Private, 9th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment. No: 13741.
John was born on 24 March, 1899, son of John and Elizabeth. His father was a joiner. He was baptised in Keighley on 6 September of the same year when they were living at 58, Enfield Street, Keighley.
In 1901, aged 2 years, he was living at 58, Granville Street, Keighley with his parents, elder brother Fred and his Uncle, Rufus Berry. His father was employed as a joiner in a machine works.
In 1911, aged 12 years, they were still living at 58, Granville Street, Keighley with parents and elder brother Fred, and his father was still working as a joiner in machine works.
He left Keighley Trade and Grammar School in 1913 and started work for the Great Northern Railway Company as a clerk in Keighley Goods Dept.
In September 1914, he enlisted in the Army in Keighley, aged just 15, 1/2 years old, although he was very tall for his age. We did not find any Army service record. Conflicting information suggests John entered France in 1915 but there is no record of a 1914-15 Star being awarded to him. We believe he entered France around February 1916 with the 9th Battalion, West Riding Regiment although the battalion war diary indicates a draft of men arrived on 8th January 1916 which may have included him.
9th Battalion West Riding Regiment. War diary entry:
7th July 1916. 8am.
Orders having been received to attack again it was ordered that the two companies occupying the SHELTER WOOD - BOTTOM WOOD line should move up to occupy QUADRANGLE TRENCH as soon as the attack was launched but owing to lack of time and the great difficulty of moving through the mud some confusion took place, the trenches being very congested.
Units mixed up and the number of wounded being considerable.
On the whole the scheme worked well and the 12th MANCHESTER REGT. moved up on our right and the attack was made shortly after the time ordered but in line with the Battalion on the right.
The attack was made with two Companies supported the Battalion Bombing platoon working along Pearl Alley and moving up as the guns lifted. The part objective consisting of the QUADRANGLE SUPPORT was not attained owing to enfilade fire from both flanks, nor was the objective of the 12th Manchester Regiment attained for the same reason and both Battalions suffered very heavily on the enemy's wire and parapet. The part objective consisting of PEARL ALLEY was in part attained and the trench occupied where occupy-able. This part was the Western portion, the remainder of PEARL ALLEY consisting of a a shallow ditch giving no protection whatever and not being even continuous. Pearl Alley was subjected to a heavy fire and eventually was not held neither by us nor the enemy.
The Battalion Bombing Platoon had by this time worked along QUADRANGLE TRENCH and part along PEARL ALLEY and effected a junction with our men in this trench. The remainder went along QUADRANGLE TRENCH past PEARL ALLEY and along the CONTALMAISON ROAD.
The junction of PEARL ALLEY and QUADRANGLE TRENCH could not be distinguished the whole of the ground being so badly knocked about. This party encountered strong opposition but drove the enemy in front of them capturing 9 prisoners and finally established & held a stop just short of the road thus protecting our left flank from an enemy attack from CONTALMAISON.
A second stop was constructed as far along PEARL ALLEY as afforded any protection whatever.
The attack by the WORCESTER REGT. On CONTALMAISON had not succeeded but a patrol went forward from our front stop just short of the road and pushed forward into the village itself encountering little opposition & returning to report. Shortly after the return of this patrol a Company of the WORCESTER REGT. came along QUADRANGLE TRENCH and a joint attack was decided upon in conjunction with a detachment of the EAST LANCS.
Orders appear to have been received by the Worcester Regiment, not to attack till later and they withdrew leaving our bombers and a number of riflemen who had already collected out of PEARL ALLEY to hold the stops already described.
A very violent bombardment was opened by the enemy on this area causing very heavy casualties amongst the troops congested in the trenches in this line. Orders were given for the Bombers to attack & attempt to take ACID DROP COPSE but having penetrated as far as the CEMETERY they encountered exceedingly heavy opposition from the strongly held QUADRINGLE SUPPORT and were forced back to PEARL ALLEY.
The enemy hereabouts appeared to re-occupy CONTALMIAISON in strength and men of every unit were properly organised to meet a counter attack which appeared to be imminent.
A defensive flank was built up and all arrangement for Lewis guns and Bombers made.
Considerable enemy activity was observed in CONTALMAISON but no attack was launched.
The Battalion was relieved by Units of the 51st. Brigade formed up in FRICOURT where hot tea was provided and went into billets in MEAULTE.
Casualties 14 Officers and 251 other ranks.
Keighley News on Saturday 22nd July 1916 page 4:
Private Reginald Butterfield (17), West Riding Regiment, of 58, Enfield Street, Keighley, has been killed in action. The sad news was conveyed to his mother in a letter from his commanding officer in reply to a letter which she had written asking if her son could return from the front and serve in units at home. He enlisted in the early stages of the war at the age of 15, 1/2, and went abroad in February last. He was an old Keighley Trade and Grammar School boy, and before enlisting was employed as a clerk by the Great Northern Railway Company in the Goods Department at Keighley. He had been associated with the All Saints Church all his life, and for a few years he was a member of the choir. He was a well-built lad for his age, and on his last visit home he stood six foot two inches. An official communication was received from the War Office on Thursday.
Keighlian Magazine obituary:
John R. Butterfield left the Day School in 1913 and entered the services of the Great Northern Railway Company. He joined the Army in September, 1914, and after training at Aldershot, Folkestone and Clipstone, he went over to France in 1915. He was soon engaged in very heavy fighting and was, by the testimony of his comrades, always willing to do his best in any position in which he was placed. In one of his last letters home he writes with great pride of the confidence which his Major had in 'D' Section, to which he belonged. The Chaplain of the regiment writes that he was a very brave lad and much liked by the men. "His sergeant said to me," the Chaplain writes, "he was the coolest man I had." On the 8th [actually the 7th] of July, 1916, at 4 o'clock in the morning, not far from the village of Contalmaison, his regiment went over the parapet and he was shot through the head during the charge. One of his companions wrote home saying: "He did his duty to the last and he cheered some of the men up when they were getting low-spirited prior to going over the top." John R. Butterfield showed the same willing spirit as a scholar that he possessed whilst in the Army. He took an active part in all school interests, and took a prominent part in the Dramatic Performances which were given at the School.
John's father would have received John's British War Medal and Victory Medal for his war service. He also received John's remaining Army pay on £1 8s. 5d. on 18th October 1916 and a war gratuity of £8 on 2nd October 1919.
John is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial and also on the All Saints Church War Memorial at Highfield Lane in Keighley.
England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837-1915
West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-191:
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Keighley News archives held at Keighley Library
Keighlian Magazine (Andy Wade personal archive)
National Archives British Army war diary WO-95/2014/1/1