JOHN MAUGHAN 1893-1916

 14633 Private John Maughan, 14th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry, died of wounds 16 October 1916, and is buried at Grove Town Cemetery, Meaulte, France.[1]  He was 23 years old and is commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial, the Roll of Honour, St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood and the Memorial Plaque, Evenwood WMC.

Family Background

 John was born 1893[2] at Evenwood to George and Sarah Maughan.  There were 6 children, all born at Evenwood:

  • William bc.1879
  • Ruth bc.1882
  • Moses bc. 1885
  • George bc.1890
  • John bc.1893
  • Aaron bc. 1896

In 1901, the family lived at Copeland Farm and 49 year old George worked as a coal miner (hewer), 22 year old William was a coal miner (hewer) and 16 year old Moses was a coal miner (driver).[3]  George died in 1909 aged 52.[4]  By 1911, the family lived at Evenwood Gate where 23 year old George worked as a coal miner (hewer), 18 year old John was a putter and 16 year old Aaron was a driver.[5]  By 1915 they lived at 9 Clyde Terrace, Evenwood Gate.[6]

Military Details

John attested 7 September 1914 aged 21 years 5 months into the Durham Light Infantry and was given the regimental number 14/14633.[7] He underwent a medical examination and was 5’6½” tall, weighed 160lbs., of good physical development and considered fit for army service.[8]  He was posted 9 September 1915 and entered France 11 September 1915.[9]

John Maughan was one of the first from Evenwood to enlist.  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.  It was published in the Church Magazine with the following entry:

“Unmarried Men – John Maughan, Evenwood Gate, 14th Batt. D.L.I.” [10]

The 14th (Service) Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was initially attached to the 64th Brigade, 21st Division but 25 November 1915 it was transferred to the 18th Brigade, 6th Division as part of the XIV Corps, Fourth Army.[11] By 1916, other battalions in the 18th Brigade were:[12]

  • 1st Bn., the West Yorkshire Regiment
  • 11th (Service) Bn., the Essex Regiment
  • 2nd Bn., DLI
  • 18th Brigade Machine Gun Company
  • 18th Trench Mortar Battery

14633 Private John Maughan entered France on 11 September 1915 and served with D Company 14/DLI.[13] Following the action at Hooge of July and August 1915.  The 6th Division moved south from Flanders into the Somme and saw action at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette before involvement at the Battle of Morval.

 A letter to Rev. Collis from Arthur Daniel R.A. was reported in the Church Magazine and it simply states:

“I have met one or two Evenwood people since I have been on foreign soil, one of them being J. Maughan of Evenwood Gate.  I was admitted into hospital on 25th April and left again to join my unit on 9th May.” [14]

 The Battle of the Somme 1 July – 18 November 1916 [15]

 The Battle of the Somme was viewed as a breakthrough battle, as a means of getting through the formidable German trench lines and into a war of movement and decision.  Political considerations and the demands of the French High Command influenced the timing of the battle.  They demanded British diversionary action to occupy the German Army to relieve the hard pressed French troops at Verdun, to the south.

General Sir Douglas Haig, appointed Commander-in-Chief in December 1915, was responsible for the overall conduct of British Army operations in France and Belgium.  This action was to be the British Army’s first major offensive on the Western Front in 1916 and it was entrusted to General Rawlinson’s Fourth Army to deliver the resounding victory.  The British Army included thousands of citizen volunteers, keen to take part in what was expected to be a great victory.

The main line of assault ran nearly 14 miles from Maricourt in the south to Serre to the north, with a diversionary attack at Gommecourt 2 miles further to the north.  The first objective was to establish a new advanced line on the Montauban to Pozieres Ridge.

The first day, 1 July, was preceded by a week long artillery bombardment of the German positions.  Just prior to zero-hour, the storm of British shells increased and merged with huge mine explosions to herald the infantry attack – at 7.30am on a clear midsummer’s morning the British infantry emerged from their trenches and advanced in extended lines at a slow steady pace over the grassy expanse of No Man’s Land.  They were met with a hail of machine gun and rifle fire from the surviving German defenders.  Accurate German artillery barrages smashed into the infantry in No Man’s Land and the crowded assembly trenches – the British suffered enormous casualties:

  • Officers killed: 993
  • Other Ranks killed: 18,247
  • Total Killed: 19,240
  • Total casualties (killed, wounded and missing): 57,470

In popular imagination, the “Battle of the Somme” has become a byword for military disaster.  In the calamitous opening 24 hours the British Army suffered its highest number of casualties in a single day.  The loss of great numbers of men from the same towns and villages had a profound impact on those at home. The first day was an abject failure.  The following weeks and months of conflict assumed the nature of wearing-down warfare, a war of attrition, by the end of which both the attackers and defenders were totally exhausted.

