JACKSON J.J.

JOHN JOSEPH JACKSON (1892-1918)

59421 Private John Joseph Jackson, 22nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 26 March 1918 and is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.[1]  He was 26 years old and is commemorated on the West Auckland War Memorial.

Family Detail

John Joseph was born 1892[2] the son of Ernest and Elizabeth Jackson.  There were 8 children: [3]

  • John Joseph born 1892 at Station Town
  • Dora bc. 1894 at Station Town
  • Reuben bc.1895 at Wheatley Hill
  • Mary bc.1899 at South Shields
  • Norman bc.1901 at Hebburn
  • Martha bc.1905 at West Auckland
  • Sarah bc.1908 at West Auckland
  • William bc.1910 at West Auckland

In 1901, the family lived at 50 Dunston Street, Hebburn where Ernest worked as a coal miner (hewer).[4]  By 1911, they lived at 8 Johnson Street, West Auckland and 46 year old Ernest still worked as a coal miner (hewer).  19 year old John Joseph and 16 year old Reuben both worked as coal miners.[5]

Service Details

27 January 1911, aged 18 years 10 months John Joseph Jackson enlisted into the 6th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry his local Territorial Force.  He was given the regimental number 1333.  John Joseph worked as a coal miner for Bolckow Vaughan (West Auckland Colliery).[6] He undertook at medical examination 20 February 1911 and considered fit for the Territorial Force.  He was 5’7½” tall.[7]  He was embodied 5 August 1914 and 26 January 1916 his engagement in the Territorial Force was terminated.[8] At some time later he joined or was transferred to the 22nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry and was given the regimental number 59421.[9]

The 22nd Service Battalion, Durham Light Infantry was formed at Hartlepool in October 1915 and landed at Le Havre, France in June 1916 and was attached to the 19th (Western) Division then was transferred to the 8th Division in July 1916.[10]    The date Private J.J. Jackson entered France is unknown but it was after 31 December 1915. He may have been a draft in 1917 and he may have seen action at Passchendaele. As part of the 8th Division, 2nd Corps, Fifth Army, 22/DLI saw action at the Third Battle of Ypres, 1917, otherwise known as Passchendaele:

  • 31 July – 2 August: Battle of Pilckem
  • 16 – 18 August: Battle of Langemarck [11]

The German Offensive, spring 1918 – an overview

 3 March 1918: Soviet Russia made peace with Germany and her allies by virtue of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.  As a result, Germany could now transfer troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.  More importantly, these Divisions included the original elite of the German Army – the Guards, Jaegers, Prussians, Swabians and the best of the Bavarians. In all, 192 Divisions could be deployed in the West.  The Allies could field 178 Divisions. [12]  A single division numbered about 19,000 men [13] so Ludendorff could call upon about 3,650,000 men as opposed to the Allies 3,380,000.  Thus, the Germans now held superiority in numbers.

The German High Command needed victory to be gained before the American Forces arrived in Europe in huge numbers.  America had entered the war 6 April 1917 and in the July, the U.S. Commander-in -Chief Pershing asked for an army of 3 million men.  The first of her troops arrived in France 26 June 1917. [14]  The training and build-up of troops obviously took time but eventually by June 1918, the Americans were receiving about 250,000 men a month in France.  This amounted to 25 divisions in or behind the battle zone and another 55 in the United States ready to join the action.[15]  Elsewhere in the Alliance, the French were able to draw on a new annual class of conscripts after a year of inactivity but the British were worn down by continuous fighting during the summer of 1917 with major offensives at Arras, Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai.[16]   The strength of the British infantry had fallen from 754,000 in July 1917 to 543,000 in June 1918 producing a manpower crisis.[17]  The German Spring Offensive was launched 21 March 1918 and took 5 phases:

  • 21 March – 5 April: Operation Michael, the Battle of Picardy (otherwise known as the First Battle of the Somme 1918) against the British
  • 9 – 11 April: Operation Georgette, the Battle of Lys against the British sector near Armentieres
  • 27 April: Operation Blucher-Yorck, the Third Battle of Aisne against the French sector along Chemin des Dames
  • 9 June: Operation Gneisenau, the Battle of the Matz against the French sector between Noyan and Montdider
  • 15 – 17 July: Operation Marne-Rheims, the final phase known as the Second Battle of the Marne. [18]

