Private John William Sugden

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Private. 2/6th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment). Service No: 267063

A black and white, head and shoulders portrait of a man wearing an Army jacket and field cap with the badge of the West Riding Regiment

Private John William Sugden.

Early life:

John was born in Silsden in 1885 and his birth was registered in Skipton. His parents were William Sugden and Ellenor Sugden née Booth who were married in 1880, registered at Skipton in the third quarter of that year. His father William was a draper with his own business.

In the 1891 census John was aged five and at school. He was living at 13, Bolton Road in Silsden, with his parents and three siblings Herbert aged nine; Edith aged seven; and the youngest child Mary, aged three.

John attended Keighley Boys Grammar School for four years, from the age of ten in 1896, to 14 in 1900.
After leaving school he went into his father's linen drapery business.
In the 1901 census he was employed there as was his older brother Herbert, now aged 19. The family were now living at 86, Bolton Road in Silsden which appears to be a larger property than their previous home and they now have another child, Francis Booth Sugden aged six in 1901.

By the time of the 1911 census they were still living here and most of the family (apart from 56 year old mother Ellinor and daughter Edith aged 27) were in full time employment, which must have been a time of prosperity for the household. William aged 67, was still running his drapery business (probably at 57, Kirkgate in Silsden) and Herbert and John William were employed by their father at the shop. Mary Annie aged 23 was a milliner and their youngest son Francis Booth Sugden aged 16, was a clerk.
At some point later we thing John worked for Messrs. Smith Brothers, at Briggate in Leeds to broaden his experience of the business. he eventually returned to the family business and was working there when he was called up.

War service:

John was called to the colours in March 1916 (probably as a Derby man). He enlisted at the drill hall in Keighley and went for training at Salisbury Plain with the 2/6th Battalion West Riding Regiment. After this he was at Wangford in Suffolk and then Bedford.
He went out to France in February 1917. He was in some severe fighting. He was in action during the tank battle at Cambrai on 20th November and he wrote home shortly after to say he'd come through it OK. He was back in the firing line and was wounded in fighting at Bourlon Wood on 27th November and evacuated, ending up at no. 45 Casualty Clearing Station, which was stationed at Awoingt. The Chaplain R. W. Hingley wrote to his parents, hopeful he would make a good recovery, but it was not to be. He was transferred to Hospital at Rouen where he died of his wounds on the 8th of December. He was 32 when he died. He was buried in the St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen. Grave Reference: Block P, Plot V, Row M, Grave 8A. The family's private inscription on his headstone reads: "Dearly Beloved"

War diary WO-95/3087/1/1 2/6th Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment:


Nov 20:
The Battalion left BERTINCOURT & marched to assembly position in HAVRINCOURT WOOD.
6.20 am. The 62 Division attacked the German lines from Q. to the CANAL DU NORD.
The 185 Brigade on the Right & 187 Brigade on the Left. 186 Brigade in support.
The first objective was from CANAL at K.20.d.2.1. - K.21.d.6.2 - K22.c.3.2. This line was very soon reached with very few casualties. The cooperation of Tanks made this quite easy. HAVRINCOURT fell into our hands without showing much resistance.
The second objective was from CANAL in K.15.c.2.9. - K.15.b.4.2. (X Roads) along road to K.16.c.4.9. - K.16.b.0.3. - K.16.b.4.5. to SUNKEN ROAD at K.17.a.7.5. The strong point at K.17.c. was included. The line soon fell into our hands & a large number of prisoners were taken.
The 186 Brigade went forward and took up a jumping off position on the line.
The Battalion took up a position from CANAL K.15.c.2.9. to K.16.b.4.5. & immediately swept forward. The ground attacked and won by the Battalion was as follows, Lock No. 6 of Canal in K.3.a. HUGHES SUPPORT in K.3.b - K.3.d, along SUNKEN ROAD K.4.c. & K.4.d. to K.4.d.5.5. HINDENBURG SUPPORT TRENCH running from K.16.b.4.5. - K.10.b. to K.4.d.5.5. The attack was a complete success & 2 officers and 165 men, 1 battery of 5.9 Howitzers, 1 battery of 3, 77mm Field Guns. 1 Light Trench Mortar & 1 Machine gun were captured & 10 Machine guns were destroyed along with their crews.
At the same time the 2/4 D of W went forward & took GRAINCOURT. The Battalion held this position through the night.