The Battle of the Somme can be broken down into 12 offensive operations:

  • Albert: 1 – 13 July
  • Bazantin Ridge: 14 – 17 July
  • Delville Wood: 15 July – 13 September
  • Pozieres Ridge: 15 July – 3 September
  • Guillemont: 23 July – 3 September
  • Ginchy: 9 September
  • Courcelette: 15 – 22 September
  • Morval: 25 – 28 September
  • Thiepval: 25 – 28 September
  • Le Transloy: 1 – 18 October
  • Ancre Heights: 1 October – 11 November
  • Ancre: 13 – 18 November

Adverse weather conditions, the autumn rains and early winter sleet and snow turned the battlefield into morass of mud.  Such intolerable physical conditions helped to bring to an end Allied offensive operations after four and a half months of slaughter.  The fighting brought no significant breakthrough.  Territorial gain was a strip of land approximately 20 miles wide by 6 miles deep. The cost in lives was enormous – British and Commonwealth forces were calculated to have 419,654 casualties (dead, wounded and missing) of which some 131,000 were dead.  French casualties amounted to 204,253.  German casualties were estimated between 450,000 to 600,000. In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

Battle of Morval

What became known as the Battle of Morval took place in the days following 25 September 1916.  This town is situated in the southern sector of the British 4th Army’s theatre to the north of the French 6th Army.  The objective was to drive the Germans from their positions in the vicinity of Gueudecourt, Lesboeufs, Morval and Combles.    The XIV Corps comprising the Guards, the 5th and 6th Divisions were faced with capturing the fortress villages of Lesboeufs and Morval.

As was customary, the offensive commenced with an artillery bombardment which opened up 24 September.  On this occasion, the Germans had no time to deepen their trenches or prepare deep dugouts, concreted machine gun posts and massed belts of barbed wire.  The infantry went over the top at 12.35, 25 September.  The offensive coincided with a French assault to the south.  The Royal Artillery blasted a “creeping barrage” and the infantry followed into No Man’s Land.  Tanks were to be used in the attack behind the troops and concentrated their fire power on specific strong German positions.  The village of Gueudecourt was still holding out as night fell.

The real success was to the right on the front where the XIV Corps, packed into a narrow frontage to maximise their penetrative power and they swept forward to dramatic effect, eventually capturing the whole of the German front line system.  The objectives of Lesbouefs and Morval were taken.  In many places along the line the troops of the XIV Corps met little opposition from front line Germans.  The village of Combles was left isolated and the Germans had to abandon it 26 September.  Gueudecourt was overrun on the afternoon of the 26th.

26 September: 14/DLI went to the front line east of Lesboeufs.  By the conclusion of this offensive, the final objectives had been achieved and in addition land had been captured beyond the villages of Lesboeufs and Morval.

29 September:  14/DLI moved onto Mealute and the focus of the Somme offensive moved to the north and the Battle of Thiepval then to Le Transloy during October.  The 6th Division was heavily involved in the October offensive.

Haig’s plan was simple – to keep attacking and load the pressure on the Germans.  So another concerted attack was launched all along the Somme front 12 October.  The 4th Army attacked along the Le Transloy Ridge, the Reserve Army would thrust forward again on Pozieres Ridge and the Third Army would re-enter the fray with another push against the Gommecourt Salient.

An account of the 6th Division [16]

Appendix III informs:

“Oct 8-9. Into line relieving 20th Division

  1. General attack – 6th Division towards Le Transloy – by 18th and 71st Infantry Brigades – 16th Infantry Brigade in reserve- unsuccessful.
  2. Attack renewed- partially successful.
  3. Fresh attack by 71st Infantry Brigade – only partially successful on the left.
  4. Relieved to Corbie.”

More detail is provided:

“…the 6th Division was brought in again on the night 8/9th October for a general attack on the 12 the October.  The enemy had dug a series of trenches named by us Rainbow-Cloudy-Misty-Zenith etc. a portion of which had been captured by us, making a somewhat pronounced salient.  All three brigades were in the line, with one battalion in front trenches, the 71st Infantry Brigade being in the salient, with the 16th on the right and the 18th Infantry Brigade on the left.  The objective of the attack of the 12th October was the line of trenches running north from Le Transloy.