The Germans enjoyed spectacular territorial gains particularly during the initial phases of the offensive which, 23 March, led the Kaiser to declare a “victory holiday” for German schoolchildren.  But, the cost in manpower was enormous:

  • Between 21 March and 10 April, the 3 main assaulting armies had lost 303,450 men – 1/5th of their original strength.
  • The April offensive against the British in Flanders was eventually computed to have cost 120,000 men out of a total of 800,000 [19]

The German High Command calculated that it required 200,000 replacements each month but only 300,000 recruits stood available taking into account the next annual class of 18-year olds.  There were 70,000 convalescents available from hospitals each month but even counting them, the strength of the German Army had fallen from 5.1 million to 4.2 million men in the 6 months of the offensive.  It could not be increased on the estimated scale required. [20]  To add to this dilemma, in June 1918, the first outbreak of “Spanish Flu” laid low nearly 500,000 German soldiers.  This epidemic was to reoccur in the autumn and wreak havoc throughout Europe and the wider world. [21]

Added to this the poor diet of the German troops, battle fatigue, discontentment with the military leadership, social unrest at home and a general realisation that their great effort was beginning to wane, the Allies counter attack in mid-July began to seize the initiative.  Sweeping victories over demoralised German forces eventually led to the resignation of Ludendorff 27 October, the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, 9 November and the signing of the Armistice 11 November 1918.[22]

 The German Spring Offensive

First Phase 21 March to 5 April 1918

Often called “the Kaiserschlacht” the offensive was Germany’s last big effort to win the war before the arrival of huge numbers of American troops.   The German plan, Operation Michael was to punch through the British and French Armies at St. Quentin, cut through the Somme and then wheel north-west to cut the British lines of communication behind the Artois fronts to bottle up the BEF in the narrow neck of Flanders.  The British Army would be surrounded with no means of escape and would inevitable surrender.  The target of the first phase of the offensive was the British Army who the German High Command believed to be exhausted by the four major efforts of 1917, namely Arras, Messines, Passchendaele and Cambrai.

By mid-February 1918, there were 177 German Divisions in France and Flanders out of their world-wide total of 241.  Of these, 110 were in the front line of which 50 faced the short British front.  A further 67 were in reserve with 31 facing the BEF.  The British had 62 under strength divisions defending a recently extended front line.

At the same time as the German forces were growing, the British Army was depleted having faced a manpower crisis during the second half of 1917.  Lloyd George produced official figures to confirm that there were some 324,000 additional men on the Western Front (i.e. British and Dominion forces) giving a total of 1,850,967 on the 1st January 1918 as opposed to 1,526,182 on the 1st January 1917 but the effective fighting strength had fallen by as much as 7% in the year.

When the Germans launched the great Spring Offensive, 21 March 1918 in Picardy against the British Third and Fifth Armies the 22/DLI was moved from the Ypres Salient down to the Somme.  The 8th Division saw action:

  • 21 – 23 March: Battle of St. Quentin
  • 24 – 25 March: Actions across the Somme Crossings
  • 26 – 27 March: Battle of Rosieres [23]

The 8th Division together with the 1st Cavalry, the 16th, the 24th, the 39th, the 50th and the 66th Divisions formed the XIX Corps of the Fifth Army.  The immense German attack 21 March 1918 enjoyed a numerical superiority of 56 Divisions against 16 British. Enemy superiority was overwhelming. The main weight of the attack was between Arras and a few miles south of St. Quentin.  The XIX Corps occupied the line to the east of Peronne and to the north of Vermand facing 9 German Divisions on an 8 mile front.  German superiority was approx. 4.5 to 1.  The German success was spectacular:

  • In 2 days the Fifth Army was driven back over 12 miles
  • 23 March: Peronne fell
  • 24 March: Bapaume
  • 26 March: Albert, capital of the old Somme battlefield

The Third Army held firm near Arras but had to swing back its right hand forces to maintain contact with the retreating Fifth.

