with the addition of 300 machine guns.  Success was limited on the flanks but the centre of the advance, led by 2 divisions of the Australian Corps under General Monash, quickly gained ground. [20] The 2 Australian Divisions, the 1st and the 4th some 6,800 men in strength, captured 4,243 prisoners, 76 guns, 300 machine guns and 30 trench mortars during the course of the day.  They took all their objectives and a distance of 3 miles on a 4 mile front was occupied.  The Australian casualties were 1,260 officers and men.  The attack closed as a British victory with 9,000 prisoners and 100 guns being taken.

Although Epehy was not a massive success, it signalled an unmistakable message that the German were weakening and it encouraged the Allies to take further action with haste before the Germans could consolidate their positions. [21]

The War Diary of 12/13th Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers has not been researched.   Private John Wilfred Howlett was killed in action 18 September 1918.  Later research records that 12/13th Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers lost 4 Other Ranks killed in action 18 September 1918.[22]  Private J.W. Howlett was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[23]

Burial

Private John Wilfred Howlett is buried at grave ref. V.H.6 Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery.  The village is 15km south west of Cambrai.  The cemetery was begun in November 1917 and enlarged after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields of Cambrai area.  It contains 1,295 burials and commemorations of the First World War.  [24]

References

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] Probably 1897 Q4, England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.4b p.253 Wayland, Norfolk

[3] Probably 1896 Q2 England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Auckland Vol.10a p.325

[4] England & Wales Death Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.154 1899 Q4

[5] 1901 census

[6] England & Wales Marriage Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.378 190 Q3

[7] England & Wales Death Index 1837-1915 Vol.10 p.126. 1901 Q3

[8] 1911 census Note: this address no longer exists

[9] Evenwood Church Magazine April 1915

[10] Evenwood Church Magazine April 1915

[11] Soldiers Died in the Great War & Medal Roll

[12] www.1914-1918.net/asc.htm

[13] Medal Roll

[14] Evenwood Church Magazine October 1915

[15] Evenwood Church Magazine July 1916

[16] Evenwood Church Magazine November 1916

[17] Evenwood Church Magazine January 1918

[18] http://www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm

[19] http://www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm

[20] www.firstworldwar.com/battles/epehy.htm

[21] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Ep%C3%A9hy

[22] SDGW

[23] Medal Roll

[24] CWGC

Photographs

HOWLETT J.W.  Headstone

HOWLETT J.W.
Headstone