23796 Private John William Patton, 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 15 October 1916 and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.[1] He was about 20 years old and is commemorated on the West Auckland War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, West Auckland Memorial Hall.

Family Details

John William Patton is probably the son of William[2] and Mary Patton who was born at Copeland Row, Evenwood about 1896.  There were 5 children:

  • John William bc. 1896 at Evenwood
  • Francis Elizabeth bc. 1899 at the Oaks, Evenwood
  • James bc.1901 at Bildershaw near West Auckland
  • Meggie bc.1904 at Bolam
  • Annie bc.1907 at Bolam.

In 1911, the family lived at Toft Hill and 48 year old William worked as a coal miner (waggonwayman) and 15 year old John William was a coal miner (driver).[3]

Service Details

The service record of Private J.W. Patton has not been researched.  John William Patton enlisted at Barnard Castle, probably into his local territorial force 6/DLI.  At a later date, he may have been transferred into the 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry.  In any event, he was given the regimental number 23796.[4]  The 2nd Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry came under the orders of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division.  Other units were:

  • 1st Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment
  • 1st Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment left November 1915
  • 11th (Service) Battalion, the Essex Regiment joined October 1915
  • 2nd Battalion, the Sherwood Foresters left October 1915
  • 14th (Service) Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry joined November 1915
  • 1/16th (County of London) Battalion, the London Regiment left January 1916
  • 18th Brigade Machine Gun Company formed February 1916
  • 18th Trench Mortar Battery formed April 1916 [5]

Private J.W. Patton entered France 24 August 1915.[6]  This followed action at Hooge Crater when 9 August 1915 2/DLI took a leading role in winning back lost positions from the Germans at a cost of 498 casualties.[7]  The battalion was resting at Poperinghe and received drafts 11 and 17 August then 25 August Captain C.O. Greenwell arrived with 203 other ranks mainly from 3/DLI and 4/DLI.  It is highly likely that Private J.W. Patton was a draft.  That evening 2/DLI moved back to reserve positions. [8]  The battalion remained in the Potijze sector throughout October[9] and held the front on the Ypres Salient until June 1916.

2/DLI moved south to the Somme arriving at Mesnil, north of the River Ancre 4 August 1916.[10]  During August casualties were relatively light, 1 officer and 7 other ranks killed and 39 other ranks wounded.[11]  The month of September saw increased numbers of casualties as the battalion was required to take offensive action against German trenches – 3 officers killed and 9 wounded; 38 other ranks were dead, 190 wounded and 19 missing.[12]

The Divisional History comments on action during the month of October as follows: [13]

“Oct 8 – 9: Into line relieving 20th Division

12: General Attack – 6th Division towards Le Transloy – by 18th and 71st Infantry Brigades – 16th Infantry Brigade in reserve – unsuccessful

15: Attack renewed – partially successful

18: Fresh attack by 71st Brigade – only partially successful on the left

20: Relived to Corbie.”

2/DLI: in action [14]

11 October: 2/DLI returned to the trenches and occupied Needle Trench in the Brigade Reserve

12 October: during shelling 3 other ranks were wounded

13 October: took over the front line, Rainbow Trench. 1 other rank and 3 men wounded

14 October: remained in Rainbow Trench.  Private Walter Kelly killed and 2 officers were wounded.

15 October: 05.15:  2/DLI took part in an attack on Cloudy and Mild Trenches.  1/Sherwood Foresters captured and held some gun pits, 11/Essex bombed up Beaulencourt Road only to be forced back.  2/DLI had nothing to show but heavy casualties – 1 officer and 18 men killed, 5 officers and 93 other ranks wounded 2 officers and 31 men missing.  After the attack the survivors returned to the British front line and from there back to Needle Trench.

16 October: 1800: 2/DLI was relieved and moved back to Montauban.

Later research records that 2/DLI lost 1 Officer and 45 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds 15 October 1916 including Private J.W. Patton.[15]

Private J.W. Patton was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.[16]


23796 Private John William Patton has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, which bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the UK and South African forces who died in the Somme sector and who have no known grave.  Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916, the duration of what we now call the Battle of the Somme. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 31 July 1932.[17]


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Note: William Patton recorded as next of kin

[3] 1911 census Notes: this branch of the Patton family has not been traced on the 1901 census.  JW Patton has not been identified on the Birth Index.  Thomas and Elizabeth Patton and their children William, Thomas, Elizabeth and Susannah lived and worked in the local area of West Auckland, Evenwood, Cockfield & Toft Hill during the period from 1881.  I am convinced that John William Patton belongs to this family, Thomas & Elizabeth being his grandparents.

[4] Soldiers Died in the Great War Note: Birthplace recorded as Annfield Plain and residence as West Auckland.  No person listed as John William Patton has been found to be born AT Annfield Plain.


[6] Medal Roll

[7] “The Steel of the DLI: the 2nd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry at War 1914-1918” 2009 J. Sheen p.113

[8] Sheen p.119

[9] Sheen p.122

[10] Sheen p.160

[11] Sheen p.165

[12] Sheen p.169

[13] “A Short History of the Sixth Division Aug.1914 – March 1919” 1920 Major-General T.O. Marden  p.89

[14] Sheen p.171-172

[15] ODGW & SDGW

[16] Medal Roll

[17] CWGC




Patton J.W. Inscription Thiepval

Patton J.W.

Patton J.W. Medal Roll

Patton J.W.
Medal Roll

PATTON J.W.  Wreath at Thiepval

Wreath at Thiepval