21 March: the casualty figures have been estimated as:

  • British: 38,500
  • German: 40,000

However, “only” 2/3rds of the German casualties were wounded so a substantial number would return to the fighting at a later date.  By contrast, 28,000 of the British would not return – 7,000 were dead and 21,000 had been taken prisoner.

27 March: the Germans were able to cross the Somme at Chipilly which compelled Gough’s Fifth Army to retreat to a line running from Bouzencourt to Rosieres.  The British held the line throughout the day but to the south the French were driven out of Lassigny and Montdidier.

22/DLI in action

23 March:  22/DLI was in billets at Rosieres in reserve then was ordered to take over the line from the harassed 50th (Northumbrian) Division.  They marched through the villages of Chaulnes, Fresnes, Marchelpot, Omiecourt and Pertain.  A Company initially formed the line west of Morchain then retired 500 yards to a position near Potte Wood.  B Company was also in this area.  C Company was in reserve.

25 March:  in the morning the Germans launched a mass attack with artillery and infantry.  22/DLI retired to Omiecourt then, fighting all the way, the battalion was ordered to retreat to Chaulnes which was reached by evening.

26 March: at dawn, the battalion withdrew to Lihons then by the evening it was beyond Rosieres in the Divisional Reserve.

27 March: by noon, the enemy pressed towards Proyart and the position was critical.  22/DLI moved towards Harbonnieres looking to counter attack with the 2/Devons and the Germans were driven back towards Proyart.  But the position could not be held for long.

 28 March: in the morning, the whole line of the 8th Division was in danger from the north and south.   There were an estimated 400 casualties in the 3 days since leaving Ypres.  The Division was pursued back to Caix, Cottenchy and Moreuil Wood.

2 April:  the battalion was relieved by French troops.

It was reported that 22/DLI casualties were 23 officers and 469 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.[24]  Later research records that between 21 March and 4 April 1918, 22/DLI lost 6 officers and 133 other ranks killed or died of wounds including 59421 Private J.J. Jackson killed in action 26 March 1918. [25]

Private J.J. Jackson was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[26]

Commemorations

Private J.J. Jackson is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial, France.  Pozieres is located some 6km north east of Albert, Somme, France.  The Pozieres Memorial relates to a period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields and the months before the Advance to Victory which began 8 August 1918.  The memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the UK and 300 South African Forces who have no known graves and who died on the Somme between 21 March and 7 August 1918.

The Regiments represented with the most casualties are:

  • The Rifle Brigade with over 600 names
  • The Durham Light Infantry with approx. 600 names
  • The Machine Gun Corps with over 500 names
  • The Manchester Regiment with approx. 500 names
  • The Royal Horse and Field Artillery with over 400 names. [27]

References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales 1837-1915 Birth Index Vol.10 p.466 Easington 1892 Q2

[3] 1911 census

[4] 1901 census

[5] 1911 census

[6] Army Form E.591

[7] Medical Inspection Report

[8] Military History Sheet & Statement of the Services

[9] Soldiers Died in the Great War

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

[11] http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1917.htm

[12] “The Somme” P. Hart p.421

[13] http://www.cwgc.org/somme

[14] http://www.firstworldwar.net/timeline

[15] Hart p.437

[16] http://www.1914-1918.net/batt22

[17] Hart p.437

[18] Hart p.426 & http://www.firstworldwar.net/timeline

[19] Hart p.435

[20] Hart p.439

[21] Hart p.438

[22] http://www.firstworldwar.net/timeline

[23] http://www.warpath.orbat.co./battles_ff/1918pt1.htm

[24] Miles p.271-275 & Sheen p.225-233

[25] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[26] Medal Roll card index

[27] CWGC

Photographs:

POZIERES CEMETERY & MEMORIAL ENTRANCE

POZIERES CEMETERY & MEMORIAL ENTRANCE

JACKSON J.J.  Inscription Pozieres Memorial

JACKSON J.J.
Inscription
Pozieres Memorial