At 2.5pm the flank brigades attacked but only partial success……Perhaps more than anything it was due to the effect of their machine gun fire…the attack was renewed at 5.35am on the 15th October, the 18th Infantry Brigade on the left (2nd D.L.I. and 11th Essex) attempting to seize those portions of Cloudy and Mild trenches still held by the enemy…the left attack made little ground…”

The history confirms that:

“The Division had taken part as a whole in 3 general attacks on the Somme (15th and 25th September and 12th October) and had also carried out subordinate operations on the 13th and 18th September and the 18th October.

It has suffered casualties amounting to 277 officers and 6,640 other ranks and had well earned a rest.”

Appendix 1 provides information that the Division suffered 7,430 casualties between 5th August and 23rd October 1916 on their tour of the Somme.

12 October 1916 – North of the Le Transloy road, 2/Y&Lancs (16 Brigade) attacked Zenith Trench unsuccessfully.  The 9/Suffolks (71 Brigade) next on the left in Misty Trench and part of Cloudy Trench did not advance.  The 1/West Yorks (18 Brigade) failed in their effort on Mild Trench and the remaining part of Cloudy Trench.  On the extreme left 14/DLI stormed and occupied Rainbow Trench moving on to clear sunken Beaulencourt road mainly with bombs and linking with the West Yorks on the right.  There were no movements of any great significance 13 October.

14/DLI: October: an account [17]

 7 October:  The battalion moved to the front the day before the battle and their bivouacs at Trones Wood

10 October:  14/DLI came under heavy shell fire on the evening.  17 men were killed and wounded.

11 October:  14/DLI moved into assembly positions for the next attack.   The objective was to capture Rainbow Trench and Shine Trench then advance to Cloudy Trench with the West Yorks.

12 October: at 2.05 pm the advance began with D Company on the right and C Company on the left. An enemy barrage commenced almost immediately.  The advance kept going and Rainbow Trench was taken.  Shine Trench was also captured but the Germans defended the next objective with great resolve.

“At the sunken road on the left the Fourteenth joined hands with troops of the 12th Division who had come forward on that flank.  B Company had lost both officers – Capt. F. Hellier killed and 2nd Lieut. Gillot wounded – but before three o’clock the advance was resumed, bombers clearing the dug-outs in the sunken road.  German shell and machine gun fire was still heavy but rifle grenadiers and Lewis gunners boldly handled, helped overcome the enemy resistance.”

A and C Companies occupied Rainbow Trench with little loss though 2/Lieut. W.F. Swindell was killed and 2/Lieut. W.F. Dunn was wounded.  Lieut. C.A.V. Newsome M.C. left A Company in the hands of his sergeant-major to command B Company.  Shine Trench was won, Lieut. Batty being wounded.  D Company on the right was in touch with the West Yorks but could make no further progress due to heavy machine gun fire.  A defensive flank was formed under the direction of Lieut. C.A.V. Newsome who was afterwards awarded a bar to his Military Cross.

13 October:  Lieut. C.A.V. Newsome was wounded when the Germans persistently shelled the lost trenches.  14633 Private John Maughan was also wounded and taken to 2/2 London Casualty Clearing Station.

14 October:  14/DLI handed over to the 11/Essex and retired to a position south of Gueudecourt.

15 October:  the Brigade attacked again but without success.  By the evening, the 14/DLI was now only 200 strong and relieved the Essex men in Rainbow and Shine Trenches.  Just after midnight Rainbow Trench was heavily bombarded.

16 October:  British gunners were busy but many of their shells fell short hitting Shine Trench.  14/DLI was relieved that night and moved back to Montauban, where a draft of 185 men of the 2/1st Derbyshire Yeomanry was absorbed.

Private John Maughan died of wounds 16 October 1916

During the October fighting the battalion lost 7 officers and 182 men.[18] One of those was Private John Maughan.  He died in hospital 16 October 1916 having received fatal gun-shot wounds.[19]  12 October had seen 22 men lost, 19 killed in action and 3 died of wounds.  13 October, a further 5 other ranks were killed in action and 1 died of wounds and another 2 men 15 October.  Two officers were lost in the same period. [20]

 Analysis of the Battle of Morval appears to conclude that the tactic of “bite and hold” was successful in this instance due to a combination of factors – an effective preliminary bombardment, the “creeping barrage” which provided cover for the infantry and the relatively weak German defences.  This concentrated attack with limited objectives was supported by a French offensive to the south which further occupied the German defensive cover.  Thus the British edged forward as the Germans edged back and prepared new lines of defence.

