John William THORNILEY
Rank: Private
Number: 41465
Date of Death: 1 September 1918
Age: 42
Cemetery: Vis-en-Artois Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

The name of J Thorniley appears twice on the Stockport War Memorial and, as far as has been established, both refer to the man above, whose name also appears on the Heaton Moor Memorial.  As far as the Stockport Memorial goes, "J W Thorniley" is amongst those serving with "other regiments" whilst "J Thorniley" is with those serving with Welsh units.

It is, however, possible that two local men shared the same name and it cannot be absolutely sure of his family background. The future solider was certainly born in the Heaton Norris area and only one person of this name can be found on the 1901 Census or in local newspapers from the time of the War. He had been born in 1876, the son of Frank Thorniley, a local market gardener, and his wife Mary. When the Census was taken in 1901, the family was living at 4 Shaw Fold, Heaton Moor. John, then 24,  was working as a grocer's assistant. He had two sisters - Elizabeth, four years older and Mary, two years his junior.

He was reported to have enlisted into the army in 1915. at which time the family home was at 24 Wharf Street, Heaton Norris.. Throughout almost all of August 1918, the British Army had been advancing. It had been hard fighting with the Germans still taking a heavy toll of casualties as they were forced back on all fronts. As dawn broke on 1 September, it became clear that the Germans had withdrawn from the Somme village of LesBoeufs. John and his mates started to form up in sunken road east of the village. The old-timers knew the ground well - they had been here nearly two years previously. From 4.45am, until "zero hour" at 5.45, they were heavily shelled by the Germans but, on schedule, they advanced. Their final objectives were some 4000 yards away and they moved behind a protective "creeping barrage" from the British artillery.

As they moved forward, they came under machine-gun and rifle fire from German strongholds  which were re-enforced by trench mortars and rifle grenadiers. |As they reached a point about 1500 yards from their starting point, they came under even heavier machine gun fire from their front and left. The two leading companies could no longer advance and took cover wherever they could find it - mainly in the many shellholes. One officer later wrote "Our fellows went down like nine-pins.and soon all was confusion. F.L.C. [Crabtree?] was close to me; he said " Here's my chance, I'm after that VC [Victoria Cross]. With a shout to his men, he was off, making for a machine gun straight to his front. He got 20 yards and went down shot through the head. Our only hope was to get on, to stay was to be slaughtered."

In fact, it was impossible to press forward as, at about this time, the Germans counterattacked, albeit with small numbers. Grenades were thrown and there was some hand-to-hand fighting but there was no option but to fight their way back towards the original British line. Many men had been wounded or were missing. John was one of 36 dead. By nightfall, the Battalion had only gained 500 yards of ground.

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