John Robert Singleton, born 1894, was the son of John and Mary Jane Singleton of 170 Audley Range (later 58 Mary-street), Blackburn. His father was a tallow refiner at the local mill, where John also worked for a time, before finding work at Shaw’s Brick Works in Darwen before the war came.
John enlisted into the 1st Battalion East Lancashire Regiment in January 1915, and spent six months training to prepare himself for the onslaught of trench warfare. He joined the Battalion as a replacement in June 1915, in time to fight in the Second Battle of Ypres. By 1916, John would have been considered a veteran.
John survived the first day of the Battle of the Somme, one of only 150 unscathed (of 1000 in a battalion). It would be October 18th when John was finally killed, at the Battle of Le Transloy.
The battalion history reads:
The ground was in the most appalling condition ; heavy rain had fallen for weeks and continued throughout the attack, with the result that the terrain was a vast lake of mud, pitted with shell-holes. The night was pitch black and the enemy's line was extremely vague ; German trench maps had been issued, but they were of little use for the German line really consisted of detached machine-guns in shell-holes. At zero hour a barrage was put down on Dewdrop trench which lasted for 41 minutes. At the same time the battalion and the 1st Rifle Brigade floundered into the mud of "No-Man's land."
The men, wearing full equipment and carrying extra bombs, made slow progress; some were utterly exhausted and scarcely mobile, only to be shot down, drowned in shell-holes or rounded up at daybreak.
The advance was by the left. "C" Company on the left had the Les Boeufs—Le Transloy road to guide it. “A" Company on the right, in the darkness went too far to the right and got somewhat mixed up with the Rifle Brigade. Directly the first wave advanced it was met with heavy machinegun fire and casualties were numerous. Moreover, it was difficult to find Dewdrop and Rainy trenches, which had been heavily shelled by our artillery.
However, from the distance traversed by the two leading waves, the two trenches must have been passed.
No organized German line was found, but heavy rifle and machine-gun fire was directed on our waves from front and flanks, and owing to the darkness it was impossible for any officer, or non-commissioned officer, to organize the digging of advanced posts at the limit of the advance. The few remaining men who had reached Dewdrop, and beyond, withdrew to Rainy trench where "D" Company had arrived, having had many casualties. The Company Commander, then seeing that his two leading waves were practically wiped out, and that German machine-guns were trained on the trench, withdrew to the original front-line trenches.
The situation now, in the front trenches was very obscure. No officers or senior N.C.O.'s of "A" and "C" Companies had come back and the few men who did come back were clothed in mud from head to foot and completely exhausted.
There was no counter-attack by the enemy, though the front trenches were heavily shelled and swept with machine-gun fire until dawn.
The day (18th) was quiet, and after dark "B" Company relieved "D" Company. "A," "C" and "D" Companies then went into support in Shamrock. Patrols were sent out who were met by hot rifle-fire as they approached Rainy and Dewdrop. Wounded men were sought for and a few brought in, also wounded men in the trenches, unable to walk, were evacuated by special stretcher parties after dark.
The casualties of the action were heavy and included all the officers in the two leading companies. In "A" Company Lieutenants R. A. C. Matthews, W. F. Curran, T. A. Ritchie were killed, and the O.C. Company Captain A. N. Scott made prisoner of war. In "C" Company 2nd Lieutenant E. W. Graham was killed and Captain C. Waddington (O.C. Company), 2nd Lieutenants M. Quayle and J. M. Wilks were captured. Company Sergeant Major’s W. Ashcroft and J. Cunliffe were killed, Company Sergeant Major W. Vaughan made prisoner, and the total casualties in the other ranks were killed 12, wounded 58, missing 292.
John Robert Singleton has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 6 C.
B Battery, 150th (Blackburn) Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, L/8715
Thomas Singleton, born 1894, was the son of Eliza Riches. Information on his father is vague and cannot be verified, however his mother had Thomas and Edward, Minnie and Emily. All of the family were cotton weaver, living at 58 Walter-street.
As war broke out, Thomas enlisted into the local Royal Field Artillery Unit that was established by Lord Derby – the Blackburn 150th Brigade. The 150th (Blackburn) Brigade was attached to the 30th Division and fought in all the battles in which the Division took part.
For the Division, in most cases commencing training near home, the units were moved to concentrate near Grantham in April 1915. There were severe shortages of arms, ammunition and much equipment - for example there was only one gun carriage available even by mid July and even that was for funerals! It was not until October that the artillery was in a position to commence firing practice, a few weeks after the Division had moved to the area of Larkhill on Salisbury Plain.
On 4th November the Division was inspected by Lord Derby, and entrainment began two days later. The Division sailed to Le Havre and Boulogne and all units concentrated near Ailly le Haut Clocher (near Amiens) by 12th November 1915. The 30th Division subsequently remained in France and Flanders and took part in the Battle of Albert, including the capture of Montauban and the subsequent fighting around Trones Wood.
In October, the Division was moved to fight in the Battle of Transloy Ridges. It was here that Thomas Singleton was killed, on 20th October. It was reported that he was killed instantly by shellfire whilst repairing a section of telephone line to the Forward Observation Officer. In fixing this cable, Thomas was ensuring that British artillery landed where it was supposed to.
Thomas has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 1 A and 8 A.
2nd King’s Own Scottish Borderers, 22008
Ernest Slinger, born 1897, was the son of William and Lucy Slinger of 84 Hancock-street, Blackburn. William was a Labourer whilst Lucy was a Weaver. Ernest, at 13, joined his mother at the mill, working as reacher, but by the time he was called for service he was working as a labourer at Messrs Ashton and Frost’s Bank Top Foundry.
Ernest enlisted into 2nd Battalion King’s Own Scottish Borderers, although no information is available to ascertain when this was. The 2nd Battalion had been fighting in France from 1914, so Ernest must have been a replacement after heavy fighting.
Ernest moved to the Somme in July 1916, in time for the summer offensive. The Battalion was moved around 20th July to an area called High Wood.High Wood is a wood near Bazentin le Petit in the Somme département of northern France. After the big British attack on 14th July (Battle of Bazentin Ridge), High Wood lay undefended for most of the day but delays in communication and orders and counter-orders from different British corps headquarters, led to the occupation of High Wood being forestalled by German reserves, which had moved forward to counter-attack the British in the villages of Bazentin-le-Grand and Bazentin-le-Petit. Troops from the 7th Division managed to occupy the southern half of the wood and two cavalry squadrons advanced on the east side to Wood Lane, which connected the wood to Longueval. On 15th July, the wood was evacuated by the survivors and the cavalry retired. The British Fourth and the German 2nd and 1st armies fought for control of the wood from 14th July–15th September 1916, during the Battle of the Somme.
It was here, on 31st July 1916, that Ernest Slinger was killed. He has no known grave, but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme, Pier and Face 4 A and 4 D.back to top