On this day the enemy system in E.17 - E.18 - E.19 was attacked by the Brigade & the Battalion was to push on if the attack was successful & take the trench running W of BOURLON in E.12 - E.11 - E.6. The attack however was held up and the Battalion reinforced the other Batts in SUNKEN ROAD E.17.d. - E.23.b - E.24.a. & the Trench E.22.b.9.1. to E.17.c.85.45. This line was held until the Brigade was relieved by the 185 Inf. Brigade. When relieved the Battalion went into support in dugouts at K.4.d.3.5. in SUNKEN ROAD to K.5.c.1.7. " Lt. Wright was killed and Lt. Stocks & Lt. Peat slightly wounded.

The Battalion was still in support.

23rd: The Battalion moved off and went into billets at BERTINCOURT.

The C.O. congratulated the Battalion on it's magnificent performance. The casualties were: Officer, 1 killed and 2 slightly wounded. Other ranks, 10 killed 61 wounded 4 missing.
During the operations of the preceding days the 36th Division operated on the left & and 51st Division on the right.

The Battalion left BERTINCOURT & relieved the elements of the 119th Infantry Brigade, 40th Division in BOURLON WOOD at dusk. The line taken over was E.18.a.9.9. - F.7.c.1.4. - F.7.d.3.6. During the night 2 strong points were constructed at E.12.d.5.0 & F.7.c.7.2.

The Battalion worked very hard and dug quite a good line. At 7 pm the enemy put up a machine gun barrage & shelled the WOOD for 1, 1/2 hours.

27th: 6.20 am:
The Brigade attacked the enemy position having the RAILWAY from F.1.c.3.7. to F.2.c.0.3. as its objective. The 187th Infantry Brigade were on the left & the Guards Division on the right. The 2/8th West Yorkshires were attached to 186th Brigade for the operation. The Battalion attacked and took BOURLON but further progress was not made as the Battalion was not supported either on the left or right flanks. The village was held until 5 pm when the Battalion retired & took up a position in BOURLON WOOD on the crest. This position commanded the village & a good field of fire was obtained. During the day the enemy shelled BOURLON WOOD with very heavy guns thereby causing many casualties. 21 prisoners were captured during this attack. At dusk the Battalion was relived by dismounted cavalry including Scots Greys, 3rd Hussars & 16th Lancers and went into support South West corner of the WOOD.
Captain B. S. Mann, Lieutenant F. S. Holland, 2nd Lieutenant A. F. Melton 2nd Lieutenant A. J. Alexander were killed. Captain A. Somerville, Captain J. T. Howell, 2nd Lieutenant N. Glass, 2nd Lieutenant J. C. Sharples were wounded. 28 other ranks were killed and 137 were wounded and missing.

At some point during this action John was wounded and then evacuated.

Keighley News dated 8th December 1917, page 3:

Private John Sugden, West Riding Regiment, son of Mr and Mrs William Sugden, Bolton Road, Silsden, has been wounded on the western front. In a letter to the parents Chaplain R. W. Hingley states: "I am sorry to have to report that your son has been wounded. He is at present at No. 45 casualty clearing station, and we are hopeful he will make a good recovery." Private Sugden enlisted in March, 1916, and went out to France in February last. He was formerly connected with the Silsden Primitive Methodist Sunday School and church. Prior to enlisting he was employed by his father, who is a well-known tradesman in Silsden. Mr and Mrs Sugden have also another son serving - Private Frank B. Sugden, a member of the RAMC - in France.

Keighley News dated 15th December 1917, page 3:

Private John Sugden, of the West Riding Regiment, son of Mr and Mrs W. Sugden, Bolton Road, Silsden, has succumbed to wounds received in action during the recent heavy fighting on the Western front. He had been admitted to the 45th Casualty Clearing Station, France, suffering from wounds, and on Monday official information was received of his death.

