Every Name A Story Content

Dourish, J.W., Pte., 1916

Illustrated Chronicle July August 1916

Medal Index Card

Newcastle Journal Tuesday 27/11/1917

On the Thiepval War Memorial is the name of 24/46 Private John William Dourish, serving with 'A' Company, 24th (Service) Battalion, (1st Tyneside Irish), Northumberland Fusiliers, who died 01/07/1916.

John William Dourish was born on the 12th January 1896 at 4 Lumley Court, Gateshead, and was baptised at St Joseph's Catholic Church on the 19th February 1896, the son of Robert Francis, born 1876, [Labourer], and Catherine, born 1875, (nee Maddison) both born in Gateshead. They were married in 1894, residing at 14 Leonard's Court, Gateshead. Then 64 Albert Street, Gateshead, followed by 1 Waggon Yard, High Street, Gateshead, and by the 1911 Census they are all residing at 14 Easton Court in Gateshead.

They had 15 childen in total, but only 7 survived, Owen, born 1894, died 1896, John William, born 1896, died 1st July 1916, James, born 1897, Catherine, born and died 1899, Owen, born 1900, Robert, born 1902, died 1905, Francis Michael, born 1904 died 1906, Robert Francis, born 1906, Catherine, born 1908 Dorothy, born 1910, Elizabeth born and died 1912, Lancelot, born and died 1913, Jane born 1914 and died 1915, Michael, born and died 1916 and Isabella born 1917.

John was an early Recruit into the Tyneside Irish as his Service Number allocated to him was 24/46. He enlisted in Newcastle in October 1914, probably at the Corn Exchange. On the 23rd December the Battalion paraded at Eldon Square in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

On the 12th March the battalion marched by Grainger Street to Central Station where two trains took them to their camp at Alnwick.

Andover in August 1915 then Salisbury Plain is September. On the 11th January they were boarded on three trains for Southampton. Here they were transported on the SS Mona's Queen before disembarking at Le Havre.

At the beginning of February 1916, they were attached to the 24th Brigade, for instruction. 'A' Company were attached to the 1st Sherwood Foresters, 'B' Company were attached to the 2nd East Lancashire Regiment, 'C' Company, 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment and 'D' Company the 1st Worcestershire Regiment. 'A' and 'B' Companies went straight into the trenches whilst 'C' and 'D' companies went into Billets at Rue Marle.

Their first major action was The Battle of the Somme. La Boiselle was a very formidable, strong-point. The German trenches were well situated and connected by underground passages with large dugouts, which were strong enough to withstand heavy bombardment. They were well organised, and pulleys and slides had been installed so that their gunners could bring their guns into action instantly. The village of La Boiselle had a deep valley on either side, which were named Sausage and Mash by the British. In the valleys the front lines were almost half a mile apart but at the end of the ridge the British line (nicknamed the Glory Hole) was only 50 yards from the German front line. The plan of attack for the 34th Division was that the advance would be in four columns, each one three battalions deep. The Tyneside Irish (103rd Brigade) were in reserve along the Tara-Usna line, astride the Albert-Bapaume Road. They were to follow up the main attack and advance on a line from Pozieres to Contalmaison.

However, the Germans had picked up a message sent to one of the Tyneside Scottish Battalions at 2.45am and were well aware that an attack was imminent. It confirmed the expected attack would begin the next morning and the Germans were prepared. The British artillery had already pounded the German lines for almost a week to destroy their trenches and barbed wire, but the enemy were dug in so deep they were able to survive.

At 7.28, two minutes before zero, two huge mines exploded underneath part of the German lines. These had been in preparation for months and were situated below Y Sap, (with 40,000 lbs of explosives) situated to the north of La Boiselle and Lochnagar (which had 60,000 lbs of explosives) situated to the south. The Germans now knew the attack was coming and the mines had also displaced huge amounts of earth which the British would ultimately find difficult to negotiate.

As the whistles blew the men climbed out of their trenches to advance and the Germans manned their machine guns and cut the British Tommies down in swathes as they approached them in long, regular lines. The four battalions of the Tyneside Irish were abreast as they made up the third wave of the divisional attack, and as men were falling around them on the battlefield the advance continued down the open slopes of the Tara-Usna ridge.

By late afternoon it was obvious the day had been a disaster for the British. The majority of the wounded had to find their own way back, as the stretcher-bearers were easy targets for the enemy. Some took hours or even days to make their way to safety.

The 34th Division lost 6380 casualties, the highest loss amongst all the 16 Divisions who took part on the 1st July. Figures for the Tyneside Brigades were amongst the worst recorded and The War Diary for the 24th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers (entry 7th July 1916) states on receiving lists from various Casualty clearing stations it was found that out of about 980 who went into action, some 650 had become casualties.

On the 11th July the Pioneers of the 19th battalion Northumberland Fusiliers crossed the battlefield and their words are recorded in the Battalion history:The battlefield had not been cleared, that was an impossibility in the circumstances. Tyneside Scottish and Tyneside Irish dead lay on the blasted field, in shell holes, in bits of trenches but chiefly in the open. Those not in the open seemed to have dragged their mutilated bodies into the partial shelter of the ruined pieces of trench……

John William Dourish was killed on the 1st July 1916, aged 20 years. Initially reported as missing, his body was never found and he has no known grave.

Newcastle Journal Saturday 17/02/1917 reported Private J. W. Dourish, 14 Easton Court, Gateshead, is reported killed in action on July 1. He had been missing since that date.

Newcastle Journal Tuesday 27/02/1917 carried a report headed Northern Casualties.

John William had left a will on the event of his death, which was written on January 11th 1916, which reads : in the event of my death I give all I possess to my dearest friend Miss Kate Maffin, 20 Easton Court, High Street, Gateshead-on-Tyne.

His sweetheart's notice in the Newcastle Chronicle reads as :- Dourish -Killed in action July 1st. 1916, Private J. W. Dourish. N.F., aged 20 years and 6 months. However long my life may last, What ever land I view, whatever joy and grief I have I will always think of you, Ever remembered by his sweetheart, Katie, and sister, and Mrs Maughan. R.I.P.

John's sweetheart Catherine Maffin, born 22nd February 1895, Gateshead did eventually marry on the 26th November 1928 Robert Rowe, in Gateshead. In 1939 they were residing at 53 Cemetery Road in Gateshead.

John William Dourish is remembered at Gateshead in G39.004, at Newcastle in Dourish Tyneside Irish names A - N and and in the Ireland's Memorial Book page Volume 2.

Footnote: Ireland's Memorial Book shows the wrong service number of 466.

La Boisselle 1st July 1916
The CWGC entry for Private Dourish

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk