36224 Pte John Lavin, 7/Border

36224 Pte John Lavin, 7/Border

Postby croonaert » Sat Mar 22, 2008 12:25 am

An abridged version of my wife's granddad's story...The son of Michael Lavin (whose employment at the time is listed as general labourer) and his wife Catherine Lavin (listed as a cotton winder), John Lavin was born on 17th July 1899 in Burnley, Lancashire. By 1901 he was living, with his parents and elder sister Catherine, at 1, Hillmarten Street in Burnley.By the outbreak of war in 1914, the family had moved to 26 Rumley Road, Burnley and, sometime between then and July 1917, John had gained employment as a Cotton Weaver at Blakey's Shed in Sandygate. John was conscripted into the Army, actually enlisting on 18th August 1917 (along with 3 of his close friends who also went to the 7/Borders)and being issued with the Regimental number 36224. At first, John was posted to the 4th (Reserve) Battalion of the Border Regiment (part of the East Lancashire
Reserve Brigade), which was based in Kendal. Here, he engaged in his basic training and remained with this unit until his posting to an active service battalion. After several months of training with the 4th Bn. , John was finally posted to the 7th (Service) Battalion of the Border Regiment which was serving in France. Arriving in France in April 1918, a couple of weeks trench warfare and further training would have ensued, probably at the gigantic Army encampment at Etaples (home of the infamous Bullring and the mutiny of the previous year).Normally, a short spell in a nursery sector would have been the next move to acclimatise new soldiers to the reality of front-line service. However, due to events on the Western Front at this time (March 21st saw the beginning of the huge German offensive known as Kaiserschlact Operation Michael - and April saw the continuation of the offensive in Flanders - Operation Georgette in which the British Army was being pushed back many miles with enormous casualties), most front line regiments needed replacements as quickly as possible. For this reason, it looks likely that John was sent to the battalion without the luxury of this extra training. John joined B Company of the battalion (which was part of the 51st Brigade of the 17th (Northern) Division) whilst it was at rest at Engelbelmer on the Somme . It remained at rest until June 1918 (during which time many soldiers were stricken with the now prevalent Spanish Influenza). John's first taste of the frontline came at the end of this month, at Herissart where the battalion was employed on the defences on the Senlis River. Here, John's B Coy had to arrest an American soldier who was found wandering round the frontline trenches just for a look!A rather uneventful couple of months then followed with the notable exception of 12th August when the battalion came under a severe gas attack at Mericourt which caused some 200 casualties, C and D companies suffering particularly badly. On 24th August 1918, the battalion arrived at Thiepval and was sent forward in readiness for an attack on Courcelette that took place on 25th in heavy rain. This assault was particularly successful with an advance of some 1,200 yards being made against an increasingly determined enemy. B Company was heavily involved in the fighting beyond Courcelette, in the vicinity of Eaucourt l’abbey throughout the 25th and 26th August. On 27th, B and D companies formed the flank guard for the relieving troops of the 7th East Yorkshire Regiment and then remained in reserve for the remainder of the day. The 29th August saw the battalion attack through Gueudecourt and onto Le Transloy where they remained until dark, being ordered to withdraw as they had advanced “too far”! This withdrawal was made at a cost of some 20 to 30 men. The following day, the battalion lost many more men in a failed attempt to (re) capture Le Transloy. They were then relieved and pulled out of the line for a much deserved rest. The casualties from this action were 1 officer and 30 other ranks killed, 388 wounded and 20 missing.On 2nd September, the 7/Borders were once again brought forward to brigade support at Gueudecourt before being moved again, eventually , to Lechelle. From here, they were ordered to launch an attack on Vallulart Wood , in which the element of surprise ensured a successful outcome. On the 7th, the battalion was once again relieved from the frontline and marched back to Lechelle. During these events, the 17th Division prided itself on the fact that it had taken back much of the ground lost to the Germans during the March offensive and had captured some 34,000 prisoners and 270 guns.The 7th Borders stayed at Lechelle until 17th September 1918 when they moved off to take part in an assault on Gauche Wood on the 18th. This attack was met by an extremely stubborn defence who, with machine gun fire and bombing attacks drove the British back out of the wood. It wasn't until the morning of the 19th that the wood was finally taken and the battalion was moved back to the rear until it was placed in support near Gouzencourt on the 20th. After spending a while in the lines here, the battalion was moved back to Etricourt for rest and training until 5th October when they found themselves back in the sunken lane near Gouzencourt. Remaining there throughout the 6th and 7th of October.On 8th October the 7/Borders moved through the positions taken by 21st division near Walincourt to the Hindenburg Support near Bantouzelle in the vicinity of the Bonne Enfance farm. From here, at 4.50am on the 9th October, they advanced, relatively unopposed to a position near the cemetery of Selvigny, the advance here being stopped by British artillery firing short. After half an hour, the advance continued and the 3rd and 4th objectives were taken by 8.20am. After this , the advance faltered somewhat due to the effects of German artillery and machine-gun fire. On the 10th October, the battalion was withdrawn to brigade reserve at Inchy. 2.00am of the morning of the 20th October saw the battalion taking part in the assault over the River Selle and being counter-attacked in the village of Amerval. After being pushed out of the village, the 7/Borders launched their own counter-attack, retaking the village just after nightfall. During this day, 600 prisoners and 4 guns were taken. The following day, the battalion was relieved and returned to billets in Inchy and Ovillers until the 26th of the month, when they were moved up to divisional reserve at Vendegies.On 2nd November, the 7/Borders moved in the dark to the area of Poix du Nord. Here, plans were made for an attack on the enemy positions in the Forest of Mormal, the advance taking place at 7.30pm on the 3rd to assembly positions near Engelfontaine. The 5th November saw the advance taking place , at 5.30am, under the cover of a creeping barrage. The advance was tolerably easy going despite a German counter-barrage and some machine-gun fire about 100yds from the front – the machine gun nest being taken care of by a party from the 7/Borders at bayonet point. The advance continued in heavy rain through the 6th and 7th of November to Le Bouvist and on to Eclaibes at 5.30pm. During the night, patrols reported that the Germans had retired from their fronline and therefore, this was occupied. On the 9th November, the battalion was relieved and moved back, exhausted, to billets in Aulnoye. Two days later, on 11th November, news was obtained in Aulnoye that an armistice had been signed and that the war was basically over.After 11th November 1918, the 7/Borders moved to Troisvilles then, on 14th December, to Liercourt near Amiens. Here, the battalion was reduced to cadre strength with many men being transferred to other units. John Lavin was one of the many soldiers who was transferred. In this case to the Labour Corps, as part of 42 PoW Company at Raismes, north west of Valenciennes. Here, he was charged with looking after and guarding German prisoners of war until the end of the war in June 1919. After the signing of the Versailles Treaty in June 1919, John became involved in the less than enviable task of being part of a Labour Corps Exhumation Company. Here, he was tasked to take part in the location and exhumation of some of the many thousands of corpses of soldiers who had died throughout the war and who lay in individual graves, or who lay in soon to be closed battlefield cemeteries or whose graves had remained unmarked.This work continued until John was finally demobbed in September 1919 - the 3 who went with him just over two years previously didn't make it this far.Dave
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Re: 36224 Pte John Lavin, 7/Border

Postby JohnFearn » Sun Apr 12, 2009 1:05 am

An illustrated version of the above article can be found at http://www.pathsofglory.co.uk/John%20Lavin.htm
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