John's obituary in the 'Keighlian' magazine from Keighley Boys Grammar School:

Private. 2/6th Duke of Wellingtons Regiment.
John Willie Sugden lived at Silsden and was a pupil in this School from 1896 to 1900. After leaving School he went into the Drapery Business with his father at Silsden, and after that entered the firm of Messrs. Smith Bros., Briggate, Leeds, in order to gain a wider experience of his business.
After a stay with them, where his services were highly appreciated, he returned home to help his father, and was with him when he was called to the Colours in March, 1916. He was in training on Salisbury Plain for some time and after that went to Wangford in Suffolk and to Bedford. He left for the Front in February 1917, and was engaged in much severe fighting. His last letter home was dated November 24th 1917, when he wrote to say that he had come safely out of the famous Tank
Attack at Cambrai on November 20th. He was, however, soon in the firing line again as he was reported as wounded on November 27th in Bourlon Wood. He was picked up from the field of battle and conveyed to the Field Hospital and eventually to Rouen, where he died on December 8th, 1917, John W. Sugden was in many important engagements, and one of his Officers who commanded his platoon at Bullecourt describes him as being fearless and alert and always ready to do his bit and one who
was held in high esteem both by the Officers and men of his company. The Masters and boys unite in expressing their sympathy to his parents in the loss which they have been called upon to suffer.

Post war:

John's younger brother Francis Booth Sugden served with the Royal Army Medical Corps and survived the war.

John was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service. These would have been sent to his parents along with any personal effects and a bronze war memorial plaque and King's certificate inscribed with his name.
The Soldiers effect record shows that his mother Ellenor received his outstanding Army pay, amounting to a payment of £11 18s 3d on 20th April 1918 and a further war gratuity payment of £8 on 6th November 1919.

Keighley News dated 7th December 1918:

"In Memoriam" section on page 12:
SUGDEN - In loving memory of our dear son, Private. John Sugden, 2/6th Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment, who died in hospital in France December 8th 1917, from wounds received in action. He laid his richest gift on the altar of duty - his life. From Mother, Father, Sisters and Brothers, Willow Grove, Silsden.

The probate record for 28th February 1918, shows that John had a will and in it he left his effects of £487 1s 5d to his mother Ellenor.

The family grave at St. James Churchyard in Silsden has the following inscription to John's memory:
In Loving Memory of John William, the beloved son of William and Ellinor Sugden, who died of wounds Dec 8th 1917, and was interred at St. Sever Cemetery, ROUEN, France, aged 32 years.

A stepped gravestone base made from dark grey polished granite.

The family grave with John's inscription.

In the 1921 census William and Ellinor were still living at Bolton Road in Silsden. William was 77 years old and still a draper, Ellenor was 66. Living with them were Herbert aged 39 and Francis aged 26. They were single and working for their father William in the Draper's shop at 57, Kirkgate in Silsden.

William died on 12th May 1929 aged 85 leaving the sum of £22,353 15s 0d to his sons Herbert and Francis.
Ellenor died on 30th November 1937 aged 82 and left the sum of £1,560 9s 0d to her sons Herbert and Francis.

Francis and Herbert dissolved their partnership in the Draper's business in 1937.

Herbert died aged 67 on 6th June 1949 and he left £3036 13s 5d to his wife Mary Helen. Helen died in 1961.
Francis carried on with the drapery business on his own and he was described as a master draper in the 1939 Register and was living at 21, Dale View with his wife Rita. He was an Air Raid Patrol Warden in World war Two and he died in 1968 aged 73. Rita died in 1976.

Information sources:

England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915
England & Wales births 1837-2006
1891 England Census
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers died in the Great War 1914-1919
Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995
St James Churchyard, Silsden, West Yorkshire
British Newspaper Archive
National Archives War diary WO-95/3087/1/1
1921 Census Of England & Wales
England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007
1939 register.

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