SAMPLE John William 1894 – 1917


24780 Lance Corporal John William Sample, 13th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry was killed in action 13 May 1917, aged 23.  He is buried at Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm), Belgium[1] and commemorated on the Witton Park war memorials.

Family Details

John William Sample was born 1894,[2] the son of John Edwin and Polly Sample.[3]  There were at least 9 children:[4]

  • John William born 1894 at Witton Park
  • Florence May bc.1896 at Witton Park
  • Harry Glenton bc.1898 at Victoria, near Howden-le-Wear
  • Susannah bc.1900 at Witton Park
  • Sarah Eleanor bc.1901 at Witton Park
  • Polly bc.1904 at Witton Park
  • Harriet bc.1906 at Witton Park
  • Robert bc.1909 at Witton Park
  • Joseph bc.1910 at Witton Park

In 1901, the family lived at King Street, Witton Park and 30 years old John Edwin Sample worked as a coal miner, “small runner”.[5]  In 1911, the family lived at John Street, Witton Park and 40 years old John and 16 years old John William both worked as coal miners as a “small runner” and “putter” respectively.[6]  

Military Details

The service details of James W. Sample have not been traced.  John W. Sample enlisted at Bishop Auckland into the Durham Light Infantry, 13th Battalion and was allocated the service number 24780.[7]

The 13th (Service) Battalion was formed in September 1914 as part of K3 Kitchener’s New Army and came under the orders of 68th Brigade 23rd Division.[8]  The 68th Brigade comprised the following units:[9]

  • 10th (Service) Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 11th (Service) Bn., the Northumberland Fusiliers
  • 12th (Service) Bn., the Durham Light Infantry
  • 13th (Service) Bn., the Durham Light Infantry
  • 68th Machine Gun Company joined March 1916
  • 68th Trench Mortar Battery formed June 1916
DLI Cap Badge

The Division landed in France between 21 and 26 August 1915, [10] Private John W. Sample entered France 25 August 1915, [11]later being promoted to Lance Corporal (date unknown).

The 23rd Division took part in the following engagements during the Battle of the Somme:[12]

  • 1 – 13 July: The Battle of Albert
  • 14 – 17 July: The Battle of Bazentin Ridge
  • 23 July – 3 September: The Battle of Pozieres
  • 15 – 22 September: The Battle of Flers-Courcelette
  • 25 – 28 September: The Battle of Morval
  • 1 – 18 October: The Battle of Le Transloy

Its next engagement in a major engagement was 7 to 14 June 1917, The Battle of Messines.  Lance Corporal John W. Sample was killed in action before this, 13 May 1917 when the battalion was posted to the Ypres Salient.

13/DLI Trench Warfare Ypres Salient

13/DLI left the Somme from Belgium in October, arriving at Proven on the 15th of the month.  Billets were at Winnipeg Camp near Ouderdom.  A tour of the front line south of the Menin Road followed and the ensuing months were spent in the trenches at Zillebeke Bund and barracks at Ypres.  When in reserve, Winnipeg Camp was used.  At the end of February, 13/DLI moved back to Bollezeele to the training area.  Then March 19, back to Ypres for 10 days at work in wintry weather.[13] At the beginning of April, 13/DLI went to Millam for training and took over the trenches south of the Menin Road, 15 April.  About a week was spent in billets at Godewaersvelde then 13/DLI went into the line near Hill 60.

13 May, in the early morning there was a fierce German bombardment followed by a raid on the trenches where the wire had been damaged.  The enemy advanced about 3.45am under the cover of smoke and the dust of the bombardment and 6 Germans entered the trench on the left but fled on being attacked.  Lewis gun and rifle fire repulsed the enemy in no mans’ land.  A second and stronger wave was driven off with many casualties.  On the right a Lewis gun was hit by several shells and put out of action.  There were 27 casualties all caused by the bombardment including Second Lieutenant E. Parr wounded and 6 men killed, 3 from D Company and 3 from B Company.  Lance Corporal John W. Sample was one of those killed in action.[14]  43408 Private J. Porritt from A Company was reported missing.  It appears that the German raid was successful in taking a prisoner as he survived the war.[15]

Later research confirms that 13/DLI lost 6 other ranks on the 13 May 1917.[16]

Second Lieutenants H.C. Buckell and E. Davis were awarded the MC; Company Sergeant Majors G.A. Woodruff and W.T. Bazeley and Sergeant M. Bough MM all received the DCM; and Lance Serjeant M. Laurie, Lance Corporals C.G. Armstrong, A. Harrison, Privates H. Brankston, W.H. Bond and J. Umpleby received the MM.

14 May, 13/DLI was relieved and spent a few days at Zillebeke Bund.[17]

Awards and Medals

Lance Corporal John W. Sample was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the Victory and British War medals.[18]

Medal Roll Card Index


24780 Lance Corporal John William Sample, 13th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry is buried at grave reference IV.D.12, Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm), Zillebeke, Ypres, Belgium.[19]  Beside him lie the 4 other 13/DLI men who lost their lives that day, Privates R. Taylor, E. Henderson, E. Moore and P. Cohen.  The 6th, Private T.W. Tunnicliffe lies in Row E. [20] 

Lance Corporal John William Sample’s headstone


John W. Sample’s mother (named Mary) received his pension [21] and his effects.[22]


John W. Sample was born in 1894, the oldest of 9 children of John and Polly Sample.  They lived at John Street, Witton Park.  John worked as a coal miner.  He enlisted into the 13th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry and entered France in September 1915, seeing action at the Ypres Salient (1915, 1916 and 1917) and the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Lance Corporal John W. Sample was killed in action 13 May 1917, aged 23, a victim of shelling during enemy action.  He is buried at Railway Dugouts Burial Ground (Transport Farm), Zillebeke near Ypres, Belgium.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.175 Auckland 1894 Q3

[3] Born Mary Potts

[4] 1901 & 1911 census

[5] 1901 census

[6] 1911 census

[7] Soldiers Died in the Great War




[11] Medal Roll card index


[13] “The Durham Forces in the Field 1914-1918: The Service Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry” 1920 Captain Wilfred Miles p.111 & 112

[14] Miles p.152 & 153

[15] “With Bayonets Fixed: The 12th & 13th Battalions of the Durham Light Infantry in the Great War” 2012 John Sheen p.221

[16] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[17] Miles p.153

[18] Medal Roll card index and Rolls 25 October 1919 & 23 April 1920

[19] CWGC

[20] CWGC Graves Registration Report Form

[21] Pension Claimant card index

[22] UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1901-1929 Record No.554574