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Individual information
Compiled and Copyright © Tony Humphreys 2009

These details relate to John Humphrey's listed on Mitcham Memorial un the Wiorld War 1 section.

John Humphreys was born on 27 September 1889 at Uxbridge in Middlesex, the first son of my paternal grandfather's younger brother John Emanuel Humphreys and his wife Alice nee Hobbs, and died on 23 March 1918 on the Somme.

While John was still an infant his parents moved the family, first to the Greenwich-Woolwich area, and then to Mitcham. He was still there in 1911, recorded as nothing grander than a general labourer, together with his parents and five younger siblings.

John was married towards the end of 1914 to Lena Maria Bartlett. Their two sons Frederick and Henry were born in 1915 and 1917 respectively.

It is not clear exactly when John enlisted at Mitcham for the Great War. It is known, however, that he served as private G/14131 in the 7th (service) battalion of the The Royal West Surrey Regiment (The Queen's Regiment) and that this battalion went out to the Western Front on 27 July 1915 - before the birth of his first son. He must have got home on leave from time to time between then and his death in 1918 in order to father his second son.

John was killed in action, aged 28, on Saturday 23 March 1918, the third day of the second battle of the Somme - now more often known as the battle of St Quentin. His name is recorded not only on the Mitcham war memorial but also (along with some 14000 others who have no known grave) on the Pozieres war memorial in the Somme.

We know something of the action in which he was killed. Two companies of the Queen's were directed to lend flanking assistance to two battalions of French infantry whose task it was to counter-attack, after the German offensive which had started on the 21st, in order to recapture the village of Tergnier (about ten miles from St Quentin). The operation failed, partly hampered by heavy fog (in which some of the Queen's became lost), but certainly not helped by allegedly inadequate supplies of ammunition.

Despite the failure of the operation, the heroism of Colonel Christopher Bushell on this day earned him a Victoria Cross. The V.C. citation suggests that the Queen's casualties were mostly cut down by machine-gun fire, so it is likely therefore that John Humphreys was killed by this means.

Last updated 8 January, 2019

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