Private J. Maughan served a total of 2 years 40 days: [21]

Home: 7 September 1914 – 10 September 1915……………….1 year 4 days

France: 11 September 1915 – 16 October 1916…………………1 year 36 days

…………………………………………………………………..2 years 40 days

Private J. Maughan was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[22]

 Report of his Death

 The Evenwood Parish Magazine reported as follows:

I have heard that the war has taken toll of another of our Evenwood lads, John Maughan who has died in hospital after being grievously wounded on the battlefield.  Our sympathies with those who specially loved him are real and deep.  We mourn him even as his friends and relatives do.  Evenwood is justly proud of him and will always be.” [23]

The Auckland and County Chronicle reported as follows:

“Pte. J. Maughan D.L.I. son of Mrs. S. Maughan 9 Clyde Terr., Evenwood has died from wounds.  Prior to enlistment he was a miner at Randolph Colliery.  He was well respected by all in the locality.  Mrs. Maughan has also 2 sons on active service.” [24]

 Memorial Service

A Memorial Service was held on the Sunday, 5 November 1916 and was reported in the Church Magazine as follows:

“Sunday 5th ult., at Evensong, we held a Memorial Service to John Maughan, D.L.I. of Evenwood Gate, who died in hospital from wounds received on the battlefield.  It was a fine and impressive service. The band attended as usual and so did a vast congregation….The great congregation took its full and sympathetic share in every part of proceedings.  John Maughan was a fine lad.  We all thought a good deal of him.  He was one of the first from Evenwood to volunteer and now he has given his life for his country.  To repeat a passage from my own address on the occasion I have just been writing about.  “Every man, who in the face of danger such as he had to face does his duty, is a hero of the highest type whether in the ranks or leading the ranks.  And no man who has died on the field of battle or from wounds received on the field of battle with his face to the enemy can be looked upon in any other light.  We hear of men being marked down and selected for various distinctions and decorations of honour.  We are proud and happy to honour them deserving as they no doubt are of the highest estimate which the country places upon their valour.  They have risked their lives and sometimes sacrificed them in doing their duty supremely well.  But every man whose life has been sacrificed in the fight has done no less and in God’s sight, as well as in that of his country, is worthy of the proudest tribute that his country can bestow.  God appreciates them.  Their fellow countrymen acclaim them.  And after that it is but a small thing to say that Evenwood acclaims its heroes too.  It may or may not be a far distant time, when we shall one and all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of our life’s work here.  What shall we say for ourselves then?  As for our young brother and others who like him have made the great sacrifice, whatever else they may count to their credit, they have this great outstanding recommendation, they died for their country.” [25]


 Private John Maughan is buried at plot I.L. 46. Grove Town Cemetery, Meaulte. Meaulte is a village located to the south of Albert in the region of the Somme, France. The cemetery is in an isolated position some miles from the village.  In September 1916, the 34th and 2/2nd London Casualty Clearing Stations were established at this point, known to the troops as Grove Town, to deal with casualties from the Somme battlefields. They were moved in April 1917 and, except for a few burials in August and September 1918, the cemetery was closed. Grove Town Cemetery contains 1,395 First World War burials.  [26]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.257 Auckland 1893 Q2

[3] 1901 census

[4] England & Wales Death Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.143 Auckland 1909 Q1

[5] 1911 census

[6] Army Form W.5080

[7] Army Form B.2065

[8] Army Form B.178 Medical History

[9] Military History Sheet

[10] Evenwood Church Magazine April 1915



[13] Army Form B.2090A

[14] Evenwood Church Magazine June 1916

[15] Various sources including “First World War£ Keegan, “The Somme” Hart and CWGC website

[16] A Short History of the Sixth Division” edited by Major General T.O. Marden

[17] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-18: The Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry” 1920 Capt. W. Miles

[18] Miles p.93-95

[19] Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service

[20] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War

[21] Military History Sheet

[22] Medal Roll

[23] Evenwood Church Magazine November 1916

[24] Auckland & County Chronicle 16 November 1916

[25] Evenwood Church Magazine December 1916

[26] CWGC


MAUGHAN J. photo




MAUGHAN J Headstone